Written by Jenni Davies
Photograph by louis botha fotografie
Most animal lovers will remember the incredible story of Kimberleigh, the tan-and-white dog who fell into Kimberley’s Big Hole in the Northern Cape in November 2013, and fought for survival for 8 long days.
First spotted by tourists as she swam desperately in the water at the bottom of the pit, unable to escape due to the steep walls, it took several attempts before she was finally rescued by a team of dedicated animal lovers…
A death-defying rescue
Her heroes were Warrant Officer John Seeley of the SAPS Search and Rescue K9 Unit, De Beers mines, and the ER24 Team. Using a special winch and steel cables, WO Seeley abseiled the almost 50-storey drop into the hole to rescue the exhausted and terrified dog.
Seeley had to swim to a ledge where Kimberleigh (then named ‘Underdog’) was resting, but the scared dog leapt off and swam away. It took him a long, tiring 40-minute wait to finally take the dog into his arms and get her to safety.
Kimberleigh became an overnight sensation and a worldwide celebrity; SPCA Inspectors who were on site - Mario van der Westhuizen and Clive McMillan - reported that they received over 100 adoption applications. The special celebrity even had an Afrikaans children’s book written about her rescue – Kaptein Seeley – Kimberley se waterwoef by Wendy Maartens.
But, in the end, it was her rescuer, John Seeley, and his wife, Brenda, and two sons who welcomed Kimberleigh into their home and made her part of their family.
Where is Kimberleigh now?
Time has flown by and today marks the three-year anniversary of her death-defying rescue. And Kimberleigh is right where she’s meant to be: in the Seeley’s home. Believe it or not, one of the challenges faced by the family is making sure Kimberleigh doesn’t go into the pool as she simply adores swimming.
Although it took some time, Kimberleigh eventually learnt to play and now she loves playing ball. She’s also shown herself to be a highly intelligent dog, and was quickly taught to sit and lie down. The lucky girl sleeps on the bed with one of the sons, and spends her days playing with the family’s other dogs or lounging around in the sun.
To this day, no one knows how Kimberleigh ended up in that situation, but there’s no question about it: she has found herself in the best situation of all: a forever home.
Rescue photography courtesy of Emile Hendricks/Foto24