Puppy love can teach us the meaning of ubuntu


It’s a long walk from Smangaliso Nyoni’s home to join his pack. His canine friends await his arrival, eager for treats and play time. Since Nyoni brought his own puppy to the SPCA, he hasn’t stopped returning to volunteer. “When I’m with dogs my troubles don’t exist,” he says. But Nyoni’s bond with them made him the target of bullies. Children in his community mocked him for his loyalty. They didn’t understand why he cared so much for the creatures. The bullying continued, getting progressively worse, until they burnt down his shack. Nyoni lost his school books, uniform, and clothes.

While some people targeted Nyoni for his efforts, others had recognised his dedication. His neighbours in Amanzimtoti joined forces to show Nyoni the same love he gave the animals. They replaced what he’d lost, and rebuilt his home from scratch. Across the country, people raised funds to pay off Nyoni’s school fees. The additional amount has been placed in a trust for his education, investing in his bright future. As the community supported him through this trauma, Nyoni held on to his compassion. He’s since forgiven the children who burnt down his shack. Now, he’s focusing on giving back. “By helping these animals, that’s my way of saying thank you to everyone who helped me,” Nyoni says.

With the Edu-Paw programme at the SPCA, Nyoni not only tends to the dogs, but teaches other children in his community how to raise their pets. In the future, Nyoni hopes to become a vet, and find homes for canines on the streets. Our relationship with animals can teach us about the meaning of ubuntu. At the end of the day, we are all one. “If you look after dogs, then the dog will look after you,” Nyoni says.