Sunday, 23 December 2012

Down but not out

It's hard to believe it but this is Catherine and mine's 5th Christmas at the branch. The branch today couldn't be any different than it was 5 years ago; not only are we bigger and better than ever before but this is the busiest Christmas we have ever known.

Traditionally, at this time of year, everything grinds down to a slow pulse and gives us the chance to breathe, catch up and take it a bit easier after a hectic year, but this time round there has been no such let up. After the busiest summer I have ever known, a relentless Autumn followed and now we are facing the nationwide sadness that so many people are facing such an unhappy Christmas due to prevailing economic hardship. It's been all over the local news this week that more charity food banks have opened up in response to need. Of course the  more people who are struggling to even feed themselves it becomes inevitable that pets become a luxury that less and less can afford. Ultimately animals are abandoned, because all the shelters are full, but the methods and means vary so much that sometimes my compassion wanes whilst at other times it couldn't be stronger. This week has seen no shortage of animals being admitted to the branch due to the financial hardships people have been facing. So, here are some of the new charges:

Peggy and Polly arrived very underweight with a severe worm burden. A result of an accidental breeding and an owner desperate for help. No wonder given that they were 2 of a litter of 8. I later heard that the inspector  later went back with neutering vouchers, food and money (the latter paid for by the inspector). The girls are in kennels because we have no foster homes and they are available for adoption now.

Another litter as a result of an accidental breed and the owner becoming overrun with animals. These poor little mites were absolutely crawling with fleas, but are now safe in a foster home for Christmas and in the New Year will be available for adoption.

Cinnamon, Clove and Nutmeg were squeezed into a small carrier and abandoned under a clothing rail in one of our shops this week. I was reeling with shock when they were discovered but then a phone call was placed, to another of our shops, from the owner. She was a in a heightened state of distress and wanted to make sure we had found them; she admitted being desperate and having to resort to desperate measures. Thankfully we had one cattery pen free.
Flower is one of 4 rabbits admitted this week, all of whom have been found 'stray' at separate times across the North West. We are now up to 25 rabbits and significantly over capacity and can't admit anymore despite requests to take an additional 5 this week - we need a rabbit miracle, again!

We've also admitted another cat who was taken to a vets after being in a RTC but never claimed; I can't help but think the owners just couldn't afford the vet bills. Next week we see the arrival of this little lad, below. He was abandoned in a box and found on 14th Dec. He was very poorly, probably suffering from exposure to the extreme temperatures. He's been recovering at the RSPCA vets and I'm hoping we can pick him up Xmas Eve and take him to his foster home.

Hopefully this little lad will be up for adoption in the New Year.

We've also had heartache this week over a dog who was abandoned by his owner but turned out to be a banned breed. Verification of his status by authorities meant that we had to comply with the law. As many of you know our branch opposes Breed Specific Law but it doesn't mean we are above the law. As much as I wanted to do a blog with pictures of this awful waste of life I feared the repercussions were too great. Instead, I mark the horrid occasion by sharing the life of an animal that deserved better than to be judged by his breed.

But as much as there has been hard work and sadness this week we have seen kindness and generosity from people too. The puppies were the first to enjoy this giant parcel of goodies donated by a customer of the Urmston shop.

The gravy bones were the most popular with the pups but Blue loved the toy penguin and the the treats! But what Lady loved more than anything was cuddles after an epic rain soaked walk on Saturday that left us stranded in a flooded field, but we made it home in the end thanks to our dog walker Chris' handy phone app and resilience. The rain was so bad that we actually couldn't see where we were going!

Lady goes to her new home on 28th December and it couldn't come fast enough for her.
And I mustn't finish this bloody without sharing a Christmas miracle we had so longed for, the adoption of Jack and Carson our long stay black cats. Within 24 hours of being reserved the home visit was done and they were settling in to their new home. This has undoubtedly been the best news of December and we are so grateful to their adopters for giving these wonderful boys the home that they deserved. It is such a crime they were overlooked for so long but what it did mean is that we selfishly got to enjoy their company week in week out. The cattery already seems odd without them but we are so thrilled they have homes for Christmas.

I hope that you have all enjoyed following our work this year through the blog. Above all I hope you have received a good sense of how dedicated we all are to our work and the animals that come into our care. Whilst I would cheerfully like to be out of job I can't see it happening any time soon, and I feel that 2013 will be just as chaotic, challenging and immense as 2012. I'm looking forward to doing it all over again with my very wonderful staff, volunteers and supporters by my side. Thank you everyone for being such a kind, caring, compassionate bunch of fabulous people. All I can say is thank goodness me and the animals have you in our lives. From all of us at RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch we wish you a very peaceful and loving Christmas, whoever you are with and wherever you may be.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Last Christmas

When this envelope came through the post this week I knew that Christmas had arrived. It's hard to feel festive sometimes with the work that we do, but this envelope signified something very special to Catherine and I.

For the last 5 Christmas' we've been lucky enough to receive the generous support of a lovely man named Graham. He adopted a very special dog from us called Charlie, a dog that we were all very attached to. Graham's annual support shows to us that he never ceases to forget our fondness of Charlie and the work that we do. Hearing from the two of them each year does something for me that is really reassuring. It somehow makes me feel like everything will work out in the end and that everything we do really is worthwhile. It's hard to keep this perspective most of the time but the reminder that animals are living long and happy lives with their families does just that.

It has been yet another challenging week with loss, admissions, adoptions and of course the new shop. Of the 2 dogs, 5 rabbits and 7 cats that have been admitted over the last week 12 of them have been abandoned. I fear things will get worse over the next few weeks and what bothers me more than anything is that we still, in this day and age, get calls from people wanting to 'buy' animals to give as Christmas presents. It's so obvious why this is such a bad idea that is doesn't warrant commentary. It saddens me so much that people think that this acceptable and that they think an animal can cope with the expectations that will be placed on them as a result of being a gift.

Most of the animals we've admitted have been abandoned in boxes and carriers in all manner of places: doorsteps, alleys, remote areas.Walter, a new ginger and white cat, was one such victim. He's taken his ordeal hard and hasn't come out of his bed much since arriving. I know in time he'll come round but the uncertainty he is evidently experiencing is so sad to see, especially now that he is somewhere quiet, safe and warm. There really is no place like home.

Thankfully our supporters have been helping make our animals lives more comfortable this Christmas with donations from our Amazon Wish List. It has been a joy to watch the animals play with their new toys. Jack and Carson, our longest stay cats (they're black, that's all), went wild for the catnip toys yesterday and Little Bo was mesmerised by his dangle toy. Take a look at him playing with it here; it just shows what a difference you can make to animal's lives. It's also the reason why we have set up our own Ebay Pet Store so we can raise funds for the animals and offer you great products at discounted prices. We've started off with a select range to test the waters but please take a look at our site. You can buy the items for our animals if you like, just make sure you let us know when you place the order.

Whilst many of our animals won't be lucky enough to find homes for Christmas there is one thing for sure, there isn't a shortage of love and care for them from everyone, which is something I will never, ever take for granted. It's also the reason why we started running the Rescue Animal of the Year awards a couple of years ago. The idea behind it was to remember the many special animals that have touched our lives, reflect on our achievements and demonstrate just how important our work is. This year is proving as hard as ever to shortlist the animals but this coming week we'll be releasing the finalist for everyone to vote on via Facebook. There is stiff competition, but so there should be! It's hard to believe it but this year we will have rehomed a hundred more animals than in 2011. For some reason we appear to be bucking the trend with our adoption and admission figures, but you'll get no complaints from me; I'm utterly thrilled at the number of animals we will have helped; it makes all the long days and hard work all the more rewarding.

One animal that won't feature in the shortlist is Blue. If it were up to me he would be the outright winner, but we've kind of kept him under the radar for a while because of what he's been through.

To say I love Blue is an understatement; I want the moon on a stick for him. I want him to find a home that will give him everything that he needs, but finding a home may never happen. You see Blue is an American Bulldog. There's a lot of prejudice surrounding this large breed and with Blue's history I know he's got a lot going against him, but believe me when I say he's very special.

Blue's former owner was witnessed by several people to violently attack him on a number of occasions. Blue has scarring all down his back as a result, but this really is the only trace of his past life. I accidentally tripped over him the other day and he ended up getting a small kick in the process, yet he didn't even react. It just shows how trusting animals can be with you once they know you.

The last attack Blue endured was brutal. He was repeatedly hit on the head with a hammer. He was abandoned soon after on a 16 year old boy and left dazed, confused and fitting. An RSPCA inspector attended the scene and took Blue straight to the vets. The inspector has photos of Blue whilst at the vets in a bloody, swollen, pitiful mess but I don't ever want to see those photos because he deserves more than to be remembered as 'damaged goods'. It was hoped that the photos could be used in evidence against the perpetrator, but sadly none of the witnesses felt able to go on record,so justice could never be sought for him.

Thankfully Blue had made a full recovery prior to coming into our care (he was at another centre before coming to us). We've had him nearly two months now and he's not shown any signs of ill health. He officially went up for adoption this week after careful, considered assessment of him and spending the time working on clicker training with him.Blue absolutely excels at it and will do anything for food; he really has been a star pupil and will now walk to heal and is a well behaved gent and sits politely.

What is so wonderful about Blue is how much he enjoys being with people. He makes friends with everyone and everyone falls for him in an instant. I call him 'snuffly truffle man' because he just loves picking up a scent and following it; he's so much like a hound dog sometimes. Blue is going to need a special home though because it is clear that he has been encouraged to be reactive towards other dogs. He was obviously once used as some kind of twisted status symbol of threat and aggression, which is totally ridiculous given just how loving he is and so eager to please. The more time I spend with Blue the more I fall in love with him. I really hope we can find him a home, but I won't pin too much hope on it happening any time soon.

If you would like to help support our work we need more than just money. You can donate/buy a pet product via the Ebay Store link or visit the Amazon Wish List link above or you can help us fill our new shop with donations. We can collect donations of a sizable amount so please just call the office on 0161 882 0680 and leave us a message

Sunday, 2 December 2012


The launch of the new RSPCA Animal Adoption Centre at Pets at Home seems several weeks ago, not just a paltry few days ago; it really has been an action packed week with exciting developments.

New staff being interviewed. Ellie dog and Debs in the background.
We arrived early to the opening to give Ellie the chance to sniff around and find her paws. This magic little girl wasn't bothered about the cats and rabbits or the large amounts of people; she was more interested in licking all the mince pies!!!
Cup cakes and pup cakes went down very well (with us and Ellie!)

The centre was officially opened by RSPCA CEO Gavin Grant
The turn out for the opening was far greater than I had anticipated, but Ellie and all the other animals took everything in their stride and barely seemed to notice all the activity. The animal accommodation is pretty much sound proof so the cats and rabbits were blissfully unaware of all the noisy goings on and just got on with doing what they wanted. I couldn't help but feel that we were their entertainment!

Since being officially opened all 4 of the black cats that had been overlooked for so many many months have been reserved. We have had plenty of interest in our bunnies but no firm offer a home just yet. I so desperately want them to find a home before Christmas and I'm keeping everything crossed that one is not far away. But for now we are deeply chuffed that Marlon, Murphy, Merlin and Marley have potentially found forever homes.

After the excitement of Monday we then had to turn our attention to the new Northern Quarter shop. The first thing on the agenda was choosing the decor. Oh, if only it was that simple! After changing our minds too many times we settled on a wallpaper but not on the paint. We bought copious amounts of sample pots, only to go with our original conception!

Before we let Jason loose with his paint brush.
Wallpaper of choice, but now we've found damp on some of the walls so we've had to scale back our plans.
Jason getting stuck in

Watching paint dry

By the end of this week the decorating will be finished, the flooring and signage chosen and ordered, fixtures purchased and furniture delivered. We are still struggling to find a shop counter to match our look but for now we're having a much deserved day off. You can follow the progress of the shop on it's very own Facebook page.

Next week it's full steam ahead with the donations drive and putting all the fixtures and fittings together. At this rate we may even have a soft launch before Christmas, but I'm not making any plans as such.If it happens that's good, but if not we can wait until the New Year. (If you would like to help us with this new venture we need your help with promotional ideas, volunteers and donations. You can contact the manager by the Facebook page or email us; every little helps!)

Friday and Saturday were spent back at Pets at Home with our dogs. It was Ellie's turn on Friday and she was so excited when we got out of the car; she knew exactly where she was! She knows the RSPCA Adoption Centre staff quite well now so she was very happy to see them too, but alas no mince pies to lick!

Ellie was so at ease that after a couple of chaperoning her I left her with the staff. She enjoyed the warmth, comfort and affection she got during the day and the very next day a miracle happened....a Christmas miracle! Ellie was reserved! She's having a second viewing this morning but an email yesterday confirmed that the couple had well and truly fallen in love with her, so it's very much looking like our girl will have a home for Christmas! This is such exciting news.

Ellie right at home in the new adoption centre.

Sally (aka Fatty) visited the centre on the Saturday. With her being a Cairn Terrier we weren't quite sure how she was going to react to the cats and rabbits but she was so excited by meeting everyone that it took over an hour before she noticed the other animals. What we discovered on our visit was how much Sally loves children! She was so excited to meet children that we now know she would love to be rehomed to a family. Sally officially goes up for adoption this week and it's going to be one very lucky home that will get to adopt this beautiful bundle of energy.

Sally enjoying her time out of the kennels.

I'm hopeful Sally will find a home for Christmas too. She's a cracking little girl who has been incredibly well cared for and well loved by her previous owner. Sadly Sally's owner became too frail to care for her dogs any longer so they cane to us. Despite being a fatty (the weight is dropping off her with regular exercise and  strict diet) Sally loves hour long walks every day so she's looking for an active home.

It just leaves us with Harley dog and Samantha rabbit to worry about now. Samantha has had yet another failed bonding, again not of her doing, but it means she's been waiting 13 months now for her forever home. She's a wonderful girl and we are all so fond of her. She's our longest stay resident at the branch and it feels deeply unfair she's still waiting.

And then there's Harley dog; our gorgeous, cuddly Harley dog. I really don't want to see him in kennels for another 3 months. He's 8 years old and the freezing temperatures are even more unkind to an older dog. Yesterday the staff did some filming of Harley to demonstrate just what a lovely lad he is. I hear it was lots of fun and here is a preview of what they got up to. You can see how loving he is and hopefully someone out there will appreciate just how wonderful he is now.

Best friends Harley and Debs

So here's to another week of sleep deprivation and confusion; but hey, it's what we do best at the moment!