Sunday, 25 July 2010

Pink Floyd

There have been quite a few reasons to be cheerful this week, yet few have actually lifted my spirits above the 'water line'. I've struggled to understand what has been causing my hovering malaise and I think I've worked it out.

The pressures of expenditure and income generation have been uppermost in my mind. We've had to shut the Chrlton shop for a couple of weeks for renovations and that has meant a loss of around £3k-£3.5k in income. We've also had to use a private vet for our cat and dog neutering, which invariably increases costs by around £60-£80 per dog and £20-£30 per cat, so you can see the costs start stacking up.

I then learnt about the pending closure of an animal sanctuary most of us (staff and trustees) have worked for at some point in our careers. Just like every other small charity the money just isn't coming in and unless they can raise a substantial sum of money they face closure - so it just makes me think, 'there, by the grace of god, go I' (or whatever that saying is supposed to be, but you get my drift anyhow).

This year we've not had any substantial legacies come in, and as macabre as this conversation may be, the fact is most charities rely on them to keep going. The last 3 years have seen us receive some very generous bequests but this year not so. What also sent my worries into sharp relief was my experience yesterday of collecting money in Salisbury's.

Salisbury's' shoppers are always generous and supportive, and last year we raised £234from standing in the foyer on a Saturday with a collection tin and display. I did the same yesterday, with my face painted as a cat and wearing cat ears, and whilst I raised a lot of smiles and plenty of 'sympathy votes' it was really evident that people are more hard up this year. Even the store was quiet at times for a Saturday, and whilst everyone who gave was generous (except for the 3 famous actors that went in and out and ignored me) we raised quite a lot less. I think it is very telling that people just don't have the money or are worried about the uncertainty of their futures.

My friend, who is a working single parent, told me how much she is dreading the VAT increase come January next year. So, I guess what I'm saying is, there is a huge shift in priorities for people and understandably so. I think, if I am honest, for the first time I am genuinely worried about the branch's future and the strain of the worry is basically taking its toll. I feel burdened, and that means I feel responsible, but I can't see any obvious way out other than dramatically cutting expenditure in ways I just don't want to think about, so let's not, and I'll tell you about all the good things that have happened......

1. Trevor the kitten - was found by a member of the public following an RTA. He had a broken leg that required an external pin thingy fitting at a very costly price of £500. But a lifeline was thrown to the branch, and one of the vet nurses at Ashleigh offered to take him on and pay for the op. I cannot tell you how great my relief and gratitude was. Incidentally, Trevor is doing well and is a little love!

2. Rehomings and Reserves - this weekend sees the departure of cats: Tiddles, Andy and our gorgeous boy Floyd (pictured). Floyd had been with us for months, recovering from illness and injury (he was found stray with what looked to be chemical burns to his body). Because Floyd was with us for so long he became a favourite amongst us all and his quirk of greeting you with a belly for a tickle just endeared him to us even more!

We also see the first of our baby bunnies leaving us this week and 3 bunny reserves for Ethel, Hetty and Agatha. This weekend we have also had a reserve on our beautiful dog Sasha, which is a relief because we've started to see she is showing signs of slowing down (she is 8 years old) and we so desperately want to see her live her life out in a happy home. So, please keep everything crossed it is the right home for her.

This week we also saw 5 kittens go to their new homes: Bert & Ernie. Poppy & Rosie and Billy. So all in all a very good week. But before you ask - the people at our fair last week who expressed a firm interest in Red and Nipper sadly never got in touch.

3. Volunteers - I am very privileged to work alongside very many amazing volunteers, and I have recently welcomed a new member to our team, Scott, who is walking the dogs on a Monday and helping me out in the office on a Wednesday. He has really made a big difference to my workload and I am ever so grateful to him and only wish we could afford to pay him to do it as a part-time job.

4. Fundraising - when the chips are down my brain kicks in and I'm working on a new event for November (with Scott's help). I don't want to give it away just yet but I'm in need of creative people and budding magicians, dancers of the interesting kind eg belly dancing, bollywood type dancing, even exotic dancing and people with quirky acts or talents they'd like to share. As yet I'm not sure where to start with scouting for this kind of talent but if you can help or you love painting and papier mache making please get in touch, I need you!

The week ahead sees us holding a free pet health clinic in Longsight and our quarterly newsletter going out (assuming I get it done today whilst watching soap omnibuses). Oh, and I already have 5 cats and 1 dog waiting to come just another typical week ahead of us but would you expect anything less?!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Double Goosebumps

What a week. First we lost our gorgeous bunny Mono, then Thursday we had to have a cat and a dog put to sleep and by Friday we had to rush Midnight the cat into the vets as she had virtually lost the use of her back legs. That sheer panic feeling had struck me again and I later ended up saying to Catherine that the week would really be topped off if it poured down with rain on our Summer Festival the following day. And so, of course, it did.

The first lonely few of us arrived on site very early and sat there in our cars watching it rain. After nearly an hour we decided to just get on with it. But it wasn't long before the heavens really opened, and then some more, and then some more and by 11.15 I was all for giving up and going home, but the team were undeterred and insisted we battle on, so we sat and waited, and every time there was a break we scurried into action to set up some more.

By the start time at 12noon there was little break in the weather but over the next hour it began to ease off and people started turning up on site. By 2pm the sun was shining and it stayed out and dry for the rest of the afternoon and even during packing up time (Brucie bonus!).

We didn't get the number of attendees we had expected but we still got a good turn out and we put on a great 'show'. I'm guessing people decide what they are going to do for the day in the morning, and by the sounds of the traffic reports, they'd chosen the Trafford Centre over a soggy field (and who can blame them!).

But nonetheless we had a riot with our dog show and lots of our old friends turned up and it was just wonderful to see how all the dogs were getting on since being adopted. There were some surprise attendees and I got all excited and goose bumpy - there was Lady, Gemma & Snoop,Tommy, Heidi, Dolly, Ben, Paddy and I know there were others too but my mind has gone blank, so I apologise to those I missed out (send me a piccie and I'll post an apology!). Anyhow, it was just wonderful to see them all, and to see that we do get it right and we do make a difference and that there really are happy ever afters after all.

I got even more excited when our old friends started winning in some of the classes(no, I wasn't judging, just compering). And when Heidi (pictured above) won Best in Show I got all emotional and had 'double goosebumps' and her mum and dad and the judges got all emotional too! Heidi really was a huge shining beacon of inspiration yesterday. When she came into our care last year she was a nervous wreck, having lived with an alcoholic and his 6 other dogs, and very definitely been physically punished. She was eventually confiscated from her owner by the police and we took in 3 of the dogs, who we named Rita, Sue and Bob.

To see Heidi one year on was just amazing - she truly was a different dog, so desperately fond of her owners, so incredibly well trained and so very confident and happy. It really was the stuff of magic and just goes to show that it is all worth it, even though it doesn't always feel like it at times.

And, despite the awful weather at the start, we took a great sum of money, £1268, which really is a lot considering how bad the rain had been. It also helped soften the blow for the loss of £225 on paying out for a fancy bouncy castle we couldn't use (they insisted on full payment even though we couldn't safely use it).

We also saw 53 dogs at the free vet health checks, the 4 dogs we brought along behaved themselves beautifully and we received interest in two of them, we did really well with our ethical cafe, the Punch and Judy show, circus skills workshop, climbing wall and donkeys were all hugely popular, oh and we had a Coronation street actor come along with his children to enjoy the event too! By the end of the day there were seemingly lots of happy faces, including mine (despite my soggy, sore feet)and a real sense of achievement to boot.

I am truly grateful to everyone who braved the weather to help out or come along to support us. My highlights were definitely seeing our old friends, the Punch and Judy man's puppet dog (I'm a sucker for puppets!)and the live bands were great too - they were such troopers.

So thank you so much to everyone, let's hope we can pull out all the stops for our sponsored dog walk to make up for losses at the Summer Festival. And oh, I would be very grateful if there wasn't torrential rain again like last year, please!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


There really is nothing worse than the feeling of sheer panic that you get when an animal is seriously not well. Undoubtedly that feeling is heightened when it's one of your own so when you get it with one of the RSPCA animals it's always a bad sign!

What I mean by this is that you know you've fallen in love and the chances of a). Making a rational decision goes out the window and b). You know you want to keep them!

So there I was, Monday morning, sat at the vets in a state of sheer panic with one of my foster buns in a very poorly way with my heart struggling to let my head take control and feel desperately impotent and very worried indeed.

It's really something I've always struggled to cope with - not being greedy when it comes to animals and trying badly not to keep them all. It helps to know I'm not alone as I have many comrades in arms that are just as greedy and facilitating! But now there is 'no more room at the inn' for me to keep any more buns, cos I have to keep space for fosters, so on this occasion the decision truly is out of my hands, but I guess it just goes to show how much these furry folk get under your skin and testament to how much we value their souls.

I've also had my thoughts turn again to what the value of an animal is. Let me explain....

So, that age old thing of - how do you draw the line at vet costs when nothing is ever quite as straight forward as saying "let's cap a limit of £150 per animal" - continues to haunt me and has been the source of debate once more, and without conclusion.

The reason for the continuation of the theme is that for the 2nd month running our vet bills have gone over by £1k. Whilst some people (thankfully) are philosophical about it all, the fact is it sends me into sheer panic because if that happened every month we'd have an overspend of £12k on the year on just vet bills alone, which is huge when your income is barely £200k per year.

At the end of the debate I think the best we could come up with was to do more fundraising because we cannot ever predict the state the animals will be in when the inspectors rescue them and bring them directly into our care.

At our staff meeting today we were trying to work out costings of different basic treatments to see if we could make any savings. What we found was the two most common ailments were ear mites and dental problems - just so many animals we are taking in now - cats, dogs, rabbits - are needing dentals and these are simply not cheap.

So, I remained stumped but dreading the next vet bill already we are looking at treatment costs of £400 alone for just one cat that was rescued last week. That's a huge amount of money that could be spent in so many other ways, like neutering many more, but if you actually spent any time with our newbie you couldn't reconcile with the idea of imposing a modest budget per animal because he is an individual, a unique personaity - a right little charmer and will definitely be rehomeable once sorted out.

if this makes us 'soft' then I'll weather that label. We prefer 'compassionate', but I just don't know how much longer we can afford to be compassionate but I certainly don't want us to change our approach as I would find it too difficult to adopt the alternative approach.

So, anyway, back to the start of my blog and my Monday morning panicked vet run.

Sadly I got 'hit' again this morning. Not so much panic but a whooping great shock to the system that left me reeling and genuinely stunned. The beloved foster bunny I had rushed in the day before had passed away overnight and when the vets came in this morning they were shocked, as much as I was, to learn he had died overnight. Whatever was wrong with him was clearly something quite serious and his death was not for a lack care and attention on anyone's behalf.

My delightful 'Dangerous Brothers', aka Mono and Stereo, who came via the RSPCA's Pet Retreat scheme are no more. Stereo (pictured above and so named cos Mono was missing an ear - geddit?), is struggling to reorientate himself. His loss and bewilderment quite evident.

Like him I feel a little bit disorientated. Someone I had fallen in love with has been suddenly taken away and I just feel like I've loved and lost someone very special to short of space and time.

To those of you out there struggling to come to terms with your own loss, just remember how empty life would be if you didn't share your life with these wonderful creatures. For all the heartache you are feeling now think about how much joy you gave each other and how much your lives were enriched by each others presence.That's gold that is, and I wouldn't miss it for the world. Animals are what make my world so special and fulfilled and I love you Mono so much.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Breeding Like Rabbits

We've been over capacity on the rabbit front for quite some time now after a series of abandonments, strays and of course 7 being born in our care. By saturday we reached a total of 23 in our care, and counting, when we can only really afford/fit 10-12 at anyone time.

I'm sure you'll remember Hetty and her babies. Well they are 7 weeks old today and have grown so much but are just as beautiful as ever. Catherine took the above pics on Friday and I went to see them for myself Saturday and I just felt so proud!

But the real reason I went to see them on Saturday (having transferred them from mine to our boarding place prior to my holiday) was to deliver 3 out of 4 rabbits we rescued late on Friday night.

Yes, Catherine did it again - she found another stray rabbit and is now officially banned from walking her Juno!

This is time the owner came forward, though not catch the rabbit, just to see what we were doing. They knew full well their bunny was loose but seemed undeterred. I went to the home to find unneutered male and females all loose together living in squalor. It really was wholly inappropriate and thankfully we managed to get all but one bunny signed over to us.

I was given assurances that the remaining bunny was being rehomed with a family member. The conditions he/she were in were so bad that the owner was visibly embarrassed and tried to dissuade me from investigating further and highlighting to her how woefully inadequate the conditions were.

When we got the bunnies to safety we found we had two approx 5 mths old, 1 that was heavily pregnant and due to drop any moment (and not for the first time) and the 4th with bite wounds all over with one badly infected plus dental problems and also seeming to be pregnant. This poor girl is Agatha and being fostered, thankfully, by Hannah, and she is having an ultrasound tomorrow to see how far gone she is cos we can't neuter her due to the bite wounds!

So, 10pm on Friday night I'm putting up cages in my hallway for the other 3 thinking..."Welcome back". Come Saturday morning I get a knock at my door and the words, "I've found a stray rabbit." What appeared was nothing short of a vision of loveliness; a gorgeous helicopter eared white male rabbit. So he is now occupying the vacated space in my hallway. He must be being greatly missed cos he is so friendly, in really good health and even castrated! I really hope someone comes forward to claim him or else he will be put for adoption and he's just too gorgeous!

And the week started off in typical style. First call I took was from a distressed adopter desperately wanting to the return the dog they'd adopted just over a week ago. Why? Well, they said she was destructive and had chewed the remote and the garden ornaments and destroyed the garden they had spent years working on. So now we are in dire straits with the dogs too as we are over capacity at the boarding kennels and a situation we cannot afford to maintain for long.

Even worse, our vet bill was another thousand pounds over again this month because of the number of ill animals and euthanasias we had to undertake. For example, one new dog, Dillon, who was, I think, dumped on wasteland, had to lumps removed from his gums and biopsied at a cost of £297. It's not funny, is it.

I can only hope that our summer festival/ fun dog show gets great weather, a great turn out and enough volunteers to make it a success cos we surely need every penny we can get at the moment. And if I can be really greedy I'd like lots of suitable homes for our bunnies. And if there are any people out there questioning why they can't give a single rabbit a home in a hutch alone outdoors (like I had today) IT DOES NOT MEET THEIR NEEDS.

Already loosing my will to fight on but tomorrow is another day!