Mad about Maddy


Written by Megan Bayne and Kirsti Penprase and photography by Strike a Pose Photography

Bit from Megan Bayne, Maddy’s (previously named Tao) sponsor mum

I still remember the first time I read Tao’s story on the Lucky Lucy Foundation (LLF) Facebook page.

I was relaxing with a cup of coffee in my room and, halfway through the first paragraph, I was already in tears. By the end, my heart was breaking into a million pieces. Tao had been rescued from near the N7 highway (Cape Town); she was infested with mange and covered in sores, emaciated, neglected, and afraid. They later discovered that she was deaf – it’s unclear if this was from birth or due to abuse she’d suffered. But none of it bothered her; Tao was still a friendly, loving dog.

Getting to know Tao

My visit to LLF’s rescue centre near Malmesbury, Cape Town, just after Tao arrived, played a pivotal role in my future in animal rescue – and with the Foundation itself. LLF volunteer Adele Spreeth accompanied me to the clinic to meet Tao (which means “she who will have a long life”) for the first time. We coaxed the young red-brown brindled Staffie-mix out of her holding pen and headed for a quiet area. Within the hour-and-a-half we spent with her, it was plain to see that she was a happy soul. Genuinely happy. That rocked me to my core: she wasn’t held back or limited by her gruesome upbringing and awful experiences at the hands of man. Tao was always quick to get into your lap for a kiss and a love.

I became Tao’s monthly sponsor, making sure she had everything she needed. Over the next few months, I visited often. The fun part was getting her used to toys and treats. I came to the farm with something new each time until I found out what she liked (other than human food and your hands).

Tao gained confidence by the day – and loads of weight – and she captured absolutely every volunteer’s heart. She was definitely the apple of everyone’s eyes and was spoilt rotten. I’d decided to adopt her, and started training her and conditioning her coat, because the sarcoptic mange had caused it to be dry, flaky, and itchy. My heart broke the day I had to relinquish my “reserve” on her because we discovered her fixation on cats – my only male cat at the time had severe hip problems and couldn’t run or defend himself properly. I refused to be the reason she wouldn’t go to the perfect home.

The Teachings of Tao

One thing I will always owe Tao is the lessons she taught me. I haven’t had the easiest life, albeit only 19 years, and her lessons have had a profound effect on me.

Lesson one: Never allow the past to define you, because it doesn’t. It conditions you to excel and teaches you valuable lessons.

Lesson two: Just because you were once a broken soul does not mean that you can’t grow, mend and thrive; in fact, she helped me to do just that. Tao gave me such inspiration to be whole and complete; we did it together.

Lesson three: She showed me that, just because you were hurt, it does not mean you can’t love wholeheartedly and completely again; just because you didn’t have confidence doesn’t mean it won’t grow again. It just takes the right people to help you find it so that you become whole again.

Lesson four: This amazing dog showed each and every one of us who had the honour and privilege to be a part of her life that, no matter what you have had to go through, it’s not your defining moment. The moment that defines you is the moment you rise above all fear, pain and hurt – and triumph. And that is exactly what Tao did.

Goodbye, Tao; Hello, Maddy!

The day she left for her forever home with Kirsti and Jonathan was definitely a bittersweet one for me. I spent some alone time with her, sobbing hard and long; she got into my lap and just let me hold her. We’re certain that she knew it was time that she was going home: she got into the car with ease; she got into her crate with ease; she was happy and content, even with all the new surroundings and sights and smells.

She knew.

When people ask me for updates on Tao, I proudly pull out my phone to show photos and tell the stories that Kirsti relays to me. I will forever be grateful to Kirsti and Jono for allowing me to be a part of her last day here in Cape Town; I will always cherish and appreciate the photos, updates and stories. It continually brings a tear or 50 – but they are happy tears. She is a magnificent soul and I miss her every single day.

I always tell the volunteers that she couldn’t have found a better home, better parents, a better life. Kirsti and Jono love her so much and that makes it all worth it. We are all so proud of Tao and feel blessed to have known her. 

Tao – now Maddy – is where she was always meant to be, with her mom and dad.

Thanks to

Thank you to the Lucky Lucy Foundation, especially Bonile Mpalala, the Animal Care Specialist who took excellent care of Tao. He ensured she got lots of love every day, walked her daily, and cared for her medically. And to Adele, who spent hours with Tao over weekends and developed a strong bond with her.

So many people were involved in Tao/Maddy’s adoption. After being networked by Adele, Dee of Happy Tails found her this most awesome home with Kirsti and John. Lyn Gardiner from Great Dane Rescue arranged for the home check. Then Dee kindly arranged with Stephne Jackson of Watershed Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation for her flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg. A truly great team effort to get this once-neglected dog to her happily ever after.

Maddy’s owner, Kirsti Penprase, shares her side of Maddy’s happy ending…

At the start of the year we decided that it was time to add a little fur baby to our lives. My partner, Jon, was keen for a little black Staffie boy (he had always wanted one) so we began looking. We decided that we would adopt and not buy because of how many homeless animals are around, so we asked Dee of Happy Tails to keep an eye out for us, and started looking at various rescue sites.

After seeing a few pups, Dee sent us Madame Tao… and we instantly fell in love. She had to be our little girl; she was The One we wanted. Tao’s lonely eyes and beautiful forgiving face captured our hearts instantly. The fact that she was deaf and all the way in Cape Town was not a problem at all – we would do anything to give this girl the life she deserved. Just looking at her you could see the difficulties she had been through and the longing she had to be safe, secure and loved.

We immediately contacted Adele from Lucky Lucy Foundation. Megan, her sponsor, sent us weekly photos and we became very close through chatting daily to find out more and more out about our baby girl.

The day we found out that our application had been approved, we were ecstatic. We immediately began planning for her arrival. The first thing we bought was a bone-shaped dog tag that read ‘Tao is deaf’; we were so excited even to pick this up as it meant she would soon be with us.

Maddy’s new life

Dee again helped us by organising Tao’s flight. Adele and Megan assisted with taking Maddy, as we now call her, to the airport, staying with her, reassuring her, and giving a last bit of their love and care. We will be forever grateful to them for this and everything they did for her during her time at LLF.

We remember the day of her flight like it was yesterday. We left work and met at home, each of us excited and very nervous. We couldn’t wait to get going and arrived early, knots in our tummies, and anxiously awaited her arrival at the Pet Lounge. Finally the van pulled in... Tears began streaming down my face and Jon’s eyes sparkled with excitement. We literally ran to meet her. From inside the crate, big, nervous hazel-coloured eyes gazed up at us. There and then, we lost our hearts.

We’d wondered and worried about how she’d be with us but she accepted us instantly. On her first night, Maggie was already totally at home sleeping on the bed with us, right through the night. She was brilliant! The first two weeks were challenging for us all, as would be expected, but Maddy quickly adapted and became more comfortable day by day, as did we the more we got to know her. She’s very intelligent and learns very quickly.

At first she was wary of mirrors, windows, the TV – any reflections she would bark madly at. We discovered that she loves grass; she’s always stretching out on it or catching some sun on it. This shows just what type of life she’d had – she’d clearly never been exposed to these things before.

Our lives have dramatically changed since getting Maddy. Instead of planning what we will do on weekends, we now plan what we can do with Maddy! She surprises us every day. Maddy is the sweetest, most loving little girl, and even after everything she’s been through, she still loves and wants to meet everyone. Arriving home to her happy full-body wags, her curled ears, and adorable yawn-howl is our favourite part of every day.

Maddy’s eyes truly are the windows to her soul; not only do they tell a story of a harsh and difficult upbringing but they show new-found happiness, hope, and never-ending positivity for the future. She is an inspiration with a burning fire in her heart. She is the biggest blessing that we never expected.

Some funs facts on Maddy

She absolutely loves fruit. In fact, the only thing that she will drool for is a citrus fruit.

Her favourite position is the “spatchcock”; this is where she lies on her tummy with all her legs out, like a spatchcock chicken. She will revert to this position when hot, tired, inside, outside – pretty much anytime.

Maddy will destroy anything (a Kong Extreme lasted two days), except for her teddy that came with her from LLF.

She is the biggest dreamer and snorer. We often wake up thinking she’s growling at something – but she’s just dreaming.

She loves her daily walks and car rides; she happily watches the world go by from the car window and has made “dog park friends” that she enjoys playing with.