Village of the ‘Dullies’ is kind to its animals

Dullstroom is a popular destination for Gautengers looking to spend long weekends of fun and relaxation in the ‘little drinker’s village with a fishing problem’, or to enjoy one of the many restaurants en route to other destinations.

While visitors experience the touristy vibe of this distinctive Mpumalanga town, locals are far from relaxing around fire pits and spending their days fly-fishing. Dullstroom is home to them, and home means the monotony of everyday life and its challenges.

One of them is that there is no animal welfare organization in Dullstroom. However, in true “Dullies” spirit, a group of local volunteer animal lovers have teamed up with professionals to bring the pet population under control and care for sick and neglected animals.

We asked a resident and aspiring journalist, Sean McCabe, to introduce us to the organization these locals started, Dullies Dogs, which has made a name for itself in this sleepy hollow since 2016.

Dullies Dogs assistant Chantel Boshoff prepares a dog for spaying. Photo: Dullie’s dogs

It’s a Wednesday morning in Dullstroom. Two cars are parked in front of a small municipal office building in the middle of Sakhelwe township. A group of Dullies Dogs volunteers get out of the cars and prepare for the day ahead.

The first residents are slowly arriving with their dogs. Each dog is dipped for tick and flea control and then waits their turn. It’s a quick process; The dogs sleep all the time.

When they wake up, the veterinarian gives them a quick check-up before they are returned to their owners. This is the sixth spaying campaign being organized by Dullies Dogs in Sakhelwe to spay dogs in the community free of charge for their owners. Since 2016 this has grown into a popular and regular event.

Not only are the dogs dunked and clipped, but the owners walk away with a small bag of dog food. The purpose of the spaying campaign is to curb the overbreeding of dogs in the community.

Assistant Claire Taylor with a dog after spaying to make sure he is recovering as he should. Photo: Dullie’s dogs

“The animals are healthier after sterilization because they don’t move around as much,” said Karin Erasmus of the Pro-Life Pet Rescue, Rehabilitation and Adoption Agency.

The residents of Sakhelwe are grateful for the presence of Dullies Dogs. Martha Madonsela was recently helped when her dog Molly started scratching excessively.

“Carol brought me pills for my dog. I’m so grateful when they come check on Molly,” she said.

All of this would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of the many people involved. Funding for these rides comes from fundraisers hosted by Dullies Dogs, donations and the town’s charity bookstore.

Dullies Dogs’ assistants, Claire Taylor and Chantel Boschoff, are both locals who used to work for the local vet. Recently partnered with Pro-Life to enable Dullies Dogs to provide sterilizations.

While the drive is focused on sterilization, there are always cases of injured or sick animals that need urgent treatment as the nearest vet is 50km away.

A resident allays fears before her pet is spayed. Photo: Dullie’s dogs

According to Debbie Vink, one of the founders of Dullies Dogs, the organization came about because stray and unwanted dogs were roaming the town and community and they decided something needed to be done.

“Dullies Dogs has grown rapidly in operations. We started out dealing with individual cases and quickly expanded to include mass sterilizations, immersion, and a feeding program,” she explained.

In addition, they rescue and adopt animals that are in dire circumstances. For Karin, organizations like Dullies Dogs are vital.

“They recognize where there is a need and make a big difference by helping. We’re grateful we’ve been asked for support,” she said.

It’s usually a long day for the volunteers and vets, starting at 8am and ending when the last dog is handed over to its owner, but the rewards are immeasurable.
Dogs lucky enough to be cared for by Dullies enjoy a better life with their owners in their beautiful Dullies.

A word from the author

Born and raised in Dullstroom, I have learned and appreciated the importance of a close-knit, informed community. When I finished elementary school I went to Grahamstown (Makhanda) for high school and after falling in love with the town I stayed for university.

I majored in Journalism with a minor in Political Science at Rhodes University. During this time, my passion for writing turned into a passion for storytelling. I love my country.

I saw the potential in it and that’s why I’m optimistic about the future. However, this optimism comes with the knowledge that realizing this vision requires people in the right places to hold officials accountable. I want to use my passion for storytelling to tell the stories of the people who matter but aren’t considered. I want to use my passion to help my country reach its potential.

Dullstroom quick facts (

1. The name Dullstroom derives from a Dutch merchant named Wolterus Dull and the Crocodile River that flows nearby. “Stroom” is the Afrikaans word for electricity. The town was originally called Dull’s-stroom but was later simplified to Dullstroom. It was also called the “place of the eternal fog” by the first Dutch settlers.
2. As many know, Dullstroom is considered the fly fishing capital of South Africa. The trout industry dates back to 1912 when Mr. HJ Gurr, the postmaster of the nearby town of Lydenburg, unexpectedly caught what appeared to be a trout in the Dorps River. Then in 1916 the first trout pups were released from hatcheries in the mountains of the Cape Winelands into several local streams. From 1927, after Gurr left the city, the local jeweler and watchmaker FC Braun took on the task of stocking the streams with trout.
3. Dullstroom is 2,100m above sea level and is one of the highest towns in South Africa. It has the highest railway station in the country – it is 2,076 m above sea level. The station is immaculately maintained and managed by a local woman affectionately known as Aunt Nelmarie.
4. Dullstroom was granted official city status on October 9, 1893 by then-President Paul Kruger.
5. The Dullstroom Inn has a log fire that has burned continuously for over 38 years. The charming country hotel also has its own resident ghost, Sergeant Larley. The story goes as follows when Sergeant Larley (a young British soldier) was injured during the Anglo Boer War. During the Anglo-Boer War he was cared for by an Afrikaans girl named Magda. The two fell in love, but when Magda’s family found out about this, they accused her of treason and imprisoned her. Heartbroken and still injured from the war, the sergeant died soon after. Magda, unaware of his fate, sat by the fire at the Dullstroom Inn for many years, waiting for her true love to return. If you stand on the corner outside the Dullstroom Inn just after sunset today, you will hear the sound of thundering hooves as the sergeant rides to rescue Magda. Anyone lucky enough to see the soldier in love is said to have eternal happiness in love.
6. Due to its relatively cool and temperate climate, Dullstroom is the only place in South Africa where Elm and Beech grow. These were originally planted by Dutch colonists.
7. Dullstroom was practically leveled by occupation by British forces on two separate occasions – in November 1900 and April 1902 – during the second Anglo-Boer War. Only two buildings remained untouched after the end of the war – today’s Rose Cottage and a house now known as the ‘Little Foxes’, near the Dullstroom Inn, which served as barracks for the British occupying officers. During this occupation, the women and children of Dullstroom were taken to a British concentration camp in Belfast.
8. A real “sugar” treat Dullstroom is one of the few places in South Africa where you can find all three species of endangered cranes, the gray-crowned crane, the blue crane and the wattled crane.

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