Back to newsletters

  December 2015


Thank you for your delight in the news about Peter Egan being our patron, and how many of you are also long time fans. I am still delighted that Peter offered to be our patron and although he had hoped to attend Chaldon Fete, work and life got in the way so he wasn’t able to attend. However our wonderful team of volunteers and your donated goods, as usual made the stall a success. It was another day of rain unfortunately so we were again in the school which means there’s limited space, but the organisers of the Fete always do such a lot of work to make the day run smoothly. After a few years of not being able to attend, we’re delighted to again be part of the Fete which supports so many local causes.

It’s been a busy year with the new arrivals introduced in the last newsletter ( more further on ) plus I mentioned that our cat Benson was unwell and sadly, I’ve said goodbye to him when he took a turn for the worse. His brother Gershwin is still here and as the boys had grown apart, he didn’t appear to grieve, unlike those of us who knew and loved the character that Benson was.

The weather has mostly not been a problem this year for us though the recent high winds took the roofing felt off a shed so that is currently sporting a tarpaulin until the materials for repair are bought. Thanks to your ongoing support and legacies without which, we would not still exist, I’ve been able to place an order without borrowing from Peter to pay Paul as we’ve done for so many years, such a relief.

Your support and donations also meant that at last the chance arose for much needed household repairs and I’ve been choosing paint colours which was fun after getting over making my own choices instead of joint decisions as it used to be with Jacky. It was a bit of a shock when I realised an unused door frame that was about to be painted over was the original from before we moved in 1991. Once I started alterations, it was time for that to go, especially as it was my least favourite colour of institutional green that seemed to be used by councils across the country in schools etc. It makes a change to be doing something for human housing instead of animal houses and while the storage sheds still need maintaining, not having the large animals outside has helped tremendously with not trying to keep repairing roofs and replacing old shelters for the goats, hens, pigs etc.

However as you know, the old bunny barn, now used as a tool / storage shed was in desperate need of repair with a badly leaking roof which has now been done, and is waterproof and looking good as you can see.


Here’s Sunrise up high, the first “supervisor” to inspect what had been done, and I suspect it will be a favourite sunning spot next year. Thank you to everyone who fundraised and contributed to get this massive job done, which will now last for many years.


Another job done recently was to the kitchen table which is a dog grooming table but while still sound, at over twenty years old, the base had seen much better days. So a coat of nice bright Hammerite paint was applied but then how to keep it away from the cats while it dried so they didn’t become red as well. As Cristal shows - - -

   - - look at things from a different angle .                  

The solution was to join two of those dog lampshades used to prevent dogs licking wounds etc, which did a perfect job as you can see when Sunrise investigated. 

Now the bungalow has a fresh coat of paint, it’s back to more animal housing and on to the next project that needs to be undertaken, which is the cat run which is rotting. While most of the cats here are free range, there are some that like the security of the pen and there is a catflap through my bedroom wall leading into the outside run or indoor quarters as they choose. Like most things here, it started small as a pen for the feral kittens Sprite & Spirit, and then the pen was extended as funds allowed and the need arose. ( Sprite now sleeps on my bed each night ).

Now it is home to ( amongst others ) the Spanish family that arrived earlier this year and as you can see, they don’t show any interest in coming out of the protection of it yet and are happy in their own space.

                  Flame, Jasper, Momma, BG.


So I’m re-designing it in my head and hopefully this winter while it’s not much in use as the inhabitants find the indoor radiators a greater temptation, the pen can be renewed and enlarged at the same time.


Here are some of the dogs enjoying last years Christmas bones that you bought them (among other treats and necessities ).  Nikki & Taxi sharing a bed but not a bone of course.

Purdey showing her appreciation as she licks her lips - unless she was being rude !

Merlin forgot to put his bottom down and appeared to have 5 or even 6 legs if you count his tail, he was so busy with his chewing, he stayed in that position for over 10 minutes.


Fiddler & Cristal ( left ) and Schui ( right ) showing that little mouths can still fit round large bones.


As long as the dogs don’t see this to spoil the surprise ( ! ) I’d better finish writing this and get on and order their Christmas bones for this year.

And here occupied are some of the beds bought by you all, starting with Gershwin and a black cushion - oops sorry, no, that’s Mason. 

Dorcas looking out at us but look closer -  -       - - - bottom right hand corner is another eye. 

Yes, Gershwin was sharing the bed even though other beds were empty. 

Here starting at the back is Gershwin, Dorcas and just getting up at the front, little Popo.  

Gershwin certainly seems to get everywhere doesn’t he? Unlike some who see the camera and go in the opposite direction -  - yes Katrina, I do mean you !


I didn’t get the cats eating their pilchard in tomato sauce meals which are their Christmas treat. However here is another mealtime with Rosetta, Sparkle & Popo sharing at the Round Table - well, round plate ! 


There’s often no need to look out the window to see what the weather is like, just look in the cat beds or in front of the cat flap !   First we have Rosetta considering the forecast.

Then we have a queue of Wilson, Gershwin, Tootsie at the flap ( who changed her mind and went to bed instead as did Wilson ) and Sunrise on the right.


                                                                                                                        Gershwin exited followed by Sunrise.


However Sunrise decided the forecasters were wrong and it wasn’t so nice after all ( it wasn’t that bad, I was out in it ) but this is her going back n.


A sunny day as I walked the new fence line in our woods, accompanied by Wilson and Mason.


The cats have happily adapted to the new fencing, with the exception of just three persistent offenders who think the grass is greener on the other side. I love having the security of knowing they are safe in our couple of acres. And although I might know the cat I need for a visit to the vet  is on our land somewhere, it doesn’t stop them doing a magic vanishing act !

It’s certainly not tennis weather lately with heavy rain and high winds but here earlier in the year, we have Purdey, Boyce & Granville, ( with Merlin & Phoenix behind ) apparently practising for Wimbledon next year as they watch something.


Merlin arrived seven years ago, a terrified lurcher living on the streets after travellers moved away. It’s been a long gentle journey for him to gain trust but to see him racing across our field towards me now is a delight. He’s not a lap dog but does love to put his front legs up and rest his head on my lap for a stroke. He has never attempted to bring the rest of his body up, in fact, he didn’t ‘attempt’ to do that recently - he just did it in one unexpected bound !

I was reading and didn’t see him approach from the side of my armchair ( he usually approaches from the front ) but he took a flying leap and landed on my lap - I’m not sure which of us was more surprised ! He stayed for a while having a tickle and fuss, but again it shows just how long some of them take to do something that would be considered ‘normal’ or something to train a dog not to do even. And as of the time of writing this, it’s not yet been repeated by him - perhaps it won’t be another 7 years before the next time though !

Harley isn’t a lap dog either and here he is snoozing in a favourite position with his paw over his ears.


While typing this, Taxi the lively border collie has just leapt on a ball with a bell and is noisily pushing that around as she really can’t decide what she wants to get up to - and this is after our morning exercise ! I’d like to say that I wish I had her energy but perhaps not, the days are busy enough and just watching her is tiring, but it does show just how unsuitable for average households this breed can be. Brilliant, intelligent, loving in the right environment - neurotic, hyper nightmares in the wrong one.

The water trough the herd used to have is now up the field for the dogs and wildlife. Harley had been seeing the vet and when asked “is he drinking more?”, I had confidently said “no” as I rarely saw him at the water bowls indoors.

You can see where this is going I expect as yes, I got caught out as these photos show. Here he is standing in the trough having a drink with Crusoe - and then seeming to pull a face at being found out !


I corrected the information to the vet and Harley is now better and stabilised on his thyroid treatment. I have been aware of the possibility of missing something like that as when Jacky was here, the chances were increased that either of us would spot it. I can’t see round corners of course and so my solution was - - a baby monitor ! The camera is used to watch dogs or cats and allows me to see what is happening when I’m out of sight. It has created some amusing moments when I’ve called out to the dogs “what are you doing?” when they are doing something they shouldn’t be, as their faces register disbelief that I’ve seen them but am not present. It has been fascinating and frequently, enlightening as well as essential if someone is unwell.


One afternoon I was working on this Christmas newsletter which sounds like hard work but with a couple of cats on my lap, and this one being the photo special which involves me choosing the photos to use, is therefore a pleasure. But as well as seeing the arrival of the new pets, there is the disappearance of those no longer with us.

So this ( above ) is a bitter sweet photo of Rosetta and Sandie together as sadly Sandie Bracken to use his full given name, had slow growing cancer and after enjoying the summer sun, took a turn for the worse. Sandie was the last of our friend Sylvia’s cats although some of the other street strays that also came to us via Sylvia and her friends are still here, including                       Grumpy / Gorgeous George, Ford & Flame. Rosetta was subdued for a while before adapting to being without her gentle shadow but here is making friends with Katrina.                       


Sadly there have been more goodbyes with names of furries you’ve seen in photos over the years, with Echo reaching 16 and Rhapsody 17. Echo had been deteriorating for a while and I knew we were running out of time but Rhapsody was very sudden and faded away in just 24 hours, such a shock but I have to be pleased for her. They were both such kind souls and my little friends after being here nearly all their lives.

I am now ferret less again as Fifi was diagnosed with cancerous lumps but before she worsened, her friend Java who was also an old girl, became very ill and the decision had to be made for her. I felt it would be entirely wrong to leave Fifi grieving after her own cancer diagnosis and so they both went to sleep together, and are buried together.


In the last newsletter, I introduced Zora from Bosnia and while she is undoubtedly improving all the time, she has at times certainly made me wonder if she ever would adjust to her new way of life. Whist we think ‘but she’s safe, comfy bed, regular food and a non - threatening human’, that is not how Zora viewed the situation. Her point of view that humans were to be avoided at all costs, was only reinforced by her capture, spaying, being in kennels etc.

Time and time again I’d catch a tiny glimpse of her intelligence that had enabled her to survive and outlive the life expectancy in Sarajevo but generally her wariness made her difficult to read. It was very much a step forward and two steps back as I couldn’t predict her reaction - just because the last time we’d done something ( such as give a treat ) and she’d been happy with it, the next time she was just as likely to dart away and refuse to take it for no explicable reason that I could see. So we plodded on and with patience and the help of Schmacko treats ( beef not chicken, she’s fussy for an ex- stray ! ) eventually her resistance to being part of our family faded. Having her son Crusoe here has undoubtedly helped and incredibly, they do know each other which has been fascinating to watch. I didn’t know what to expect when they met after so long apart but have since researched the subject and studies have proved that canine family members can often recognise each other for several years after separation.

One day when I was catching up with paperwork, I took a moment to stand at the window to watch the dogs pottering and playing outside and I saw Zora going up to the field which instead of creeping about, she did at a cheerful gallop with her tail up as shown here with son Crusoe. Such an apparently simple action that actually has taken help from her son and the other dogs, courage from Zora to adapt, learning to relax and trust, plus quite a bit of my time and effort.


As Zora has such a fear of approaching or being ‘caught’, I was struggling to help her come in as though she is happy to be indoors, the weather had been good enough for the door to be left open for her to come and go when she wanted. When the weather changed, she needed to learn to take notice of the “come on in” phrase but with her understandable fear of coming through doors, especially if she feels I’m in range to, in her words - “trap her” while in my words - “it’s Autumn and getting cold with the door open and I need to shut it”.


The solution was a great suggestion from Andrew when he said “ does she need a dog flap?” and a lightbulb went on in my brain as I replied “of course she does - can you make her one? !” which he did. By providing her with her own door in the dog garden fence, I can close the gate and she can come in her flap when she chooses to without it being a problem and it’s been very successful. Goodness gracious - - quite literally as I’m writing that sentence, she has just come indoors, looked at me and gone and laid down on a bed with a satisfied sigh - I can’t explain just what huge progress that is.

As you know, taking time to stand and stare is rarely pointless when watching animals, and the interactions between them, either dog to dog or cat and dog makes up a large part of life here.. Some of the cats ignore the dogs completely, others are aware of them but don’t actively communicate with them, and then there’s Sparkle ! She checks any new dogs out by marching up to them, giving them a friendly head butt and announcing “I’m Sparkle, who are you? “ It’s fascinating watching reactions as dogs are often completely taken aback by such behaviour and so learn to behave with cats. Non verbal communication is a common language regardless of species and as I’ve often said, I don’t speak French, Russian etc but do understand cat and dog. And with that message of peace between species and all mankind, let’s hope for that on this planet as we head towards the end of another year.

This is an interesting way of life and I couldn’t wish for any better, and although there are hard, sad and tiring times, sometimes you get a glimpse of something that makes you smile, no matter how bad a day you’re having. I hope you’ve had a flavour of that and enjoyed sharing some of our moments and photos from the Sanctuary. Jacky’s Patch has continued to flourish this year as did the sweet peas planted nearby, and dare I say it - as Jacky always forecast, so is the Sanctuary flourishing thanks to you, our supporters.

            Merry Christmas from all of us whose lives you touch.

Liz & the Furries 

Saving one pets life won’t change the world...but it will make a world of difference to that one pet.

Some of the 'one pet at a time' that are current residents here.


Printmeit. Unit 11a Morrison Industrial Estate County Durham DH9 7RU  Click HERE to go to website.