An unbreakable bond with animals revealed our path in life

An unbreakable bond with animals revealed our path in life

These three individuals have had their lives changed because of an animal’s influence.

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The relationship between humans and animals is like no other. Throughout history, these creatures have been our loyal companions and protectors – some of us would not be alive without them. For Stacey Maguire, Joshua Swarts, and Vanessa Martin, a unique affinity with animals changed their lives forever. 

To the human eye, Stacey Maguire appears in good health. Yet her life is in jeopardy every day. A severe type 1 diabetic, her body produces little to no insulin, resulting in dangerous fluctuations in her blood sugar levels. “I used to have hypoglycemic episodes and seizures at least once a week,” Maguire says. That all changed with the arrival of Gretchen, her faithful Swiss Shepherd dog. “Gretchen is able to smell when my blood sugar has changed up to an hour before the blood glucose monitor can,” Maguire says. Through pawing and anxious barks, Gretchen alerts her owner when her levels are perilous. As the first South African to receive a diabetic assistance dog, Maguire’s goal is to train more dogs like Gretchen so that other people can have the independence and aid they need. 

Joshua Swarts found support from horses when people turned their back on him. After battling a drug addiction for 10 years, he healed by nurturing injured and neglected animals. The familial connection encouraged Swarts to maintain his sobriety. “Knowing that you’re needed makes it easier to find hope for a better tomorrow,” he says. While the relationship helped both Swarts and the horses get back on their feet, drugs were still rampant in his neighbourhood, Atlantis. To give youth a purpose and keep them off the streets, he founded Horse Pals Atlantis. Swarts’ programme teaches children how to rehabilitate sick animals, instilling kindness and compassion in the next generation. “Caring for horses is not only me taking care of myself, but my community as well,” he says. 

On her commute to work, Vanessa Martin watched as people passed by malnourished dogs and cats without stopping. “We are so desensitised to suffering and it’s so easy to turn a blind eye,” Martin says. But she couldn’t. Each day, Martin would fill her backseat with strays and take them home. Still, there were so many that needed her help. “I quit my job,” Martin says. “Now I’m doing what I was created to do: rescuing animals.” To give the creatures of her community a second chance, she established Mitchells Plain Animal Welfare. Along with a group of dedicated volunteers, she sterilises, vaccinates, and tends to vulnerable animals. Martin has also transformed her backyard into a temporary shelter, and ensures that every rescue finds their forever home. “To see dogs and cats get the love they deserve makes me feel alive and happy,” she says. 

Maguire, Swarts, and Martin wouldn’t be where they are today if it wasn’t for animals. Through these unbreakable bonds, they found their path to security, health, and fulfilment. Care for every creature, and they will do the same for you.

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