Wednesday, 26 November 2014

On the Look Out

We’ve all seen the shocking images of long-haired animals RSPCA inspectors have rescued in appalling conditions, so badly matted that you can’t even discern their breed. 

NB this is not a picture of Teddy. We cannot show you his pictures for legal reasons.
Well Teddy is a ten year old Lhasa Apso who was taken from his owners after he too was left to deteriorate into an upsetting state of neglect. Teddy was so terribly matted that he couldn’t even see out, he struggled to walk and he was a pitiful, confused old man. Over the years I’ve seen some sights and inevitably become better equipped to cope with the sadness of our work, but I’m not ashamed to admit that Teddy made me cry. I wanted to do all I could to give him a chance but we could not keep him in a kennel. He whined like an injured seal pup and could barely walk. It was heart breaking to see the state he was in and euthanasia really did seem like the kindest option.

But I was thrown a lifeline by two wonderful people who offered to foster him, even though they knew he may not have a future. Below they chart their journey with Teddy. His foster parents are testament to what amazing kindness there is in this world. It is no doubt thanks to their love that I can share this blog today.

“On arrival Teddy was a very weak and vulnerable old guy. He had very little sight and seemed to have no hearing at all and was very weak on his hind quarters. He would pace around for hours bumping into things crying and howling in quite a haunting and upsetting tone. Until he was confined to one room this would not stop and he wouldn't settle. He didn't eat very much at all for the first three or four days and seemed to dislike his face touching the side of his food bowl, so we had to scatter food on the floor initially. We would try to console him but sat quite rigid at an arm’s length distance away from us. When taking him outside into the garden we firstly carried him, then showed him around the garden on a lead, as he would fall over every stone, step, bush, anything. He would walk into everything, getting quite frustrated and upset with himself. 

After approximately five days he started to eat more and used his food bowl. He stopped crying and pacing, so started to spend more time with us around the whole of the downstairs of our house. We stopped carrying him to the garden and just lead him through the house by his leash. Letting him off leash once in the garden, where he still bumped into various things but would toilet as soon as he felt the grass under his feet. We noticed him hearing one of our dogs barking, although she is very loud! We also noticed he could make out maybe the outline of our legs and would follow us but still bumped into flat surfaces, i.e.: walls , garage doors so he constantly needed a chaperone.

We were astounded to keep finding Teddy curled up in the washing basket. How managed to know what it was and get in and out was baffling.

Approximately ten days after arriving at our home there was remarkable improvement in Teddy. He now responded to his name, knew his way around the house, both gardens, front and back: not bumping into anything at all. He knows exactly where every obstacle is now and even goes and cries at either the front or back door to go out to the toilet.
Making friends with one of the residents (another ex-RSPCA rescue)
Teddy now also begs for his food – that’s 5pm on the dot by the way! He lifts his head when you call his name and races you to the front door when visitors ring the bell and even barks at a knock on the door.

Teddy loves his tummy being tickled and likes you to grab his whiskers so he can play bite you. He loves you to tap his bum and does a little skip then looks back at you to do it again. He even jumps on the sofa now and will sit there all night with you having his belly tickled. All in all he's enjoying life: his eye sight seems to have improved, is hearing is better and he is so much stronger on his back legs now and you can't stop him jumping on the sofa. We have found him to be a very pleasant old fella who loves to spend time with us, especially in the afternoons after his morning nap and will make a wonderful companion for someone at home during the day.”

After veterinary investigations to ascertain a full picture of Teddy’s health we are delighted to announce that he is able to be rehomed. Teddy has a condition called ‘dry eye’ and will require ‘viscose tears’ eye drops putting in his eyes at least 4 to 6 times a day. The eye drops only cost £3 a bottle. Teddy was born with poorly formed hips and as such he now has ‘severe arthritis’ but has learnt to cope with his impairment. He will benefit from anti-inflammatory drugs, which any prospective adopter must be able to pay for. Otherwise, Teddy is in remarkable condition with blood tests revealing his in good health; he just has the odd old dog lumps, but nothing sinister.
Teddy with his foster mum's dog Brigitte.
Teddy will need an owner who can afford his medication, is at home most of the day and has the patience and understanding to help him settle in and learn his new home. It is not essentially that you have experience of dogs with hearing or sight impairment but it is essential that you have commonsense and patience. Teddy has been happily living alongside his foster family’s placid, good natured dogs. He could not cope with boisterous dogs or younger children. And remember, he likes his tea at 5pm on the dot (he’s a bit more flexible about breakfast time!).

Teddy still makes me well up with tears each time I look at him, even just at his photos. He has come such a long way in such a short time. We have had him approximately 3 weeks now and we would love nothing more than to find him a home for Christmas.
Teddy is such a special little dog, with a gentle but spirited nature. Teddy is the reason why I do this job and why I will forever be a supporter of the RSPCA.

If you can offer Teddy a home please call 0161 882 0680.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Shep's Day Out

Anyone that works with rescue dogs will know how kennels are a necessary evil sometimes. We rescue dogs from terrible situations and whilst we assess them ready for a new home they have to stay in our kennels. We make them as comfy as possible with cosy beds, enrichment toys to keep them occupied and in our case, we even put classical music on the radio and hang up dried herbs to create some interesting smells! However, whenever it's possible it's great to be able to take a rescue dog for a day out. Today Shep had a day out in Ramsbottom - here are some pictures from his adventures! Shep is currently up for adoption and what a little cracker he is.

We arrive in Ramsbottom and discover a car boot where we were supposed to be parking. Oh well, Shep loves a good bargain and meeting new people so we have a good wander!

Sniffing out a bargain
Then we head up towards the Peel Tower (monument to Sir Robert Peel, the founder of the Police Force). It turns out there are folks abseiling down the Tower for charity so Shep gets to meet lots of people and their dogs. He loves other dogs but can't decide who to go and fuss first!

Peel Tower (see abseilers at the top!)
Shep posing with an eye on the cake stall

After stopping off for a cake & drink at the fortuitous charity stall we head over Holcombe Moor. Shep loves the open space and trots along, always stopping and returning to my side to check everything is okay.

Looking back at the Tower
View of Holcombe Moor
'Just checking your still here!'  

We stop for a quick energy boost. Although we've brought along special doggy treats for Shep he snubs them instantly! However, when we get our own food out suddenly he's interested again!

Turns out that Shep isn't a fan of dog treats....
...Kettle chips on the other hand!

After a bite to eat we head to Pilgrim's Cross. This is a pilgrim marker on the route from Manchester to Whalley Abbey that has existed since 1166! Quick photo shot opportunity!

We then head off the Moor down to Buckden Wood. Shep doesn't like water and avoids every puddle he possibly can! 

Heading off the moors

Buckden Wood

 After exploring the woods and avoiding the stream we cross over the River Irwell. Shep meets a whole gang of Spaniels and is surrounded! He takes it all in his stride, says hello and then gives us a little nudge to say 'I'm bored now, let's get going!'.

Crossing the Irwell

We are nearing the end of our day out now. After all that walking we head back to Ramsbottom; it turns out there's a Festival going on in town so it's all very noisy and busy; there's children, motorbikes, cars and trains. Shep comes into his own and enjoys strutting through the high street and saying hello to everyone. We have a rest on a bench and do some serious people watching....

Clearly stressed by all the people about... or not!

Warning to potential adopter of Shep: he thinks he's lap sized!

Sadly, we need to get back to the kennels before they close so off we go back to the car. Shep instantly hops in the car and lies down. I sit in the back with him and he dozes off whilst keeping one eye on the cars passing by. Belly rubs all the way back to Manchester.

If you are looking for a new dog and would like to know more about our Shep click here. Shep is very calm around other dogs (and needs a home with one) and has lived with cats. He really is a wonderful 'all rounder' and wants someone to adopt him and take him on adventures every day.

By Hannah (Trustee of RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch)

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Guest blogger: My Swimathon Challenge

Guest blog post by Chris Newton, trustee, cat foster & fundraiser!

During March 2014, as a foster daddy, I came into contact with quite possibly the wonkiest, but absolutely the sweetest and most adorable kitten called Elsa. Elsa is a special little girl who has been on a long journey, but thanks to the hard work and dedication of the RSPCA Manchester & Salford branch is now ready to find a new home!

Elsa in the early days just after being rescued
Elsa now at 4 months and looking for a new home!

As you can see from the picture, Elsa isn’t your usual kitten. She has the tip of her left ear missing, a slight tilt of the head and those sad eyes that makes you want to scoop her up and cuddle her forever. Because of those abnormalities Elsa had to stay in foster care slightly longer to monitor her progress with regular vets trips. Sadly those vet trips cost the branch money and it was during one of my trips with Elsa that I decided to raise funds for this amazing branch who I am honoured to be so heavily involved with.
After having a look at various way I could challenge myself I selected a 5km (5100m to be exact) swimathon, which ticked my two main targets, 1) something I couldn’t just do without putting in a lot of effort and 2) I wouldn’t end up injured or in hospital doing!! Over ten years ago I had swum competitively for a club, I was confident I could still swim properly, but fully aware of the complete lack of stamina I would have and knew that it wouldn’t be easy building that up to the required level.
I found myself a 10-week training plan online, ordered what I was missing (literally everything except my trusted goggles) and set off for a trial swim to see if I could actually still swim properly, by that stage I hadn’t been in a pool for 4 months, even then it was just for a cool down paddle more than a swim! The trial session went as well as could be expected and from that moment it was full steam ahead.
Over the course of the 11 sessions I swam over 1,500 lengths of the pool at my gym clocking up over 26km worth of training. There were times when every muscle in my body was aching due to exhaustion but I knew that I had to keep going in order to complete my challenge and get as much money as possible for the ones that count, the animals.
On the day of the swim I can honestly say I was fairly nervous, not for any other reason than for letting the branch down and for whatever reason I couldn’t complete the swim. I knew I had trained hard enough that I should be fine, but there is always the element of doubt that I could go too fast at the start and wilt away towards the end. At 7pm on Monday 16th June I pushed off for my first length in the pool.
Before I started my training I had set myself a respectable, if not earth moving target of between 2-3 hours. As my training went on my target decreased. I had worked out that I could do 3 lengths a minute during certain areas of my training, doing some basic maths I then reckoned that under 2 hours was achievable including a few mini drink breaks to keep hydrated. It was with a massive grin on my face that after just 94 minutes I completed length 300 out of 300!

I’m absolutely delighted to have raised over £425 for the branch, which will go to help all the animals the branch look after. Thank you to all those who donated through the sponsorship forms at work and on my JustGiving page, I really appreciate your generosity, it is far beyond what I ever expected to raise for the branch. If you'd like to sponsor me retrospectively please do via the link above!

What next? Nothing planned for some time, but you can never rule a 10k swim out can you?

If you are inspired by Chris's story why not register for our next big fundraiser in October 2014 - the Fire & Ice Walk!



Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Mum's need love too!

This post is by volunteer cat cuddler, and adopter, Jacquie Cahill.

Last Friday – whilst I was at the cattery –  made me think.  We have lots of beautiful little ladies who have just raised their kittens and are now looking for their Forever Home, whilst still being little more than kitten themselves.  Yes, we all find the newborn kittens cute beyond compare and adoption can be fast, but I wanted to spare a thought for our Scarlet and what she has brought to our family since coming home in February.
Xyla's kittens, Marble and Duplo
Scarlet (was Xyla) burst out of her cat carrier and jumped into our hearts and home on February 7th, somewhat dazed and a little timid having been found straying on the streets and in difficulty with labour last November, she had raised her two surviving kittens and this was now Her Time.  Determined to make up for lost adventures – but naively unaware of the Outside World – Scarlet initially chose to explore the house on 2 feet; either standing on her back paws to reach up, or doing hand-stands to excavate power leads and dust balls down behind cupboards.  Somewhere amidst this euphoria of discovery she accidentally encountered 6kg Frasier-Cat (formerly Rigby,  adopted from the branch in 2012) on that first evening, quite a bit ahead of plan.  It was Love At First Sight… and the feline friends united as Partners in Crime. 
Thus having breached confinement in any one room, Scarlet did what she knew best… escorting each of the teenage children to bed that first night; then and now always with continuously running commentary of “Brrpp” that is her genetic legacy from being in part (0.1%?) Siamese.  She quickly established the eldest teen (Human, age 18) to be her Mummy-Kitten and deserving of extra TLC – an inexplicably apt bond with the least pet-obsessed member of the family; the two since becoming almost inseparable, with Scarlet being companion (with a particular fondness for the ESC key) and playmate through the stresses of recent A Levels. 
Her rampages through the 3 storeys of the house, in pursuit or pursuing of Frasier, turned our quiet and remote countryside home into a Den of Madness.  This extended into the garden and fields, once she ventured outside.  It was at this point that Frasier introduced Scarlet to his Harem of ex-battery Hens (Frasier spends daylight hours masquerading as a chicken and, to date, suffers the indignity of hours sitting unsuccessfully in the nesting boxes).  And World War III broke out between Scarlet and Edith-Chicken…  Daily ambushes have become the acceptable norm – with each lying in wait for the other; one moment where Scarlet chases Edith across the garden, then with Edith turned and chasing a retreating Scarlet.  Fellow hens Gloria, Gladys and Marilyn look on as the retired elderly ladies that they are, in disgust, feathery hands resting on feathery hips in judgement… whilst Chicken-Cat Frasier runs around in circles in concern with his divided loyalties. 

Indoors, Scarlet does not understand technology.  Working from home has become a challenge for us all because she believes we are talking to her when we are on the ‘phone, so she answers back with trademark aplomb!  TV is for the feeble-minded (a cat after my own heart!) and couch-potatoes require distraction, so Scarlet choses this time to charge into and around the room like a marauding elephant.  She teasingly chews on soft furnishings and swats Frasier’s and teenagers’ ears until someone breaks rank and plays.  ‘Play’ typically involves a small cat and a large middle-aged woman diving behind sofas in a game of ‘Peep’, or practicing ambush skills from behind floor-length curtains.  World Cup 2014 means lots of playtime!  Bedtime is signalled by lights out and a trip to the treats cupboard for a nightcap Chewy Stick, with enough energy in reserve for her to risk life and limb each night in attempting to swipe 6kg Frasier’s stick.
Fair to note that Scarlet is rekindling her snatched kitten-hood and bringing 2 adults, 3 teens, a grumpy cat and 4 recalcitrant hens with her on her Voyage of Discovery.  For the price of cat food and good pet insurance, our lives have been changed for the better in having a little feline Pocket Rocket at home.  Meeting the beautiful young feline Mums last week, who are looking for their Forever Homes now, I hope other families see the opportunity to also experience what these girls can bring to their lives.  We simply love Scarlet (and Frasier, Edith, Gloria, Gladys and Marilyn…. The teens are less endearing!!) and feel very lucky.

Faye is looking for a home and so are her kittens Forrest and Finn

Laika needs a home and so do her kittens Hubble and Sputnik

Chloe is looking for adoption along with all kittens beginning with the letter 'C'

For more info about adoption please visit

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Newsletter: Spring edition

This year so far....

We've delayed our quarterly newsletter so it coincides with our AGM invitations. It means we are able to give you an overview of our work for the first four months of the year so you can learn more about what we have been up to.

Perhaps the most pleasing news of all is that our admission and rehoming figures are up on 2013. This is quite remarkable news to us because we have had three cattery closures so far this year due to cat flu, have admitted more rabbits than ever before and have admitted so many dogs that have experienced such terrible neglect and abuse that they have required rehabilitation before they could be rehomed. 

We've admitted 157 animals (122 in 2013) and rehomed 118 (110 in 2014). Alas, we are now coping with unprecedented numbers of nursing queens and kittens at such an earlier time than usual into the kitten season. We fear Summer is going to be a long and hard slog and with fewer offers of homes we worry about the future of all homeless and abused animals. Thanks to your support for the work that we do we will keep soldiering on and keep our fingers crossed for a lottery win! 

Facing up to the Cat Crisis
We are a nation of cat lovers. In our fast-paced, globalized world, cats and their semi-independent lifestyle increasingly fit our habits and sensibilities. And yet the UK is reaching a crisis point of rescue cat population, which may not be apparent to the general public, but the facts and figures are nothing short of startling. The cat population of the UK is estimated to be as high as 11.6 million, with close to 32,000 currently housed in RSPCA rescues - a figure which is only increasing. Rescues are so full that many branches of the RSPCA are resorting to using private boarding establishments. What was once known as 'kitten season' has swelled from a couple of months to a full half-year and more. The national RSPCA has produced a report on the matter and states just one simple answer: neutering. 

Understandably, neutering can be a touchy subject. The procedure itself is not particularly invasive or risky for either sex, and has proven health and social benefits. Castration in males helps to reduce the spread of FIV (the cat equivalent of HIV) and a neutered cat is less likely to stray.

And yet many cat owners feel anxious about putting their beloved moggy under the knife. Furthermore, many owners of female cats believe in the widely-held myth that the queen is entitled to have at least one litter before being spayed - that, effectively, she should be given one opportunity to be a mother. This may seem nice in principle, but in reality many owners are not prepared nor capable of looking after, weaning, and rehoming a whole litter of kittens. It is a stressful and messy experience, for both felines and humans alike, and all too often leads to abandonment and neglect. So, before this crisis can be properly tackled, these attitudes of the cat-loving public need to be addressed and, ultimately, minds need to be changed.

Fenella's Story

Fenella's story is a typical one. Abandoned with her four kittens, Fenella had puncture wounds all around her tail where she had been attacked by another animal. She and her kittens were rescued and passed onto the branch and then to one of our foster carers. Sadly, one kitten didn't last beyond his fifth day, but the others survived and are now thriving. We can only speculate about where Fenella and her kittens came from, but perhaps she was one of these cats due for neutering after her 'one litter', before that litter became too much to handle and she was cast out to fend for herself. Fenella was lucky that we had a space available with our fabulous foster carer, but if we had been full we would, out of necessity, have had to turn her and her kittens away.

We work hard at our welfare events and online to emphasise the extent of the problem and the importance of neutering. We have a limited number of cat neutering vouchers available to those who need most financial help, and we strive to promote other neutering schemes in the area offered by other charities. But there is only so far our voices can reach. What is desperately needed now is an attitude change in our society. The British public need to recognise and acknowledge that the only sure-fire way of reducing the abandoned cat population is to cut out the hesitation associated with neutering. A startling 85% of litters are unplanned. It is time to take responsibility for our accidents and give cats a fighting chance.

Award-Winning volunteers

We are delighted and honoured to congratulate two of our amazing volunteers who picked up awards this month for their fantastic charity work.

Dog-walker Lucy Swinton (pictured) was awarded first place in the University of Manchester Staff Volunteer of the Year Awards 2014 for her work with children in Romania. Our volunteer extraordinaire Hannah Brookfield (pictured) was Highly Commended in the same category, and - on the same day - was a finalist in the annual Petplan Animal Charity Volunteer of the Year Awards 2014 in Birmingham.

Both Lucy and Hannah work tirelessly and selflessly to make the world a far better place, and we cannot thank them enough for everything they do for the branch.

Burning ambitions and cold feet

Following hot on the heels of last year's charity zipslide our next big event has been set. On the 4th October 2014, the hardiest (some might say, most foolish) of our amazing fundraisers will be taking off shoes and shoes and walking barefoot over hot coals and broken glass.

We love to set a challenge here at the Manchester & Salford Branch. Two years ago we sent our thrill-seekers down the tallest lighthouse in the UK. we followed that with last year's zipslide - which raised an astonishing 8K for our animals - and now we have this: the ultimate test of elemental fears! But our thrill-seekers love it too and places on the Fire & Ice Walk are already filling up. Do you fancy stepping up to the challenge? Book your place by emailing us on!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Marathon Effort

Since a child I've been in awe of the participants of the London Marathon. Such an inspirational sight witnessing thousands of runners taking part in such a legendary sporting event. More than anything, I enjoy hearing the life stories of the runners, the motivations behind the running and, of course, the costumes!

Today is the first time since my last blog in February that I've had a weekend off. It's the reason for such a long delay in posting a new blog. It has, to say the least, been quite a difficult start to the year and the latest management accounts reveal the extent of our troubles. It isn't from poor management, it's from hard times with our shops, fewer donations and increasing 'direct charitable expnditure'. The latter being 'what we do': taking in and looking after the animals rescued by the inspectors. Few know that each branch is independent and has to raise its own funds to finance it's work. We, just like any other charity, are reliant on the generosity of the public to fund our work, but in times where working people can't even afford to feed themselves we  are a luxury few can afford.

It really is quite simple: income and expenditure need to match each other but currently there is a gulf between the two. It means that the less income we have, the more we have to dip into reserve funds. The more we dip in, the greater the risk of us not surviving beyond a year or two, at best.

So far this year we are on our 3rd cattery closure  due to cat flu. Not only does this effect us being able to help cats in need but it means increased veterinary costs, we are not generating interest in our cats (because we have so few for people to adopt) and we have a loss of income from adoption fees. In addition, we still have the outgoing, set costs of the cattery whether there is a cat in there or not. Not a great picture at all.

Then we have the ongoing troubles with am original group of 11 guinea pigs we admitted from a rescue where approximately 70 were kept in one home in shocking conditions. We are 5 weeks down the line and we are still battling with ill health amongst them all. The cost of treating them has escalated to well over £500 and, worst of all, we've lost 3 so far despite our best efforts. Since admission the stork has arrived and the 11 is now 18 and counting!
Tallulah gave birth to three babies this week but just two survived

The rabbit situation is probably the most stressful if I'm honest, because there is just no end to the apparent suffering of these poor animals and the sheer volumes being rescued is just ridiculous. There simply isn't enough spaces in the region to accommodate the vast numbers being rescued, despite ours and many other branch's best efforts. Most frustrating for us all is the number that come in as stray. I wonder whether people are aware that rabbits can be microchipped? But, just like cats and dogs and ferrets this is the only sure-fire way to reunite people with their missing animal. (For Rabbit Awareness Week in May we will be funding several activities offering free microchipping to all owned rabbits, please check our website for full information.)

I know this is quite a common report from me about the rabbits, but honestly, we have double what we can afford and something is going to have to give pretty soon because the funds simply aren't there to sustain this constant barrage of rescue rabbits. 

As for the dogs? I sat in a meeting this week involving lots of other branches in the region and everyone concurred that increasingly the dogs our inspectors rescue have had shocking starts to life and come with so many troubles that they require extensive rehabilitation and very special forever homes. This, inevitably, costs time and money; something that we commit to but means that each length of stay per dog is ever increasing and of course increasingly costly. Last year the cost to care for one dog, excluding staffing costs, was £428. We ask for adoption of £100, which means for each dog we take in we have to fundraise £328 to provide for their care. Taken over the year that's over £17,000 we need to raise just to take in 52 dogs (assuming we receive £100 adoption fee per dog we admit).
Rufus went to his new home yesterday. You can see how happy he is! He was rescued at 8 months old. He had a terrible start to life living:  never let out, along with 5 cats, and all toileting all over the house; he was frightened of his shadow and now he is king of his castle.

It soon becomes apparent just how easy it is get into financial struggles when you breakdown the cost of caring for such deserving and needy animals. But we have been exceedingly blessed this year with the offer of such fantastic homes for the dogs we've had in our care. They have all been troubled souls, all as result of their ill treatment, but they have so far gone on to find such special homes with people who have been willing to commit to a life-time of learning, upheaval and compromise.

Adopting a rescue dog is without doubt a life-style choice and one that is so utterly rewarding that it is no wonder to me why people do it time and time again. But it is also exhausting, it can push you to your limits and find yourself longing for a lie-in, a day off or a holiday! It is rescue dog adopters who I feel deserve the recognition and appreciation; they are a unique and dedicated species that make the difference between life and death to so very many animals.

As I watch the marathon runners exhaust themselves round London I think of the dog adopters who commit themselves to our victims of abuse, neglect and throw-away society. They give meaning to our work, provide us with hope and above all give a life-time of love to animals that need it as much, if not more, than any other. I shall watch the marathon today and think about you all.
Dana and Daniel were a multi-animal rescue from terrible conditions. Here they are pictured, yesterday, newly arrived in the forever home.

All animal adopters are, arguably, the most important aspect of animal rescue. Without you all we cannot keep admitting new animals. One day I hope the majority of people choose adopting a rescue animal the first port of call when looking for a new family member. For now, I'll settle with getting through the kitten season in one piece!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Family Ties

As this week draws to a close I've awoken to the realisation that there has been an over-riding theme to the last seven days. It's one that is all too familiar to us all, yet often so alien in the guises that it adopts that we don't necessarily see it for what it really is. 

The online Oxford Dictionary offers a variety of definitions for the concept of 'family', including: 'a group of related things' and 'a group of peoples from a common stock'. Of course both these nod towards a shared biology but they still hint at the notion of commonality, shared experiences and beliefs.

It was mid week when I heard a staff member describe our branch as a family. It was in response to a discussion we were having about the affect that discord at work has on us individually, but also as a branch. She said it affects us all so personally because we are a family. We all do what we do because we want to do best by the animals that need us.

I suppose seeing people take animals for granted the way in which we do and the desire to make a difference, no matter how small, creates not only a sense of belonging but also the belief that the animals are part of the family too.What invariably happens at the RSPCA Manchester and Salford Branch, whether something goes right or wrong, is that  we all feel the affect. But because we are a family we share and support one another through it. This becomes a unifying, if not edifying, experience a lot of the times and helps us to find the strength to carry on.

What makes our family function is the people that are a part of it. Each and everyone of them contribute to creating our branch and to keeping me sane. I want to share with you examples of some the things they have done this week so you can see just how much of a family we really are.

An email from cat cuddler Jacquie who recently adopted her second cat from us included this picture and the caption below.
Absolute nutter!  Over 35 years sharing home with cats and NEVER met one as crazy as this beauty (formerly named Xyla).”

This superb video was sent to me by our cat cuddler and foster carer Emma of a sheep in the grounds of where we house some of our animal. If you can't open the link the sheep is actually burping - it is the most peculiar thing!

We rely on photos to capture peoples' hearts.

Outstanding photos (voluntarily) taken by Nicola who works at the RSPCA Adoption Centre at Pets at Home in Stockport. She brings her own camera to work so she capture the beauty of our animals. Phots maximise the chances of rehoming our animals. Nicola absolutely loves the animals and relishes telling me all about how they get on when they visit the centre for the day. I got a delightful text bestowing the virtues of Murray, plus this beautiful picture below of him nodding off having lap cuddles.

This morning foster carer Simon sent me this image with the caption 'Trying (and eventually failing) to hog the sofa'.
This little mite was one of four that were being kept in a rabbit hutch.

And on a day when I thought I might implode I got sent this great linkand the challenge to find which one might be a fake!

There are many more examples I could share, such as home visitor Alan bringing in his cat puppet in to see me and creating much amusement for me as he demonstrated how he managed to raise so much money during a collection we had last weekend. Or the email from home visitor Julie letting me know that when she left my third floor office she got lost twice on the way down, ending up in a cupboard each time! Or trustee Gilly who sent me the funniest message to cheer me up. She had taken her two year old daughter on a vet trip and her daughter told the (very experienced and highly qualified) vet that he was “doing really well at his job”. Brilliant!

These daily acts of kindness demonstrate just how special our team, family, friends - call them what you like - are all about. We are blessed to have each other. I am blessed to have such brilliant people in my life. People who share a united belief in what we are doing and a gritted determination to keep chipping away. This week I can see what we have so clearly. This is in doubt because of the challenges and loss we have faced. 

The biggest loss of all this week has ricocheted across the 'RS Family' (as I heard someone describe us). An incredibly dedicated, well loved and highly respected officer tragically and suddenly died this week. Her loss is profound, tragic and cruel. Our branch send our deepest sympathies and love to all her family, blood line or otherwise.

Let's not take for granted what and who we have in our lives, most of all the furry shaped folks that my dear friend Emma routinely calls 'the kids'.