Trail Blazing with Ryan and Thandi

How amazing would it be to wake up on another continent, looking up at a sky speckled with stars that are unfamiliar to you? Stretching and yawning, while drinking your coffee, and amazed at the opportunity to be where you are. It sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

Well, this is the upside of being an ultra-trail runner, there’s always a new adventure waiting. Then the hard work starts!  From here, you pack your kit, put on your running shoes and run for a full day if you’re lucky (and only entered for one day). If you opted for the multi- stage race, you do this for five to six days. You stretch your motivation muscle to the most extreme extent of your capacity, and keep putting one foot in front of the other while facing the unyielding terrain, the blistering sun, and possibly, the howling wind and blinding rain.

The amount of willpower it requires to build a career in ultra-running is astonishing, to me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like a good bit of trail running myself, and this is exactly why I am able to say: “Ryan Sandes is a legend.” Tim Noakes has referred to him as an enigma, because even he can’t really explain how Ryan does what he does.

Starting his running career in his mid-twenties, Ryan did the unthinkable and dived into his first 250km race having only about a year or two of running experience under his belt. Guess what! He won the race!

We are talking about the Gobi March. A race hosted in Mongolia, consisting of six days of running through desert places, with harsh weather conditions. One of the biggest obstacles faced is carrying your kit with you for the entire race. There are constant debates on the running forums about how heavy a couple of litres of water can be, and how that can slow you down, but the people endeavoring to run the Gobi March have to carry food, water, clothes, shoes and sleeping gear. How hardcore is that? These days Ryan competes in challenges such as the 13 Peaks and 100 miler expeditions. (That’s miles, people. Roughly 161km for a one day challenge. To put it in perspective, we are talking about almost two comrades marathons, back to back over mountain terrain.)


The 13 Peaks Challenge was born when Ryan decided to link up some of his favourite peaks on Table Mountain and the Cape Peninsula area.

Starting with Signal Hill the route makes its way to Lions Head, followed by MacLears Beacon, Grootkop, Judas Peak, Klein Leeukop, Suther Peak, Chapman’s Peak, Noordhoek Peak, Muizenberg Peak, Constantiaberg, Klassenkop, Devils Peak and back to Signal Hill.

The idea behind the initiative is to get people moving and exploring the scenic routes and wilderness area. This route can be done by runners and hikers alike, and will guarantee a fun challenge.

For more information, check out www.13peaks.co.za


Ryan has always been very competitive, even as a  child, and tells of numerous occasions during which he was upset if he did not win a prize at a birthday party, or a similar occurence, in his book, “Trail Blazer”. The book is a testament to Ryan’s career until now, and tells of his life in general. The book started out as a passion project, with Steve Smith behind the pen, and has been wildly popular with fans around the world. It’s funny and real, and everyone will find something to relate to while reading about Ryan’s upbringing, party days and finding his passions in the most unexpected places.

Growing up in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town, and Houtbay, especially, Ryan paints vivid pictures of helping his grandfather in the garden as well as times playing with friends. One of the resounding messages that also comes across in his talks and videos is his connection to nature and his love for trees. Choosing a career in Trail Running, specifically, was destiny.

It also should come as no surprise that Ryan loves animals. Ryan shared his childhood with a Jack Russell called Raptor, and later on a rescue called Buzzbee. And, why not, running through the forest or farm lands won’t be the same without a K-9 at your heels, right?!

These days the Sandes family share their home with an adopted dog, called Thandi. Thandi was adopted by Ryan’s wife, Vanessa, from Randburg SPCA, when she was looking for a companion. There were a lot of dogs looking for homes that day, but the two just connected, and Thandi, also fondly referred to as T-dog, found her forever home.

You can find Thandi anywhere the Sandes family is. She is so involved in their everyday life that when you watch a promotional video for Red Bull or Salomons, you’ll see her in almost every second shot. I think this is thanks to Ryan, who has admittedly been the instigator of allowing Thandi on all the furniture when Vanessa wasn’t looking.

This thirteen- year-old rescue also still takes on trails and beach outings with her family. Carefully selected routes will feature Ryan, Vanessa, their son Max, in a stroller, and T-dog, all taking on adventures.

The silver-faced K-9 has also learned that having a three-year-old accomplice in  the house isn’t too bad. It makes begging for snacks that much easier. Her human brother loves her so much, he would never deny her a piece of whatever is on his plate.

Now, if you were as stunned as I was about Thandi’s great form, you would be wondering what she eats. The answer is a simple diet of rice, veggies and some chicken or mince. Regular vet visits make sure that she isn’t uncomfortable, and a bit of flaxseed oil helps with her joint health.

Even though the life of an ultra-athlete  is busy and sees Ryan away from home a lot, he still makes time for doing good.

Ryan is also the CEO of the Southern Lodestar Foundation, an organisation that focusses on the nutritional needs of children. Through education and the supplementation of a breakfast program to students, they are hoping to improve the cognitive and physical health of learners to help them reach their full potential.

It isn’t hard to see why this is such a passion for Ryan. One of the key components of being a professional athlete is knowing what your body needs to perform at its peak. Using this knowledge to the advantage of an NPO shows the selfless nature of a guy who just wants to help everyone he meets.

If you see Ryan on one of the trails in Cape Town, please stop and say “hello”. He is the friendliest guy ever. One of his promo videos also captured a wish that he had to one day be the “old ballie” on the mountain that everyone knows.

Ryan is a true South African legend and we are very proud of all that he has accomplished. We can’t wait to see what he gets up to next!

Celebrating Life with Zoë and Navy

“We know that from time to time, there arise among human beings, people who seem to exude love as naturally as the sun gives out heat.”

Don’t you just love a birthday? You get to spend it with special people who enrich your life and bring you joy. Sure, there are mishaps on occasion, and you just turn another year older, but, ultimately, it is a celebration of life! Our birthday issue is exactly that, the celebration of a year filled with wondrous moments, and when we thought of who we should share it with, only one name came to mind. We wanted the one and only, self-proclaimed, crazy cat lady who brightens our mornings and our afternoon traffic reports, to be the first repeat and the celebratory cover model for this issue!

There is a popular quote by Alan W Watts, that rings so true and is a splendid quote to explain the Zoë Brown personality:

“We know that from time to time, there arise among human beings, people who seem to exude love as naturally as the sun gives out heat.”

This, to me, is who Zoë Brown is. She is a bright and optimistic individual, who doesn’t allow the people she cares for to get stuck in a rut. She’s witty and a little naughty sometimes, but a wonderfully authentic person to be around. We met up with Zoë, Navy and Shiraz Reddy (who by the way, is the most amazing stylist in the whole wide world!), at Infinity Studio for a shoot that will be remembered for years to come. We knew it would be challenging to get Navy to work with us, since the space was so vast and she was completely out of her environment, but this little lady got it together and gave us some amazing shots. Since the last time we featured Zoë, a lot has happened. Her kitty, Sailor, passed away due to diabetic complications. It was a heart-breaking time for our friend, but as COVID dawned on us and everyone was taking in animals for foster care, Zoë decided that the time was right to share her home and her heart with yet another black feline. Black animals are statistically shown to be the least adopted animals. This is due to the stigma surrounding black animals, as they are associated with bad luck, the fact that it is difficult to take nice photos of them and just their overall aesthetics.

Also see our friend, Emma O’Brien’s, work on black animals shot against black backgrounds, creating awareness on this topic.

Navy was subsequently adopted from Adopt-a-Pet at the age of 5 months old in 2020, and has landed with her little bum in the butter with the best cat mommy a cat could ask for. She spends her days laying in the sun and watching people on the promenade from her Pet Rebels Cat Tree. When she gets bored of that, she rearranges the treats drawer or plays with paper balls.

The paper balls, in particular, are an interesting trait this little lady has. It’s a common misconception that cats don’t play the same way dogs do, but Navy, being the pack leader she is, proves otherwise. When there aren’t any balls around to play fetch with, she fishes a paper ball from the wastebasket and keeps herself busy. The apartment is often a minefield of paper pieces when Zoë gets home, but who can resist the purring of your little kitty when you get home. On the occasions that Zoë has a sleepover at friends, little Navy also gets to tag along. It won’t be a proper girls’ night if you can’t have your companion riding shotgun, right? Navy gets to visit all the time, in fact. She’s been a visitor to the KFM studios on occasion, and Carl Wastie, Zoë’s co-presenter on the afternoon drive show, has dubbed her “One of the most pleasant kitty-cats in the entire world!”

She sure has a sparkly purrrrsonality and we just know she got it from her mamma. Zoë is an avid supporter of animal welfare and welfare in general. She is currently working on Project Orange, an initiative where Citrus farmers from the Olifants River Valley pledge to donate oranges, and the Project’s objective is to get the oranges from the farms into vulnerable communities, during a time that is so important. In a time when we all need a bit of Vitamin C and positivity, I think Zoë is exactly where we need her. When asked what helps her to stay positive, she had the following reply: “I think I’ve been very blessed to have myself surrounded by optimistic and positive people. I think the impact we have at work also plays a big role. You get to witness peoples’ kindness and humanity in a different light. It’s not all doom and gloom. There are so many good people out there. I think people love listening to other positive people. I’m one of them. Positive energy tends to rub off on people, and we need to try and keep it that way.”

“One of the most pleasant kitty-cats in the entire world!”- Carl Wastie

“You get to witness people’s kindness and humanity in a different light. It’s not all doom and gloom. There are so many good people out there. I think people love listening to other positive people. I’m one of them. Positive energy tends to rub off on people and we need to try and keep it that way.”

I also find that exercise keeps me positive. I try to get in a workout five days a week and that makes me happy and that makes me stay positive. It’s so important to consciously make the decision to be positive.”

“I also find that exercise keeps me positive. I try to get in a workout five days a week and that makes me happy and helps me to stay positive. It’s vitally important to consciously make the decision to be positive.” We can all relate to this, I think. We have been in a pandemic for more than fifteen months now and we can only cope when we set goals for ourselves and live by the principles of reaching them on a day-to-day basis. One of the things I miss the most is traveling, and I wanted to know what Zoë’s first destination is for travel once lockdown is lifted. “Lockdown is a measure that’s been put in place to protect us and not to punish us, and I’ve had to change my mindset to use this time productively. I’ve done that by focusing on things that I’m passionate about, like my own health and fitness journey. So, when things start getting busy again, I know I am going to be very thankful for this time that I had to focus on myself.

But, as soon as we are allowed to travel again, my first destination is Peru! I would love to hike the Inca Trail. Anywhere in South America would be a fun place to travel too”. I’m sure none of us can wait to see the highlights on Zoë’s Instagram story of that trip! Navy will have to stay home, unfortunately, but I’m sure she will have a little sibling by then. I have it on good authority that Zoë is on the lookout for a Sailor 2.0 to keep Navy company while she’s at work or when she’s away traveling. But, until then, we are happy to keep an ear out for this starlet with her mesmerizing voice, making sure we stay clear of the traffic jams on the roads of Cape Town.

Fascinating Tarantula facts

The term tarantula is usually used to describe members of the family Theraphosidae.

Tarantulas are the largest spiders living on Earth today. There are over 900 species of Tarantulas (in the family Theraphosidae) and can be found all over the planet including North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe- except Antarctica. These large spiders like to live in many different climates, but generally prefer to stay in warm environments. They can be found in forests, deserts, and jungles. Some Tarantulas live in the ground while others live in the trees.

If they live in the ground, they make a burrow to live in which they line with their silk or web. If they live in trees, they make a tube tent out of their silk to live in. A Tarantulas’ size, colour, and behaviour can vary wildly depending on the location and species.

From front right leg to rear left leg, tarantulas range from 11.4 cm to 28 cm in length. They can weigh anything from 28.3 grams to 85 grams and have strong jaws and fangs.

The fangs of the tarantula are distinctive, as they are positioned parallel to each other and face downward. A Tarantula’s jaws move up and down, while most spiders will have a common side-to-side motion.

Some tarantulas are dull brown or black, while some species are striped or even coloured. They have 8 tiny eyes that will pick up on the slightest movement. Tarantulas have two body parts- the cephalothorax and the abdomen. Like all spider species, the tarantula has eight legs. The legs and body are covered with hairs, which are extremely sensitive to vibrations. Although this looks like hair and is commonly described as such, spiders and other arthropods do not have true hair like mammals do. Mammalian hair is mainly made of keratin, while arthropod setae consists largely of chitin. Tarantulas are nocturnal hunters, which means that they are only active during the night and sleeping during the daytime hours. They will normally wait for their prey to come close enough to grab. They kill their prey with a bite from their fangs, which then release venom that kills their victim Their jaw is also strong enough to crush certain prey. Tarantulas are extremely sensitive to vibrations on the ground that may indicate the presence of prey or danger. As a way of self-defense, some species simply lean back on their haunches, raising their head and 2 pairs of legs in the air and exposing their curved fangs in an intimidating display that will give the impression that they are larger than they really are.

Some species of tarantula use their legs to scrape off the fine hairs from their abdomen, called urticating hairs, and throw this to an enemy to cause irritation if it comes in contact with the eyes or skin of a predator.

Tarantulas are all venomous, but how dangerous they are to humans varies from tarantula to tarantula. Many are harmless to humans and rarely bite if they are not feeling threatened. Some bites to a human are similar to a bee sting, with only temporary pain and swelling. Some African tarantula bites have been reported to cause moderate illness, but there have been no severe cases with human deaths due to toxicity from a tarantula bite.

The venom itself may not be dangerous to humans, but it can trigger allergic reactions in some people. Tarantulas are cold-blooded animals. They are unable to regulate their internal body temperature. Tarantulas will shed their skin from time to time because they have outgrown their old exoskeleton and need more room to grow. Tarantulas are known as long-lived spiders, although their life spans vary by sex as well as species.

Male tarantulas can live for as long as 10 to 12 years, but once they successfully mate, they usually die within a few months. Female tarantulas can live twice as long as some males, and some recorded reports have documented females to have lived for 30 years. Tarantulas are ambush predators, pouncing on prey rather than trying to use a web to trap its prey like other spiders. They do however spin a tripwire to signal an alert when something approaches its burrow. A Tarantula’s diets vary depending on the species’ size and habitat. They feed primarily on insects like beetles, grasshoppers, and other small spiders. Some larger tarantulas are known to prey on small vertebrates like lizards, frogs, toads, and even rodents. When prey comes close, tarantulas ambush it, grab it with their legs, inject paralyzing venom, and then kill it with their fangs. They would also inject a fluid that breaks down the victim’s tissues that turns the prey into a soft pulp, which can then be eaten. Mating between tarantulas takes place at various times of the year. In some species, the male performs a courtship dance to encourage the female to become receptive.

After mating, the female normally carries her eggs in a silken cocoon attached to her body. Depending on the species, a female can lay anything from 50 to 2000 eggs at a time.

They do not take care of their babies at all and, instead, mothers would leave them to fend for themselves. The growth of a newly hatched spider into a mature spider is a long process and can take up to ten years. Some of the more popular and colourful species of tarantulas are now threatened due to collecting for the exotic pet trade. A South American tarantula known as the goliath birdeater is widely considered the most massive spider alive today, growing up to 28 centimeters in diameter. Despite its name, it only rarely preys on birds, instead of feeding mostly on earthworms, insects, and other invertebrates. Predators of tarantulas include snakes, lizards, frogs, spider-eating birds, raccoons, and skunks as well as mammals such as coyotes, mongooses, and foxes.

Top Tips For Throwing The Ultimate Doggy Bash

I have a confession to make – I am THAT Dog Mom. The one who won’t come to your event, because it is my dog’s (or cat’s) birthday party. I am the one who plans months ahead of time, gets overexcited, designs invitations, and is offended if you decline because it’s ‘just a dog’. Luckily, amongst my friends and family, my dog’s birthday party has become quite the anticipated social event of the year. Throwing a fabulous party for your pooch is very similar to throwing a party for humans – there is food, cake, games, maybe a fight or two and, of course, loads of fun and laughter.

And don’t worry if you don’t know your dog’s exact date of birth. You can estimate their birth date, celebrate the adoption date (also known as their gotcha day) or even just a throw party for no other reason than you love your dog!

Guestlist

Deciding on a guest list is one of the most important decisions to make when planning your party. If your dog is a social butterfly and gets along with other dogs, this is a great opportunity to have a pawesome play date. It is, however, best if all dogs are already acquainted, like friends from dog training, day-care or a dog walking group. If your pooch is more of a lone ranger, or perhaps a bit anxious or nervous, then consider having them as the Guest of Honor and limit the number of human guests invited, to make them a bit more comfortable. After all, the party is for them, and you want them to enjoy themselves. Lastly, if you want your dog to be the center of attention i.e., the only 4-legged guest in attendance, be sure to include this in the invitation. People might automatically assume that all canines are invited, and you could end up with a disaster on your hands.

Venue

Once the guest list has been decided, you can pick the perfect location to host your party. If other dogs will be in attendance, an outdoor venue would be ideal. The dogs can run wild without destroying your house or having any accidents on your carpets. If you don’t have a big enough garden, other options are: a local dog park, a dog-friendly venue that you can rent out (these are becoming very popular), or even your dog’s day-care or training grounds. Wherever you choose, just be sure to check that the venue is fully secured and escape-proof for all-size dogs. Also, ensure that there is adequate shade available to escape the heat or just have a laydown.

Theme

While there does not need to be a theme, it is always fun and helps to focus your ideas. Unfortunately, our pups cannot voice their preferences, so base your ideas around their favourite toy, place to go, or food. I have had a “monsters and motorbike” theme based on the fact that my one dog loved this blue toy monster and the other couldn’t stop chasing motorbikes (must be love, right?). I have also done an ice cream bar theme complete with both human and doggy-friendly ice cream and toppings. The sky really is the limit, so let your imagination go wild.

Food

Both humans and dogs will need to be catered for. I recommend keeping all snacks dog-friendly, especially if 2 legged kids will also be there. This way you don’t have to worry about your dog accidentally ingesting something they shouldn’t. Kids tend to share, whether it’s intentional or not. Different fruits and vegetables are good options, like apples, carrots, bananas, berries etc. Other fun ideas for your pup are pupsicles, treats and chews, or homemade doggy biscuits. Last, but not least, is the cake. If you are handy in the kitchen, you can bake a delicious pupcake fit for both humans and dogs. You can also use dog cake mix (Wolf and Women have a great one) or order a cake from a canine baker in your area. Please remember to always research any ingredients or food before feeding them to your dog. Some foods are highly toxic and can result in death. Foods to avoid are chocolate, avocados, grapes, raisins and xylitol (an artificial sweetener).

Entertainment

Don’t overthink this one. Many dogs are quite happy to go around getting love and attention from all the humans and just laze around. There is nothing wrong with that. If there are multiple dogs, they will mainly keep themselves entertained play wrestling and chasing each other. If you do feel you want to organize some activities, provide some toys for the dogs to play with, like ropes for tug of war, balls for fetch, or paddling pools to splash around in. Do, however, keep resource guarding in mind. If one pup is being a bit too possessive over a certain toy, rather remove it and prevent any doggy showdowns.

Gifts

This is a personal choice and is up to you to decide whether you would like guests to bring gifts or not (though I am sure your dog won’t say no to some tasty treats!). If you do decide on gifts, let your guests know what your dog’s tastes are in terms of the types of treats they like, if they have any allergies, and the types of toys they prefer. If your dog is as spoilt as my own and wants for nothing, a nice idea is to ask for donations for your local shelter in lieu of gifts and pay it forward.

Party favours

Who doesn’t love a goodie bag, or in this case, a doggy bag? If other dogs will be invited to your pup’s party, making up pawty packs will be a real crowd-pleaser and a great way to end off the day. You can fill your bags with your dog’s favorite items like sticks, balls, soft toys, or tasty treats; practical items such as poop bags, paw/snout butter or portable water dishes, or even customized bandanas with the dog’s name on them.

Pets Need a Break too

From farm stays to luxurious hotels and guesthouses, travel writer Brian Berkman doesn’t want to explore without doggie-daughter Julie coming along.

Ella’s Country House

“Ella’s really does provide all the comforts you need. A king-sized and very comfortable bed, writing desk, and two sleeper couches for additional accommodations in the open-plan space.”

In her continuing plans for an on-going jetset lifestyle, Julie chastises Brian Berkman each time they return home from a fabulous pet-friendly stay.

I’ve created a monster. Ever since Julie has become a travel dog, she punishes me when we return to our daily life. It is not that she is a snob – you see – but rather she likes to be out so much, that being home no longer makes the grade.

The first time I felt the sting of her indignation, I thought I was imagining things. But now, after eight different pet-friendly stays, I see the trend as clear as day. When we return, like we did recently from a wonderful farm stay at Kleindoorn Guesthouse, near Barrydale, she makes a point, when we get home, of pooing onto thorny spikes that almost slash my fingers when I pick it up. I even upgraded poo bags to those extra thick biodegradable ones. She seeks out the prickliest of fynbos on the mountain and, carefully takes aim to land just between the leaves making scratches and pricks all but unavoidable. And, when we returned from Ella’s in the wonderfully rural village of Greyton, she did the same thing. Julie has become a Hitchcockian villain.

Greyton was a particular highlight for her. It was her first close encounter with horses and cattle on foot. Greyton is like that. We did the Gifkloof Trail, which is a seven kilometer round trip with some steep climbs, but nothing tricky. There are wonderful views over the village from the peak, 330 meters up. Ella’s, in Greyton, is at 88 Main Road and about one kilometer away from the centre of the village and its charming restaurants. Ella’s is hosted by a wonderful chef, Jonathan, who, by prior arrangement, will cook for you. Although billed as self-catering accommodation, it isn’t really intended to be used to cook a feast, with only a microwave, Nespresso machine, toaster and bar fridge in the kitchenette. As Greyton accommodations go, Ella’s is among the most affordable at around R1000 a night. We loved the large-raised viewing deck and timber table, chairs and large canvas umbrella, which was for our exclusive use outside the entrance to our loft, from which we gazed at the mountain.

“ I’ve created a monster. Ever since Julie has become a travel dog, she punishes me when we return to our daily life.”

There is a chicken coop and Julie was preternaturally fascinated by them, so we kept her on her leash and made sure we weren’t in the acre large garden when the chickens were. There is an eco pool at Ella’s that uses plants and stones as a natural filtration, and we were very impressed to see their special, composting fence, which acts as a bug hotel so that the bugs keep away from the kitchen garden and the rest of us. Ella’s really does provide all the comforts you need. A king-sized and very comfortable bed, writing desk and two sleeper couches for additional accommodations in the open-plan space. Note that while the loo and shower are behind a wall and door that provides visual privacy, there is a significant gap between the top of the walls and the thatched ceiling.

There is a very large, shared fireplace as well as a Weber in a covered lapa, with comfy couches off the garden to enjoy the outdoors, but under cover.

See ellas.co.za for booking details.

Kleindoorn Guest House

To take full advantage of life off the lead consider a farm stay where you and your dogs are treasured guests. The Kleindoorn Guesthouse near Barrydale in the Little Karoo is a working farm with a classic farmhouse available to rent. Built in 1900, the thick walls and high ceilings mean that even in the Karoo heat, the house is always a comfortable temperature. While this is a no-frills option, it is supremely comfortable and wonderful to luxuriate in the vast open spaces.

While the house has a gate and a low slate wall, both Julie and the farm’s resident, Vizsla, a caramel-coloured beauty named Lucy, could easily jump over it. Although there is very poor mobile phone reception on the farm, there is excellent free wi-fi. The farmhouse, built in the original style with a large covered verandah in the front, has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, but many other beds in public areas that do double duty as divans for reading and lounging.

Our favourite spot was the sunroom, looking onto the hill behind the house. With large windows, the room is bathed in natural light, and is the perfect place to write or to paint, which the previous occupant, the celebrated Afrikaans writer, poet and painter, Christine Barkhuizen-le Roux did. Do make a point of ordering meat and their very special farm sausage – boerewors – made only with beef mince from the farm’s Wagyu cattle.

What’s important to know is that, while there is a small toaster oven with two hot plates on top and an electric frying pan, your best bet is to braai (bbq) in the large indoor fireplace in the kitchen or in one of two equally large fireplaces outside. We loved the one directly outside the front door for the vast views over vineyards, groves of apricot trees, poplars in the distance, and the blue-tinged mountains.

There is a mountain walking route to a waterfall behind the house and you can walk forever along the farm roads. Here you have space, space and space. Be sure to have solid walking shoes as there are many thorns in the veld and, on more than one occasion, we had to take a thorn out of Julie’s paw. Although when Lucy came to visit us in the house, Julie barked aggressively at her, but when they met up outside the house, they became firm friends. As overprotective parents, we very rarely let Julie truly run free, but we are so pleased that we did, as we witnessed an unbridled joy in her that we don’t often see. On one walk, along the farm roads, she and Lucy were darting amongst the fynbos and Karoo bush and even though we were worried about her encountering a snake, we decided to let her enjoy freedom.

Of course, back on the lead at home, she used the first opportunity to remind me how much more she likes being away than being home by selecting the pointiest and finger-cutting bush to discharge her duty.

https://kleindoorn.wordpress.com

Pets Need a Break too

FROM A LARGE COUNTRY HOME FOR EXTENDED-FAMILY STAYS TO ONE OF THE BEST HOTELS IN THE WORLD, BRIAN BERKMAN WANTS JULIE TO COME ALONG.

Faraway Estate

“I suppose, with a property as palatial as this one, having so many indoor spots to explore, kept her busy. We did venture out, but after an hour we were all soaked and our shoes and paws muddy. Thankfully, we had left a fire burning in one of those fabulous ceramic fireplaces in the kitchen, that safely contain sparks, and it was toasty when we arrived back.”

Faraway Estate, a moment outside the town of Villiersdorp, is set up against the mountain. It is a palatial home for gatherings of between 6 to 20 people, and pet-friendly. Built with entertaining in mind – each downstairs reception room opens into the next with French doors everywhere. 20 people can sit around the main dining table. The walled pool with loungers and covered dining area, keeps the wind away while a tennis court, croquet set, billiards room and mountain walks are there for those who want to stay active.

A walk-in, restaurant-sized cold room and an ice-maker, along with all the mod-cons, make the kitchen a dream for foodies. There is a cellar (with another huge table), five fire places throughout the house and a zillion places to braai. We chose two days in early March during which it didn’t stop raining. The true success of a getaway is that it can still be marvellous, even when the weather isn’t, and this property really succeeds. Even Julie, our mixed-breed darling (although some people say she is a Canis Africanas, and when I look at photos of Canis lupus familiaris, she seems to, at least, in part to fit – her nose and short-coat the most characteristic attributes among them) loved it. She was more than happy to hang out with us. I suppose, with a property as palatial as this one, having so many indoor spots to explore, kept her busy. We did venture out, but after an hour we were all soaked and our shoes and paws muddy. Thankfully, we had left a fire burning in one of those fabulous ceramic fireplaces in the kitchen, that safely contain sparks, and it was toasty when we arrived back.

Set on a working apple, pear and stone-fruit farm, high up against the mountain, this is the ideal place to holiday as an extended family or with friends. It is also a popular wedding venue. The main manor house accommodates six people in absolute luxury, and there is a standalone cottage and loft space that accommodate five people and six people respectively, suited to a young family or close friends.

The main house (sleeps six) is available from R6000 per night for a minimum of a two night stay. We cannot wait to return.
https://www.farawayestate.com

The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa

THE 12 APOSTLES HOTEL & SPA IS A DELUXE, MULTIPLE AWARD-WINNING RED CARNATION PROPERTY WITH TABLE MOUNTAIN’S 12 APOSTLES RANGE AS YOUR BACKYARD, AND THE ATLANTIC OCEAN AS YOUR FRONT ROOM. Julie is always the star of the show whenever we travel with her, and I don’t mind telling you, sometimes I am a little jealous of all the positive attention she receives.

At the 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa, dogs and cats are welcome to dine in the Leopard bar. The hotel has an especially designed branded plinth into which food and water bowls fit, and the plushest of plush royal blue cushions on which to sleep. Our suite had direct access to the lawns and mountain, so we didn’t think it wise to let her be off-lead, even when taking in the afternoon sun while overlooking the sea. Julie seemed especially fond of chasing Rock Hyrax, which are a protected species.


The beauty of the Leopard Bar at the 12 Apostles, is that while they have an extensive list of alcoholic drinks (gins seem a particular favourite), they also have an equally long list of alcohol-free drinks, including some botanicals that they have made themselves. And, the menu at The Leopard Bar, serving food from breakfast through to late in the evening, is affordable and delicious. Of course, there is a well-equipped gym, but with direct access to the “Missing Link” contour path on Table Mountain – a favourite with mountain bikers – you have every opportunity to be as active as you wish. Sloth is, however, equally encouraged here.

There is a small luxe cinema with jars of candy and posh popcorn, and the spa is rightly well loved and acclaimed. The spa is always popular and numbers are being limited to ensure Covid-19 compliance, so book ahead. In 2002 The 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa was purchased by the Tollman family’s Red Carnation Group and renovated into the magnificent and award-chart topper hotel it is today, with 55 gracious rooms and 15 sumptuous suites, each individually decorated.

The Red Carnation trademark is much more than a buttonhole. In previous years, rooms offered a well-equipped stationery drawer, now replaced by USB charging outlets and light-speed Internet. A helium-filled balloon is another Red Carnation tradition, a touch of whimsy within the deeply luxurious and elegant interiors.

The most important signature is less easy to see, but almost instantly felt. There is a warmth and generosity of spirit in the hospitality offered at each Red Carnation Hotel encountered, that makes the guest experience stand head and shoulders above its competitors.

Although the interiors at The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa are stunning, with museum-quality South African oil paintings and a full collection of Cecil Skotnes lithographs as you approach the Azure restaurant, it is what lies outside that really takes your breath away.

There is a bark-a-licious and a Cat Purr-fect menu created by the hotel’s executive chef, Christo Pretorius, in conjunction with a local vet. Pet beds, emblazoned with the 12A hotel logo, and elegant food and water-bowl holders, are available at no extra cost if you let the hotel know at the time of your reservation that you are traveling with four-legged family. https://12apostleshotel.com

Schalk & Otis Simply Outstanding

Being a funny guy and being a comedian are two very different things. Most people assume that someone in the profession of comedy is just a funny guy who hears jokes and tells them to their audience. The truth, however, is that nothing could be further from the truth. Comedians are some of our most intelligent counterparts. The slightly twisted truths they tell are funny because they hit home and are so well constructed that we don’t even realise that we are listening to a speech that is exactly that… constructed. We dismiss the jokes for wittiness and quite honestly, sometimes don’t really think about exactly how valuable the information is until we think about it the next day. Politics, the royals and the economy are, amongst others, topics that feature in all the sets of the mainliners we love. They don’t shy away from the things that make the average person uncomfortable. They talk about their, and everybody else’s, feelings, financial situations and even bodily functions; things you would rarely discuss to someone you know, let alone an auditorium of 2000 people, or the internet.

Schalk Bezuidenhout is and has been a household name for many in South Africa for several years now. He features on television series, commercials and loves working on stage. His lifelong passion has always been that of entertainment. From formulating elaborate stories about his mom being a spy while he was growing up in an Afrikaans neighbourhood in Kempton Park, to finding ways to watch his favourite comedian, Casper de Vries, at his friend’s house because he was too young for the show’s age restriction to watch it at his own house. There simply was never another choice when it came to what Schalk wanted to do with his life.

Schalk started out his career with smaller parts and learning from his peers and idol, Casper de Vries, while they collaborated in a show called “Schalk en Cassie hou konsert.” From there Schalk went on to study Drama at UCT and scored his first stand-up gig at a strip club.

Sometimes, you need to do what you have to, to make it in the business of comedy. Schalk joined us in Delta Park donning his best 80’s inspired ensemble, consisting of a button-down short-sheeve floral shirt with polyester-mix shorts, moon bag and characterful cat socks with sneakers. This style is what’s made Schalk one of the most noticeable characters in South African entertainment. This, along with his wild hair and moustache has become his signature look.

I asked Schalk what his most memorable show was. “That’s difficult. There have been so many. If I had to choose one, I would say opening for Trevor Noah was very memorable. We stayed at Monte Casino for a month and had a show every day. Walking out on that stage was amazing. People were shouting and screaming, and I felt so welcome. But, doing one-man shows are also amazing, because you know the audience is there to see you. I’ve been very fortunate to be so well received.” Schalk has also become a “dog dad” in the last year and has been showing off his pride and joy all over social media. Otis, the lucky pooch who gets to listen to Schalk’s jokes all day, is a rescue from Dogtown and was taken in by Schalk and Mica just as lockdown started in 2020. Being busy individuals who must travel a lot, Schalk and Mica decided to not adopt an animal until they felt the time was right and they had enough time to spend with them. Lockdown was exactly the opportunity, since both would need to be home for three weeks and they could help their new puppy settle in.

OTIS THE STAR

When adopting a puppy from a rescue, you’re never quite sure what you will be getting, and Otis is a prime example of just how many breeds can be mixed into one dog. His colouring suggests a bit of German Shepherd, his build points toward a Sighthound, but his Mutt Mix results have come back with a host of other names, including that of a Yorkie and Chow-chow. This, however, doesn’t mean a thing in the Bezuidenhout home, where Otis is loved for who he is and accepted for all the diversity he brings to the table.

Just like Schalk, Otis is an only child. He spends his days lapping up attention from his mom and follows her everywhere. He gets taken to school in the morning, where his dad picks him up after running his errands. His favourite thing to do though is to go for a walk or a run. The park is where you get to sniff flowers and play with sticks and bugs. What pup can resist?

Otis definitely has the best life a dog can ask for except when his mom needs to go away for a work trip. “His biggest nightmare is when Mica needs to go away for work. Otis will sulk as soon as he sees that suitcase come out of the closet. He will mope and look at you as if you’ve taken away the best present you’ve ever bought him. He will get under the covers and lie on our pillows and when that doesn’t work, he will start taking things out of the suitcase just to prove his point. He is a real mommy’s boy.”

As a first-time pet-owner I wanted to know what surprised Schalk the most about being a new “Dog Father”. The answer: “I didn’t know just how much I would love Otis. I remember driving around with my manager, Erns, and I would listen to him talking to his wife about going out or going to a braai and it would turn into these lengthy conversations about whether the dogs would be able to go along and if they did not take the dogs, they would only be able to go out for three hours or something like that. Then one would say; ‘Oh no, but they don’t get along with that couple’s dogs, so maybe we should only take one of the dogs, because those two get along’. I thought they were a little crazy! But now I get it. It’s a perfectly logical conversation to me now.”

I thought this was quite the fitting answer for Schalk and Otis since they were turning heads as far as we walked. From a personality point of view, Schalk is a pretty serious person and can be quite deep at times. So, I asked him if he had the chance to do it over, would he adopt Otis again? “Absolutely, we love Otis and I couldn’t imagine our lives without him. If anyone considers adopting an animal, they must always consider where they are in their lives. If you are adopting a dog to just have cute pictures on Instagram, you should leave it. They must be a part of your life and you should consider all the things that come with owning a pet. Leaving a pet alone at home all day, for instance, is not okay. I feel really strongly about the fact that people should evaluate their lifestyle before bringing a pet into it. That said, it is one of the most rewarding experiences imaginable, and I would definitely recommend adopting a dog or cat if you find yourself in a situation that allows for it.”

It’s quite obvious to me that we will be seeing a lot more of Schalk and Otis in the future and I really hope that Schalk works on some material to highlight what it’s like living with a rescue dog. At the moment you can catch Schalk on stage with his stand-up show called “Feeling Good’. This is something that Schalk’s been working on for a while and he is very proud of. He is performing around the country and it is definitely worth the trip. The groups are small and the venues well-spaced. Don’t miss out on catching this one!

Top Tips For Looking After Your Senior Pets

Just as one baby or puppy proofs the home, you may now need to make your home ‘senior friendly.’

Dogs who are prone to hip dysplasia or IVDD (intervertebral disc disease) would benefit from the use of ramps or stairs leading to couches or beds. This makes it much easier for them to still access these areas and helps to prevent injury.

I have steps around the house and both dogs and cats make use of them (even the ones who don’t need them).Orthopaedic beds can soothe joint pain and

arthritis and the addition of non-slip mats will provide traction on tiled floors and prevent your pet from slipping and potentially hurting themselves.

Also consider keeping furniture and food and water bowls in the same position, particularly if your pet’s eyesight is failing.

In your eyes, your dog will always be a puppy or your baby; even as their muzzles slowly start to grey, they can no longer walk as far as they used to, or they aren’t as agile as they once were.

It almost seems to sneak up on you- one day you are buying young adult food (1+), then you blink and find yourself reaching for aging (12+). It is a tough pill to swallow and difficult to acknowledge that our pets are getting older, especially when converting to the dreaded human years.

So how does one know when their pet has reached senior status? This is largely dependent on the size of the animal; small breeds are considered senior between 10-12 years, medium breeds between 8-9 years and large and giant breeds between 6-7 years. Similar to small breed dogs, cats are considered senior between the ages of 11-14 years.

Don’t despair just yet though. The right combination of diet, environment and preventative care can extend the lives of our fur kids. While we might not like to admit it (hands up if you are happily living in denial), it is important that you take note and pay attention to your pet’s changing needs. We may not be able to stop them from aging, but we can prolong their quality of life, and keep them behaving like the puppies we still think they are, for years to come.

DIET

Nutrition plays a vital role in your pet’s wellbeing. I firmly believe in feeding them the best you can afford from day 1, whether that be home cooked meals, raw, kibble or a combination thereof. Senior pets can often have dietary issues such as loss of appetite, difficulty chewing, obesity and other digestive problems. You may have to move to soft food, add more fiber to their diets, decrease carbohydrates or add supplements. This is best discussed with your vet who can advise you based on your pet’s specific needs.

REGULAR VET CHECK UPS

It is recommended that you take your senior pet for a check-up at the vet at least twice a year. This will help your vet to identify any issues early on before they become major health problems. This is something I am personally working on. I generally only go to the vet when I notice something is wrong or a pet is a bit off, so I am trying to do better. Don’t skip the dental. Dental care is very important, and I cannot stress this enough. Bad dental hygiene can lead to major issues beyond the mouth, such as kidney, liver and heart disease. It can even cause strokes. Make sure to keep their pearly whites in tip top condition.

SUPPLEMENTS

I am a firm believer in herbal/homeopathic supplements for pets and have had great success with them.

Don’t get me wrong, I also believe in modern medicine, but herbal remedies can be gentler on their systems and can often be given in conjunction with chronic medication.

Senior pets can benefit from essential fatty acids (Omega-3 and omega-6). These improve overall condition and aid in brain function, boost the immune system and have anti-inflammatory properties which are highly effective at reducing the severity of arthritis. Probiotics promote good gut health by restoring ‘good’ bacteria which can be killed off by medication.

CBD is also claimed to treat and assist many ailments, from fostering a healthy appetite to alleviating pain and treating seizures and cancer.

Before giving your pet any supplement, it is best to do your research and consult with your vet.

EXERCISE

Just like in humans, the less you move, the more achy, stiff and creaky you feel. That is why it is vital to keep continuing exercising your senior dog, unless otherwise directed by your vet. Exercise helps to keep them lean and maintain their weight, keeps their joints and muscles healthy, as well as keep their minds alert. Just be sure to tailor your dog’s exercise needs to their requirements i.e., shorter walks, slower pace. Mental stimulation can also be achieved by allowing them to sniff their environment on walks. Or you can introduce them to food puzzles or brain games.

SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS

Just as one baby or puppy proofs the home, you may now need to make your home ‘senior friendly.’ Dogs who are prone to hip dysplasia or IVDD (intervertebral disc disease) would benefit from the use of ramps or stairs leading to couches or beds. This makes it much easier for them to still access these areas and helps to prevent injury. I have steps around the house and both dogs and cats make use of them (even the ones who don’t need them). Orthopedic beds can soothe joint pain and arthritis and the addition of non-slip mats will provide traction on tiled floors and prevent your pet from slipping and potentially hurting themselves. Also consider keeping furniture and food and water bowls in the same position, particularly if your pet’s eyesight is failing.

BE OBSERVANT

One of the best tools you have is knowledge. You know your pet better than anyone else, so take note of any changes in behaviour, appetite, growths etc. I make notes on my phone so that I can accurately remember what happened and discuss it with my vet if need be.

KNOW YOUR BREED

Some breeds are genetically predisposed to certain conditions: Hip dysplasia is common in German shepherds, Labradors and Rottweilers, IVDD in Dachshunds, Bassets and Beagles. Knowing your breed and recognizing symptoms of common conditions can help you to prevent them from occurring by implementing preventative measures from an early age.

Fascinating Ostrich Facts

Ostrich Facts: The scientific name for the common ostrich is Genus: Struthio and specific name: camelus.

This makes the binomial name for the ostrich Struthio camelus. Loosely translated from ancient Greek, the scientific name means thrush / sparrow camel. Ostriches could be found roaming in Asia, Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, but today they’re limited to the woodlands and savannas of sub-Saharan Africa. There are two species of ostrich; the common ostrich and Somali ostrich

The ostrich, which is flightless, is the world’s largest bird. An ostrich can weigh anything between 70kg and 140kg, and measures between 1.2m and 2.7m in height.

An ostrich has a long, bare neck, long sturdy legs and a bulky body that is covered with feathers. The male ostrich is called a rooster and the female ostrich is called a hen. Males and females have different coloured feathers – males have black feathers with white tails, and females are mostly between grey and brown, which is perfect for camouflage when sitting on the nest. Both sexes have small heads, short, wide beaks and big brown eyes, protected by long, dark lashes. These long, dark eyelashes help shield their eyes from the sun. Ostriches can’t fly (being so heavy), but rather use their wings for cooling and balance.

Ostriches’ wings reach a span of about 2 meters and are used in mating displays and to scare off predators. Ostriches also use their wings as rudders for maneuvering their bodies and changing direction as they travel at high speeds. When turning, braking or running in a zig-zag, ostriches rely on their wings to stay balanced and in control.

A group of ostriches is called a flock of ostriches. Ostriches have three stomachs. The ostrich has the largest eyes of any land animal, measuring almost 5 cm across. One eye can weigh about 60 grams. They have brilliant eyesight which means they can see an object as far away as 3,5km during the day, which makes it perfect in allowing predators and any threats to be seen from a great distance. Unlike all other living birds, the ostrich secretes urine separately from faces.

Whereas most birds have three to four toes on each foot, ostriches are unique in that they only have two on each foot. The big toe is on the inside and has a big, sharp nail for protection. The smaller toe is on the outside for balance. Ostriches are the fastest runners of any birds or other two-legged animal, and can sprint at over 70 km/h. When running at full tilt, it takes strides of up to 3 to 5 meters. When threatened, an ostrich would normally run away.

If running away from danger is not an option, ostriches will use their powerful legs to kick. With a 10 cm talon on each foot, their downward kicks can cause serious harm to potential predators.

Groups of ostriches will often graze among other animals like giraffes, zebras and antelopes. Their presence is useful, because they alert other animals when danger is near. In the wild, ostriches live an average of 30 to 40 years, but in captivity they’re able to live anything from 50 to 70 years and, will continue to breed well into old age.

Ostriches are mainly vegetarian, eating anything from grass, plants, fruit, roots, leaves, flowers and seeds. They will also eat insects and reptiles and other small creatures. Ostriches can’t choke on their food. Since they lack teeth, they swallow small stones to grind and crush the food they take in. This is done in a part of the throat called the gizzard. An adult ostrich carries nearly 1kg of pebbles in its stomach, which helps with food digestion. Ostriches can go without water for several days, as they can source metabolic water from the plants they eat. Ostriches drink by scooping up water into their gular pouch and then lifting their heads to let the water move down their throats.

They enjoy water and frequently take baths where possible, and will drink a fair amount of water when available. During the mating season (normally between June – November) the male ostrich’s beak and legs turn red/pink to attract the female for mating. Male ostriches do a mating dance for females to impress her. If the dance is good enough a female will mate with the particular male. All of the herd’s hens will place their eggs in the dominant hen’s 3m-wide nest, though her own are given the prominent center place. Each female can determine her own eggs amongst the others.

The dominant female may lay up to 11 eggs, and the other hens lay between two to six eggs. The communal nest may end up containing as many as 60 eggs.

The alpha male and dominant female will take turns looking after the nest.

Males compete with one another for control of several females (or hens), and the winner becomes the leader of the herd. An ostrich’s eggs are the largest of any bird – at up to 15cm long and weighing up to 1.4kg. The ostrich’s egg might be the biggest in the world, but interestingly enough, it is the smallest egg in the world when compared to its body size.

The eggs are incubated by the dominant female by day and by the male by night, using the colouration of the two sexes to escape detection of the nest, as the drab female blends in with the sand, while the black male is nearly undetectable in the dark. When the eggs hatch after 35 to 45 days of incubation, the male usually defends the chicks or hatchlings and teaches them to feed, although males and females cooperate in rearing chicks. Although chicks can run as fast as 55 km/h at one-month-old, they are still vulnerable to predators like lions, cheetahs, hyenas, leopards and hunting dogs.

When confronted, adults will try to distract predators or lure them away from the young. Within days, the chicks leave the nest to follow their parents, who protect them from the hot sun or rain by keeping them huddled under their body or outstretched wings. Chicks are born with a spiky, greyish-brown down. They grow brown feathers after 4 months. By the time the young ostriches are 18 months old, they are fully grown. Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand. The ostrich is farmed around the world, particularly for its decorative feathers (feather dusters) and also for its meat, which is marketed commercially, and its skin which is used for leather products.

They are also threatened by habitat loss due to human development and agriculture. The wild ostrich population has declined drastically in the last 200 years, with most surviving birds in game parks or on farms. One ostrich egg is equivalent to 24 hen’s eggs. A single ostrich egg can take up to 1, 5 hours to boil.

Top Tips for Walking your Dog

Picture this: A magical early morning, the sun is shining, there is a gentle breeze blowing, and your pups can barely contain their excitement, because you are almost at your destination – the dog park (or in our case, a lovely park that is frequented by many a dog). You hop out of the car, clip on the leash and off you go. As you are completing the first loop, you spot a woman and her larger dog near the entrance. Since your dogs are not particularly fond of others, you put them on a short leash and place yourself between them and the other dog. Then, to your horror, the woman proceeds to unclip her dog’s leash allowing her dog to approach you. Your dogs are getting anxious and growling, and they are starting to turn on each other. Like a well-rehearsed scene, you and your partner each swiftly pick up a dog, breaking up a potential fight and hold them out of reach of the intruder. All the while, the woman just stares at you with a big smile saying, ‘He’s friendly! He won’t bite’, oblivious to the fact that your sweet, little dogs have turned into rabid beasts in your arms. By this stage you are fuming, partially deaf and no amount of death glares and replying, ‘my dogs are NOT friendly,’ deters the crazy woman.

Scenes like this have happened to us on one too many occasions and I am sure that many of you can relate as well. Lack of consideration, or even ignorance, can make walking your dog in public places very stressful and may even lead you to avoid certain places all together. Read on for some top tips for dog park etiquette.

TIPS

If You Like It, Put A Leash On It!

Your dog should always be on a leash unless you are in a dedicated “off leash” area, and even then, only do it if your dog has excellent recall and is voice trained. Calling out ‘its ok, he’s friendly’ does NOT make it alright. Many dogs are on a leash for a reason; they may be reactive, scared, nervous or even deaf. Dogs, like people, need personal space and having it invaded (even by a friendly dog) can heighten their insecurities and cause them to react in a negative manner.

I also recommend not using a retractable leash. These are perfect for walking in wide open and secluded spaces, but not populated areas where you are likely to encounter other people, dogs and cars. Retractable leashes make it difficult to restrain and control your dog, if the need arises, so rather stick to a conventional 1,2m material leash.

Colour Code

There is a very popular system used around the world using different colours to signify different health or behavioural issues; be it aggression, deafness, blindness, nervous disposition or in training, to name a few. There are 8 colours with the following meanings: red- caution, orange- no dogs, green- friendly, white- deaf/blind, bright yellow- up for adoption, light yellow- nervous, blue- in training, purple- do not feed. Owners can either attach a coloured ribbon to their leash, or use a coloured bandana, or even colour coded collars and leashes with large, embroidered writing on it to alert people to their dog’s particular issue. This system is very effective as the colours are visible from a distance and provide advanced warning to others.

While it is not widely adopted in South Africa, many pet parents are aware of this system and are turning to it more and more.

Scoop The Poop

I know, I know, it’s a dreadful job and no one likes doing it, but it really is a must. And you have to do it EVERY TIME. It just takes one person not cleaning up after their dog for the next person to come by and think, well if they didn’t have to do it, neither do I. Before you know it, it is dog poopageddon and it really is as scary as it sounds. I suggest attaching a poop bag carrier to your leash so that you are never caught unawares, disposing of the package in the nearest bin.

Whether you have a small Yorkie, or a small horse disguised as a Great Dane, remember to SCOOP THAT POOP!

Ask Permission

This might seem like a no-brainer, but I have witnessed countless interactions that prove otherwise. Before unleashing your dog on some unsuspecting person in the name of socialization, first ask permission. The same applies before approaching and petting another dog. People, especially children, assume that they can pet my dogs because they are small and just come charging in, not realizing that my dogs have not been exposed to children and are prone to snapping.

Always ask permission and teach your kids to do the same.

No Puppies

Taking your puppy to a park might seem like a good idea, but the reality is that you could be exposing them to a variety of threats, especially if they have not had all their vaccinations. Parvo is a real danger, and your puppy can become infected with the virus through direct contact or through contaminated faces (another reason to scoop that poop!). If you would like to socialize your puppy, rather attend a puppy socialization class.

Assume The Worst

This might not be a conventional tip or even apply to everyone, but, if like me, you have semi reactive dogs who can be slightly unpredictable in their behaviour (I never quite know which dog he will like, or if the person walking by will offend him), assuming the worst is a good mind set to have. For me it means putting my dog on a shorter leash and placing myself between my dog and the other person. This ensures that I have my dog under control and creates a buffer, thereby protecting both my dog and others.

Additionally, this lets me assess each situation as it arises, and I can either permit the interaction to take place or avoid it all together.

Respect

In the words of Aretha Franklin R.E.S.P.E.C.T. It is as simple as that. Having respect for the park rules, the environment, fellow dog walkers and other users of the park will go a long way to ensuring that everyone can enjoy the communal space.

Esmarie Yssel on bouncy bearded collies & broadcasting

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

This is the inspiring message that I took away from my interview with Esmarie Yssel, the well-known voice for Klankkoerant, the current affairs breakfast show of Pretoria FM. This is, of course, a quote from Lord of the Rings, one of Esmarie’s favourite movies.

Talking to Esmarie feels like you’re catching up with an old friend. There are no uneasy pauses or carefully constructed answers. It’s just a conversation between two people talking about life. We digress and talk about movies halfway through, what is supposed to be a professional interview, and laugh and joke at some of the comments when we get back on track. It’s easy to see why Esmarie chose a career in journalism and why she and radio are such a good fit. She is a conversationalist and puts people at ease, with ease.

Starting her day at 4am every morning, means that Esmarie grabs a cookie as she walks out the door, careful not to disturb her family who is still soundly asleep when birds have hardly woken up themselves. When the red “On Air” sign lights up, it’s game time. Armed with a cup of Rooibos in one hand and a microphone in the other, Esmarie and the team of Klankkoerant wakes up the citizens of Pretoria with news highlights and current affairs.

The discussions on this show are informative and intellectual and so are the specialist spokespersons who are invited to join in the discussions. From there it’s all about the news and putting together the sound clips that make up the bulletins we so easily dismiss for everyday radio reporting. This, however, does not mean that Esmarie is just a serious person. She is intelligent and has a keen eye for news, but she is also one of the bubbliest and light-hearted people you’ll meet.

Once the working day is over, Esmarie heads home to spend time with her family. Esmarie and her husband, Elrich, share their home with two very boisterous and bouncy Bearded Collies, Bentley and Belle. With personalities as big as their “fros”, these dogs are the life of the party. Counter surfing and gardening being their main talents.

It’s easy to dismiss Bearded Collies as placid or submissive dogs due to their fluffy appearance. The main thing to remember here is that they are still a Collie breed. Bred in Scotland as working dogs, Bearded Collies aren’t very common in South Africa. They are high maintenance with regards to training, exercise and grooming. As with all journalists, it was clear that Esmarie had done her research and knew of all this before she and her husband considered the new additions to become part of their family. “Bentley was 16 months old when we adopted him from Ashvale Bearded Collies. We were already on the waiting list for a puppy, but wanted to give him a forever home. His adoption came at the perfect time, as it had already been four years since Nina passed on, and my dog-mom heart was still longing for that kind of love. It was the best decision we’ve ever made. We got Belle as a puppy and named her after Beauty and the Beast’s Princess Belle, which means beautiful.”

As can be imagined, Bearded Collies need a lot of exercise. They need walks and runs, and since Esmarie and her husband are keen hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, it pays off to have an active canine companion or two. About three years ago, after one of these long walks, Bentley started limping.

What was thought to be inflammation turned out to be Osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that starts out in a bone tumour, but can quickly metastasize to the lungs. The prognosis was not good and the vets were not optimistic , but thanks to the holistic approach of Dr Gary Eckersley, Bentley was spared the amputation of his leg, and treated with specialist surgery to remove his ulna.

“ Today Bentley is healthy, but his leg is sometimes still sensitive, especially in overcast and cold weather. We feel a new growth on the exact same spot where the sarcoma was surgically removed. He is however still on seven naturopathic medicines, prescribed by his specialist, including CBD oil, and there’s no sign that the cancer is back or that he’s feeling any discomfort.

Words can’t describe how grateful we are that we could save his leg. In May of this year, it’ll be three years since diagnosis. His prognosis – with chemotherapy – was 3 to 6 months.”

As a journalist, Esmarie has made it her life’s mission to tell the stories of others. The rhythmic recollection of the conversations she recaps draws you in and makes her an exceptional storyteller. So, it should come as no surprise that Esmarie also writes poems and stories. Story-telling, in many forms, is in her blood.

She loves watching all kinds of different movies and series. Everything from documentaries to fiction.

When asked if she would ever consider another career, the answer was quite surprising. “I would love to make a career change and become a nature conservationist. I would focus on my passion for the natural environment. If I could be in forests or be hiking up mountains as part of my career as well as with my husband and beardies, I would have everything that I could possibly want.”

I think this is exactly why Esmarie writes the most amazing travel guides and reviews. Adventures in Thailand and New Zealand are summarised in her travel blogs, and tell the stories of adventures shared with her husband, Elrich. Elrich Yssel, by the way, is also a wonderful story teller and shares his talents on screen as a film maker. He recently won the award for best short story at the Forum Films Film Festival.

So, what does a day behind the scenes really look like in a household that homes two bearded collies and two full-time professionals? Do the kids ever get naughty? “Belle has destroyed more shoes than I could keep count of. They love playing tug of war with socks or slippers that they’ve stolen. And Bentley is the gardener. He has a special talent for digging holes. It sometimes looks like he’s planning a prison break. Our beardies are also talented counter surfers, so, one should never ever leave any pleasant-smelling food on the kitchen counter.”

This is not surprising, we’ve all been there and we still love our pets dearly. No, you won’t get that block of cheese back, and yes, the grass will grow back! Life with a dog will always be an adventure.

As always, we wanted to find out what advice a seasoned mother of beardies had to give to anyone wanting to bring a Bearded Collie into their home.

“Words can’t describe how grateful we are that we could save his leg. In May of this year, it’ll be three years since diagnosis. His prognosis – with chemotherapy – was 3 to 6 months.”

Brace yourself for the purest kind of love and affection. If you’ve never had a beardie, you won’t be able to grasp the emotional bond that you can have with a dog. A beardie WILL steal your heart. There’s also something about their eyes. You can see the light and life of the beardie’s spirit in them. And their noses… they give them a teddy bear-like appearance. They’re bouncy and very active. If you’re not an active, outdoorsy person who likes to throw a ball or play tug of war, a beardie is not the breed for you. You have to make time to play with them and to take them for walks. As they also have active minds, they need to explore for much-needed stimulation. Your backyard should also be big enough for a beardie to run at full speed.

They are double-coated dogs who need intense grooming to prevent the undercoat from matting, which takes effort and time, but once you’ve owned a beardie, you’ll never want another dog breed ever again.

Bentley is a cuddle bunny and Belle a busy bee. Bentley was diagnosed with osteosarcoma more than 2 years ago and our journey with him has been one of blessings and gratitude. Both of them sleep on our bed, so, they’ve stolen our bedroom and our hearts.”

It’s easy to see why Esmarie is so fond of her “beardie bears” as she calls them. She shares many of their traits. She is fun-loving and outdoorsy, intelligent and charming. We hope to see a lot more of Esmarie, Elrich, Bentley and Belle in the near future. Whether it be on television, on a hiking trail in Pretoria or in their Instagram Stories where they venture into the hills of Scotland. This is definitely a couple you want to keep eyes on.

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