Rescuing Isabella

By Christine Rodney, rescuer 

Professional photography by ICapture Imagery

When I met Isabella, she was in a terrible state; she had what seemed like hundreds of ticks and fleas crawling all over her body, stuck like mussels to a rock between her paw pads and in her ears and eyelids. She was severely underweight, malnourished, and had open wounds on her body that the vet would later say looked like bite wounds…

She was about to collapse

I was leaving home en route to an appointment but immediately stopped and called the emaciated brown-and-white dog. But she was terrified and fled, in a weak, lopsided sort of way. It looked like she was about to collapse at any moment.

She tired quickly when we continued to chase her and, eventually, just stopped in the middle of the road. When I picked her up and put her in our car, it seemed like she’d finally given up and was ready to accept her fate.

On our drive to AACL, Isabella sat quietly on the front passenger side and gave my hand a soft kiss, as if to say thank you. She must have understood that I wasn’t going to hurt her.

I thank God for Robert Scott at AACL Epping, as well as Nadia Vandecasteele and Robyn Bronkhorst from Pit Pals, because without them a very special girl named Isabella would not have been with us today.


By Robert Scott, Animal Anti-Cruelty League Epping (Cape Town), Kennel Manager

On the 6th of November 2017, I received a call from Nadia Vandecasteele at Pit Pals: somebody had found a stray dog in a bad way and we needed to help her. I wasn’t on duty at the time but asked that they take the dog into AACL and I’d send word that I was expecting her and would have a look the next morning.

Shocking condition

When I arrived, I was shocked to see the condition of Isabella. She was riddled with ticks and fleas, filthy dirty and seriously underweight. But, despite being in this terrible state, she was still the most loving and friendly dog in the world.

I contacted the ladies from Pit Pals again and we immediately decided that we would rehabilitate and rehome this sweet girl; from then on, Robyn Bronkhorst of Pit Pals and I were in constant contact.

We started Isabella’s rehabilitation at our Epping branch, which included the feeding of special foods three times a day, baths and skin treatments and, of course, plenty of love and attention.

Isabella was stolen

Everything went according to plan over the next few days… until Sunday the 12th of November. When I arrived at work that morning, my heart plummeted. Our back sliding door was open and the place had been trashed.

But my first concern wasn’t the office… Straight away I went through the kennels. To my utter horror, I saw that Isabelle had been stolen.

Someone had jumped our walls, broken into our office to steal what they could – and then took Isabella as they were leaving. Obviously, my heart dropped and I started panicking.

Don’t panic

I immediately got hold of our Bellville branch ladies who are very experienced and have dealt with a case like this before.

They told me not to panic and advised that I call Maryke van Rensburg (our marketing assistant) and Helen Sadler (Bellville adoptions manager) to come through and help. They arrived within minutes.

I called Robyn to tell her the sickening news; she immediately offered to join us in the search of the surrounding locations and offered to help with the reward money that we set at R3000.

Flyers are crucial in finding lost or stolen dogs and Maryke immediately made some; Helen covered my shift so that I could go into the nearby suburb of Epping Forest and hopefully find Isabella. Together, Maryke and I headed off on the hunt for Isabella.

The first man we met told us he had seen Isabella with a group of young men the previous night. He promised to go and look for her and I promised him the R3000 reward if he brought her back safely.

Call off the search

We were still hunting and handing out flyers when my phone beeped with a photo message from our general manager to call off the search: Isabella was back! The attached photo confirmed that it was definitely our girl.

We rushed back, calling Robyn on the way with the good news (she burst into tears). Isabella was very happy to be back and she had plenty of visitors to welcome her back.

It turned out that the guy who claimed to have seen her with the group of men was in fact the person who’d stolen her. So, instead of the R3000 reward, he received jail time.

It wasn’t long before Isabella was ready to be spayed and head off to join Pit Pals until she could find her forever home.

So many people were involved with helping Isabella, it’s crazy – from the observant and helpful woman who brought her in and the kind-hearted woman who cooked meals for her, to the folks at Pit Pals and everyone at both Epping AACL and Bellville AACL. Saving Isabella was a real team effort. It wasn’t easy but was well worth it just to see her recover and find a loving home.

PS: After the break-in, with help from donations from the public, we instantly heightened our walls and redid our entire electric fencing around the property to keep our staff and animals safe.


By Marcela and Guy Clark, Isabella’s new family

Guy and I moved to Cape Town from Miami back in 2016 and, of course, brought our dogs, Ashk (six-year-old female Boxer) and Enzo (a four-year-old Pit Bull mix rescued from a hectic situation).

Sadly, on the 8th of October 2017, despite trying everything we could to save her, we sadly lost Ashk to Cushing’s Disease. This left us all devastated – including Enzo. I didn’t feel ready for another dog, but seeing Enzo feeling so lost without his playmate made me realise that we could give him a companion and, at the same time, give another dog a better life.

We decided that the best fit for Enzo would be a Pit Bull or Pit Bull mix to match his strength and energy.

After two days of looking at all the different Capetonian rescue groups on Facebook, I came across a picture of Isabella; she had that spark in her eyes and she seemed so full of life and excitement. I sent the picture to Guy and he felt exactly as I did when he saw the picture. We both knew we had found our special dog. We scheduled a date with Robyn to meet Isabella that weekend.

As we arrived at the kennels there she was, in the playpen, all happiness and wagging tail. When we went inside to play with her we immediately confirmed that she was The One. She put on a performance, fetching the ball, bringing it to us, jumping onto our laps. The next step was for Isabella and Enzo to meet; two days later, we made the introduction – and, oh boy, we can only describe it with one expression: “love at first sight”.

We passed the home check on the same day and Isabella (“Issie” for short) came to join our family on the 8th of January 2018. Since then, she has brightened our lives every day and we love her so much!