Friday, 25 November 2011

Just Purrfect

This is a special thank you to a lady called Karen and her furry friend 'Kitten'.

On the night of the Purrfect Party there was this card and photo of Kitten waiting for me at the venue.

Inside was a lovely note about how much Karen cherished Kitten and a £20 donation.

I cannot tell how touched I was that someone who doesn't know me would do such a generous and kind gesture.

I really feel the card was an omen, because the night ended up being a fabulous success with fun had by everyone and a profit of £1100 made.

Thank you Karen, kitten and everyone else who supported the event - you are very special indeed.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


Cassie was a 9 year old brindle staffie. The type of dog that doesn't get rehomed. The type of dog that gets overlooked for months on end and languishes in kennels hoping and waiting, and hoping.

There are thousands of Cassie-types out there. They are like the dog equivalent of black cats; so frustratingly hard to rehome. The pretty ones always go first and the 'average' or 'nondescript' stay forever, waiting forever for that elusive forever home.

Cassie was special. Cassie was incredibly special. Not just to me but to everyone who met her. Cassie was possibly the most well-rounded, well-behaved, good natured, fun, cuddly, loving dogs you will ever meet. I absolutely adored her.

Today I took Cassie to be put to sleep. The decision to do so was made the day before. Biopsy results revealed she was positive for cancer. An indeterminate and potentially aggressive form of cancer. Aside from being unable to treat/remove 'it', there is no-one out there who would possibly rehome a 9 year old brindle staffie with cancer.

Cassie was incredible to the end. When she had a her leg shaved for the sedation injection she was too busy kissing the staff and wagging her tail to even notice what was happening. She continued exuding her infectious personality even as she slowly drifted off to sleep.

Cassie made loving her so very very easy, which made letting her go so devastatingly hard to do.

Thank you to all our wonderful staff and volunteers and vets for doing such a brilliant job of looking after Cassie whilst she was with us. One thing is for sure she was very well loved.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Joy of Kittens

This week we have a guest blog from one of our wonderful foster mum's Carmen Holland.

You look around to see another pair of headphones have been destroyed and the culprit is now running around the hallway, dripping wet and looking rather startled having just jumped into the toilet.

Meanwhile little Bowie is calmly making his way around trying to make friends with everyone, but is not finding success with Ruby who just wants to follow her brother Rio around, whilst he shows off to everyone because he just knows he’s the leader of this gang. Flori is lying on the bed watching them all in what I like to think is a rather judgemental manner - because she’s older and finds all this childish behaviour rather embarrassing. Of course, I can't give her attention because Pippa leaps onto me, determined to be centre of attention and not let anyone else have a minute of my time. You would be forgiven for thinking this was a segment of the life of a large family. Which I suppose it is – it’s just a bunch of kittens instead of children.

We have been fostering rescue kittens for just over a year now. Fostering simply means that we give these kittens a home until they are adopted into their ‘forever’ homes. Our first little lodger was a tiny black kitten called Oscar. He was only a couple of weeks old when he was found stray so he needed to be hand-reared, which meant making up specific kitten milk and feeding him every four hours. I remember being terrified that we weren't doing it right and worrying he wasn't warm enough. Of course everything we were doing was right and he left us as a very healthy and energetic kitten. Since then we have hand-reared seven more kittens, so it’s fair to say we're now pros at assembling a feeding area of blankets, milk formula, warm water and cotton wool balls (for helping them go to the toilet afterwards).

It's rarely plain sailing though. Whether they come to us very young still in need of a 'mum' or they are older and they just require love, we often have problems. The story of them being dumped is all too common a tale to hear and this was true for three little kittens that came into our care last November, who we called Bret, Jermaine and Murray. They had been found dumped in a box in the freezing winter conditions in someone's garden. For little Bret this terrible start to life got the better of him and he spent the little time he had unwell. In the end the decision was made to end his suffering and he was put to sleep last December. I remember thinking that it was my fault and I did something wrong, but a text from the branch manager Susie reminded me that it was a miracle that two of the three had survived after being so young and having such an unconventional start to life. Jermaine ( now Tigger ) and Murray have now got a brilliant home and I've just been invited round to see them for their 1st birthday!

After putting together a scrapbook of all the kittens we have fostered, we’ve discovered that we've had 27 cats in total. All different sizes, colours and ages, but all with the reminder of just how cruel people can sometimes be. It's a truly lovely feeling when you take in this vulnerable life and watch it blossom from love and trust. Our bedroom has now become the 'kittens’ bedroom' because it is dominated by play tubes, plastic mice and ping pong balls.

When we have potential adopters come by to see the kittens we are always asked the same question; 'How do you let them go?' But I've now realised that letting them go is the best bit. Knowing they have found safety in their ‘forever’ home is what this is all for. We are just a small cog in this machine. I've often been left amazed and in awe by how much work the branch do on such a small number of staff and volunteers. A daily look at the RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch facebook page shows you how they never stop working for these animals. I would encourage anyone who wants to get involved in whatever way to do it! You really do get the best feeling reading a success story and knowing that you had a small part in creating it.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

I'm not sure now what exactly set it all off on Tuesday, but once it started I just spent the week seeing one example after another. What am I on about? Just how wonderful our team is.

On Tuesday I was struck with a warm, cosy feeling about just how wonderful our team is. This feeling continued to burn strongly throughout the week and every day something happened to remind me just how special everyone is to me, and the animals. Whether it was turning up at foster mums homes at uncivilised times of the day, requiring late finishes from the staff or meetings at different organisations there was always a supportive smile or a genuine willing acceptance.

Our team comprises of such committed staff, passionate volunteers and regular supporters that are just rocks to me; they always seem to know when we've run out of kitten food or I need an email/text to cheer me up (one this week was a picture of bunny poop!). But more than ever this week I have had a strong sense of everyone rallying round to help with the animals and fundraising and it has meant so much to me. Everyone has been so generous of spirit on a week when we have needed it more than ever.

Kitten season is, for the second year in a row, continuing with a vengeance and well beyond the summer months. There continues to be more multi-cat home rescues that our branch alone is unable to cope with so we are truly grateful to neighbouring branches, Stockport and Tameside, for rallying round to make sure all the animals can be given a second chance. But really what is impacting on us more than ever is the recession.

The one thing I've heard over and over again this week on the phones is the number of people having to relinquish animals due to housing problems. There was an article in the Guardian this week about how much the nation's pets are being affected by the recession. I suppose to the wider general public this was 'news' but to us it's all we've heard for the last two years, but undoubtedly the problems have dramatically escalated in the last two months or so.

The most saddening aspect is when people call to say that they have tried all the animals shelters and they are all full and ask me what next can be done to rehouse their animals. Quite simply I don't have the answer, but typically the caller's frustration boils over and there becomes this entrenched expectation that we should do something. I often get people saying ' you're the RSPCA, you're supposed to be animals lovers!' Or, 'call yourselves the RSPCA; you're a disgrace.' Or, 'I've been donating to you for years. What was the point? I'm cancelling my subscription.'

I always take the time to explain that we have to prioritise the animals the RSPCA field staff rescue and that there is never enough spaces for these animals. (Let's face it, what's the point in us rescuing the animals if we have nowhere for them to go?) I also explain that we are an independent charity from the national RSPCA and have very limited resources.

But, if you were in a desperate predicament would you care about any of this? No, and understandably so. All I do know is that all the animal shelters, just like us, are doing our absolute level best to help as many animals as we can, but that we all have finite resources and spaces - we have just 4 dog spaces and 11 cattery spaces. I really do wish I had the answer, but equally, I really do wish people would think through the long-term implications of allowing their pets to breed.

So, as the cat and kitten crisis worsens I feel a small miracle happens each time one is reserved. It is something that keeps us all so highly motivated - the animals finding new homes. It is simply thrilling and this weekend, so far, we have had 4 cats and bunny reserved and I'm really keeping everything crossed for a second bunny, Shady, to be reserved too.

Many of you know we've had a very difficult year for rabbit rehomings and as a consequence of having several large cases in our care we've been overrun with bobtails. It has meant that we have been pretty much closed to admissions for the year but there is a very strong likelihood that we will be able to start taking in again, as we have had a recent run of adoptions that have seen our numbers nearly drop by half. I don't want to get too excited just yet but I can't quite tell you how much this prospect means to me.

So, I want to finish on sharing with you one of my highlights of the week. The pictures above are of our sable lop called Ruby. She was seized by inspectors in Sept 2010 along with a large number of other animals from an allotment. It took 11 months to conclude the prosecution of the owner, which meant that Ruby and her chums were with us a very long-time until being released for adoption just a couple of months ago.

Ruby was spotted by a family in south Yorkshire after their boy bunny had lost his partner. They were experienced at pairing rabbits so they took Ruby home to do the introductions themselves. The day Ruby left we all took a big gulp. It was really quite sad to see her go but of course it was all we had ever wanted for her.

Today I opened my email to find the most wonderful update waiting for me. Ruby and Basil were officially 'married' and had been successfully living together for 5 days and it was time to make the adoption official!

What the pictures show you is Ruby enjoying the true meaning of freedom for the first time in her life - running around, eating grass and plants and having a companion to share her life with. These pictures are symbolic of everything we strive to achieve and they just make me feel so emotional, proud and grateful. I hope you enjoy them too.