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Lucky the Painted Dog – A Story of Survival and Endurance

Story By Mhlomuli Ncube

The story of Lucky the Painted Dog is that of a survivor that has seen pain and adversity turn into opportunity and fame.

It is not everyday that one lives to tell the tale of how they escaped from the jaws of death.

Perhaps for Lucky who cannot speak for herself, those gifted with vocal ability have been doing a good job.

In the animal kingdom , rules are built upon trampling on others.

There is neither mercy nor repentance concerning acts of aggression.

There is no court of arbitration that seats to decide matters between feuding parties.

When eternal enemies meet others survive and some do not.

One day in 2018, Lucky met the same fate when she was attacked by lions in the jungle of the expanse Hwange National Park.

It took the intervention of Painted Dog Conservancy, an organisation that rescues the species that almost became extinct to revive Lucky.

Shepherd Phiri who is the Painted Dog Rehabilitation Senior Keeper says Lucky the Painted Dog is literally living her name after that cruel ordeal.

“We have one painted dog by the name Lucky. She was lucky to survive after she survived a lion attack. Her neck muscles were damaged, her right eye was also damaged and her leg also got injured, she walks with a limp. Lucky was Lucky to survive though she now has permanent injuries,” he says.

Not quite sure on the exact date on which this female painted dog fell victim to the King of the Jungle”s cruel machinations , the Painted Dog Conservancy team were alerted to the ailing animal by circulating vultures.

“We took her in for rehabilitation at our hospital. However her injuries left her with her head now tilted to the right side as she also walks with a limp. Her right eye was also permanently damaged and we also suspect that she suffered brain damage. This is due to her erratic behaviour that we have noticed at times.” says Phiri.

The story of Lucky would probably not make headlines, but after that cruel encounter with lions in the jungle she survived an ordeal that has been retold over and over to many across the globe.

In the Painted Dog kingdom in the jungle, life is never easy.

There are those predators who prey on others on a daily basis.

This is the rule of survival in the jungle, eat or be eaten. On that fateful day , her injuries required that she not only be treated but she was hospitalised.

The Conservancy runs the only Painted Dog hospital in the world right in the heart of Hwange National Park.

Though Lucky still carries the scars of that cruel encounter, she finally healed from the injuries.

It took a prudent decision to realise that she could not be sent back to the jungle and therefore had to be housed permanently at the rehabilitation centre.

Luck is still on her side as she has been kept as the only painted dog resident.

Her condition also means she cannot go back into the jungle and survive without external support.

She has since been given an important role as the face of the Painted Dog kingdom and visitors now come to see her.

“She now stands as an ambassador of her own species. Most people have never seen a Painted Dog and when they come here and see Lucky, they marvel,” says Phiri.

Now spared the cruelties of jungle life, Lucky spends her days hoping up and down in the protective sanctuary.

A daily supply of 2kgs of beef keeps her going on a strictly monitored diet.

Phiri says the diet also has to be well managed so as not to risk obesity.

This reporter chuckles on the obesity issue only to be told that the routine in the cage is different from that in the jungle.

Here she only eats and circulates around, there is a big risk of getting fatter and fatter.

But the reception is very beautiful and it does not take any rocket science to see that Lucky is surrounded by love and attention.

The type of attention that could literally spoil her, i presume.

Perhaps so as the keeper relates that just yesterday he fed her a portion of goat meat which she seemed to enjoy more than beef.

Talk of choices when one does not seem to have any, Lucky certainly is a lucky dog thriving in the jungle.

One almost guesses that she has found a home far from home, but is at least safe even though there are no grandkids or an ageing husband to spend her days with as is normal with many golden matriachs.

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