Kenya: Mkombozi, the dog that rescued a baby

Muk goes for a ride in the car

Back in 2005, when Mkombozi (she received her name later and is called Muk for short) heard a human baby crying in a garbage dump, she recognized the sound and knew right away that it was a baby.  The mom of the family that took care of Muk had had several babies, and that’s what they sounded like. Muk sniffed around and found the baby wrapped in some old clothes.  She picked up the ties of the bundle in her mouth, and headed back, with the baby, across the busy Ngong Road, in Nairobi, Kenya.  Weaving her way through the fast-moving traffic, miraculously, she arrived at the other side.  Later a neighbor recalled watching her carrying the bundle and wondering what she could possibly have found. Muk went back to the house where her family lived, and set the bundle down gently at the feet of the children playing in front of the house. The children called their mom, who picked up the newborn, and called the police.

The area near the Ngong Racecourse is in a slum, and Muk’s family was very poor. Before Muk was born, her street dog mom had made her way into the family’s compound to have her puppies.  Sadly, the other puppies died, but Muk was very tough, very smart, and managed to survive.  As she was growing up, the family gave her what food they could, and she learned to scrounge for more, making her way through the streets to the garbage dump and back again.  Like many community dogs, although she was out on the streets, she also had a home, a place where she was welcome and where people cared about her.

The rescued newborn was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit at Kenyatta Hospital where she was to spend the next three weeks.  During this time the remarkable story of the dog who rescued the newborn baby from the trash heap was picked up by the newspapers.  It went viral, and was published all over the world.

Jean Gilchrist, Director of Animal Welfare of the Kenya Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (KSPCA), read the amazing rescue story in a newspaper.  Because KSPCA runs a very active spay/neuter program, which is the most effective way to help community dogs, she looked up Muk’s family, to see about spaying her so that there wouldn’t be any unwanted puppies.

Muk at work with Inspector John

As she got to know the family, Jean discovered that Muk was especially fond of the children, though, like most street dogs, she was a little shy around adults.  In fact, Muk had recently had two puppies. When Jean offered to get Muk spayed, and to bring her, with her two puppies, to the KSPCA shelter, the mom who’d been struggling to care for Muk as well as her children was greatly relieved.  Often, there had been no food left over from the family meals, and she was glad that Muk would now get enough food, and not be in danger every day crossing the busy street.

Sadly, the puppies, who were sick and malnourished, did not survive, but Muk had arrived in a good place and began a new start to her life. She was bathed, de-wormed, vaccinated, and spayed. She received her new name, Mkombosi, which means “savior,” Muk for short, and, within a few months, she began a career that she thoroughly enjoyed, interacting with school children, and helping some, who’d been afraid of animals, to get over their fear.  After a few moments of petting Muk, any fear the children may have felt seemed to melt away. At first, there was some thought of adopting her out, but, because by now her story was so well known, everybody wanted her, and that in itself was a problem. She would be safer and more secure at the shelter, where she has both dog and human friends and is much loved.

Now around eleven years old, Muk loves going out for a drive in the car with Jean and her other dogs, and has occasionally gone home with them, but she prefers being at the shelter where she can just hang out, relax, and fall asleep with her friends.

Muk’s visit to see Angela

After three weeks care at the hospital, the tiny baby was strong enough to go to Thomas Bernardo’s house, the local orphanage. Attempts to find the mother who had abandoned her were unsuccessful. The little baby was first called, “Angel,” then “Angela.” In a few months, Jean brought Muk to visit Angela. In the unfamiliar surroundings, Muk was feeling a bit insecure and so did not show much interest in Angela — until the moment when Angela began to cry; this sparked a memory in Muk, who started energetically wagging her tail and wanted to lick the baby’s face.

Happily, after a while, Angela was adopted; the orphanage, respecting the privacy of adoptive families does not release their names. Jean Gilchrist hopes that little Angela will be told the story of how her life was saved by a kind, heroic street dog, and that she’ll grow up knowing dogs as loyal, dependable friends.

Mkombozi, who seems to have spread good luck all around, also brought benefits to her poor family.  Jean Gilchrist writes, “The Elizabeth Lewyt Foundation of the North Shore Animal League donated $500 to the owner of the dog, and the donation was given to the mother.  It was desperately needed as there was no money for school fees for the family of five. Also some good Samaritans in Kenya, having read the story and realizing the poverty of the family, gave money for school fees and some food for the family. One of the sons still comes from time to time to see Mkombosi.”

Muk in February of 2012, doing well

It would be hard to find a more heart-warming story, but it’s only the most well-known story of all the worthwhile work carried out over the years by Jean Gilchrist and the KSPCA team.

Every month, they visit around fifteen slaughterhouses throughout Kenya, to advocate humane slaughter.  They rescue and treat donkeys, about thirty every month, and teach the owners about proper harnessing that does not cause injury and how not to force the donkey to care too heavy a load.  Their spay/neuter program reaches around 100 dogs and cats each month.  They admit to the shelter and adopt out around 70 dogs every month.  Jean Gilchrist says of the many community dogs they have adopted out, “If you give a dog affection, attention, and food, you’ve got the best friend you could ever have!”

In Nairobi, where animals, as well as people, can sometimes suffer due to poverty, the KSPCA accomplishes such a remarkable amount of good; they have become known as a bright haven for animals there.

To learn more about the work of KSPCA, click here.

Photos: Courtesy of KSPCA

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