Cover feature

Lee Thompson Loving Life With Grace

When The Bachelor landed on South African shores, the whole country was on the edge of its seats to see who the lucky man was who would be spending time with 24 beautiful ladies, hand-picked to fit his personality and lifestyle. Viewers were glued to their screens, episode after episode, completely entrenched in the drama that is one of reality television’s most popular franchises.

Unfortunately, television isn’t always the accurate storyteller we would believe it to be. It is an edited version of what sells screentime and a lot of the drama seen on screen, is made up and planned to feed the viewer’s thirst for entertainment.

This is also the story of Lee Thompson, who recently released a book calling out the industry for these tricks which influence what is believed to be an organic process. The title is “The Truth Behind the Rose.” While most people don’t see themselves finding love in front of a camera crew, some die-hard romantics really do. Lee, being one of these romantics, wanted nothing more than to settle down with the person he can share the rest of his life with. After being matched on the show, the reality of everyday life unfortunately set in, which proved too challenging for the couple.

Fast Forward 3 Years

Fast forward 3 years and Lee is still pursuing love. This time around, however, it is a love for life and his passion for fitness and animals. We were fortunate to catch up with Lee, who has been busy furthering business interests in the fitness industry. As active as always, he shared his smile with us, brightening our day.

While exploring life and everything that comes along with it, by Lee’s side is Grace, his trusty and beloved canine. Together the two make quite a pair. Here’s a bit more about our chat:

Q: Being an instant celebrity, you were most likely the subject of some cheeky rumours. Which rumour struck you as the most surprising or entertaining?

A: Well, it surprised me when I kept on hearing how lucky I must be to be spending time with 24 women and going on all these amazing dates when little do they know, how difficult it was having to spend time with 24 women, all the drama that comes with it and having to send a few ladies home each week.

Favorite memory you have from the Bachelor?

I really enjoyed the skydiving. It was my first time doing it and there was just something about being up there that is total bliss.

Q: As a former rugby player and fitness conscious individual, modelling and showing off your hard work seemed a natural next step in your career. Which brands do you enjoy working with most and why?

A: I enjoy working with “Fitness Health Active” (FHA) and their TV show “5 Colour Fitness” because I get to share my health and fitness knowledge with millions of people around South Africa and continue to do what I am passionate about.

Q: What is the most ridiculous thing that’s been requested of you on a shoot?

A: This one shoot, I had to kiss a lady for a TV commercial. There were so many retakes of our scene, it began to get a bit awkward after a while. I was surprised to get this job because I had a big cut above my right eye, with stitches, from a rugby game earlier that week. They said they only needed the one side of my face. Plus, I had a girlfriend at the time, and she only found out about the filming of the commercial and me kissing the lady when she saw it on TV. It was an all-round unusual situation lol.

Q: You’re obviously a hard worker. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

A: I enjoy visiting the beach, gardening, reading, watching random videos on YouTube and watching sport.

Q: Writing a book is an ambitious venture. How long did it take you to write “The Truth Behind the Rose”?

A: I’d say it took about a year or so. It always takes longer than what you think. I also found myself adding to the book as time went on.

Q: You’ve chosen to work with Live Hope Love SA where you donate 10% of all book sales. Tell us a bit about this organisation and are there any events you are planning right now?

A: Five percent of all book sales (as well as all donations) go towards the “Live Hope Love South Africa Children’s Fund”, which is an initiative that I started this year to help underprivileged children finance their schooling and give them an equal opportunity at a quality education.

Q: Looking to the future, we are happy to hear that you’ve found love again. We are, of course, talking about Grace! Tell us a bit more about Grace and how your paths crossed.

A: Yes, my lovely Grace. She is a Rhodesian Ridgeback and is two years old. Grace was staying on this farm I recently visited for a Christian Lifestyle Retreat. Grace was rescued from an abusive home, so she has always had this shy, withdrawn nature about her. We grew extremely close during my time there. I think she began having a thing for me, because after each meal I’d give her my leftovers. I’d also take her along with me on hikes, which she loved. We would often both stop by the dam on our way back and take a refreshing dip. She loves the water!

Q: Which of her personality traits do you enjoy the most?

A: She has an extremely affectionate personality (just like me), so I enjoy showing her as much love as possible. Whenever she wants you to show her love, she does this thing where she sits on your legs and feet until you rub her back or talk to her. It’s really cute!

Q: Is she a fitness fanatic like you?

A: She loves her naps, but she will never turn down the offer for a run or hike with me. She also enjoys doing her doggy paddle in the dam on hot days.

Most common misconception people have of you?

That I’m a “player”

Q: Would you consider getting another pet? If so, tell us what you have in mind.

A: I would love to get a kitten. I’ve always had a cat growing up and found them very playful, beautiful and cute. I think a cat would be the perfect addition to my family!

Q: What piece of advice would you give someone who is keen to adopt a Ridgeback?

A: Make sure that you take your Ridgeback on a lot of walks and give them space to run. If you are an active, outdoorsy type of person, then a Ridgeback is a great dog for you. Spend quality time with your dog each day because they absolutely love affection from their owner.

I don’t know about you, but how a man treats animals surely says a lot about him. I hope that Lee will find his forever match soon and that the lucky lady falls head over heels for Grace too!

Facebook: Lee Thompson | FHA

Instagram: leethompson52 | fha_fitnesshealthactive

All about Rolo Rescue + the Road so far

So you’re probably wondering how we ended up here. Let me tell you.

We often get asked about the origin of the magazine and when I’ll be on the cover. While it’s been quite the adventure and we’ve achieved so much, it took me forever to decide if I should write this article. You see, while many people would love to be a cover feature on a magazine, I usually veer away from this kind of attention. I’m an introvert at heart and enjoy standing behind the scenes, cheering, as a masterpiece comes together. I revel in the excitement of creation and being a sound board as well as mentoring, but being a cover model makes me anxious. The reason for this is that I feel like I’m failing most of the time. Something I’ve found to be a common connection with most people I meet in animal welfare. We love, we work, we encourage and we teach as much as humanly possible but somehow, we still don’t feel qualified to call ourselves activists. This cover is me, telling you, that you are more than qualified. I did, however, choose to give you a more handsome cover model. 🙂

So you’re probably wondering how we ended up here. Let me tell you.

It’s no secret that resources toward the animal welfare sector have been, and still are, very scarce. I still remember the morning I heard that the Lotto decided to cancel their contributions and donations toward animal welfare. I was driving to work and listening to the radio. A lady from the SPCA was pleading to the public for donations, because the sudden shortfall in funding would lead to devastating results. Her voice was quivering and you could hear the exhaustion.

I’ve always loved animals. They have been my companions through life’s darkest days and have brought me more joy than I can describe. Seeing posts of animals in distress brings me grief and heartache, as I’m sure it does most people. While I never shy away from donations when I have the means, I felt like there was potentially more I could do to help with raising funds for welfare. I am quite stubborn when it comes to business matters and thought that maybe this skill set could be put to good use. I started researching options for a part-time business that could generate cashflow for organisations in need.

One idea stuck out from the rest, and that was to create a free distribution flyer containing advertisements. The concept would be the same as the ones for home renovation, but this would be directly targeted at pet owners. The risk was small, and the opportunity great.

The days leading up to the first issue of Pet Prints created a bit of a challenge to myself. If I could generate enough interest and sell a certain amount of advertising space, I would go ahead with the project. The universe ruled in my favour and made sure that the numbers came in at exactly my target to get the publication off the ground. I wasn’t planning on having big fancy articles filling up the magazine. I was already trying my hand at doing the graphic designing for this project. I was nowhere near qualified to write anything.

But as luck would have it, we were short a few pages and I needed to fill them. This is where the Fascinating Facts column was born. I figured some random facts wouldn’t be too difficult to put together and one could not stuff that up too badly. I also asked a local animal behaviouralist to write a short piece for us and off we went. A publication was born.

For the first year or so, it was just me, myself and I, working to put the pages together for Pet Prints. I worked on it during evenings and weekends and basically said farewell to any kind of social life. It was a little magazine, a mere 18 pages, that we distributed to homes in Cape Town. The only goal was to raise funds for food and animal welfare items. The contents weren’t up to par with other magazines, and the design wasn’t great either. But then the letters started coming in. The most heartwarming letters from readers telling us about their own pets. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I recall a couple of occasions where we received handwritten letters from retired individuals who asked their local POSTNET to scan and email their stories to us. I think this was the tipping point which encouraged us to start adding more pages and stories to the publication. The project was no longer only about raising funds, we were reaching people who needed advice and there was a whole community of animal lovers to connect with. The only hurdle was that this was no longer a one person venture. I needed help.


While I’m sure it doesn’t look that hard to put together some words and images on a few scraps of paper, the project does take its toll on me every now and again. Lucky for me, I’ve always had a brilliant support system. Between Gerhard and Nelda, I’ve always had a shoulder to cry on and a friend to confide in. Nelda, being the discerning person she is, has a wonderful way of talking sense into me when I need it the most.

About a year after starting our little adventure, we decided to adopt a dog. Enter Mia, the most amazing Labrador-mix from LEAPS.

Being the proud cat mom I am, I adore having felines in the house, but the time was right to add a bit of chaos to the clan and we decided a large dog would be just the key. I wanted a running partner, and a Labrador would be the right fit. Again, fate had a plan and the adoption process required a home-check which introduced us to Sharnelle. Sharnelle’s passion for animal welfare is inspiring. She lives for welfare and we connected almost immediately. We needed that passion in our team and Sharnelle was looking for a project that would allow her to be home a bit more.

With Sharnelle on board, we mustered the courage to take our project to a national level and also transition to a bi-monthly magazine. It was as scary as it was exciting. The work would be almost double from what it was previously, but the goal was to build our community.

Our excitement grew as we started making more connections and attracted the attention of one of my favourite pet photographers, Emma O’Brien. We had the opportunity to do a photo shoot with a rescued baby rhino who was being cared for at a game farm close to Cape Town. I gathered enough courage to email Emma and she’s been part of the team ever since!

It’s not to say that there haven’t been days where I’ve felt utterly defeated and exhausted. It’s happened more than a couple of times actually. Where advertisement reduces to almost nothing or printers leave us disappointed and I tell everyone that I’ve done what I can, but this will be our last issue.

Sure enough, something always seems to happen just as I’m about to throw in the towel. I remember this one incident in particular, where I delivered some magazines to one of our bigger distribution points. I walked out of the shop, took a deep breath and thought what a good run we had. Then, I heard a little girl shriek and tell her father in a very excited voice “It’s here! It’s here!” I turned around, watched the cashier unpack the books I just delivered and heard her say how relieved she was the magazines came in when they did, because Saturdays were always the busiest days. The father breathed a sigh of relief and explained how he wouldn’t have heard the end of it had they not gotten their Pet Prints magazine that day.

No one knew who I was or that I was there, but moments like this always revive hope when I feel defeated.

At the beginning of last year, we were fortunate to welcome Gaironesa, affectionately known as Gee, to the team. She’s now the person in charge of most of the magazine design. She also contributes a great deal to magazine administration and sales.

As you all know, we also have some very talented people writing for us. Each one of these individuals have brought so much joy to our lives. I cannot express how grateful I am to every one of them for volunteering to help educate readers. That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.


With Pet Prints growing into a proper publication, we started collaborating with individuals that shared our values and wanted to be part of the project. This included writers, product suppliers and, of course, celebrities who own pets and work with welfare.

It’s been wonderful getting to know these people. The insights they have and all the amazing stories have truly been inspiring. We all share a goal of wanting to make the world a better place and we actively work towards achieving this, whether by being a role model or working in the field, supplying medical care or gathering supplies from your own network. I’ve been mesmerised by the wonderful people out there.


As I’ve mentioned in the beginning, the main objective for this project, when it started, was to raise funds. The thing is, as the years went by, the goal has changed somewhat. We’ve made money, friends and connections that have contributed so much to animal welfare.

I think sometimes we get lost in the material objectives we set out for ourselves. While it’s great giving an organisation a cheque for a large sum of money, it’s also important to remember the ripple effect we as a community can have on each other. By hosting fundraisers and giving the wonderful fundraising projects and animal welfare organisations in our country a platform, we’ve been able to do so much more than just give money. We give hope. We gather support. We educate children through our example. We encourage welfare organisations to not lose hope, because they are not alone.

It takes a village, right? As Jane Goodall likes to say: “You cannot not be depressed if you look at what’s going on in the world. That’s why the message is: Don’t think globally, act locally. Act locally first, see the difference you make. Taking that first step gives you hope that your actions do make a difference and then you want to do more and as you do more, you inspire others.”

Well, this is our village and I’m proud to be part of a community that help each other. No effort is ever too small.


Rolo came into our lives as a foster. We met Rolo while on an outreach to Fisantekraal where we delivered kennels and food to the FAW team. Rolo was a regular at the container and didn’t mind helping himself to the donations.

Everybody loved Rolo. I mean, how could you not? He is fluffy with blue eyes and is as friendly as they come. Unfortunately, Rolo managed to also scare a lot of people with those blue eyes. One weekend he got into an altercation with someone in the Fisantekraal informal settlement who attacked him with a panga. The FAW team reacted swiftly and got Rolo the medical help he needed, but there was a lot of concern about sending him home. We volunteered to foster Rolo until he could get back on his feet.

As the days went by, Rolo recovered. He lost a toe and had some bad lacerations, but he never once got aggressive when his wounds were cleaned. We were at the vet a lot!! Sharnelle looked after Rolo when we had to go to our office jobs, because he did not enjoy the cone of shame. To this day, he still knows how to put those puppy eyes to good use.

When Rolo was well enough to go back home, we got the message from FAW that his owner thought it might be in his best interests to not do so. She feared for his safety and would prefer Rolo had a safe, loving home. The rest, as they say, is history. The big goofball has been a great conversation starter to show people just how amazing rescues are and that they can be adopted as grown-ups without any issues. We couldn’t imagine our lives without him


Food donations: 3.9 tons

Animals Sterilised: 237

Kennels placed: 24

2022 Cover Model Lady

I named her Lady after the kitten I couldn’t keep as a child.

They say, you don’t choose a cat, the cat chooses you. This rings true more often than you can imagine. Cats are funny little creatures. I don’t mean “ha ha” funny, although their antics may sometimes merit a smile or a giggle. What I am trying to say is that cats are odd and unpredictable – completely beyond understanding. I think this is what makes them so uniquely suited to certain people. There are stories all over the internet telling tales of people who would never have considered taking in a feline and ended up being grateful that they gave these classic counterparts an opportunity.

In the case of Alison and Lady, you can imagine our surprise to have another black cat peering from our cover this year. It’s a great testament to the decreasing superstition toward black animals, statistically shown to be less popular than other animals. Lady has been pursuing this cover shoot for a while now and I think the photos are amazing!

Here’s what Alison and Lady had to share with us:


If there’s a question one shouldn’t ask a crazy cat lady, it would be “tell me about your cat”. I’d be writing you novels for the rest of your life. Lady is one of 3 feral felines who I rescued in 2019. She had 2 siblings, one being a ginger and the other a black and white kitty. There were workers at the company where I work, who were taunting and abusing these 3 kitties, who were hiding in some pipes being used for steel construction work. They were using a can of spray and a lighter to get the cats out of the steel pipes they were hiding in, just for the fun of it. I couldn’t take it and spent my teatimes and lunch breaks to try and get the kittens to come out of there, so that I could get them to safety.

I was able to catch her two siblings in a week, but Lady was very stubborn. I was ready to give up after catching the first two kittens, but I couldn’t live with the idea of her being there all alone. I brought her food, played cat videos for her, and yes, I meowed to her (a full-on meowing conversation), hoping she would understand what I was saying (I am now fluent in speaking cat). I set up traps with tuna for days, but Lady was just one up. The thing that got to her like a drug was milk. This secret weapon lured her out and on the 13th of February, I was finally able to catch her, with this delicious trap.

I had my dad on a rollercoaster most of his life. If it wasn’t me bringing home injured animals, it was my mom. They say the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.

I decided that she would be my early Valentine’s gift, from me, to me. She gifted me with lots of spits and hisses, I mean what more do you need in the month of love? I took her to the vet for a check-up where they determined that she was in good health. She got all her shots and tests done that were needed, and we gave her a nice warm bath when we got home. Ever since that day she has realised that I would be the person she could trust, and we’ve been bonded ever since. She would come looking for me in a room full of people and will hold on tightly to me if she’s anxious. She’s my child and I love her dearly.

I named her Lady after the kitten I couldn’t keep as a child.


I had a few pets growing up. Four dogs to be exact, and one cat that only I was allowed to love and hold, as I told my siblings. I also had two pet rats that I had saved from being abused, when I was still in school.

I had my dad on a rollercoaster most of his life. If it wasn’t me bringing home injured animals, it was my mom. They say the apple doesn’t fall from the tree. So, yes, I got it from my momma. We weren’t always able to save them, and if we did, we couldn’t keep them, because we would have had an entire zoo. We would name them, love them, care for them, and clean them for that short while, which cost my dad an arm and a leg, to be honest, but if it meant that we were happy for that interlude before they went to their forever home, he did it, no questions asked.


Yes, she’s a spoiled brat, but she is my brat. I wasn’t allowed to keep Lady as the complex I was living in was no longer cat-friendly, but I wasn’t going to let her go, even if it meant I had to sleep in my car. So that’s how Lady started coming to work with me. I had to hide her at home to not alert the neighbours that I had a cat, but at the back it was a party. She had a 5m leash which was long enough to explore the whole yard but short enough for her not to jump to the neighbours. She’s now leash free as she knows that she’s not allowed to jump the walls.

A normal day for Lady would be waking up at five. Deciding what collar and bow/ jersey – depending on the weather – would be worn, as it will always match the colour of mom’s top. A game of cat and mouse will be played. Me being the cat catching the mouse (Lady). This is also the reason why I’m late for work most of the time.

When we get to the office, Lady will run and jump on the director’s desk, which consist of a bed, food, water and litterbox, and all that’s needed for a busy cat like her.

Her duties include bird watching, lounging on laptops, changing setting and deleting programs (IT). She is our company stamp. She stamps our paperwork with three paw prints. Some days she shreds important documents, other days she proof-reads documents (by laying on them). She organizes cleans desks (slaps everything onto the floor) and occasionally a cat nip party is thrown on the director’s desk. She pre-positions the glasses of very important people (CEO), so that he can look more presentable and professional. She also supervises me for at least half an hour making sure I do my job (which means she distracts me).
After work we just go home to cuddle.


I don’t know if Lady gets up to mischief… would you classify the following as normal behaviour? She would roll in the sand when she just had a bath and blow dry session. She will run away as soon as you try to stop her and do it all over again. (Lady isn’t afraid of a hair dryer but she is afraid of a vacuum cleaner.) Has your cat managed to break a litter box? Because Lady has!


Lady is a real madam – she’s got the “make love to the camera” kind of eyes, face and pose. She’s fierce and knows just when to unleash that inner panther of hers. So, I’d say her career would be a Victoria’s Secret model, doing the “cat walk”, being a runway model.


A black cat crossing your path simply means that the cat is going somewhere. We’ve all walked underneath a ladder or broken a mirror, yet here we are. We face so many challenges daily where nothing goes our way. We all have those days, so why blame it on the black cat crossing your path. We’ve all been in that boat where we needed to be given a chance in life to show who and what we are, what we are capable of and that there’s a lot more to us than meets the eye. All this black kitty has done is bring me joy and blessings.

If you’ve ever wondered how many outfits Lady owns, the answer is, A LOT. This little feline has a wardrobe full of collars, bows, leashes, accessories and even gets her nails done every other week. She’s definitely on our “watch list” to see which designer she’s wearing next. However, a little birdy told us that Alison’s mom, Laura, is her favourite. We do hope that Laura will purrrrsue her talents and we can’t wait to see this lady on the Instagram catwalks in the year of the Tiger!

A black cat crossing your path simply means that the cat is going somewhere.

Stephanie On Mila + Movement And Motivation

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and carry on doing what you love, what you are good at and what you want to do. Enter Stephanie Stander!

Just like everyone else, and Stephanie as well, I’m sure, I was ill prepared when COVID 19 struck. I dare say I was in complete denial. We had booked a holiday in Zanzibar, spent about 3 days abroad and then got a message that the Tanzanian borders were closing within 48 hours, and we had to leave. Getting the exact same news once settling back in at home, we were sure things were only temporary and that three weeks would be it for lockdown.

Advice for people who need to get started on their fitness journey. “No matter where you are in your life, if you want to get into fitness, you just need to get started.”

This was difficult news for us, as runners, to take in. We comforted ourselves with the fact that we could run circles around the outside of our house. Not everyone was this lucky, though. With the vast majority of people living in flats (high rise buildings at that), running or doing vigorous exercise wasn’t exactly an option. From my own experience, nothing makes you dislike the upstairs neighbours more than those 5am mornings when they decide to do washing or move furniture for cleaning. How would one try to stay active without making a racket?

This lady who made lock down not only bearable for many women, but actually helped them thrive, Stephanie TWS, as she’s known on Instagram, has made it her life’s purpose to transform women’s bodies and build their confidence through educating them on a healthy lifestyle.

The technique? A simple home-based workout with minimal equipment and moving, paired with a healthy eating plan. An advocate for balance, Stephanie loves a glass of red wine, but warns that this isn’t all that life is about. “It’s about doing what’s good for your body and soul.”

After a career as a Marketing Professional, Personal Assistant and Flight Attendant, Stephanie ventured into the realm of making her daily practice a career. Admitting that she hasn’t always loved training, it was something that she’d always done out of habit; she loved sports and took part in swimming and netball growing up. A healthy lifestyle was engraved in her as a principle. After numerous requests from the women in her life who admired her determination, Stephanie decided to do a course in personal training and developed a four-week program which would combine her love for movement with an easy-to-follow plan of action. “That plan was so well received and had everyone so motivated that they kept asking for new programs, and I’ve been creating them ever since.”

Let’s not kid ourselves, online marketing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but building such a successful platform and business based on an online market is nothing to sneeze at. “I never intended for TWS to be what it is now, which is a primarily online training platform, but I’m happy with what we’ve achieved. I get to work with so many inspiring ladies.” So, what helps this bubbly, bright lady to get up in the morning? As I understand it, it’s a mixture of endorphins, discipline and a pooch called Mila! Mila, or Mila Muis, as she is affectionately called, is often seen on the Stephanie TWS Instagram feeds, laying around the studio while Stephanie teaches us how to apply ourselves physically.

As a child, Stephanie grew up with a Border Collie, named Guss, who was as much part of the family as any dog could hope for. He would go wherever the family went and was a big part of Stephanie’s life for over 20 years. Unfortunately, a Border Collie wouldn’t make a great fit for city living and Stephanie and her partner, Mark, adored the idea of a French Bulldog sharing their lives. After some research, they found that the health problems associated with Frenchies might be a bit much to take on and decided that a Boston Terrier would fit their lifestyle perfectly.

What’s the most important piece of equipment to invest in for home training?

“The most essential piece of equipment you can own, when starting your workout kit at home, is a stepper. You can do a lot with a stepper. After this, a set of dumbbells.”

A boisterous little Boston girl of 2 years old, Mila has a perfectly matching family. A mom and dad that adore her and keep an active lifestyle. Boston Terriers aren’t exactly the placid type, and Mila gets to live her best life with a lot of walks and ball games. She’s a talented little rascal who sits beautifully when she spots a treat and also does ballerina turns when she gets really excited. When she’s not showing off her peaches on social media or running along the foot paths of the park, she’s snoring up a storm or begging for belly rubs. She gets to go almost everywhere with mom and dad and is treated like a proper princess.

Getting up at around 7am, she has breakfast, makes a turn in the garden and heads straight back to bed to tuck herself in under the covers. This is where mom, Stephanie, finds her at 10am when she actually gets up. As with most Boston Terriers, little Mila is quite fond of napping around the house and finding little spots of sun to enjoy. As the day winds down, this breed finds their stamina. Mila gets to go for walks in the afternoon and plays ball while Stephanie and Mark train.

So, while everyone is working on their 2022 summer bodies, why not check out the Stephanie TWS website for a program that fits your lifestyle. Stephanie is careful to remind people that it’s not a quick fix method of losing weight, but rather a lifestyle change. Looking at the lifestyle Stephanie lives, and the compassion she has for others and especially her pup, I think it’s safe to say that she can be trusted with just about anyone’s journey. We can’t wait to see what next year has instore for this lady!

Words to live by: “With dedication, comes transformation!”

Msizi James Sprinkling Kindness Like Confetti

PetPrints chatted to Msizi about his successful career, joy for helping others, and, of course, Nala and Frankie, the two adorable dogs he shares with fiancée Angela.

Every now and then, if you’re really lucky, you get to talk with someone so crackling with energy that they inspire you to take on the world. Msizi James is such a person and it is this joie de vivre that has led to the young Durbanite becoming one of Mzansi’s most popular radio hosts. He landed his dream job at 947 earlier this year, but what his listeners may not know is that he also has a huge heart for both people and animals. Msizi’s passion for making the world a better place is tangible, but he doesn’t just talk the talk – he’s making it happen. Pet Prints chatted to Msizi about his successful career, joy for helping others and, of course, Nala and Frankie, the two adorable dogs he shares with fiancée, Angela.


Msizi is best known for the dynamic radio shows in which he gets South Africans amped up for the day, “Radio, for me, has been a case of luck meets opportunity meets hard work. After Matric, I worked as a surf coach at a children’s holiday camp. Friends encouraged me to enter an East Coast Radio voice competition, which resulted in my first job as a radio host. I knew there and then: this is where I am meant to be. Two years later, I was offered a job at 5FM, where I stayed for three years – and now I have my own show at 947, where I get to use my voice and love of music to get people feeling positive.”

He has an entrepreneurial side, too, and owns Gaya Coffee Company, The Brandlab and a chain of coffee shops, From Ground Up (in fact, the Randburg branch was the scene for our fun-filled photoshoot with his cuddly canines). But what really gets him smiling is his recent engagement to high school sweetheart, Angela McGennis. “We dated in high school, but, after I matriculated, we went our separate ways,” he explains. “In 2016, we reconnected, when both of us visited Mozambique with mutual friends. Fast forward to March 2021 and I proposed at &Beyond, Ngala Safari Lodge’s magnificent treehouse, which was so romantic!” With the wedding set for December (wedding at &Beyond, Phinda), 2021 is clearly turning out to be a busy year for this dynamo.

Angela is credited with his transformation into a total dog lover – one who not only adores his own canines, but also goes out of his way to help other animals in need.


“I never thought I’d love a dog, never mind actually having one,” laughs Msizi, who, with Angela, adopted not one, but two furry family members during 2020’s lockdown. “I didn’t grow up with dogs and, to be honest, I was actually pretty wary of them. That was until a few years ago when Angela (at the time, my girlfriend) visited, bringing her dog, Boss, with her. At first I thought: ‘No way!’ And then I saw how cute he was. It wasn’t long before his big, brown eyes won me over…”

As we know, that’s exactly how dogs get us – one look from those puppy-dog eyes and we’re putty in their paws. “When we moved in together, Angela immediately said: ‘We need a dog!” I believe that dogs are a lifetime commitment, and I wasn’t ready for that so, initially, I said no, he explains. “But then Covid-19 happened and everything changed.”

The couple decided to become dog fosters during lockdown and welcomed two Beagles from Beagle Rescue. “Unfortunately, although they were lovely dogs, they had health issues and struggled to get around our double-storey house – we were basically having to carry them everywhere. When we explained our concerns, the organization recommended we bring them back,” explains Msizi. “To my surprise, returning them absolutely devastated me. Even though it was the right thing for them, I was heartbroken. That was the switch for me – that was the moment when I realized: actually, I am a dog person!”

Missing the pitter-patter of doggy paws, the couple decided to get a puppy, “It was level 5 lockdown, so it was difficult to be outside, never mind go looking for dogs to adopt, so we put the word out on community groups and that’s how we ended up with Nala. When I went to pick her up, this little jet-black pup came running to me and I just knew: she’s The One. I fell in love with her immediately. As I drove her home, she just sat in her basket, gazing at me with those big, soulful eyes the whole way. Since then, she has been the apple of my eye.”

They decided that Nala needed a friend, “Boston Terrier Frankie soon became Nala’s best friend and we love her just as much (although I admit that Nala will always be my number one.). They’re so quirky and lovable; we can’t imagine life without them. Of course, because we’ve seen how many dogs are without homes, we had them spayed so that there won’t be any accidental litters.”

A year later and Msizi and Angela have become increasingly involved in helping animals. Because of Nala, Pug Rescue SA is their first love and they volunteer and donate regularly, and assist with marketing. Msizi also recently visited CLAW (Community Led Animal Welfare) in Johannesburg, “It’s a heart-breaking situation because there’s so much need and very little resources. When the opportunity came to donate R 120 000 with Dis-Chem through the Random Acts of Kindness initiative, CLAW was the perfect choice. People really should support these organisations – they do so much good and rely on donations.”


The youngest of four children, Msizi spent his childhood with his biological mother, Sylvia Hadebe, in the Hillcrest suburb, Molweni. At the age of five, American missionary, Pat Blair, moved into a house nearby and Msizi started visiting her regularly, eventually living with Pat until the age of 18. He says that both women are strong, loving and care greatly about helping others. “My moms are two of the kindest people I’ve ever met,” smiles Msizi. “I was brought up with the idea of ‘giving back’ and, because kindness has been extended to me throughout my life, it’s important to me to share that with others. My biological mom was a home-based carer and now runs her own NPO called Bhekimindeni Community Centre (“looking after the families”), which provides necessities like food, school uniforms and comfort items to destitute families in Molweni.”

Following the recent unrest in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Msizi used his platforms to collect many kilogrammes of food donations, which he and fiancée, Angela, took to needy communities, driving from their home in Gauteng to KZN. “There was a major problem with food insecurity and, because of my mom’s work, I knew that people were really struggling. We went door-to-door handing out food parcels to families which had literally nothing,” says Msizi, adding that, while on their food-delivery mission, the team also rescued several neglected dogs. But he’s not done yet, “There is so much more to do and we’ve decided to make this a permanent part of our lives.”

Msizi leaves us with powerful words: “In a world where we’re bombarded by bad news, if we can spread a little kindness, it goes a long way, and to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late’. So, make kindness a part of your life and you’ll never look back.”


1.Educate yourself. When you foster, find out about the dog you’re bringing in, the breed or type, etcetera, so you can learn about their needs and cater for them.

2.Bear in mind that, if it is just to foster (not adopt), it might be quite difficult to give them back as you create a bond.

3.Fostering is a great way to make sure you’re ready for the responsibility of a pet before making that commitment, while still helping animals in need.

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.

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.


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!

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.

Bizzy 2021 Cover Model Winner

Our pets like our children, grow to understand our personalities, and tend to match them in some instances. We allow and encourage them to develop, all the while directing and nurturing them to the best of our parental ability. But, because our pets are not part of our direct gene pool, fate or karma tends to assist us in finding the pet that needs us most.

Whether you’re an introvert that likes to read all day long, or a sports fanatic who spends most of your time on the trails in the mountain, chances are that you are going to feel connected with a specific pet and this bond is such a privilege.

Meeting up with Bizzy and his mum Lindsay and Cedric, long time best friend, it was quite clear that he was the centre of attention for both individuals who were the perfect fit for a special needs kitty. The amount of research done to understand his condition and the compassion with which they treat him is remarkable. Even though Bizzy’s mum didn’t necessarily sign up for a special needs cat it was a twist of fate that matched Bizzy with the perfect home. Bizzy isn’t just an ordinary house cat. He is the mascot of their new business Bizzibabs Scratch Patch and he is an ambassador for welfare. It is more than admirable when people find the silver lining in a situation where they could have just seen the darkest clouds.

So here is what we found out about our very first feline Cover Model Winner.

Tell us a bit about your family. The humans and animals.
Bizzy has a Mommy and a bestie Daddy Cedric and two canine siblings, AloeVeraPuppy (rescued by and adopted from ROAR for PAWS – 16 months ago) and TheodorePuppy (adopted from Plumpets Animal Shelter – 13 years ago).
Bizzy was not always an only cat. When Bizzy joined our family in 2013, our cat, Beans – a very handsome ginger rescue, welcomed Bizzy into his home. Together they would playfully wrestle and chase each other and cuddle up together, but, sadly, that was only for 18 months. Beans, already a senior cat when Bizzy arrived here, suddenly got ill and was diagnosed with cancer, and shortly after that we had to say our goodbyes to Beans, at the vet. Bizzy had also bonded with his two canine siblings, so we decided to wait a while to see how it went with just the dogs as Bizzy’s friends. All continued to be fine – we decided not to get another cat and, looking back, it was the right thing to do because everything changed the day a neighbour said “You do know he, Bizzy, is blind? … “

Tell us a bit more about Bizzy.
Born: August 2013
Joined our family when he was 16 weeks old. He is a registered Sealpoint Siamese.

For a Siamese, Bizzy is quiet, very quiet. The only time he “says” much is when we talk to him, and we don’t have to shout. We just say it nicely “Off the kitchen counter Bizzy”. He knows he mustn’t be there – but shouts back at us – just one big MEOW – as if he is scolding us, as he reluctantly moves off the counter and onto a kitchen stool.

Perhaps, because he is blind, he is an easy cat and doesn’t get into much mischief, but there was a time when he went through a phase of “bathing his catnip toy mice” wherever he found water. Yes, including the toilet.

Our best story of a naughty Bizzy: The outside kitchen drain was blocked so badly that we had to take off the cover, and we found … 4 very grubby catnip mice. Yes, I screamed when I saw the mice in there. I thought they were real! And then I laughed. Bizzy, blind Bizzy, had found a small opening leading into the drain and over time (how did he know that there was water in there) – he pushed his mice into the drain to bath!

Bizzy has gradually taught us what is best for him in his world and some of it (for Bizzy) is different from what I have read on Google.

  1. I move furniture around from time to time. Internet articles suggest not to move furniture. For Bizzy – if I move something eg. a chair, I put Bizzy next to it and tap the chair … tap, tap, tap. Bizzy “gets-it” and within a very short time (about an hour) he has it that there is now a chair there.
  2. Bizzy has a scratch post with a middle bar and two platforms – one at each end. The scratch post is designed to stand vertically. I have the scratch post lying horizontal. Bizzy prefers it that way. He can wrap all four legs around it and swing around it with confidence because he is only just a little off the floor. It is Bizzy’s best thing in the house.
  3. We gave Bizzy his own room to sleep in at night, until we were certain that Bizzy was sure that he could move around the house at night, with confidence. That way we got sleep and Bizzy settled down. He actually enjoyed his “bedroom” at the time, but if you had to ask him today where the best place to sleep is – I am sure he would say – human bed is now tops!

Bizzy is a blind Siamese, was he born this way? How does he cope with his everyday kitty life?
The thought of Bizzy as blind during his first year never crossed my mind. He climbed curtains, chased after toy rubber balls. He caught bugs and stalked birds, but around his first birthday we noticed that there could be something going on – perhaps something more to his odd way of playing that was not all about “just a clumsy cat.” I suppose we didn’t want to admit it or the time wasn’t right to admit it. At 18 months he was still a busy, happy, young cat, but we noticed that he was more careful. He was not as confident about jumping onto or off of things.

We were also, when Bizzy was not yet 2, staying every second weekend in a small security complex, where front doors still stood open, children still played in the very quiet road outside the houses and it was the norm for a handful of very loved cats to laze around outside. Bizzy loved the set-up. He never roamed far from home exploring and enjoying only the neighbours’ gardens and homes close to us. The neighbours got to know him by name. It was one of those neighbours who knocked us into facing the truth when he said “Your cat is, perhaps, blind?”. A casual comment ticked all the boxes we didn’t want to face – that Bizzy wasn’t clumsy – he was blind or going blind, but why? He wasn’t sick, he had had no trauma, his eyes were crystal clear.

It didn’t add up. For our peace of mind, we booked an appointment at the Eye Care Clinic for cats. It didn’t take long for the Vet to say – “Bizzy is blind, totally blind. Suspected inherited PRA.”

The life Bizzy knew, for his own safety, changed overnight. No more unsupervised outdoor adventures! Bizzy hated been locked inside. He paced up and down, he started biting me and became a curtain climbing champion, ripping curtains and curtain lining on his way up, and once on the top of the curtain rail, he couldn’t climb down so he would howl! What if, I thought, I taught him to accept wearing a harness and took him outside for leash walks. Surely that would calm him. It worked. Slowly he accepted the harness and then gradually understood that a harness with a leash meant a walk outside and his purring would start … and off we would go. Never far from the house and always for only a few minutes, but it was, and still is, enough to keep Bizzy sane. Since the start of his leash and harness walks, he has stopped climbing curtains and biting me. Here I’d like you to remember that Bizzy is blind and just imagine going for a leash walk – blind. This is where he is remarkable. He knows his way to the front gate and out of the front gate. He knows his way up the road and down the road. He knows the boundary walls of the neighbours’ houses that he passes. He knows all of this, because he discovered for himself that if he walks between myself and a wall, his whiskers touching the wall from time to time guides him every step of the way.

We also had to make sure that the back garden is 101% escape-proof – during the day he has sunny spots to sleep. In a little garden, he still catches bugs (and, if opportunity allows, he will catch a bird). He has a “summer house”, a dog kennel – he stole from his dog siblings. He uses the roof to manicure his nails and the inside of his summer house must feel cool and safe for Bizzy because it is his place to go for afternoon naps. Bizzy has adapted very well – so well if you came to visit you would say “Bizzy blind? – no way!”

What is Bizzy’s favourite time of day and why?
Bizzy doesn’t have a favourite time of the day, perhaps because his world is dark, but he does enjoy it if he finds us having TV-time. For Bizzy that is his lap time!

What are Bizzy’s favourite treats?
Anything that smells or tastes like chicken. He also loves hanging around the braai for meat!

What does Bizzy hate?
Birds in his tree! Bizzy has mastered the art of climbing the lower branches of a Ficus in the garden. This is where I keep a small bird feeder for visiting garden birds and his nose knows when the seed container has been filled. He marches up to the tree and launches himself onto the tree and up he goes to hook the feeder with his claws. He throws the feeder and seeds out of his tree but if he goes up “his tree” and the bird feeder is empty – he ignores the feeder completely.

Do you have a favourite charity?
Difficult question, because I have a few favourite animal rescue organisations. We adopted a puppy from ROAR for PAWS 16 months ago, so every time we look at our, now adult, rescue dog, AloeVeraPuppy, we are reminded of the fantastic work ROAR for PAWS have done and are doing to help rural animals in need. Plumpets is also a favourite. I have adopted 2 dogs from Plumpets. My first dog, who is still with me today, was adopted 13 years ago from Plumpets and my second Plumpets dog crossed the Rainbow Bridge 18 months ago. He was with us for 7 years.

You are a PRA Awareness activisit. What message would you like to give our readers who don’t know what this is or what the cause is?
PRA or Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a degenerative disorder of the retina. (The retina, for those rusty with eye anatomy, is the light-gathering part, inside the eye.) PRA leads to the degeneration of the retinal photoreceptors. These photoreceptors are there to absorb the light and to send signals through the optic nerve to the brain. The brain “sees” these signals – vision. The sight of a PRA cat gets worse over time, around 5 years, leading to total blindness. With Bizzy – it was around his 2nd birthday.

I am not a vet, but this is how I understand it: In order for a cat to be affected, the cat needs to have inherited two mutated genes. One from each parent cat. Cats with only one mutated gene will be unaffected, but are carriers, and can transmit the disease. Only cats with known rdAc status should be used for breeding. Carriers should be mated to negative cats; positive cats should only be used with cats who are negative status.

DNA testing for PRA is available for the rdAc mutation. If you suspect your cat is going blind or might be blind – please visit your vet.

There is no treatment for it and it isn’t painful.

About starting PRA AWARENESS
I started an Instagram Account @bizzibabs_pra_awareness, because, in 2013, there wasn’t much on Google about PRA and when I mentioned PRA to family and friends the common response would be “What is PRA?” I decided to share pictures of Bizzy on Instagram to bring about an awareness of PRA in cats. I thought, if I get 10 or 20 people knowing just the words “Progressive Retinal Atrophy” it will be something. From Day 1 on social media – and I was surprised – Bizzy was noticed and loved, and here we are today with close to 10 000 people (worldwide), that we know of, that now know about PRA. Something else that is interesting; Google is now full of PRA information. I wonder if Bizzy has had anything to do with that!!

Tell us a bit about Bizzibabs
Bizzibabs: For Fun – how Bizzibabs come about.
Bizzi –
B – for Boy
A – “A”
B – Blind
S – Siamese
And, Bizzy got us through lockdown 2020 at a super speed. One evening, right at the start of lockdown, we decided to do something we had been speaking about doing for a long time, opening a Bizzibabs Online Pet Store. The idea started a few years back. From time to time “furriends” of Bizzy’s would send him gifts to promote their items on his Instagram account. What if, we thought, we contacted some of those Bizzy friends and we told them we were planning an online store; would they trust us with their items in a Bizzibabs Online Store? Well, were we surprised – items for Bizzibabs online store started to come in more and more and the lockdown months have just whizzed by and here we are today with an online store filled with many of Bizzibabs favourite things and as soon as we get to the place where we can give back – we sure will!

There you have it, Bizzy. We are honoured to have you adorn our coveted New Year’s cover.

You are purrrfect in every way and we hope to see much more of you in the months and years to come!

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

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!

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