A Home for Hanna

Written by Erma Voigt, Victoria Nance and Cheryl Campbell

Photography by Zoey Furtography

The gentle black-and-white Greyhound had outlived her prime hunting days and was no longer of any value to her owner. Rescued from Pienaarsig township near Nieu-Bethesda, Hanna has gone from strength to strength to become a happy family member who is of infinite value to those who love her.

Unloved and unwanted

Animal-lover and volunteer Victoria Nance discovered Fiela (now Hanna) one day whilst signing up dogs for sterilisation in Pienaarsig. Victoria, who is instrumental in having animals from the impoverished areas in Nieu-Bethesda sterilised, encountered a young man who told her about the dog.

“He said that she was very old – he’d been in the area for 12 years and said that she was already living at the house where he stays when he moved in. He wanted to surrender her due to her age and said that I could put her to sleep.”

Victoria’s heart sank when she saw the dog: “She was bone-thin, with dry bald patches on her head and up her belly. I was told she’d had puppies two months previously. But, as emaciated and downtrodden as she was, she still had a spring in her step and you could see that she was a lovely girl who deserved a chance.” And Victoria vowed to give her that chance.

Hanna was skin-and-bone, blind in one eye, and her skin was dry and patchy; emotionally, she was sad and nervous, not knowing what to expect. Helping this dog was not going to be easy…

A group effort

Victoria immediately contacted Erma from Camdeboo Sterilisation Initiative (CSI):“I run to Erma with every single dog problem because this lady is one amazing problem solver! I sent through the photographs of Hanna at 16h00. Within an hour, Cheryl Campbell from Sighthound Rescue SA had offered her a foster home.”

Erma Voigt, Liaison Officer at CSI, recalls, “Victoria took Hanna into foster care in her home and started on much-needed TLC and good food. Meanwhile, the search was on for a foster or forever home for Hannah.

“And that’s when Cheryl came to the rescue. She offered to foster Hanna until such time as she was ready to go to a forever home.”

Starting over

Hanna’s life was already taking a turn for the better, with a few days of rehab already behind her and a foster home to look forward to.

But things did not go entirely according to plan: the idea was for Cheryl to temporarily foster Hanna until she was strong enough to be rehomed. However, Hanna had special needs and everyone was concerned about the effect yet another move could have on her…

Victoria had discovered that Hanna seemed to develop some major separation anxiety whilst with her and expressed this concern to Erma, who agreed that it was a problem: “Given her age and the fact that she clearly quickly forms a bond with a human, we didn’t want to upset her life too much by moving her and then moving her yet again.”

They discussed the matter with Cheryl, who immediately agreed to not just foster, but to give her a forever home where she could live out her old age and never be separated from her human again.

The long road to happiness

All that was needed now was a lift to her foster-forever mom in Cape Town… 700km away. Fortunately, Victoria’s friends had that covered: “As it happened, two friends were due to visit me and, nine days later, Hanna was off to her new home with Cheryl. My friends cancelled all their plans to stay overnight somewhere in order to deliver Hanna safely into Cheryl’s arms.”

After a tearful goodbye, Victoria waved her charge off on the next leg of her journey to happiness.

In Cape Town, Cheryl Campbell, one of the founders and chairperson of Sighthound Rescue SA, was ready and waiting: “Hanna arrived home at 18h00 on Friday 11th of August 2017. We took her straight to the vet for a full workup, including x-rays and blood work.

“At a mere 13kg, Hanna was severely underweight and anaemic; she has a heart murmur, very bad skin issues, and is blind in one eye. Psychologically, she suffers from severe fear issues and separation anxiety.

“We finally got home at 21h00. Hanna was introduced to my resident hounds that are so used to foster dogs coming and going that there are no issues. She gobbled her meager dinner of chicken and rice, crawled into my bed and was out like a light, exhausted from her 10-hour journey and all the new things. (PS: She still sleeps IN bed with me.)”

Caring for Hanna

Hanna’s treatment was costly, so Cheryl appealed to the Facebook community for help with the extensive vet bill, which included erlichia treatment. “Within three days, the bill was covered by donations from amazingly kind people. One school group raised R3000!”

Aside from the medical care, Hanna needed a special diet – starving and malnourished animals cannot simply be given lots of food; careful reintroduction of the right food in small, rationed portions is needed.

Monique Hodgekinson from Raw Gold Food saw the appeal and donated food to Hanna for the rest of her life. Within four weeks, Hanna went from 14kg to 21kg and was doing physically very well. Her emotional recovery, however, is a different matter…

What the future holds

Cheryl explains, “Physically, Hanna is slowly healing – as well as her age and infirmities will allow – but mentally she is still a wreck, so Animal Communicator and Healer Debbie Caknis has done a consult with her and will tell us the best way to proceed to help her heal mentally.”

Fortunately, Hanna has made friends in her new home, both canine and human: “Hanna’s ‘gang’ is a blind puppy and three Italian Greyhounds; the big guys love her too but are just too rough with her. She has formed special bonds with my 83-year-old mother and our wonderful granny carer and animal au pair and live-in housekeeper, Flora.

“We are taking one day at a time with this wise old sage. We’ll make every attempt to give her the life she so deserves and to make sure she knows she will never be alone or hungry or cold or have untreated illness again. We pray that she has a long, happy life with us and our other special-needs animals.”


The three ladies involved in waving their magic wand over Hanna are delighted and grateful for the amazing outpouring of love and help for this neglected greyhound.

Erma says, “We at CSI are very grateful for the kind and efficient help received from Sighthound Rescue SA, specifically Cheryl, whom we deal with. This is the third Karoo Greyhound that has been successfully placed in a happy and loving home due to their intervention.”

Cheryl adds, “Without Victoria and the Camdeboo Sterilisation Initiative, and the kind people who drove Hanna to Cape Town, and all the generous donors, we wouldn’t have Hanna in our lives – we are so grateful to them. We’re also very grateful to Vet-Clin in Tableview for their care.

“A special and important mention goes to all at Raw Gold who have taken care of Hanna’s special nutritional needs with their high-quality raw food.”

Hanna’s rescuer, Victoria, is of course overjoyed for the sad, neglected dog that she rescued: “The amount of love and concern that has surrounded Hanna has been incredible and my admiration for these two wonderful animal angels (Erma and Cheryl) knows no bounds. And Hanna is a special dog that deserves every ounce of it!”

Sighthounds in South Africa

Sighthounds are a group of dogs which, through a combination of natural selection and breeding, have keen eyesight, a wide field of vision, and the ability to run incredibly fast. The group includes Greyhounds, Boerwindhonde, Whippets, and Salukis, amongst others.

Unfortunately, these dogs are often terribly mistreated in South Africa. They are indiscriminately bred in many townships and used for racing and hunting, although both are illegal. Many end up with injuries such as broken legs or embedded porcupine quills, in states of severe neglect, or are beaten or starved (in the mistaken belief that this makes them better hunters), or abandoned when they don’t perform. People often buy these dogs not realising that they require a particular type of home and plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, and then surrender them when they can’t cope.  

Sighthound Rescue SA was founded to help these misunderstood and often poorly treated dogs. Find out more at www.sighthoundrescue.co.za.

Camdeboo Sterilisation Inititative

CSI was started in 2012 with the aim of reducing companion animal suffering, neglect, and abuse through sterilisations in impoverished areas, mainly townships, surrounding Graaff-Reinet, Eastern Cape.

They also assist smaller towns in their region (such as Nieu-Bethesda) with sterilisations, plus rescue and rehoming whenever possible.

Find out more about CSI in our article at http://www.happytailsmagazine.co.za/news-articles/you-can-help-us/camdeboo-sterilisation-initiative-csi-graaff-reinet-eastern-cape/