Written by Sabine Kruger and photographed by Strike a Pose Photography
Seated from left: staff member Surprise holding Joshua, Lucy sitting above them, little Kobe, staff member Mdala with Daisy Boo leaning on his shoulder, Angel sitting on his right, Bella, Honey and Murphy, Oliver with Bianca. Seated are Babushka, Milo and Luna with Sabine Kruger standing at the back. (Ed's note: The new addition, Charlie is not featured in this photo.)
When I come home every day, I’m greeted by a welcoming party with a difference: 12 pooches howling, barking, and jumping on me! My house and garden are full of wagging tails, lolling tongues and big doggy smiles. Every morning, 48 paws dash to their bowls for a breakfast of cooked chicken, rice and veg, and every Friday, the owners of those paws get a bath and blow-dry. My family and I are lucky enough to share our home with 12 Spaniels, one honorary Spaniel, and a host of bunnies and guinea pigs – all rescued.
The beginning of a lifelong love affair
I’ve always loved animals. I grew up in a tiny town where my mother, a nurse, was also the local GP – and vet, while my grandmother always picked up strays and injured animals. We shared our home with a plethora of unusual animals, including an abandoned baby duiker, a wounded leopard and an injured eagle (which I nursed back to health aged five) – plus my trusted companion, German Shepherd Cora. I later volunteered at the SPCA and SANCCOB. When I had a family of my own – my husband and two beautiful daughters, Bianca and Gabriella – we had a house full of previously unwanted animals of our own. We then moved overseas for four years; it was on our return in 2005 that the pack began to grow...
The first Spaniel was Honey – now 12 – who is deaf and blind yet still mischievous, boisterous and happy, followed by Max, a terrified, malnourished, mange- and flea-infested seven-month-old. Bianca then brought home Golden Cocker Joshua, followed by Kobe the honorary Spaniel aka Yorkshire Terrier.
When Max tragically passed away after being poisoned, I was heartbroken. So, when I spotted Jake on an online classifieds ad, I immediately took him in – this terrified little mite of nine months old was just dumped with his kennel at our home. He still loved anything that breathed, human or animal.
I soon became friends with Mandy and Simone from Spaniel Rescue and it wasn’t long before Mandy asked me to foster an emaciated young black Spaniel who was hyperactive and ball mad. Needless to say, our gorgeous goofball Oliver never left. Then came Bella, a blind ex-puppy mill dog who had been dumped in a field, followed by Angel, from Rustenberg SPCA. By now, a house with a bigger garden had become critical, so we moved (anything for the animals).
Sadly, our Jake was taken from us a month later; my heart was shattered into a thousand pieces and I thought I was never going to get over my grief. My dogs are like my children, they are my family.
Spaniel Rescue got a litter from Nelspruit and the runt, Luna, came to live with us as Gabriella’s little princess. I was still horribly cut up about losing Jake but, when Mandy told me about blue roan Murphy (now diabetic and on insulin), a gentle old soul with a very sad past who was petrified of water, I took him. Little blonde Daisy Boo joined us soon afterwards when my husband was working overseas. She was rescued from Thembisa and was very timid; when she first arrived, she literally walked across counters to get away from the other dogs (she is now completely part of the pack). My hubby joked that he shouldn’t go away again as each time he returns there are more dogs!
Two months passed and, one evening, my husband came home with the tiniest, most beautiful little liver roan pup. At first I was angry; I told him, “We don’t buy puppies, we rescue!” He replied, “But, love, I did rescue him; I found this young girl walking to the pet shop to sell him so I stopped her and brought him home to you.” Milo, as we named him, was very ill with ‘parvo’ – had my hubby not taken him, he would surely have died. Milo is the ‘love of my life’ now and I think he has a bit of all my beloved pups that I have lost.
Party of 12 (and then some)
As you can imagine, caring for all our furry family members needs careful management, especially as Kobe and Oliver have epilepsy and are on chronic medication. They spend their days roaming the house and garden, and are spoilt, getting plenty of treats at night too. Each weekend, two guys come in to take them all for walks, and, every eight weeks, Dandy Dogs groomers come to us for proper grooming. Annual vet visits are pretty challenging as taking all 12 to the vet is a team effort! I’m really blessed to have wonderful staff to help me.
Believe it or not, they all fit in. My girls think I’m a complete nut job because whenever a new dog joins the existing pack, I sit and talk to them and tell them that we do not fight in our house, and we don’t chase or hurt any other animals. Whether they understand me or not is another story, but they do get along. Since this photoshoot, I adopted Charlie from Spaniel Rescue and he is a handful; he is like having 10 new additions!
Without the love and support of my husband, daughters and super awesome staff, I wouldn’t be able to do this. My animals are like my children, the loves of my life. My life would be so dull without each and every one of them, and I am grateful and truly blessed to be able to share my life with them. I hate seeing any animal suffer or not have a loving home and I will always have place for more.