Chaldon Animal Sanctuary
Another New Year - March 2003
What a wonderful Christmas and New Year we have had and, with Spring just around the corner, life has been good to us. Thanks to so many of you who sent donations, gifts, lovely cards and kind words; we spent a wonderful festive season and beyond. Everyone of the family had treats of some description and we managed to put our feet up for a couple of extra hours after doing our normal rounds. The dogs and cats love it when we sit down in the evenings, but to have our laps all afternoon and evening is something really special - for them and us.
The Sanctuary is looking very smart with most of our old fences replaced, new fox pens, new guttering around the bungalow and newly decorated kitchen and lounge. Each has needed to be done for so long and to see inside and outside looking posh is great. We even have new gates to the field and pens that actually open and shut without having to be lifted, sworn at or kicked!! It has given us such a morale boost to have the work done and we thank all of you, past and present, who have contributed to our wonderful 'new look'.
Mind you, some of our animals weren't very impressed by the upheaval. Trubshaw the bull and his friends had to be shut in their house while the tractor with 5ft high wheels trundled by - the shouts of disgust were probably heard for miles around. Then, the foresaid tractor with 5ft high wheels gaily churned the land up around the areas where the new fencing and gates were being erected. As this all happened in the wettest weather, the mud it caused can only be imagined and naturally it was just where the dogs go for their walks, so that indoors became a mud bath as well!! Oh well, it will look nice when it's finished we said. The fox pens didn't cause too much upset, apart from Fanta, our very friendly and naughty fox, who decided to dig out from her old pen before the new ones were finished. Fortunately, she only stayed around the bungalow and demanded to be let back in after she had a look about.
Now it was the turn of the bungalow to be 'attacked'. We can't describe the looks on the faces of the dogs and cats as men started to walk on the roof of the bungalow so that the tiles could be checked prior to the fascias and guttering being replaced. Had the heavens really started to drop in on them?
Next came the decorators, Gideon and Duncan. Fortunately they are both 'animal' people and so the kitchen was painted around sleeping cats in baskets. A few beds would be moved, with incumbent cats, so that a wall could be painted and then moved back as soon as it was finished. We're sure not many decorators would be that caring. The lounge was a little more difficult as the dogs were put to bed in our bedrooms while the men were here and then let out as work finished for the day. In between times, we worked out a plan to get the dogs in and out to spend a penny and go for their walks. Oh joy!! Considering all though, very little wet paint was marked by waggy tails and we are so delighted, albeit exhausted!
In a previous newsletter we told you about Webster, Collie X Retriever, our then newest canine arrival, who had run out of time and money - and chances - in kennels. Well, he has settled down very well and with typical Collie intelligence quickly learnt that cat chasing is not allowed, and with Retriever delight discovered plenty of tennis balls - he can fit 2½ in his mouth all at the same time! (Thank you for the spare tennis balls you sent). Then he had to learn not to guard them from the other dogs - and also to give them back to Liz on request - which he'd do when he came but was very headshy turning and twisting to avoid the ball being taken - now he drops it at her feet.
Another little problems that needed ironing out was more guarding, of his most treasured possession - Liz! Webster had found the Mum of his dreams (ahhhhhhh - sweet!) and didn't want to share her - fortunately he's a fast learner and soon realised that he had to, so another problem sorted.
From what little we know of his background before the kennels took him and started helping him, he was possessive with his previous owner, but aggressively. He slept on the bed, the owner slept on the sofa! Our dogs do sleep on our beds/sofas/chairs, but do get off when asked. The first evening here Webster got on Liz's chair and we both groaned, expecting trouble trying to reclaim it, but to our surprise he had already decided to co-operate (perhaps he knew we were his last chance) and jumped straight down when asked - and now rarely bothers to get up there. He does, however, like Liz's bed - but not when she's in it, fortunately, as a single bed, half a dozen cats and a medium/large hairy dog and Liz don't all fit!
Webster had a large lump that was growing on his elbow and our vets advice was that he removed it before it grew any more - we saw it grow in only 4 weeks, so surgery it was. All during his visits to Ian, including several post-op checks to have it drained, Webster was perfectly behaved - no sign of bad temper or nastiness, just acceptance that what we did had to be done - he had his leg bandaged, his wound drained daily (i.e. a needle stuck in) and not once misbehaved himself - incredible for any dog, but certainly for one with his history.
For a dog who had earned the nickname 'Devil Dog' before he even arrived, he certainly showed that give a dog a bad name and reputation doesn't mean the dog will not change in the right environment, where they feel safe, understand what's allowed - and know they are loved.
How easily this life could have been snuffed out and all the pleasures he has that we share with him. We know he is only the tip of the iceberg - one among many - but for him (and us) he is glad that we were here to help - and that's because of you, our supporters.
We recently had a 'phone call from our vets with the question "can you help?" This is usually followed by the tale of some poor dog or cat that is due to be euthanased due to being a 'problem' - most commonly a dog that bites (but if it's hit on the head every day as one was...). However this time it was "we have a collapsed cat that needs a blood transfusion - do you have a suitable donor cat?" After an immediate answer of "yes" we then had to choose someone youngish, healthy and easy to handle - not many of our cats fit that description! We took a couple to the surgery and used Poppin who came to us from living rough on the street with her feral kittens 9 years ago.
She is a loving cat who happily accepted a quick blood test before donating 60mls of blood while under anaesthetic - cats don't like to sit still that long. The transfusion was quickly set up to the needy puss who had a blood disorder that was curable if he could recover from this crisis and just over an hour later he started eating and drinking - what a joy! Three days later he was well on the road to recovery and back home with his owners, and Poppin was completely back to normal as well.
How lovely that we were able to give something back - to the vet practice that gives us so much help and support; to another cat that needed help; and that Poppin, who came to us needing help, was able to help another (even though we were the ones who 'volunteered' her).
It's nearly 2 years since Polka, our one-eyed cat, went to Canterbury for her radioactive treatment for her over-active thyroid. You wouldn't think she was the same cat prior to her treatment. She is fit and well and almost fat, not the skinny little creature she once was and, as she approaches her 12th birthday, she certainly has a new lease of life.
Trubshaw, our bull, is still full of himself and enjoying life with Chance, the cow. When Chance had a funny five minutes one day and started charging around the field making the sheep and goat find a new sun spot, he looked on aghast, mooing loudly, but he was seen laying in the sun with her later gently nuzzling her.
Cleo, our blind Cocker Spaniel, still continues to amaze us. She manoeuvres inside and out with complete confidence. One day she was seen to be running up the middle of the field. We could see ahead of her was a large fallen branch. She raced up to within an inch of it, turned on a sixpence and continued along the length of it. At the end, again with an inch to spare, she went round the branch and continued as if she could see the obstacle. We swear she must have radar or something, as she also runs around our woods missing the trees en route to wherever she is going and her tail never stops wagging.
Parsley and Thyme, our turkeys, spent another happy Christmas here and not on someone's plate. It's amazing how many visitors have never seen a live turkey before, only ones hung up in the butchers shop or wrapped in plastic in a supermarket, so we are very pleased to be able to show them the 'real thing'.
As anyone who has visited will know, our kitchen is full of cat beds scattered around. We have large ones for those who like to cuddle up and share, and smaller single size ones for cats that don't share. Obviously there are quite a few blankets to keep washed and changed. Usually at mealtimes the beds empty and Liz shoots round changing the bedding before they refill with bodies.
One morning all beds bar one emptied, so Liz left the sleeping occupant and kept an eye on the bed for it to be empty (yes - of course we could move the puss, but when you're cuddled up and comfy you don't want to be moved). All that day the occupants changed but never when Liz saw it and could grab the bedding. The next day (another of those lovely cold days we had when it was -5º overnight and the heating stayed on 24 hours) was the same - always occupied.
Now you could say it was a favourite bed, but it was only a cardboard box; it wasn't on a hot spot or next to a radiator, but it was never empty. Finally at bedtime of the second day Ruffle (current puss in it) stirred, stood and stepped out and, just as Liz was about to whip round to it, she saw in the nick of time one of our feral cats sitting in front of it staring at her and daring her to approach and scare him off from his tea! So, the bed still wasn't done then, but later when Norman was sitting in it but not asleep, Liz at last gave up, moved him and changed the bedding. Such a performance for such a little job!
As mentioned elsewhere in this letter we have recently been redecorated with a fresh coat of paint indoors.
We have a wonderful portrait of one of our foxes Rebecca that a young art student did 5 years ago, after spending a couple of days here sitting on an upturned milk crate in our fox pen.
It is stunningly accurate and beautiful, but we had not managed to frame and hang it before - but at last we have. We hung it when all our dogs were in our bedrooms, as the lads were still in the lounge working, so it wasn't seen immediately when the dogs came back into the lounge. Most of our dogs never noticed it, but a couple spotted it and froze, staring hard for 30 seconds until they were satisfied what it was, i.e. only a picture of a fox, but there's always one who likes to be different - it happened to be Mungo, our Retriever. He suddenly saw Rebecca and sat in front of it for over 10 minutes gently growling at it. The growl was just a low mutter, not a normal guarding or aggressive sound; all the other dogs ignored him completely. Mungo was convinced we had a real fox sitting in the lounge. While we certainly have had a real fox indoors (in the hospital wing, i.e. our bathroom!) we wouldn't have one near the dogs. It was obvious he recognised it as something he knew - after all, he ignored our elephant picture, not having met one of them! Eventually we had to tap the picture and the glass and then put his paws up to it so he could have a sniff and satisfy himself about it - funny fellow!
As we come to the end of another newsletter our thanks to all of you who support us must be made. No matter how you help, be it donations, stamps, tins, coins, towels and blankets or physical help, we wouldn't be here without you and 150 lives would be lost. The 'family' means so much to us and all deserve that chance to be understood and loved despite what some humans have done to them. Often when visitors come, they look at our happy bunch and ask why they can't be re-homed. The answer is simple - they have given their trust to us and it would be only too easy for them to revert back to their old behaviour. We've seen it happen even here - when they've been stressed out for some reason.
So thanks everyone for your help. We're only a small sanctuary but all your pennies are desperately needed. Help from Fred running stalls for us, Janice for typing the newsletters, Wendy and Roger for printing them, Keith for his muscle power and Ian our vet all contribute to keeping us open.
A Happy Easter to everyone!