When you have a dog, your whole life changes … Suddenly your fur baby is your number one priority. Spending a ton of money on food, treats and toys is no problem. It doesn’t seem strange to plan weekends away at only dog-friendly places, or to get a dog sitter when you have date night or a birthday party. It is also totally acceptable to approach any stranger with a dog just take rub their fluffy ears and chat about all things dog related.

Dogs not only take over your whole life in the best way possible, but they also connect you to a whole world of animal lovers. And this is exactly what happend with my husband and I.

We got married almost four years ago and immediately talked about getting dog. However, at the time we lived in an apartment so we waited until we moved into a house with enough space for a four-legged friend. We moved into our dream home in November last year and two weeks later Kenzie joined our little family.


We did a lot of research on different dog breeds and eventually decided that the Rhodesian Ridgeback is the perfect dog for us. We wanted a guard dog that is also good with children and likes an active lifestyle. We immediately fell in love with this regal and absolutely beautiful breed. Through our research we met some incredible people, all who are proud Ridgeback owners (although Ridgeback owners joke and say that the dogs own us, not the other way around!)

Kenzie came and took over our hearts and home and we cannot even imagine our lives without her. We loved her so much that we decided we wanted another Ridgeback. Toto then joined our family (when Kenzie was about 6 months) and we are so in love with both of our fur babies!

Like I said - dog lovers all share a common interest (more like a common obsession). But there is absolutely no community as proud as the Ridgeback community. I have joined two Ridgeback groups on Facebook and everyone is always sharing photos and videos, where people comment “typical RR!” or “Yup, that’s RR life!”, echoing the fact that this special breed is like non other. With followers from all over the world, all Ridgeback owners, these groups are the perfect place to go ask for advice, anything from training to sickness or puppies being born.

This came in pretty handy when our little Toto got very sick. At three months of age he suddenly stopped eating, had a fever and constantly cried out in pain. After two vet visits he was admitted to the hospital and the specialist diagnosed him with meningitis. This is quite rare in dogs, but sometimes puppies between the ages of four and six months get it. This means Toto was younger than the usual patient, which means any x-rays done didn’t really show much because his growth plates were still open.

They took several blood tests and even did a lumbar puncture to send some spinal fluid to Onderstepoort for further testing. He was put on antibiotics, which unfortunately didn’t work and Toto ended up in the hospital again. By this point I was beside myself … It truly breaks your heart seeing your pup in so much pain. I cried for two weeks straight and stayed up with him every night just to make sure he was okay (and breathing …)

This is when I turned to the Ridgeback group on Facebook. I posted about Toto and asked for everyone’s prayers and even advice if they have any. Within minutes there were over 200 comments on my post of people sending us love from all over the world. Some posted advice, but no-one has really been through something like this to really shed light on the situation, so most of the comments were of messages of support. That is until someone sent me a private message on Facebook asking me some questions about Toto’s situation. Next thing she phones me (over Facebook Messenger) … all the way from Europe! Turns out she is a breeder who lives in Belgium and she’s had a pup who had meningitis. She gave me some advice and said she’ll light a candle for Toto and I.

I sat there crying … Thanks to technology I just spoke to a fellow Ridgeback lover all the way in Belgium! This truly special breed brings people from all over the world together, everyone obsessed with their Ridgies and everyone invested in seeing this breed be healthy, happy and looked after. 

The next day the vet said she’s putting Toto on cortisone and that some dogs have “cortisone responsive meningitis”. We (us and the vet) hoped to avoid the cortisone because of it’s side effects, especially since Toto is still so young. But of course we were willing to try anything. Within two days Toto improved immensely - he was off his pain medication, had no more fever and was eating, drinking and playing like any healthy pup.

I reached out to the woman in Belgium and shared our good news with her. She said she never stopped thinking of us and was just as relived as we were. Again I was in awe that a love for dogs can bring together complete strangers.

How lucky are we to have these incredible animals in our lives?! To be loved by them, protected by them, and totally consumed by them.

- Katryn Kies of @katrynkruger

(Photos by Stephanie de Jager)



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