Cape Town - The last time the pup saw him, he was burying her alive, shovelling dirt on her head as she whimpered at the bottom of a deep hole.
But on Friday, Lily, the dog who was rescued after being buried and left for dead at a Khayelitsha school, treated her attacker, Poto Mfengu, with doggy indifference when the pair met for what was dubbed a “mini-TRC” at the Mdzananda Animal Clinic.
“I’m so glad to see she is fine,” said Mfengu. “I never wanted to do what I did.”
Lily, known at the clinic as “Warrior”, was more interested in scoring some cat food.
The mutt has come a long way since October 20, when animal welfare carer Lazola Stoyingwa responded to an urgent call he could hardly believe.
“A woman said she saw two people from the school digging a hole and burying a live dog... I had never seen anything like this before.”
He rushed to Luhlaza Secondary School, found the patch of disturbed ground and started digging.
Amid the brown dirt, the dog’s head appeared, her mouth open as she desperately gasped for air.
Lily had spent around 30 minutes underground by the time Sotyingwa and his colleagues pulled her out of the hole.
It emerged that two of the school’s janitors, Poto Mfengu and Mkhumbuzi Ncedana, were responsible.
Mfengu claimed later in court that the school’s principal, Manono Makhaphela, had ordered them to bury the dog because it had made a mess of one of the classrooms.
The janitor wanted to take the pup, which could not walk properly because its hind legs were lame, just outside the school gates, but he said the principal insisted they dig a hole near the tennis court and bury her.
“I was desperate to keep my job,” he said on Friday.
But the principal’s lawyer said the allegations were untrue. The janitors were arrested and charged with animal cruelty.
They have both just finished serving a sentence of 150 hours of community service at the Mdzananda Animal Clinic.
It was there that Lily and Mfengu met for the first time since the incident.
The pup’s legs have completely recovered since she was adopted by journalist Helen Walne.
“She’s even climbing trees,” said Walne.
Mfengu, who remembers Lily as a malnourished and disabled dog that used to drag itself around the Khayelitsha high school’s grounds, said it was amazing to see her looking so healthy. “I’m so sorry for what I did. After it happened I had sleepless nights.”
The janitor, who lost his job at the school, has decided to stay on as a volunteer at the clinic. He said he had finally found his calling.
Sotyingwa said that when the janitors arrived at the clinic, he was surprised to see how comfortable and happy they were around animals.
“We made them work in the vegetable garden because we thought they would be scared of the animals, but they really enjoyed being with them.”
“When I first spoke to them on the day we found the dog, I could tell they were relieved that the dog was alive… I believe it wasn’t something they wanted to do.”
The other janitor, Ncedana, was not at the clinic on Friday because he was sick.
Meanwhile, the school’s principal is still facing two charges of neglect, torture and cruelty for burying the dog and another one for causing an animal unnecessary harm under the Animal Protection Act.
He is set to appear in court on May 10. - Cape Argus