Bella, my princess

20th Sep, 2019

Written by Samantha Carstens

Photography by Riaan van der Merwe and Dani O'Brien

On the 15th of July I scrolled down my Facebook newsfeed and stopped at a post of D.A.W. “Dead Animals Walking” – I don’t even have them on my Facebook as a group, but this post appeared on my wall for some reason.

I saw this sad little face, which looked like a mini German Shepherd cross, and my heart melted as I read her story, Sheba, a puppy born with both genitalia! The vet diagnosed ambiguous external genitalia, “enlarged vulva containing a penis”, which is caused by inbreeding. She also had bad mange and dermatitis. Sad and withdrawn from life and not knowing why she was dumped.

A lady by the name of Candice had contacted Dead Animals Walking to inform them that there were two doggies lying in the industrial area, on the cement floor and in the blistering wind and the rain, and there was no one in sight.

Richelle van Dyk, Founder and Director of D.A.W., and Angelique Loubser, D.A.W.’s Kennel Manager, immediately went out and rescued both dogs.

Lily, the dog rescued along with Bella, is 12 years old, and she too was emaciated, had terrible dermatitis, worms, and was blind in one eye from an old injury. We managed to secure a loving foster mom for Lily, as a shelter environment is not a place for such an old doggie – and she’s also a small breed. However, she’s still waiting to be adopted.

I immediately fell in love with Bella’s precious face and those soft eyes. We weren’t looking to get another pet as we already had three fur babies. But Bella had stolen my heart, and I knew that I could give her the best home I possibly could.

I commented on the Facebook post with: “Interested! She is beautiful! I have two Sheppies, Nala and Lilly, but I’m in Pretoria Centurion. ☹.” They quickly responded that it was not a problem and that Bidair would sponsor the flight. Needless to say, I was ecstatic!

I got in touch with Richelle, who kept me updated along the way and helped me with every aspect of the adoption. I told her that if everything went well and they chose me as the adopted mommy I’d call her “Bella”, because she’s nothing less than a princess!

The adoption contract is amazing – you can see that D.A.W. has the animals’ best interest at heart. 

Tanya Nel from Paws R Us (SA) came to do the house inspection; she was so friendly and offered to help with introducing Bella to the rest of the Carstens clan. Unfortunately, on the day we collected Bella, Tanya couldn’t assist, as one of her doggies had gone missing, but she called me and gave me so many tips on what to do when introducing them.

My friend Alwyn joined me to collect Bella at OR Tambo’s Pet Lounge on the 31st of July, where they were super helpful and very kind. I was so anxious and excited that I was ready and waiting from 13h30, even though Bella’s flight was scheduled for arrival at 14h20 and I could only collect her 15h20.

Needless to say, the truck/caddy was slightly delayed, as they were waiting for a few other pets, so she arrived at 16h15. Although this was such a happy moment for me, Bella was quite afraid and didn’t want to leave the cage; Alwyn had to climb in and get her. She was so cute I could barely believe it! The trip home was great, and she slept all the way from the airport to Valhalla, Centurion.

I was afraid of what Nala would do, as she’s very protective of me and extremely jealous. Upon our arrival, however, Smarties, our Papillon x Jack Russell, came to greet her first and was not at all bothered with her. Nala had a few sniffs here and there, but Lilly wasn’t impressed. 

The next day I took a day’s leave from work to help all the dogs adjust to each other and bond with Bella. That didn’t take too long as she has a personality of note! She’s so sweet and playful. I took her to work with me on Friday so that she wouldn’t be alone with them just yet.

They all get along quite nicely, and I’m sure we have a long way to go to get her skin back in shape. Otherwise, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with my Bella baby. She loves my two-year-old son, Riano, and he adores Bella. He protects and loves her, giving her kisses. “Myne Bella,” he says. Bella will be his life companion and hopefully they’ll love and cherish every moment together. She’s already such a big part of the family and I cannot see my life without any of my five children: Smarties, Nala, Lilly, Riano, and my sweet Bella. 

She’s such a fast learner and quickly learnt to sit and give paw before accepting a treat!

I want to thank D.A.W. and Richelle for giving me the honour of being Bella’s new mommy, and I promise to take good care of her!

Richelle van Dyk of D.A.W. adds…

Dead Animals Walking may sound like a shocking name, but the name represents exactly the sort of animal we rescue; without us they would be dead. We also assist with getting dogs off death row at kill shelters. We are a pro-quality of life, registered NPO, and we try to create a huge difference for animals in society.

We run a haven for all the rescues where they’ll be rehabilitated, treated medically, quarantined – you name it, we do it – healing them in order to find forever families, as Bella did with Samantha. Our work is tough, especially when we work in the impoverished communities; we see terrible and horrific cases, but we do everything in our power (and if we have the support) to turn lives around!

In Bella’s case, we’d like to thank an animal angel, Ronel, for helping us with sponsoring Bella’s medical treatment and procedures. We couldn’t have reached this point without her help.

Our website has just launched, visit to learn more about what we do and who we are or follow us on Facebook Dead Animals Walking. Bella’s story is only one of the hundreds we rescue, rehabilitate and rehome, but Bella is unique because, given her defect, she may have been euthanised elsewhere.