The onetime gardener uprooting discord between people and pets


Thobani Dlamini knows his way around a hedge. Years spent turning soil and pulling weeds have taught him that arranging beauty in organic spaces is about nurturing natural paths of growth. When Dlamini applied his skill to the garden of Debbie Kuhn, she was impressed by the patience and dedication with which he approached his craft, and started to think of ways to use a man like him in her business.

Kuhn runs a dog-training programme called Superdogs, which she convinced Dlamini to join despite his initial reservations about the safety of working with the animals. Along with a devoted team of canine enthusiasts, he now specialises in solving domestic issues between pooches and their owners. Dlamini takes on much of the load himself, conducting most of the animals’ training. Thereafter his calm comes in handy. It’s his job to teach owners to understand their pets well enough to elicit the same responses from them that he does.

For Dlamini, who has two young daughters, the first step to fixing a faltering pet-owner relationship is getting the human to realise that they are probably the antagonist. Pet behaviour, good or bad, can usually be explained by reflecting on the animal’s past. So settling its future requires the kneading out of old knots, like wrestling botanic charm from a weed-infested rut. It’s all the same to Dlamini, so long as he’s bringing us into greater harmony with our living earth and its creatures.