Chaldon Animal Sanctuary
LIFE BUT NOT AS WE KNEW IT.
How do I begin to say thank you - the words are too small but please believe me when I say how heartfelt they are meant. So many wonderful words of comfort & support from you sharing in grief at the loss of our dear friend Jacky.
I smile at the thought of so many new plants / bulbs, even trees that you said you’d be planting on our anniversary, 29th March and hope they all grow well and are a happy memory for you of a wonderful lady.
It was a delight to meet so many of you who came along on the 27th March to celebrate Jacky’s life & achievements. There is a little more news and some photos further on in this newsletter.
And as ever, you sent donations in Jacky’s memory to help our life work of the sanctuary continue. Jacky would have been truly astounded, not just at your support, you’ve shown us that time and time again, but at the level of affection she was held in.
This newsletter is dedicated to Jacky and I’ve rather rambled on ( no Jacky here to edit me down a bit !! ) so it’s grown into a supersize edition, as I’ve tried to fill in the gaps a little after the bombshell of the last letter to you, plus answer the questions you may have.
When Jacky went into hospital, we all knew the routine from her prior two admissions 15 months previously and hoped this would be similar, certainly not with the outcome that occurred. However, it quickly became apparent that things were far more serious this time and after only two days, Jacky literally went to sleep, no more struggling for her. For the rest of her family (animals and me) we were in shock & the struggle had begun.
The first week we were all very subdued, going through the motions of living & if it had not been for my brother & sister being with me, getting me to where I needed to be ( hospital, funeral director etc ), listening to what I didn't hear, feeding and entirely supporting me, I don’t know how I would have got through that first week, thank you both. When the house was quiet and I was on my own, I was anything but alone as I cuddled all our furry family, shed tears with them when they cried & howled or had my tears licked away when they climbed on my lap.
The cats were least affected as Jacky had not been actively "doing" for them for some while but was an excellent pair of eyes watching them and telling me "have you seen" or "did I know" if she saw something while I was out doing other jobs. The dogs were massively affected of course, particularly Jacky’s "pack" who were used to having her about 24/7. The rest of the pack were also wondering what was going on because I was giving a lot of time to help Jacky’s dogs so had to be careful that the others didn’t feel left out.
To see Jacky’s dogs laying by the kitchen door, watching and waiting for the back door to open and her to come in.
Or when I came back from the vets etc, as they looked past me to see if I’d bought Jacky home with me ... those things were very difficult for them and me. The day her dogs greeted me without looking past me was a cheery moment and it happened quite quickly.
When the first week had passed, there was a noticeable change in the dogs attitudes, they didn’t seem to be expecting Jacky to return, they weren’t laying watching the doorways or listening for her car. And on the morning of day 10 when I heard Jacky’s dogs playing in her bedroom, I knew the time was right to encourage them to start moving into my bedroom with the rest of us, a very big step for them.
By week 3 there was another noticeable shift in ...in what? ... attitude..... acceptance even. Dogs are remarkably adaptable and also incredibly needy so as Jacky wasn't around to provide their needs & cuddles, they came to me fortunately.
Everyone is merging into one family group with all dogs being walked together which is lovely to see. As the dogs relaxed, they became cheeky again, bouncing & playing more, coming to cuddle up on the settee with cats, me & each other as we all adjust to this strange new land we find ourselves in.
And how am I doing I hear you ask -.I still talk to Jacky and am guided by her, what would she say about something and so on. I am deliberately keeping busy and focusing on having projects or little targets to achieve and that I’ve found helps a little. The days I don’t want to get out of bed - it’s not an option is it ( !! ) ... and that’s a good thing.
Even on the day of Jacky’s cremation, I had to go to the vets with a poorly dog as he had glaucoma ( painful eye swelling ). In the morning I went to say goodbye to Jacky as planned ( a very simple & private event as that was how Jacky wanted it, ) but then in the afternoon I was dragged back to the world and work of the living who still need me. Thank goodness Jacky told me she wanted me to continue, quite probably knowing it was essential to help me after her loss.
Naturally concern has been shown for "how would I manage?" or "I must get someone in to help" but in fact we already had Andrew coming who is a great friend & help, always on the end of the phone and on the doorstep if he’s needed, thank you Andrew. There are also old friends & new who have offered their help & support as & when I need them, whether for a chat or a visit or to come and help with the work here, thank you all.
Also the reality is that I had taken on a lot of the work as Jacky’s health deteriorated over the last couple of years - and Jacky knew that too. It galled her that she couldn’t "pull her weight" whereas I just accepted that her health prevented her, not a lack of willingness or deliberate avoidance of jobs to be done. On many occasions, Jacky would push herself to achieve something, perhaps accompany me to collect the latest pet in need ( she was an excellent navigator ) only to feel pretty rough for a few days afterwards as she’d overdone things & tired herself.
It’s not the physical side of continuing for me that is unduly hard, ( I’m used to it & Andrew does the heavy work ), but the emotional aspect is another matter altogether.
As many of you know who’ve lost someone close, it’s not being able to talk to each other, share the day, bounce ideas off each other, make decisions together or just enjoy each others company - that is the oh so hard part, grief for a good friend. It was right for Jacky to go, life had become increasingly hard for her, now it’s hard for me in another way. I know we learn to live without a dear one, time helps us learn to cope as the grief eases, but Jacky won’t ever be forgotten, by so many of us with happy memories of her.
Our postbag at Christmas is always amazing but on the news of dear Jacky’s death, the post & e-mails were overwhelming. I would open them in the quiet of the evenings when we were all fed and settled after dinner, and read your wonderful cards ( so many carefully chosen of pets, daffodils, flowers etc ), thoughtful letters & words from you all. I delighted in so many memories & tales you shared, so many beautiful words of comfort, support & strength for me - I read them through smiles & tears.
Some years ago, we had spoken of the future & deliberately begun letting our numbers reduce, especially of our outside herds of goats, pigs, Trubshaw etc, & so by natural loss as our pets aged there were less here in readiness for this time. We had also made plans for if something happened to both of us together ( road accident etc ) so the animals are safe, no matter what happens. I’m very happy to set your minds at rest that Chaldon Animal Sanctuary will continue, as ever with your ongoing support I have no doubt, as you reassured me in your letters, thank you.
Our friendship was I believe, one in a million, a rare and special gift that put us together so that Chaldon Animal Sanctuary could be born.
A friend is someone who reaches for your hand but touches your heart.
Here seems an appropriate moment to re-tell the story of how Jacky & I became a team that led to us founding Chaldon Animal Sanctuary.
It began over 10 years before Chaldon was born when I was working as a vet nurse and Jacky used the same practice for her animals. We quickly became friends and soon went past the official "Mrs Miles" stage when I chatted to her. When her latest rescue kitten was being awkward about worming, I offered to visit and help with Silver, and little did we know where this would end up taking us.
One day Jacky said "I have a room to let but any lodger must be an animal lover - so I thought the vets was a good place to mention it". Jacky was going through divorce and needed extra income to keep the house and my mum had died a few months earlier and I ( age 18 ) was ready to leave home for a new start. When I moved in ( March 29th 1981), Jacky had five dogs and two cats, & I had one ( large ) dog, a budgie and a guinea-pig but it didn’t take long for our numbers to change - within a month the first new arrival turned up, Sam, my first cat, a gorgeous black lad.
Jacky made it clear that it was my home too and I was welcomed with open arms as Jacky welcomed animals too. From the start, we found out how much we liked the same things, tv shows / food / music and often didn’t stop chatting until late into the nights - Jacky only recently had reminisced about those days and how neither of us could stay up that late anymore !!
Jacky had already been involved in animal rescue for many years, doing home checks & fostering while I had already been rescuing pets while working at the vets, so between us we had quite a list of contacts to call upon when the next needy animal came our way. And of course, sometimes there was one who was slightly "awkward" that no-one would give a second chance to and so they naturally stayed with us. There was Bud, a supposed biting Cocker Spaniel who actually startled easily as he was going blind; Day & Night, a pair of feral / wild kittens who took ages to tame, Womble the spastic kitten a rescue centre asked if we could take and so on.
We both loved being able to give our hearts to these knowing they were not temporary before being homed, and we soon honed our skills at recognising the difference of those that were urgent or the troubled ones that would stay with us. We continued like this for 10 years during which time I left the vets and Jacky & I started our own dog & cat grooming business. We also went house hunting as a 2 up and 2 down semi and small garden were not suitable for what we were getting up to!! We had fenced the garden so our cats couldn’t bother the neighbours and our dogs were of course walked daily and rarely left alone. When we went house hunting for a few hours, we had a couple of good friends who came and dog sat, keeping them company, letting them in the garden etc.
One of these friends was Pete who we helped when his wife died unexpectedly as they had many rescue cats of their own and Pete was unable to manage all of them while working full time, so we helped find places for some of them to be rehomed.
Later on when Pete went into hospital, we went and fed his cats and had his old dog Oliver live with us, Then when Pete went into a hospice one winter, we bought his cats back to live with us too as Pete’s place had no working heating. We cleared out the spare bedroom for them & they adored the radiator and soon made themselves at home, a good thing as sadly Pete died.
As you can imagine, we were now overloaded with furries as our cat numbers had literally doubled when Pete’s had arrived.
However Pete had thought ahead & left us his bungalow - The Chalet. So after a lot of hard work, organising & sorting, Pete’s cats went home, along with the rest of us as we moved here in Easter 1991.
The rest as the saying goes - is history and where our loyal supporters joined & encouraged & supported us, and became friends along the way as Chaldon Animal Sanctuary became a reality.
Recently I had another look at our "Book" we put together of all our previous 15 yrs of newsletters and what wonderful memories of those early days. I wasn't sure that looking at it so soon after Jacky’s death was sensible, however it actually renewed my strength to continue.
When Jacky & I moved here - we didn’t know what the future held of course, none of us do, but we had faith in what we thought could be achieved, and you our friends believed in us too, and together we achieved the sanctuary that is needed by so many.
Newsletter Part 2.
We start writing our newsletters before it’s due, jotting down little happenings as & when thoughts occur that we want to share with you, therefore, this newsletter was already a rough draft before the loss of Jacky and so I’ve decided to include the parts already done and leave alone the use of "us" or "we" as this is what it was when written.
Well, the month of December was an interesting one, if you think back, you’ll remember there was a lot of snow about although we didn’t have any fresh fall on Christmas Day but we were still snowed in.
The first fall of snow was deep enough for us to not risk driving on our lane for 5 days & understandably, the postman didn’t get to us either. This was a problem as our newsletter had gone out, so before the snow we had received lots of replies & some orders too, so our apologies if we were late in getting items to you.
Fortunately, the week or so before the snow, we had received an supply of animal food & the Calor gas tank had been filled so we all had plenty of heat, our pets had plenty of food and we ( Jacky & Liz ) had a good excuse to see what was lurking in our freezer. Andrew and his team came and cleared paths for us when they were able to get through to us which was a great help until more snow fell again. Finally the snow melted & life resumed some normality for a week, during which time we did as much as possible in the Christmas mad rush. We had another animal food delivery & a trip to the wholesalers, post answered & parcels sent, lots of tablets etc collected from the vets, a trip to the supermarket so a well stocked fridge for us & we were ready for the next fall of snow.
Again no postman when the next snow fell but a poor Parcel Force man came but got stuck round the corner approaching us so Liz walked round to collect the parcel which was the dogs Christmas bones so we were glad they came, gave them something to do whilst we were snowed in. The dogs mostly enjoyed the snow, cats loved the radiators on 24 / 7 and our hens were most disgusted - one came out of their house & did a Tom & Jerry "splat" into the snow, she was not amused nor hurt other than her pride & they stayed in their house after that! We looked forward to the days getting longer, even though there was still Jan / Feb to get through before winter passed and snowdrops heralded a turn in the weather.
It may seem odd to now refer back to Christmas after later events eclipsed it, however, we were as always, so touched by all your letters and donations that made it a happy Christmas for us & our furry family, with full stockings of special treats for all, including Jacky & me.
Our items for sale and your support of the Christmas fundraiser we had in joint support of Deno the horse and us was a great success and the amazing total raised from all the supporters of both causes was £610 which was shared 50 / 50. What generosity you showed as ever to spread your kindness to include Deno, thank you so much.
I’m probably mentioning this to the people who know anyway but may I ask that visitors don’t arrive without prior notice as it does upset our dogs if they’re on their own and visitors arrive. This is more important than ever now with the loss of Jacky as unexpected visitors can be really awkward to accommodate in the daily routine, although I am happy to meet our supporters, and time permitting, show you round.
Not only have you shown your amazing generosity in sending donations in memory of Jacky, but the sanctuary also received a couple of legacies too that Jacky knew about. I debated with myself about mentioning this but Jacky & I always felt it important to say our thanks, so I leave it included.
I can not say just how important these unexpected legacies are and what a huge difference they make - no matter what the amount, it is a windfall and we have always tried to make use of legacies towards more than just routine bills etc. Perhaps we buy a new wheelbarrow as the old one is falling apart with rust or have a path extended, fencing repaired, buy the dogs new collars or cats new beds, there is always something of course.
Jacky loved puffins - the comical look & cheerful coloured beak made her smile and so I bought her a puffin ornament who we sat on the tv unit in our lounge. One day Jacky said "puffin really ought to go in the garden" so when we were both in the kitchen, I placed puffin outside.
Jacky & I then stood looking out the window chatting, watching our chickens & how I wish the camera had been to hand. As the hens noticed the puffin who was only a couple of feet from their fence, their necks extended, heads went up as high as they could & they gathered & advanced en masse to check out this bird shaped "something". After a few minutes when puffin statue didn’t move, they gradually decided it wasn’t a threat, rather boring after all & pottered off back to the important job of pecking & scratching about.
Here’s Meadow cat being a puffin huntress on another day.
The hens quickly finished off eating the grass in their enclosure in spite of our best efforts to keep one side growing while they had the other side, so their run turned into a mud patch over winter. We needed wood chip bark & it turns out that Deno’s ( horse ) owners have a regular free supply that we can share so happy hens even during wet weather now.
Sadly however our hen numbers have gone down again, you may remember we lost Wafer already, the weakest of the eight we rescued. During March, one of the other girls Rich Tea, had a prolapse which was successfully treated. For a few weeks she did well but then quite suddenly went off her food and poorly - in spite of treatment & giving her a chance, she faded away. Only 5 days later, another hen took herself to bed early ( before dusk ) and didn’t get up the next morning so off to the vets and Garibaldi had cancer so she was gently put to sleep. Both girls had enjoyed a year of freedom here which is the important thing for all our animals, making their lives as happy as possible for whatever time they have with us.
You may remember us telling you about a very old stray cat last year that came to us who we named Meadow ( puffin huntress photo ). She’s given us and our vet more than a few anxious moments with her health but incredibly she was still with us nearly a year later.
I had the back door open one day, necessary as I was walking through it carrying a heavy sack of dog food and Meadow shot out past me, the sun was shining & apparently she wanted to explore. However, until cats can use the cat flap here, they don’t go out unsupervised so I went to pick her up to bring her back inside - she saw me coming and accelerated ... away from me!!!!!
She went round & under bushes, nearly crossed the lane but I managed to get there before her so she started off round the cars before I caught up with her. For an old lady, she’d still got some speed & character as you can see !!!
Finally though age caught up with her & she slowed down in her ways, having the odd potter outside if the sun shone but mostly spending her time eating and sleeping. She still got up to eat breakfast the morning she died but refused lunch when I offered it to her in bed - with her usual attitude she said quite clearly that bed is NOT for eating in, take the food away!! The vet said she wasn’t suffering but her body was switching off so we left her in peace in her bed by the radiator, her sleep went deeper and deeper - dear old girl is now laid to rest in our graveyard.
Even in such sad times, our animals make me smile ( and they are still our animals as they were rescued by the both of us ). Barney Bichon dog picked up a dropped sock & carried if off with such joy. When I asked him "what have you got?", he sat and looked at me with it dangling from his mouth, picture of innocence of "how did that get there?" - so cute and funny.
To hear a sudden splashing sound and see Chiffon cat "fishing" in the dogs water bowl and soaking the floor as she has a wonderful time, if only she could learn to use the mop afterwards !!
Mousse & Mallow, 2 cats that had spent their lives in a cattery, have the freedom of my bedroom and more space than they’ve ever had in their previous 12 years & to start exploring outdoors as well as sharing my bed.
Hearing the chickens quietly "chattering" away as they peck around while I’m out in the garden, such a contented sound from them as they range free. So many little moments that make up our lives.
And now to a little about the gathering on 27th March, what a wonderful & special day it was. The week before had been mostly dry so the ground dried out and Sunday was brilliant sunshine and warm, the first really lovely day after a long winter, the sort of day Jacky loved and I like to think that she made the sun smile for us.
It was a busy weekend as some of our online friends travelled from far and wide to come ( Yorkshire / Liverpool, Essex etc ) & visited Chaldon on Saturday. On the Sunday we arrived to a most stunning display that showed so much thought & hard work from our friends who hosted the event - daffodil flowers in single vases dotted around everywhere, balloons, floral display on the memory book table and laden buffet tables as well as pots of planted daffodils for everyone to take home at the end of the day. A shelter in the garden full of chairs where people happily sat & chatted, met new friends & speeches were given there too.
including vegetarian options as well as chocolate fountains ( yes, plural !! ). Those were there as one of our friends remembered a comment from Jacky during one of our coffee morning visits when Jacky remarked she didn’t have chocolate as a child growing up in the war - what a thoughtful touch and it was particularly enjoyed by the children who came to Jacky’s Day.
The memory table had a carefully chosen book for people to use & leave a few words in it & the front of the book has a cheerful elephant on - Jacky & I love elephants and they never forget - as we won’t forget Jacky.
Like Jacky, I am not keen on being in a crowd but the feeling of support and being in a group of good friends made the day very special. I’m sorry if you were there & I didn’t get to spend much time with you but I really did appreciate seeing you all - meeting new friends in person as well as seeing other friends again, some of you after too many years apart. Everyone was brightly dressed and I had decorated my jeans with dog faces & paw prints and some little yellow flowers on my top as had my sister.
I mentioned speeches earlier - well, that’s another thing I don’t usually do but as it was for Jacky ... it did mean I was rather nervous until I got my speech over with but I will put the relevant part here, minus the chat & thanks.
"Our home full of animals and what became Chaldon Animal Sanctuary meant everything to Jacky and I wish she had believed in how much people respected her, her commitment to animals, her sense of humour, her warm heart not always seen and yes - even the sometimes slightly sharp tongue seeing as she was more patient with animals than people !!
The support shown to me has been beyond belief and truly astounding and I think Jacky knew that everyone would rally round me and our sanctuary.
Jacky leaves us with her living legacy ...Chaldon Animal Sanctuary and with our friends help, I want - and will do my best to make sure it continues - in memory of Jacky - and the animals past, present and yes, to be here for those still to come.
- - - - -
It was a day for me to remember for ever, a culmination of so many peoples hard work and more than that - their love & support shown for Chaldon and me - thank you all.
We have something special for our 20 year Chaldon anniversary & in memory of Jacky,
thanks to our friend Jackie who has made this delightful Special Edition cat & dog ornament.
It has a cat & dog as Friends as well as signifying Jacky & Liz Friends and you, our Chaldon Friends so a very special memento.
The size is aprox 2 1/2 ( 5cms ) base x 1 1/12 ( 4cm ) high so small enough to fit in a little spot that needs some cheerful animals. Although it’s small, a lot of work & thought has gone into them & they are a very Special Edition. Due to your overwhelming generosity recently & as they are not cheap, these will remain available until November ( thinking ahead for Christmas gift ideas ).
More information & the buy button on the shop page. The cost is £6.50 plus £2- postage.
My thanks to all of you who support what Chaldon is, with your friendly letters & words, our regular stamp savers, people bringing blankets / towels / donations of pet food, the standing orders and donations as well as our online Ebay friends for their marvellous fundraising & support.
I may not get to thank you all personally but none of it is ever taken for granted.
She Is Gone
You can shed tears that she is gone or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back or you can open your eyes and see all she's left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see her or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her and only that she's gone or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back or you can do what she'd want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
Don't forget to buy your Special Edition Chaldon Friends on the shopping page.
Saving one pets life won’t change the world...
but it will make a world of difference to that one pet.