Sunday, 27 May 2012

Dog Days

This week has been distinctly dog themed. Not only has the weather been akin to the dog days of summer but we have been flat out on the dog front.

On Monday we were remarking about how unlikley it was that Zak, our exuberant staffie, was going to find a home this side of summer, when we got a call offering him a home! Fast forward to Friday and he is in his new home! He has honestly found the most wonderful forever home and a new best friend to boot in the adopter's female staffie. No doubt between them they will be a very big bundle of love,  happiness and boisterousness and we couldn't be more chuffed.

We were privileged to be allowed to foster Macey pup. Her original owner's dog attacked poor Macey and the whole side of her face was seriously damaged and she had to be in the RSPCA vets for over a week, such was the severity of her injury. Sadly, it has resulted in the loss of her eye (it was surgically removed on Friday) but Macey is doing really well and loving being in foster care and being able to play  with other dogs. It will be a while before she can go up for adoption but rest assured this little mite is in the best of places.

Walter was our next arrival. He had been found abandoned, apparently straying for some time, with a prolapse. He had to have surgery to address the prolapse and after several days of rest at the RSPCA vets Walter was good to come into our care. Sadly, however, within a few days the surgical repair had broken down and the prolapse was back again. The poor lad had to have further intervention, as well as dental work.

Poor Walter - if only animals could speak and tell us what has really happened to him.We estimate him to be around 4-6 years old and is a wonderfully giddy-kipper but he is not out of the woods yet and we have other concerns about his health so it will be a while before he can find a home but we really are keeping everything crossed that it will work out well in the end.

At this point in the week we had just one place left to admit a dog. We got an urgent call about an emaciated lurcher x pup who needed our help. Except on arrival, when we met Bella, she was in such a pitiful state we just couldn't put her in a kennel. She was tiny in every which way and we didn't have any more spaces in foster care, but Macey's foster mum came to the rescue despite having 4 dogs of her own (and Macey)!

Bella seriously got lucky, but deservedly so. She had been removed from very poor conditions, well, the state of her makes that pretty obvious, but how she really got lucky was because her foster mum's neighbour, who adopted Dobby-pup from us last year, fell head over heels for her! It's early days yet because Bella has a way to recover but it looks like she may very well have found a home with Dobby and his family - just the stuff of magic!

The picture above of Bella, Macey and our foster mum's dogs playing together has been an enduring image for me this week and I'm sure you'll agree it really makes your heart sing!

And then comes the confession. There was only one kennel space left, what with Bella not using it, when I got another urgent call. This time it was a litter of 6 x 8 week old collie cross pups that had just that minute been removed and needed somewhere to go. The inspectors had visited the property before and issued warnings about poor condition - let me tell you, the pups absolutely stunk. You could smell them from 2 metres away and they all had a shocking worm burden. But despite our dislike of placing such young animals in a kennel environment there was no alternative and, sadly, was probably better from what they had come from.

One of the pups has been adopted by one of the RSPCA vet nurses, so we have five left to find forever homes for. I'm sure they won't be with us long, and I am so grateful they have been rescued, but at the same time I can't help but feel heavy hearted about their start to life and worry about how many more are out there suffering. My head immediately leaps to all those poor puppies in 'puppy farms' supplying the pet industry. It's just unfathomable to me how people can treat animals so blatantly as commodities.

What it does mean is that we start the week absolutely over capacity on every animal and they'll be few, if any, admissions next week. The only saving grace is knowing that we are not alone coping with the pressures. All other branches and animal centres are facing the same but at least united we can help each other to weather the massive influx of animals needing rescue over the summer months.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Jessica and Ernie

I'm supposed to be on holiday. It was the first break I'd had since summer last year but a broken camper van and a dying bunny put leave to that. The whole week has been underpinned by loss for the team, whether it be personal or professional, human or furry. It really hasn't been the best of weeks, that's for sure.

Whilst catching up on work emails yesterday I came across one that has troubled me since. It was an appeal from another branch to transfer or swap long stay cats. They were one year old, having been at the centre since they were kittens and continuously over-looked. And why? Because they are black and white. These poor babies had grown up in an animal centre and still hadn't found their forever home.

It reminded me of two things. Firstly, the two babies we have in our care called Tasha and Tyler. They've been up for adoption for over two weeks and we've not had any interest in them. This worries me deeply and makes me fear for their future because as they get bigger, the less interest there is in them. Todd, Aidy and Max kittens perfectly illustrate what I mean. They came into our care at around 10-11 weeks of age. On arrival everyone remarked 'they aren't babies'  - the wow, baby-cute factor having gone. If Tyler and Tasha don't find homes soon their appealing 'baby' look will have disappeared and all that people will see is their colour and look elsewhere.

The second thing it reminded me off was Jessica and Ernie. They were hand-reared by one of our foster mum's but were consistently overlooked because they were 'cursed' by being all black - the least desired colour we have found for a cat. They were with us until they were 6 months of age when a lovely lady rang up one day open to suggestions as to who to adopt and I told her all about them. We had found true new friends in their mum and dad because not only did they become supporters but volunteers too and the kitties, well, you can read about them in our success stories section of our website!

But telephone calls like that are rare and so it is with increasing concern that I worry about the future of many of the kittens in our care. At the moment I couldn't tell you exactly how many kittens we have, but it is in the region of 30 extra mouths to feed. Our seven hand-rears (aka the seven dwarves) are beginning to wean and thank goodness because they were getting through substitute cat milk faster than we could keep up with ordering and buying it! It will only be another 3 weeks or so before they are all looking for homes but with them all being black or black and white their future really isn't looking certain.

We ran out of adult cat food this week, which in itself is very stressful because we have no budget for food, but it also signifies an additional worry to contend with. Over the last 4 weeks we have seen considerable reduction  in the number of adult cats we have rehomed, but a sharp increase in demand to take more adult cats in.

On Thursday I had a call from the regional co-ordinator asking for help with a total of 15 cats. They were all from different cases that amounted to a total of 15 (it was only the start of the day with many more likely to come in too). We have five of those 15 lined up to squeeze in somewhere, as well as two for foster care (not that we have anywhere for them, yet) and a badly injured pup.

I only hope that when I return to work on Tuesday we have lots of reserves on animals to make it all feel worthwhile.It really does look like we'll all be having another long and stressful week again but thank goodness for Facebook and Twitter. Believe it or not the two social media sites we have go a long way to raising our spirits. The support we receive via the sites and the updates of our old furry friends means that a pick me up is never far away. We are all truly grateful to our supporters for being there for us and I'm hoping they'll stick by our side over the coming months as things will only continue to toughen over the summer months.

Roll on my next holiday!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Ten stories high

I'm not sure if it's sun-burn, wind-burn or a combination of both but I'm sat here nursing a sore face. Admittedly a weird thing to report but it's all because of the exhilarating day we've had on the Wirral coast.

I arrived at Leasowe Lighthouse at 8.50am this morning in preparation for the first of 30 intrepid abseilers to arrive to take the challenge of their lives - to abseil down Europe's tallest lighthouse; a phenomenal 101ft high!

Looking up to the top of the lighthouse, with the clouds swirling around in the sky,  made me woozy and nauseous. How on earth the participants coped once they reached the top, I just don't know, but they had to tackle 130+ open steps first to get to the top. I only went to the first floor, to use the staff loo, and my legs went like jelly having to come back down the open steps and I clung to the walls like my life depended on it. Head for heights? Me? No chance!

Over the next 4 hours I watched with the greatest of pride as our wonderful supporters took the ultimate leap of faith and placed their lives in the hands of some odd bits of rope. The tension waiting to take turns at the top of the lighthouse must have been virtually palpable because on the ground floor it was immense. I understand there were a few wobbles and worries  at the top but everyone overcame their nerves and rose to the challenge but not before digging deep to find their braves first.

Those who could bear to look said the view was stunning. Others felt brave enough to share a wave or join in with the cajoling cries of support. By far my favourite was our Hannah declaring part way down, "This is your fault Susie Hughes!" But others couldn't even bear to open their eyes the fear had gripped them so tightly. And you could see so many of the abseilers shaking with fear as they descended.

I received frequent reports that the worst bit was getting over the edge of the lighthouse' platform. I watched over and over again as it tried to defeat the abseilers, but each and every one of them made it over, albeit not always gracefully, but who cares about grace when you are 10 stories high! And while the majority tentatively took their time 'walking' down the building, others boldly bounced like pros. But whatever the style they all conquered the challenge of a life-time with many wanting to do it all over again!

Perhaps the funniest thing was the reports that the only thing that could be heard from the top was my mouth! That makes me so happy, the thought that I can spread my support so far and high. Or rather, just as people nearly plunged to their death they had my gob ringing through their ears (teehee).

The weather was incredible and added a stunning back drop to proceedings. Although there was a brusque wind, the sun shone loud and proud and kept us heated throughout the day. But I don't think the cosy, warm feeling was as a result of the weather but rather the elation of such a successful event. It is all down to the incredible courage of the participants and the generosity of their sponsors. But thanks must also go to the fantastic team at the Lighthouse who seemingly effortlessly organised the proceedings; they were truly brilliant.

My hands are still throbbing from all the clapping, so it just goes to show how much fun it was and just how proud I was of each and every participant. The heroic team of abseilers deserve the biggest of CONGRATULATIONS for their incredible achievement. Between them they have not only conquered the tallest lighthouse in Europe but they have done our charity proud and raised over £3k. What a stunning outcome. Thank you everyone for making it happen. It means we can help many more animals live a life worth living.

Monday, 7 May 2012


One Saturday afternoon, toward the end of January, I was out shopping with my husband when I received a rather distressing call; it shocked me to the core. It was from one of the inspectors out on a job. (I always keep my phone on 7 days a week so the inspectors and our animal carers can get hold of me whenever they need me.)

I listened in horror as I was told about the extreme case of neglect the inspector had discovered that very afternoon. In the backyard of a suburban home was a rabbit in a hutch who had not been tended to in over 4 weeks. The owner readily admitted she had not been out to the hutch since before Christmas. In the hutch was an emaciated rabbit alongside a dead companion. Her companion had starved to death. To make matters worse, if that's possible, was inside the home were to much loved and well cared for animals: a cat and a dog. 

The surviving bunny came straight into our care. She was very thin, had little muscle tone and her legs were just sticks. She spent days just eating and we named her Twiggy!

Last week her owner was successfully prosecuted and received a 5 year ban on keeping animals, a curfew order, a fine and ordered to rehome her cat and dog (to her mother). This is a pleasing result but it made me wonder what would the sentence have been had it been a cat or a dog that was left to starve to death?

This week I took part in a piece on BBC Radio Four about rabbit abandonments. It was a thought-provoking piece about the cost and commitment involved in caring for rabbits and how they are akin to looking after a dog or a cat - £11,000 over the course of an average life time.

I didn't hear the end of the show, but my husband did, and apparently there was a quite a response to the piece. "Great," I said, until he told me that people were derrogatory, dismissive and even provocative - essentially amounting to the prevailing notion that as a species they garner little respect and certainly not of equal status as a cat or a dog.

Luckily for Twiggy we do consider rabbits have equal status to any other species and after several months of rehabilitation Twiggy is now a very happy and healthy bunny looking forward to a new home living as a house rabbit with a neutered male companion.

This week has been RSPCA Week. It takes place every year and allows us to celebrate our achievements and raise much needed funds. We are kindly given the opportunity to collect in Tesco stores and we try to get as many volunteers together as we can but inevitably it's the same few people doing more than their fair share. But this year we were really lucky and got some new folks volunteer, which meant we were able to collect for longer and raise more money than usual. 

This time we managed to collect in 2 stores over  3 days and it has really paid off because we have raised the fantastic sum on £1150! This money couldn't have come at a more opportune time as our 22 kittens are growing fast and will all require neutering, vaccinating and microchipping and this amount will almost cover these costs.

We actually ran out of kitten food this week until one of the staff came back from collecting in Tesco with 6 boxes of food. I'm still waiting to find out the story behind this lifeline but I'm guessing a kind shopper donated them to us. This will keep us going for a few more days but with 7 hand-rears nearing solid food time we are going to need lots more food very soon. We don't have a budget for food because we can't afford the cost, so we rely entirely on donations. It's times like these though that we get quite anxious about feeding the many mouths.

Thankfully some of the kittens are now available for adoption and if you want a cute kitten overload check out our cat adoption page. We only rehome our kittens in pairs or to homes where there is already a cat. This policy is scrutinised, critised and questioned on an annual basis by the public but the reason for it is quite simple - kittens need contact with other felines to enable them to learn essential communication and socialisation skills including bite and claw inhibition. And if you have ever watched two kittens playing you'll truly know why it is so enriching and vital for them to be with their own kind. 

The kittens that we have are black or black and white and because of this they will be overlooked. People prefer tabby, gingers, greys, not common-all-garden' colours and a case in point was someone who called wanting a kitten but rang off as soon as she heard what colours we had. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

So, as we start a shortened week we have something rather crazy to look forward to on Saturday 12th May. We have a team of 29 brave souls abseiling down the tallest lighthouse in Europe in aid if our animals. Wish them luck everybody!