7th Dec, 2018

Written by Lesley-Ann Marshall, Director of Spaniel Welfare SA

Professional photography by Emma O’Brien Photography

The brown bundle of soggy, filthy fur drowning in an abandoned swimming pool could barely be described as looking like a dog, never mind a golden Cocker Spaniel. But that’s exactly what he was. The horrifying pictures raced around Facebook, uniting animal lovers in their anger and sorrow at what had been done to this beautiful animal. A long road lay ahead, but in the end he would have his happily ever after.

Spaniel in the water

In the early evening of the 26th of September 2018, the ladies who rescue Spaniels all started getting tagged on a Facebook post about a severely neglected Spaniel found in an abandoned pool in Pretoria North.

One of his rescuers, Elrina Greeff, had been riding a horse in the area when she was told about a dog in need of help by a worker who’d heard his cries for help. They went to the derelict pool and saw what looked like a dog desperately struggling to stay afloat in the mucky water. We say “looked like” because he was so matted that he didn’t resemble a normal, healthy dog.

They quickly found a discarded piece of debris which they used to keep the terrified dog on top of the water while trying to rescue him. He was understandably very nervous, and because he was threatening to bite them, they had no option but to tie a leash around his muzzle. Once done, they swiftly removed him from the pool and rushed him to the vet.  

Was he lost and fell in, or was he dumped? How he came to be there we’ll never know as, to this day, no one has ever contacted us to claim him.

Making it through the night

Mandy Robinson of Spaniel Rescue SA (SRSA) arranged for Elrina to take the terrified dog to the closest vet – Doornpoort Animal Clinic. SRSA has a Pretoria branch, so Mandy phoned me so that I could make arrangements with Anita Landman, who runs our Pretoria area; she kindly agreed to personally assist and foster him. 

Once at the vet, it became clear what bad shape he was in. Because he was so matted, it was impossible to even tell what sex he was, and they thought he could be female. Mandy wanted to call the dog Ariel, from the movie The Little Mermaid, as “she” was found in the water. When the vet advised us that our rescue was in fact male, we changed his name to Sebastian (the crab in the same movie). 

Sebastian was in a bad way; we all hoped and prayed that he’d make it through the night. We anxiously contacted the vet the next morning and breathed a collective sigh of relief when we heard he had indeed made it through the night. Having stabilised him, Doornpoort Animal Clinic allowed us to collect him the following afternoon.

Sebastian’s makeover

With the help of Jaco and Stephanie Kachelhoffer, Sebastian was taken to his foster home.

As badly matted as he was, he needed to strengthen a bit before being cleaned up. When he was well enough, foster mom, Anita, and Beverly Kinsella took him to Monument Park Veterinary Clinic. Here he was sedated in order to remove his horribly tangled, clumpy coat, which must have been so uncomfortable for him. The fur on his ears was so matted that they were dragged down and heavy. 

It took them two hours and three pairs of shears to shave all the matted hair off of him. The fur removed amounted to around 8% of his total body weight. What we discovered beneath was a thin body covered in sores, but otherwise a healthy, nice-natured dog.

Thanks to the prayers and moral and financial support from Spaniel Welfare’s supporters, Sebastian continued to receive the necessary veterinary care needed to improve his condition at Monument Park Veterinary Clinic.

Thanks must then go to Fluffs & Tufts, who stepped in to give Sebastian a proper haircut on the 6th of October, which revealed to us how handsome he was. By now his coat was beginning to shine – and so were his eyes.

A whole new world

On the 29th of September 2018, Sebastian’s life was going to change forever. One of our supporters, Janet Hornsey, felt a huge bond with him.

When she asked us how he was doing, we invited her to come and meet him at the SAINTs book sale, which Sebastian would also be attending. Janet and her mom arrived, and when she saw him, she sat down next to him and tears flowed down her cheeks.

She spoke softly to him for a couple of hours, patting him and telling him all would be alright, and clearly found it difficult to leave. We promised to do her home check the next day, which we did; Anita continued looking after him until he was fully recovered from his ordeal and could go to his forever home. And, in honour of his new beginning, he received a new name: Kai.

Kai and Janet had a photoshoot with talented photographer Emma O’Brien (thank you, Emma!) before going home, where Janet’s husband, Richard (who’d been away on business) got to meet him. From then on, Kai settled in as if he’d always been there.

Richard now loves Kai just as much as Janet does, and Kai is getting on well with their other dogs, Mary-Jayne and Mojo, and even his new cat friend.

We’re truly blessed to have found Kai such a wonderful forever home where he’ll be loved for the rest of his life. Thank you for caring, Richard and Janet.


We’re always happy to announce an adoption, but we’re sure you’ll agree with us that this one is very special. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank all of Spaniel Welfare SA’s supporters who helped us with Sebastian, aka Kai. We couldn’t have done it without your prayers and support. Thank you for coming together to help this boy.

A big thanks to the Pretoria Spaniel Welfare SA team who dropped everything to help Kai, particularly his foster mom, Anita, who put in so much time and effort to rehabilitate him.

If you look up the meaning of his new name, Kai, you’ll see that, although it has different meanings in different languages, they all refer to a bright new future, which we know that Kai will have. Go well sweet Kai.


By Janet Hornsey, Kai’s owner

Over the last few years I’ve been intrigued, horrified, touched and moved to tears at the tireless work and dedication that the remarkable people of Spaniel Welfare SA have shown. I knew that, one day, I too would be able to help in some way to make a little Spaniel’s life a lot easier. My friends Helen and Bjorn made me aware of this fantastic organisation as they’d adopted a fur child through Spaniel Welfare SA; they’re actually our fur children’s godparents.

I was completely beside myself when I saw a Facebook post on the 28th of September about a Cocker Spaniel named Sebastian who’d been found at death’s door after being rescued from a derelict swimming pool.

A very special boy

That night, I couldn’t sleep; I tossed and turned and kept waking up with Sebastian on my mind. The very next day, I met this very special boy in person.

Boom! It was love at first sight for the two of us. I sat under the trestle tables with him at the SAINTs book sale for two hours just stroking his head and talking to him softly. When the ladies asked me “the magic question” about adopting this poor broken soul, there was no doubt in my mind: of course, the answer was yes!

To our delight, we passed the home inspection and the waiting began… Anita kindly kept us up to date on a day-to-day basis on how he was getting on until he was ready to come home on Monday, the 15th of October.

Happy family

From the minute he arrived home, Kai has gotten along famously with Mojo, our “Heinz 57 Special”; Mary, our other Cocker Spaniel; and Tigger, our geriatric, cantankerous cat. He adores his Nana and big brother Chris, and we know he’ll love his big sister Stephanie when she comes home in November.

Meeting his daddy for the first time was really special too; my husband works away and we decided to give him a very happy, furry surprise! It was a lovely moment to see the expression on Richard’s face when he realised that we had another family member – and a special one at that. They hit it off instantly, and now Kai sleeps on the end of our bed, at his new dad’s feet. They have a very special bond.


The road ahead is going to be a long one, but it’s been a rewarding time. This chap improves daily, is learning some manners, and is not as timid as he was when he got here. He’s had his stitches removed and now weighs a healthier 13.5kg. Kai means happy, victory, start, warrior, sea, restoration, recovery and worth.

I can honestly say that it feels as though he’s been here forever.  

Welcome home, Kai Hornsey; rest assured that you’ll want for nothing here with your new family – today and every day in the future. I promise to love you unconditionally, be there in your happy days and your sad days, and I’ll always protect you. Forever.

Our eternal thanks to everyone involved who made this possible, and all the best to Spaniel Welfare SA for the incredible, selfless work that you do.