Friday, 12 July 2013

Hippo and Old Shep

After a week off for my annual indulgence (aka Glastonbury Festival), followed by a week at Bristol Uni studying animal behaviour (at my expense), you could be forgiven for thinking I'd left the branch. So much so this week that I've been accused of avoiding people and disappearing altogether! You see two weeks in the world of animal rescue can seem like a like time because so much happens in that time. But, in reality, the faces change but the tragic stories amount to the same - neglect and despair.

During my two week absence much has changed. Most significantly we lost two beautiful souls - Bey and Lucky, yet we were blessed with the offer of a new home for our Dobermans, mother and daughter Bella and Roxy, in Nottingham. The girls have had a remarkable transformation thanks to their foster carers and extensive veterinary intervention and after 3 months of rehabilitation they were hardly recognisable (as you can see in Hannah's post below). They've been in their new home for 5 days now and we're hoping they are settling well.

With my return comes a mountain of administrative catch up and the admission of new animals. There really never is a shortage, in fact it's relentless. With few offers of homes for adult cats at the moment we are worrying how we are ever going to accommodate the sheer number of animals needing to come in. We think it's a combination of holiday time and people wanting kittens that has nearly halted the cat adoption side of things, but pleasingly we managed to find homes for 33 animals last month, 8 of which were rabbits. Now this is a massive achievement because rabbits are hard to home, hard to pair with other rabbits and hard to persuade people that they have very specific welfare needs. Few people appreciate just how much space they need and often choose to ignore advice and go off and buy a rabbit from a pet shop instead.

Buying rabbits from pet shops is fine, but the main reason we have so many neglected and abandoned rabbits is because an ill thought-out purchase has been made, the buyer has been given the wrong advice by the seller, or, as is often the case, the rabbits have been sexed wrongly.

Meet Leo, Carris and Kerry. Their owner were told they were buying a pair of females and in no time they had 20 rabbits!



And what few people know is that we also have to deal with the neglectful situations created by the suppliers of animals to the pet trade. I'm sure many of you have seen cases in the news of puppy farms being raided, but we also have to deal with it with small animals too. This week we've had a right big slap in the face after we took in 7 guinea pigs from a breeder (approx 50 were removed in total). Not only is it likely the females are pregnant but there's ringworm too. The 'r' word is every animal charity's dreaded fear. Only time will tell what impact it has on the other animals, and us, but for now they are in isolation and we are keeping everything crossed we've avoided a plague. )To learn more about it in guinea pigs check out this link.)

We've admitted 8 new cats this week. All of them are black, all around 4 months of age, but from 3 different homes. We also have an abundance of little kittens ready for adoption and guess what? Yes, most of them are black too. So few people want black cats/kittens, so we will just have to hope for a miracle me feels.

Little Bear

We've also admitted two beautiful dogs this week. They've been given nick-names - Old Shep and Hippo - probably unfairly, but it has given us something to chuckle over. Old Shep is with us because his owner was leaving him for 48 hours at a time. No doubt he'll now be anxious about being left in the kennel but at least he's safe now and hopefully the predictability of kennel life will enable him to rest at ease a little. He's going to make someone very happy because he is a lovely dog (and not actually that old, he's just started slightly greying on his muzzle) but at the moment he needs some veterinary treatment before he can go up for adoption.

Our other newbie, Hippo (officially our new favourite), was found abandoned, tied up. Hippo was microchipped and the registered owners were contacted but they said they'd rehomed him two weeks ago. Hippo is going to make another cracking companion for someone very lucky indeed. We've named him Hippo because he's a wee bit odd looking, a genuine crossbreed with a barrel belly like a Hippo! I'll be looking forward to the day when these two find their new forever homes; they are so deserving and so delightful.

Of course, as ever, I'm only scraping the surface about the details of my first week back, but you get the drift that there's been plenty to do. But perhaps what has excited us the most is the confirmation of two new, fundraising events. One is scheduled for September - a pirate themed night out at the Kings Arms on the edge of town. Our imaginations are running wild with this one and it is guaranteed to be alot of fun (but adults only). The other will be in November, to coincide with the return of Strictly Come Dancing, and will be a tea dance with a chance to learn ballroom dancing and enjoy lots and lots of tea and scones - how terribly British! Love it!

For now, let's enjoy the wonderful weather, but please keep your small animals in shaded, cool places and please do not take your dogs out walking during the day, or leave them for any amount of time in a car, or take them out running with you. As I finish off it's nearly 9pm and only now am I venturing out to walk my dog. Please be sensible and keep your animals safe from the sun and enjoy the weekend.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Three days in the life...

I’m sure like me, many of you reading this wanted to work with animals when you were younger. I wanted to be a vet but alas my scientific talents were somewhat lacking and that dream soon disappeared! Instead I filled my parents’ house with rescue animals and then did the same when I bought my first house.

For the past three years I’ve volunteered for the RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch in various roles. I'm currently chair of trustees, home visitor, dog walker, fundraiser & social media bod! Consequently, I have a pretty good grasp of what the animal staff get up to. However, this week I offered to cover for a member of staff, Deb so she could have a well-deserved holiday. As I work full time elsewhere (in a non-animal related role) this meant taking three days off work, to work. But hey - dealing with cute animals all day can’t be as hard as my day job, right? Well that’s what I thought on Sunday evening. It’s now the following Sunday and I’m still exhausted. Here’s my diary from my three days as a member of team Manchester & Salford...

Monday – Day One


Every Monday morning Deb walks dogs with one of our fabulous volunteers. Currently we have four kennel spaces (this is all we can afford) in a private boarding kennel. We are very lucky to have our own brand new kennel block with an office & grass paddock for the dogs to play and relax in. 

Our office in the kennel block complete with a mural created by Deb!

Today our volunteer walks Blues the Jack Russell terrier cross whilst I play with Melvin. Melvin is a typical staffie puppy – energetic and daft and completely loveable. But, bless him, he’s also very confused with his life in kennels and often doesn’t quite know what to do with himself. We have a play in the paddock off-lead, then a big walk in the fields.

Melvin exploring the woods

Anyone who walks rescue dogs for a charity will know the gut-wrenching feeling when you have to put them back in the kennel; it’s horrible. However nice a kennel may be with enrichment toys, comfy beds, Classic FM on the radio - it’s not where dogs should be. They should be in a home. Melvin gives me a look; I buckle so we sit on the sofa in the office instead. Within ten minutes he’s fast asleep and I’m stuck. I sit and check the office emails on my phone still pinned under a snoozing blob of staffy.

Sleepy Melvin


Finally Melvin wakes up and I pop him back in his kennel. All the dogs get enrichment toys on rotation to keep them occupied. I collect all the Kongs and stuff them with biscuits and meat (it’s an art form stuffing a Kong you know?). I give out the Kongs, check everyone has water, straighten up their beds and check all the kennel doors are secure. I don’t look at Melvin again because I know I’ll never leave otherwise.  

The art of Kong stuffing

Drive back to the office, have lunch whilst checking office emails, branch Facebook & Twitter etc. I doubt Deb has much of a lunch normally so this is probably a luxury for me! 


I check the office diary for any vet runs or follow up checks that need doing. Lo and behold there are five kittens due their first vaccinations and general health check. This means liaising with the foster parents for a good time to collect the kittens then calling the vets to book an appointment. It all sounds easy in theory but it’s surprising how the logistics can get very confusing very quickly! I book the kittens in for 3pm on Wednesday, make a note of how many carriers to take & to remember to bring cat litter. We provide all supplies for our foster homes; cat food, litter etc however, we only have a budget for litter. If you would ever like to help us by donating cat food via Amazon it would be very much appreciated!

I’ve also got to sort out a home visit for our two Dobermans who were reserved at the weekend. I call the potential adopters and sort a time to come to see them tomorrow. They live in Nottingham but it’s worth the drive to find these two special girls at home! 

In between my office jobs time has flown by. I just manage to complete some paperwork and straighten the office before I go home.  

Tuesday – Day Two

Drive to Nottingham for Roxy & Bella the Doberman’s home visit!  

Driving times

Home visit goes swimmingly. I’ve been doing home visits for four years now and still enjoy them. It’s great to chat with potential adopters and get a sneak peek into the life that our rescue animals may be leading very soon. We know our animals so well and invest lots of time and effort into caring and rehabilitating them – they are treated as if they were our own animals.  Often the home visit is the final stage of our commitment to them – although we are always on hand to give advice and support once the animal has been rehomed, of course. Fingers crossed everything works out for Roxy & Bella! 

Check out these before and after pictures of the girls. When they came into our care they were 10kg under weight and had been signed over into our care as the owner could no longer cope.




I arrive back in Manchester; the next job is sorting out a foster home for two guinea pigs who we suspect may be pregnant! I contact one of our foster carers who can take them next week. We have a small network of foster carers that we call on when we have animals in need of a little extra TLC. 

These two guinea pigs were rescued along with many young male guinea pigs. Sadly, they had not been separated so the chance of pregnancy is very high (males can breed from 3 weeks old). These girls will stay with us for a couple of months on ‘pregnancy watch’. If they aren’t pregnant they can be rehomed, otherwise they will have their babies with us... 

Phoebe & Pauline the piggies

Wednesday – Day Three


It’s Wednesday morning and I’m back at the kennels! Everyone gets a good walk & a bit of playtime in the paddock. I walk the lovely Blues in the woods. Today he’s decided that he can climb trees and wants to show me how to do it! 

The lovely Blues
After an hour of splashing through streams and lifting Blues out of trees we head back to the kennels. Every week the animal staff health check all the animals. Wednesdays is the dogs’ turn. We weigh them (lots of bribery to get them on the scales!) and give them a good once-over checking teeth, claws, skin/coat condition and so on. 

Weighing in time for Blues!

Today everyone seems fine so I fill up Kongs again, check everyone is secure and head back to the office.


I arrive back at the office. I quickly chuck back some lunch – answer emails, Facebook and Twitter messages.

Keeping our website and Facebook updated daily is a big task

One of our cats, Elkie has been reserved and the home visit has passed. Whenever we rehome an animal we complete an adoption pack. In the pack is adoption paperwork for the new adopter to sign to officially take ownership of the animal, microchip information & vaccination card. We also complete little booklets which tell you the story of the animal, what medical treatment they have had and what they like and dislike. Elkie’s dislike just says ‘Being ignored’ - which is about right for her!

Elkie showing her cheeky side!

It’s time to pick up the kittens that I booked in for first vaccinations two days ago. I’m armed with cat-litter and cat carriers. I was determined to keep my car clean but alas the litter bag explodes and my car now smells cat-litter fresh! 

I arrive at the foster home in Didsbury and meet the gang. We have Lex, Harry, Truffle, Marley & Bailey - they are absolutely to die for... 

Summer and her brood

They were found with their mum in someone’s garden. Probably another case of someone letting their unneutered female outdoors, going stray, getting pregnant and then giving birth out in the wilds. It’s a story we hear day in, day out. We currently have over thirty kittens in our care and I’d guess the majority came to us via this completely preventable situation.  

So all the kittens are scooped up into a carrier and off we go to the vets!


A fun car drive with meowing kittens. Having cute kittens in your car is a bit of a hazard, you can’t help wanting to look at them! 


We arrive at the vets and sign in. I soon discover that you are the centre of attention when you have a carrier of kittens on your lap! The kits are very well behaved during their appointment - except for the naughty Bailey who tries to do a runner whilst we are vaccinating the last kitten! Each kitten is weighed, health checked and vaccinated. 

Harry getting health checked


Journey back to foster home - the meowing continues!

None the worse for their little vet trip


Arrive back at the kittens’ foster home. This is the hard part. The mother, Summer, needs to be separated from her kittens and taken to our cattery. The kittens are weaned and eight weeks old now so they are fine to leave her – but it doesn't make this task any easier. 

I have to bite the bullet and pop Summer in the carrier. She's not too stressed so I want to get to the cattery quickly to get her settled in before rush hour.


Drive to cattery talking to Summer all the way. I can vouch for the fact that she's a very good listener!


The cattery board - Elkie & Mojo reserved!
We arrive at the cattery. Summer's pen is all clean and ready for her when I arrive. We hire a cattery block in a private boarders and I think its fab. Thanks to our supporters donating cat activity centres, toys, tents and beds each pen is full of enrichment and the cats love it. I let Summer out of the carrier, top up her food and water and leave her to settle (after a good fuss, of course). She's very skinny from looking after her kittens but I'm sure she'll soon fatten up when she finds her forever home.

The beautiful Summer arriving at the cattery
My last job of the day is to drop off Elkie’s paperwork ready for when she is collected tomorrow.

All our animals get an info pack when they are adopted

I get a text from Michelle (another wonderful member of our animal team) to ask if I'll do a home visit for another branch of the RSPCA. Although we are all independent charities we do help with other branch's home visits when we can & if they are in our patch. I give the potential adopters a ring and thankfully they are happy for me to drive straight round on my way home.


I drive to home visit.


I arrive at home visit and meet the potential adopters. They want to adopt a long stay dog and have had lots of experience of rescue dogs. We go through all the basics; diet, training etc and have a good chat. Everything is fine and the home visit passes. I let Michelle know to contact the branch in question and drive home. 


I get home and complete my home visit paperwork. Every time we do a home visit we complete a questionnaire to keep on file. I've got 2 to do but thankfully one of my house rabbits, Delphi is on hand to assist....

Delphi keeping an eye on proceedings. She's my 6 year old rescue rabbit

I'm exhausted after just three days of doing Deb's job. I literally don't know how she does it five days a week! I say she works five days a week but I remember her partner Tom once said that Deb has two modes: working for our branch and sleeping. 

Our animal staff rarely get the appreciation they deserve. We have 2 members of animal staff, Deb & Michelle, as well as our branch manager Susie (I couldn't even begin to describe the scope of Susie's role!). Often they are told they don't do enough, should do more, should help more and I can only imagine how frustrating this is for them.

My slight dabble in their world wasn't really an accurate representation of the sheer amount of work they do, just a tiny insight. Thankfully, Deb saved the nicer jobs for me to do so I didn't go running for the hills! I didn't have to answer the office phones (which is a notoriously unpleasant job sometimes as people are often abusive when we can't help them), I didn't have to deal with any new arrivals or decide which animals we had space for and which we didn't. Neither did I have to put animals to sleep that were suffering and in pain that we couldn't save.

The remit of Deb & Michelle's roles are mind-boggling, the logistics and constant car journeys are often tedious and time consuming (as well as thoroughly unpleasant in this heat!) & seeing cruelty, abuse and abandonment every single day must take it's toll.

Our charity might be small but I hope this blog provides an insight into how hard our team work for each and every animal in our care. They do us all proud. Same time next year then Deb?

Melvin is still looking for a home!