Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Give Up Life As a Bad Mistake?

A line from one of my favourite Smiths songs. Actually, that's a lie - they are all my favourite and all the albums get played continuously when I'm feeling fed up, which was the case last week.

But last night I realised that I actually hadn't done a proper blog in a while. This morning I have reflected on this and I think it's because when the going gets tough I try to project positivity to try and do some kind of denial thing!

So enough of the crap, what's been going on. Well, this Wednesday is the last day for the staff who have been made redundant. Mood is very low, in fact it's angry, and I can't blame them but it's also meaning that the rest of the staff and volunteers around are feeling their anger and so it's really tough going and I just don't know what the etiquette is with all of this. I tried being nice and smiley and one person jumped down my throat and another said I wasn't allowed to say goodbye to her and didn't want me anywhere near her. Heavy stuff.

Then there has been the recruitment process to find new people for two new posts that weren't filled internally. Every time we advertise jobs I brace myself for the response and as always I am not let down by the sheer stupidity of people. I really cannot believe how many people are incapable of reading basic instructions. So many haven't even bothered to read the person spec, so many haven't bothered to read the info on how to apply and so many haven't actually bothered to read the job application form and fill it in properly. It actually makes me wonder whether more should be being done to teach people how to apply for jobs. As it stands half of the apps I am going to have to discard because they simply haven't followed the instructions. Ooooo. Grrrrr. Rant over.

But I know really it is the animals that you really want to hear about. Well, we are now down to just 4 cats in the cattery, meaning we have very many empty pens. So, today, we will assess if the cat flu has cleared up so we can start admitting new cats once more. I already have several lined up so I only hope we can take them in.
Out of the 17 cats we have, 6 are on reserve! We also have our new dog Teddy going to his new home this week, though no surprises he lasted less than two weeks, he is, after all, a Norwegian Elk hound. And even the bunnies are having a look in on the action - we have two going Thursday and two others on reserve. Fabarooney!

We took in a new dog on Friday and I will be honest, I am still troubled by the history he has and so by hopefully sharing it I will ease the burden of carrying it. Last week the RSPCA inspectorate got a call from CID. They had been to a scrap yard and found an elderly German Shepherd dog with a deep laceration to the neck. The injury was so severe and had been left untreated that they had to put him to sleep.

The inspector then described to me what else she found on scene. She said their was a container with the words 'dog kennel' scrawled on the side. Looked inside was a German Shepherd with a rank old bed living amongst his own faeces and urine - it had never been cleaned out. The two workers (not owners) on site thought there was nothing wrong with the conditions and cheerfully explained that the dog was only ever let out at nighttime to patrol the yard. The dog had never seen daylight in his 3 years of living there.

If that isn't enough to make you tearful, what made it all the more difficult for me was learning just how wonderfully friendly and loving the dog is, especially to men - the same species that had been keeping him like this. So despite his incarceration in the most unthinkable of conditions, we have a dog that still has the most wonderful zest for life.

He arrived in our care on Friday and although seemed to settle quite well at first, by Sunday the dog walkers reported to me that he was quite anxious and scared, but then who wouldn't be after a life like that. His original name is Aslan, so we will keep it for his sake. And hopefully, over the next few weeks he will adjust to his change in lifestyle and find his courage once more

I really am so saddened by Aslan's story. For some reason it has really struck with me. I hope we can help heal him and find him a new home, but I worry it may take a while as he is a very big dog and we've been waiting for homes for our other big dogs - Prince, Sailor and Sasha for months now. I don't have the answers anymore, I'm just so very saddened.

Thursday, 25 March 2010


I'm a bit over excited, but then it is way past my bedtime, but I just had to share this with you...

Our Will is soon to be adopted by his foster parents, but in the meantime, they have entered him into a competition to win a year's supply of cat food and Will has agreed to let it all be donated to the branch, assuming, of course, that he wins.

So please - VOTE FOR WILL!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Rabbit & Guinea Pig Roadshow Report


On 13th and 20th March the all new 'Rabbit and Guinea Pig Roadshow' took place, developing on previous rabbit welfare clinics to incorporate guinea pigs due to their similar welfare needs and the ongoing myth that the two species should live together.

The roadshows were only able to take place because of the generous support the branch received from Supreme Pet Foods. As a result, not only were we able to expand to two dates and include an extra species, but we were able to offer the services of an additional specialist vet and a range of free product samples and life-enriching toys/products at a very low cost. We were also fortunate enough to receive support once again from hay producers West Wales Willows and give each animal their own bag of Timothy hay and willow stick to chew on too!

What We Hoped to Achieve
The aim of the event, as always, was to educate pet owners on how best to meet the welfare needs of their animals. At previous clinics our enthusiasm to do this has seen us try to cover too much in one go and likely loosing the value of the messages along the way. So, this year, we simplified things and focused on diet and dental health.

How We Achieved It
We approached the task by getting everyone to complete a quiz sheet on arrival to test their general knowledge on their chosen species. Once they had been seen by one of the exotic vet specialists they then went to see an advisor. Each advisor was chosen for their exceptional experience of caring for their own rabbits and/or guinea pigs. They all attended a training session prior to the events on best care practices for these small furries based on advice from Molly Varga, exotic vet specialist and advisor to Supreme Pet Foods.

Once this process was complete each animal received a free packet of Science Selective food and a bag of hay in order to endorse the advice that was given out about the dietary requirements of a rabbit and guinea pig, i.e. 80-90% hay based with just an egg cup full a day of high quality pellet food. If we could have afforded it we would have given out spring greens by the dozen too, because rabbits and guinea pigs really benefit from a wide variety of leafy greens and root veggies but not the abundance of carrots that Bugs Bunny purports they should eat - damn that wabbit!

The quiz certainly seemed to do the trick as it got people thinking; many realising they didn't know quite as much as they thought and were given an answer sheet to take home with to enable them to improve the quality of their animals' diets and care practices. The proof of the pudding will really be next year, when we can hopefully repeat the events all over again and invite everyone back to test their knowledge and practices once more! But for the time being, here are the results of our welfare campaigning -

At each event we had:
  • Two exotic vet specialists

  • A team of 12 dedicated volunteers

  • Branch Manager for RSPCA Manchester & Salford

We saw a staggering total of 199 animals in just eight hours!

This broke down as: 92 rabbits and 107 guinea pigs, of which 21 rabbits were microchipped.

What surprised us the most was the evident need there was for welfare support with guinea pigs. We had long known about the existing need for rabbits, and hence the annual rabbit-only health clinics the branch had been running, but it really was a shock to us all to see guinea pigs outstrip rabbits in attendance figures.

We feel this was in part due to two reasons: more people are inclined to keep guinea pigs in pairs or herds, whether intentional or not, and because the article that was printed in the local newspaper for the first roadshow date stated it was a 'guinea pig and rabbit roadshow' and so maybe this ordering of species may have captured more guinea pig owners eyes.

Grim. Is the only word we can use to describe the number of people who readily reported to the vets that they were breeding their guinea pigs (and some rabbits) to make money or to exchange for food at the pet shop. Few were willing to listen to reason and one woman even snapped, "I've not come here for a lecture." Yet over the two roadshows she brought along some twenty animals to be health checked, saving her around £400 in veterinary consulation fees.

We also offered further assistance to some very needy animals who required further follow up veterinary attention. For example, one owner had three adult rabbits perpetually breeding because they could not afford the neutering costs. Not only did we transport the animals for neutering but paid full costs too. We also took in the last of the litter they had, one of which had congenital deformities, which resulted in euthanasia on welfare grounds.

Another case was a guinea pig that had been overly enthusiastically played with by her young carer and broken its leg whilst going down a make-shift slide. We offered financial support towards veterinary treatment and advice on future care practices.

We issued a number of other vouchers for neutering assistance and took in another rabbit that had been dumped in a children's playground a few days previously that was discovered by one of the attending rabbit owners.

Of all the animals we saw, the little chap pictured really encapsulates why the branch is so motivated and committed to these small furries.

He was found stray by his new owners. They were completely new to rabbit ownership and were unaware of what was 'normal' they had the roadshow advertised and brought him along for a 'once over'. Upon examination it was found that at some point he must have had his upper incisors out, a stupid thing to do because the lower incisors were left with no upper teeth to wear against and so they grew wildly outwards as you can see in the image.

How the little lad was still managing to shovel food in was a miracle, but his new owners, undeterred by his pending £100 dental treatment to remove the lower incisors, went off for nutritional and care advice so they could do the best by him for the rest of his life.

For us, it doesn't get much better than this, and so on behalf of all the animals who attended the roadshow we would like to say an extra special thank you to:

Supreme Pet Foods, our fantastic team of volunteers, vet specialists Sarah Pellett and Molly Varga, West Wales Willows and Polly the guinea pig stall lady for all your help, support and dedication to these wonderful creatures.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

A Tribute to Mrs H

8.5 years ago the black bunny to the right of the picture was brought into an animal sanctuary where I used to spend my time as a trustee and fundraiser. I clearly remember the day she was brought in, and the family too.

She was 2.5 years old at the time - an unloved, unwanted children's pet. They claimed she was aggressive and they couldn't go near her and so they didn't want her anymore and had brought her to the sanctuary to 'get rid'.

We named her Hermione; an apt name at the time because not only had the Harry Potter books just become popular but she proved to be quite a grumpy witch. She really did not like humans, she really did not like other rabbits, and she really proved to be a bloody nuisance as she was returned twice over a period of 18 months and was constantly soiled and wet due to a sensitive tum.

It was Christmas Eve when I said to myself enough was enough. The sanctuary environment was not able to give her the care and attention she needed, as she required such careful monitoring with her diet and needed regular bathing too because she was so overweight and couldn't groom herself and was always soiled. She was just such an unhappy rabbit so I brought her home, gave her a room to herself and I left her to do as she pleased.

I never interfered or forced myself on her. Each day I just routinely looked after her, leaving her be, just as she wanted. Somewhere in my mind I believed she was just a temporary foster bunny but before long a year had slipped by.

It had taken a whole year but I had gained her trust.More than that, she and I had inadvertently developed a strong bond with one another and she begun to enjoy cuddles on my lap each night. Over time they grew to two hour long stints each night where she would fall asleep in my arms and truly relax and snuggle down. We had such a close and trusting relationship with one another but still she would not tolerate another human or bunny.

She was 6 years old at this point, quite a good age for a rescue rabbit, especially because she had poor teeth from being fed dried food. But it was probably another 18 months or so before she began to be tolerant of other humans, namely my husband, and then another 6 months before a miracle happened and she fell in love, with a dog bed!

I was in the vets one day and saw an advert asking for a home for a French Lop. He was bullying the staffie dog he had grown up with and at 18 months of age he had been allowed to get too big for his boots and was ruling the roost. We named him Hugo and divided Hermione's room so they could share it, as we thought she wouldn't tolerate him. Well we were so wrong. He came with a big squishy dog bed, which she instantly adopted and seemed to accept him as a kind of BOGOF offer and the two of them lived very happily together until Hugo died rather suddenly one day just over two years later.

By now Hermione was a good 10 years old and completely blind (having survived the removal of one eye due to cancer and developed a cataract in the other). Out of respect for such an elderly rabbit we started calling her 'Mrs H'. We thought she would now live out her life on her own but she readily accepted another of our bunnies who had not long been bereaved too.

Mrs H and Larry (a thug of a Netherland dwarf) lived happily together for the last 10 months or so until today, when at 11 years of age I made the decision to put her to sleep. She had needed another dental, and I knew the risk of anaesthetic at this age was so high, but there was no choice but to go ahead but as I suspected she took it hard. She made it through the op but struggled to come round and 24 hours later she was still in a kind of comatose state so I let her go. It sounds so simple when you say it in black and white but this has really shaken my status quo.

My small, little world has lost a very big shining star and I will never forget the love she gave to me. She taught me so many valuable lessons about rescue animals that will stay with me forever. She really was a miracle to me and I will miss her immeasurably.

This Saturday is the second of our two 'Rabbit & Guinea Pig Roadshows' and whilst I stand amidst a sea of bunnies I will no doubt catch myself at some point thinking of Mrs H and hoping that our efforts will help at least one more bunny to live a better life. Mrs H got what she deserved and I won't give up until all the bunnies in the country enjoy a life worth living.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

It's turned out that I'm going to be in 7 days this week, amounting to 60 hours of work and feeling absolutely exhausted, and partially wired, cos I'm waking up not much past 6am with my brain whirring away. I am so tired it's untrue.

I've been on my own for much of this week, and it has surely been eventful. We've admitted 3 new cats, 1 new rabbit and 1 new dog. We have had to close the cattery cos we aren't getting rid of nasty cat flu, so now, for at least two weeks, we cannot take in any more adult cats - bloody nightmare! We will have to turn away fur babies and pay £6 each per day for empty 5 pens. Ugh.

However, we took reserves on 1 dog, 4 cats and 2 kittens! Although 1 of the cat home visits has failed, which is always a tricky thing to have to deal with. In the past I have had people shout some very strong profanities at me, hang up the phone, declare how they will never support the RSPCA again, threaten to cancel their regular donation to the national RSPCA, email and write complaints.
I caused upset with this one and I received an email complaint this morning. Primarily the unhappiness was about the disappointment I will be causing her 6 year old daughter and how she felt it could have been avoided had we managed the whole thing better. I explained that the purpose of the home visit was to pick up on anything we may have missed in the preliminary stages, but really, I think complaints are always about how hurt people feel to hear that, essentially, they aren't 'good enough'.
'Good enough' was always a phrase we used in the social work I used to do, and it really is apt for this too. A home has to be 'good enough' but not compromise on animal's well being, and on this occasion the home visit threw up three concerns that made me conclude that the home was not 'good enough'. But ultimately our role is to find the best homes possible for our animals, and given the history many of them have had, surely they deserve nothing less?
So, before I start the work day, which consists of a rabbit and guinea pig roadshow in Eccles that is causing me some degree of anxiety (I'm worried we only have an hour to set up and that no-one will turn up), I will share with you my highlight of the week - pictures of our longest stay cat in her new home!

Tinker had been with us since August last year, and I will never forget the day she came in. She was an absolute mess, with hardly any fur due to flea dermatitis. Tinker took weeks for hair to grow back and she proved to be a greedy-madam-hissy-knickers and we all fell in love with her, except members of the public! But finally, Becca and Alastair did, and within one week of bringing Tinker home she is already ruling the roost and settled in.

Becca says, "She has definitely made herself at home and loves her bed more than our own as you can tell from the pics! She is so lovable and cute and loves her cuddles, she hasn't been timid or anything and we have seen her little madam side especially when we attempt to brush her, which she is still getting used to! I'm so glad she came to live with us, she has such a character and loves being around me and my boyfriend, she likes to sit in middle of us on the sofa or usually next to me and makes Alistair sit on the floor, which is funny!"

Silver linings don't get much better than this, other than a whopping great big donation. Hey-ho, dream on.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Ben and Jenny

I always feel guilty if I don't do a proper blog for a few days, but then when I have a hectic week I feel guilty taking time out to do it, but as it's Sunday I can take a breather and reflect on the week that was. Do you know, it really has been a long and eventful week.

I don't even remember Monday other than the elation of having Jess the cat reserved. Jess had been waiting for a home since October last year. She was found heavily pregnant, abandoned in a property, with terrible gum and dental disease which resulted in all her teeth having to be taken out. She had clearly had a rough time and was so keen to be friendly but would so often recoil and be hand-shy. She is now such a different cat to the one that came in all those months ago, and although still a little wary at first, she loves a fuss and attention now. And yesterday I had the pleasure of delivering her to her new home. It's not something we do very often but the lovely couple had taken two buses to get to the cattery to meet her, so for the sake of an hour out of my time and increased comfort Jess, I played 'stork' and it was great!

Tuesday's highlight was undoubtedly Sandy the dog leaving our care to go to her new home in Peterborough. You may recall her story from a previous blog? She is a 14 year old staffie and at that age we feared she would spend her last months in kennels, but my mate Jemma worked her charm on her mum and Sandy has found a home for life down south. Magic stuff.

Ben and Jenny were my next highlight, although I don't want to get my hopes up too much just yet. Both have been foster bunnies of mine, who I inevitably fell in love with. They both came in at separate times - Ben was dumped in Heaton Park and Jennifer found stray with syphilis. The are both similar looking, I think it's called silver fox but I'm not sure, and they both have very similar personalities - confident, cheeky and very affectionate. Jenny only came in a few weeks ago and when she did I remember saying how cute the two of them would look together. Well, low and behold, a lady went to meet Jennifer, saw Ben too, and decided she'd like them both, together! Again, magic stuff, and it has tickled me that I have come up with 'Ben and Jenny' - I know, I know!

Other highlights have included the massive donation of food and toys by Supreme Pet Foods for our Rabbit and Guinea Pig Roadshow - approximately £500 worth - which all had to be unloaded off a pallet that could only be set down on the road, on double yellows, and resulted in a very frenzied flurry of activity so it didn't get 'booked'! But it was like the best ever Christmas, ever! There is so much stuff, we could change the future of bunny welfare with this lot.
I also had great fun yesterday doing a workshop for our volunteers for the roadshow, and I've got another one next week, which should be lively too. It was such a giggle and really motivational being around such dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers - but then we are lucky cos all our volunteers are so passionate about their role at the branch.
I suppose another highlight has been being able to admit 6 new kitty cats - 4 adult ones and 2 kitties! Of which Rosie above is one. Awww. She was again found heavily pregnant with an ulcer to her eye and in quite dishevelled state. We have had two more cats reserved this weekend too and with our bout f mild 'cat flu' seemingly coming to an end we will be able to get some more furries in this coming week.
But of course, as much I'm happily rolling out the positives there has been strong waves of crapness too. The 'low point' of the week was undoubtedly interviewing staff for redeployment in the branch, cos as you know we have had to make redundancies. Interviewing staff for their jobs was bad enough but when some didn't succeed that was just terrible. Breaking the news was even worse, but probably nowhere near as bad as how they felt and are feeling now.

My other true low point was Tyson. He is a rotti who was involved in an RTA and his owners never sought veterinary treatment for his injuries. Weeks later it was brought to our attention and when the inspector went to see him she had no choice but to remove him because there was a huge open wound that was badly infected. The poor lad has endured considerable suffering, made all the ore worse by extensive surgery at a cost of over £700. The inspector reckons that he has been licking his injury for weeks and so it has become habitual to do so and so he is now so focused on his injury that he has been shattering his buster collars to get to it.

Tyson is also very underweight and despite being an absolutely gorgeous guy he is in a terrible way. Our kennel people have been brilliant, and have been up throughout the night with him trying to take his mind off his leg but he is so distressed that we have had to result to mild sedatives at night time. But the inspector has also managed to find him a foster home so we are really hoping this will reduce his anxiety and fixation on his leg, cos all he needs is a good week of leaving his leg alone and he will be right as reign. Tyson leaves us on Monday to go to another branch, and we really hope he makes it through. The owners will be prosecuted for their neglect but as always, the punishment will be pitiful. It's times like these that frustration towards humans really kicks in.

So, next week is looming fast, and it's looking to be a 6-day week and working til late at least 4 of those days, so I'm going back to bed to ignore this little fact for a little while longer.......

Monday, 1 March 2010

Rabbit and Guinea Pig Roadshows

This month we are proudly running our first ever combined Rabbit and Guinea Pig Roadshows. We are sponsored by Supreme Pet Foods too so we have lots of wonderful freebies to give away.

The events are open to anyone, regardless of income, and there is no need to book an appointment.

On the day your furry friends can get:
  • free health and dental checks by exotic pet specialists
  • free food and hay samples
  • free nutritional and care advice
  • microchipping for just £3
  • enter into a free prize draw
  • shop til you drop with our cavy and bunny toys stalls
Is it too good to be true? Well, it's all for you and your furry friends so please come along and show your support.