Sunday, 24 February 2013

You see, you just never know

What a wonderfully inconsistent week we've had. At times we've been kicking our heels and actually finishing on time and even, yes, even, finishing early (unheard of). Yet I've still managed to work 6 days this week and come home with a pile of admin to do but I'm currently enjoying a very early Sunday morning healthy dollop of peace of quiet.

This week on the animal front we've been kept occupied by getting all the new cat, dog and rabbit arrivals assessed and vet treated, but sadly on the adoption side things have flat-lined. I think people are waiting for kittens to come along  in Spring and so the adult cats are not as appealing at the moment. Equally frustrating, especially after such a good run on dog adoptions, we now have dogs in our care that stand little chance of finding a home because of their breed.
Calvin weighed half his body weight on admission

Bruno: best dog in the world

It's sad really that even in these enlightened times a media report can make or break the future of anyone or anything. The demonisation of bull breeds in the media just compounds the myths and ignorance out there. But then at this moment in time I could well be accused of not putting my money where my mouth, as I formally adopt my new family member next week.

I've got a Shih Tzu. A Shih Tzu. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever envisioned myself having a Shih Tzu. They probably represent everything that turn me off about small, pedigree dogs. But there we have it, I'm adopting a Shih Tzu.

In my defence she came to us at Christmas time with her litter mates at just 10 days old. I'd not hand reared puppies before but a moment of madness saw me loose my marbles and quite relatively easily I caved in and took them home. I was asked recently if I'd do it again and I haughtily laughed and replied with a firm 'no'. (The pups turn 10 weeks old tomorrow and have all found homes)

The story of the pups is that they had been rejected by their mum, so an inspector went to the rescue. I have little else to go on other than that only half the litter survived (2 died before I got them and 1 died in my care) and the remaining 3 are quite evidently the sorry victims of careless, thoughtless, over and in breeding that will flaunt them for life. They struggle to breathe due to a condition called 'stenotic nares', one has delayed development and another has gait/walking issues. They are all clearly the result of human greed and fancy, but thankfully thriving  nonetheless.

It just goes to show that you just can't help who you fall in love with but my goodness had you told me, this time last year, I'd be adopting a Shih Tzu I would have sworn at you! My favourite dogs of all time are Rottis, but it seems that my dream of adopting one is ever further away now, especially when you consider I have 6 houserabbits and don't intend to hand-rear anything else for a very long time indeed.
Linka and Quella - my friends

Whilst the media has the power to alter the once popular perceptions of the good old British Staffie or the wild fox, it can also be an incredibly powerful tool of change. I'm thrilled to say that in the last couple of weeks we have been blessed by media support for our new shop in the Northern Quarter and its fortunes are beginning to really look up as a result. Take a look at these links:

As a result of the above link a lady in Wiltshire spotted the article, fell for the pink jacket and rang up and bought it over the phone! How incredible is that.

This really could not have come at a better time for us as the the shop rent was due and we were running at a loss but thanks to generous online support and the help of the Manchester Evening News we have turned a profit in the last two weeks!

Now obviously I'm not counting my chickens just yet but I cannot tell you the elation this brings to us. We are desperate to buy platform weighing scales for the dogs (£250)and to fix the animal van (£300) but we just don't have the spare cash to do it, such is the tight margins we are currently operating on.

So, just as I was feeling particularly despairing this week of our financial position I came across this link:

We don't know the person who set it up but we are absolutely chuffed to bits. This is such a wonderful act of kindness and really made my week. Thank you, thank you so much!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Pregnant Pause

Harriet new arrival
Vince settling in

It's arrived! It's been nearly two weeks now so I think we can finally say our much longed for lull has arrived. It feels like an overdue reprieve but we can't help but think for how long. 

This week calls have begun to mount from people whose cats have been 'caught', or people who believe that it's the 'right thing' to let their cats have a litter before getting them neutered, or the ones that make me really mad - people who let their unneutered toms or kittens out to play before being neutered. Kittens can, in theory, fall pregnant as young as 4 to 5 months of age.

Daily we are inundated with calls to adopt kittens. The sad fact is that in little over 6 to 8 weeks time we will yet again be bursting at the seams, begging for kitten food donations, begging for homes and begging for people to neuter their animals. 

The branch is keen to help with neutering pets whose owners are on low incomes and will hopefully  be exploring some new project ideas very soon. But sadly this all costs money and at the moment it would be accurate to say that our finances are not at their best. They are, in all honesty, at an all time low due to a variety unavoidable expenses, investment in our flagship boutique charity shop in the Northern Quarter and the massive amount of animals we helped in 2012, and are continuing to help.

In 2012 we helped a record 469 animals. This number of admissions is on a par with many branches that actually have rehoming centres. So when you consider that we achieve this number without a centre and with minimal resources it puts into perspective what an achievement this is and how vital our role in the community is.

In recognition of our work we have won an award from the national RSPCA for prioritising the admission of animals 'generated' by the RSPCA. What this means in real terms is that we are the only branch without a rehoming centre to have prioritised as many of our spaces as we have for animals rescued by the RSPCA. In total 468 of the animals were animals rescued for concerns over their welfare, including cruelty, neglect and abandonment. That means just 1 animal came in as a result of an unwanted pet.

By prioritising our spaces for animals rescued by the inspectorate it means we can help animals to be rehabilitated and rehomed quicker. This sounds quite obvious and simple, and frankly a no-brainer to me. You see if there aren't spaces at branches and rehoming centres then the animals have to go into temporary boarding, waiting in limbo (and therefore taking longer to find new homes) and costing a lot of money that could be better spent elsewhere. But for me, the main reason for prioritising the work of the inspectorate is to enable them to help alleviate the suffering of animals quicker and more efficiently.

Let's face it, if you are rescuing animals from dire straits then you want to feel reassured, first and foremost, that there is somewhere for them to go and that they have the very real hope of a happy future as quickly as possible.

Certainly at our branch we do our utmost to help the national RSPCA's team of amazing rescuers to do their jobs. As a local branch our primary purpose is to support their work and if we ever loose sight of this then we don't deserve  to call ourselves 'RSPCA' Manchester and Salford Branch. It's what we are here for, it's what we pride ourselves on and it's why we will be accepting our award with thanks for recognising what we do best - helping society's most in need animals and working as a team.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Look, share and shout

I'm enjoying a rare moment of peace. I say peace, all I can hearing is snoring puppies - but that will do me nicely, thank you! Whilst they are still ailing with the 'snots' they are quickly growing up and have the most incredible amount of beans. With my husband on another long weekend on night shifts I have been the sole puppy entertainer/carer, so it's been a very long 48 hours of round the clock mayhem thus far.

Oh dear, spoke to soon. Needy Sweep puppy is up and about demanding attention already but I shall crack on blogging for as long as I can.

One of Sweep's attempts today to make me stop what I'm doing and pay attention to her. And yes, I can resist that face!
One of the reasons I wanted to blog today was because of the near miracle-like adoptions we have taking place at the moment. We are, quite simply, blessed at the moment to be receiving such wonderful support and offers of homes for the animals  - and long may it continue! It has been so overwhelming and thrilling finding homes for so many animals that by Monday this week all but 2 cats in the cattery were reserved, and by Tuesday all but one dog had found a home! That's not to mention all the bunnies and guinea pigs who got lucky too.

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of taking Lola bulldog to have a second meeting with her new adopters. This picture just makes me smile. She's sat in the back of our camper van and loving it.

What a beast! Who could resist that face, hey?
Lola took no time at all to settle into her new home and we are really hopeful that this will be her 5th and final resting place with such a fabulous family of proud doggy owners.

Lola making herself at home
Lola found a home via the national RSPCA's pet adoption centre at Pets at Home in Stockport. The staff that run it regularly collect our dogs to visit for time out of the kennels and it was following a post on their Facebook page about Lola's first outing to the centre that a follower spotted her and came forward to offer her a home. The power of the internet is just amazing, but perhaps not quite as amazing as Harley's story.....

Harley getting his belly rubbed by our Deb

You may remember me blogging about Harley previously. He was returned 4 years after he was adopted following a house fire and move to temporary accommodation. He had originally spent a ridiculously long time with us waiting for a new home; 4 years and around one month to be precise! He was a boisterous, leggy lad back then and so he was quite the handful. But I think the real reason he didn't find a home in a hurry was because 5 years ago there were limited ways to promote animals for adoption and we weren't so well established in the community as an active animal rehoming charity. Things like Facebook and Twitter were in their early stages of popularity for charities and businesses to use and we didn't even have a website back then. I remember getting so desperate to find him a home that I leafleted the entirety of Glastonbury Festival in the hope of finding a home anywhere in the country.

When Harley came back to us in September last year we were all devastated; it was, quite simply, an epic fail. I'll be honest. I held out little hope he'd find a home at 8 years of age and I didn't want to see him languish in kennels for another year. Whilst I was down-hearted Deb was steadfast in her belief that he'd find a home. After 3 months of being back in our care and not a sniff of interest in him I was in disbelief when I was told the news that a call had come in offering him a home.

For the couple that came to meet Harley it was love at first sight. So off I went to meet them in their home. The first question I asked was, "Why Harley?" I was still in disbelief that someone would choose him. Don't get me wrong, we all knew what a wonderful, handsome chap he is but getting to know animals, especially dogs and rabbits, takes such a long time and let's face it, not all of them are good at 'selling' themselves (unless they are like Lola). But the couple were genuinely taken by him and knew he was the dog for them. I remember at the home visit listening to them tell me they were bidding on a wicker sofa (just like the one at our kennels, below) because Harley loved it so much!

When a home visit passes and the animal is collected, what often then ensues (particularly with less straight forward animals) is a week-long worry, waiting to get the call that things aren't working out. To be honest, it rarely happens, but when you've invested so much time and love into rehabilitating an animal, and you know all their good and bad points, you worry that others won't be as flexible, forgiving and down right bonkers as we are to put up with and accept the 'warts and all'.

Only 24 hours went past before we received contact from the adopters....and it was good news. Harley was settling in well and behaving himself! Still, the worry-buckets in us didn't feel able to breathe a sigh of relief just yet.

On Friday, as I dashed into the office for only my second appearance of the week, I was quickly ushered by the animal staff to look at the branch's Facebook page....low and behold there was probably one of the best things I have ever seen. I think if I'd been in private I would've shed a tear. There was this amazing video with these accompanying words:
"Who says you cant teach an old dog new tricks eh?!

This is Harley closing the door after just 3 x 15 minute training sessions (over 3 days). He's our clever boy!!

He is so settled now, its fantastic. Seems to be in a routine and less an
xious when we leave him which is great. Walking him without the Halti and even let him off on Sunday with two other quite big dogs when we bumped into a friend out walking. he was fine!!

Best thing we ever did was bringing him home, hes such a joy. Thanks again xx"

It's moments like these that lift all the despair, anxiety and exhaustion we all face on a regular basis. To anyone who is loosing hope, about anything, please don't. Harley and Lola are shining examples of how amazingly resilient animals are and how amazingly brilliant people can be.

Harley got lucky finding his forever home thanks to Twitter. His new mum saw a Tweet from our branch about him, investigated further and just couldn't get him out of her mind...she clearly knew it was meant to be. So, please, continue to look, share and shout about the things you are passionate about because it really can make a difference. It's thanks to people power that our animals are enjoying short stays in our care  - thank you, thank you all, for caring so much x

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Night Shifts

I can honestly say I don't think I have been this tired in such a long time. It's nearly midnight as I begin to type and I'm nursing a very sickly 6 (nearly 7) week old puppy. She and her siblings have been with us since they were 10 days old and we've been caring for them round the clock since 29th December. It has very much been a team effort but the night shifts usually fall on my husband to do, but with him being at work on  night shifts at the moment it's my turn to step up!

The puppies were rescued by an inspector after their mother rejected them. Sadly not all of the litter survived, but out of the 4 we took in (2 passed away before we got them) 3 have made it through. Except now they are ailing with respiratory infections and I have to say I've not felt this helpless since the last time a bunny went into gut stasis.

It's been truly a blessing watching and raising these babies. I thought I'd never do it, but a moment of blackmail saw me succumb and I'm so glad that I did. It does, however, mean that myself and Deb have an almighty attachment to them all and it is the reason why I will soon be signing on the dotted line to adopt my my first ever dog, who is lovingly, and stupidly, named Dagnabbit (by my husband).

Having the puppies has taught me so much, not just in terms of canine development, but how precious and valuable life is and what a privileged position us humans are in. It was no more shown in stark contrast this week than when I was at the vets, in a consult room, hearing a client in the reception area repeatedly screaming at his young dog to 'shut up'. His ignorance and aggression was startling. He had no idea that every time he acknowledged his dog's barking that he was quite simply reinforcing the behaviour. But it was his ferocity that perhaps upset me the most because it was as if he begrudged having the animal in his care. Who knows, maybe he did but all I could really see was a dog with behavioural problems in the making.

I sit here quietly contemplating the suffering that so many animals go through, deliberate or otherwise, at the hands of humans. It's something you can't afford to do very often because truly thinking about it becomes too hard to contend with. Instead we channel our energies into making things better for the animals and finding them new homes but sometimes, despite all our efforts, we don't manage to do this and it's then that we consider how much we have failed them - as individuals, as an organisation and as a society .

There has been continued media misrepresentation of the work of the RSPCA this week. One quoted the RSPCA as euthanasing 53,000 animals a year. To the uninitiated this must sound horrendous, and certainly serves to fuel opposition towards the charity. But the reality is that 75% of the euthanasias were of injured or ill wildlife, where ending suffering is the kindest and most humane option because they are wild animals. The remaining 25% is domestic animals but in the vast majority they were seriously ill and suffering.

Take for example a beautiful young cat that was rescued by inspectors after being found by a member of the public being attacked by dogs. Outwardly he suffered no puncture wounds, just severe (and I mean severe) bruising. We were all set to take the cat in but when seemingly well enough to be neutered it was discovered that internally there was extensive tissue damaged that had begun necrotising. This may sound an extreme example but this what the RSPCA deals with on a daily basis and a typical example of what has to be euthanized to end an animal's suffering. Surely no-one can really take issue with this?

Perhaps the one area that I agree is contentious, and emotive, is euthanasia on behavioural grounds. As the Branch Manager I am responsible for all such decisions. It is nothing short of horrible ending an animal's life for these reasons and it leaves me feeling angry and resentful.

I'm struck by how difficult,and easy, it is to extinguish life and how avoidable it could always have been. So rare is a behavioural problem genetic, it is nearly always man-made.When I began my career in animal care some years ago I never thought I'd be putting to sleep animals on non-medical grounds. I don't think anyone that goes into this line of work considering the likelihood of euthanizing animals on anything other than medical grounds. So, to indirectly suggest that we perform such acts as a matter of routine, and without forethought or care, is little more than an insult to the hundreds of us who work tirelessly, day-in day-out to do all we can for the animals we rescue.

The next time you read a derogatory story about the RSPCA please take a minute to question what is printed. Come and ask what the truth is and we'll be sure to tell you. The fact is we are an army of individuals working together as a team, going above and beyond each and every day and night doing all we humanly can to help animals. Just remember that when you are tucked up in bed at night they'll be an inspector out on their own rescuing geese, they'll be veterinary staff performing emergency surgery and animal carers hand-rearing babies. Thank goodness for the RSPCA.