I’m Home

Yesterday was one of the saddest days ever as my big beautiful black boy, Hobo at the grand age of 14 made his journey across rainbow bridge. As he featured so much within the pages of this blog I felt that it was only right that I shared it with you. Life is sure going to be different without the big lumbering panther lounging around the neighbourhood and I know many will miss him.

I remember well the moment we met at the rescue centre when he was six months old and had already been returned several times.  He swaggered into our lives much like Thomas O’Malley from the Disney film The Aristocats, charming everyone that met him and spent much of his time visiting all the houses in the neighbourhood; many where he had a basket awaiting him and a meal!  Whilst he didn’t have much time for other cats unless they were kittens he adored people and would lie in the sunshine waiting for a car or van to pull up outside the house so he could greet any visitors. In fact one unsuspecting carpet delivery driver realised he had a stowaway only when Hobo awoke half way through the journey across the Tamar Bridge into Cornwall. His stubborn ways have both amused us and caused exasperation in equal measures particularly when we had a cat flap installed and discovered that he was simply “too posh to push”; trust me 3am wake up calls which increased in volume if ignored were vexing to say the very least.

I am without doubt a little lost right now as thirteen and half years is longer than many friendships last and he was the very best kind of friend; one that kept your secrets and was never dishonest. Without doubt he definitely chose us and if anyone is thinking of adopting an animal please don’t overlook the shy ones, the odd looking ones, the ones abandoned because of allergies or not enough time. They’re often the ones that so deserve that chance and I think Hobo would like that because I wouldn’t have missed the last thirteen and half years for a heartbeat.

I’d like to think of him up in heaven sprawled across the garden furniture in the sunshine as he so often did keeping the old fella company whilst he drank his cuppa and read his newspaper. RIP big boy & give the old fella a kiss for me x

Hobo

The Cost Of Love

Our 2016 remained bitter right up until the very end after old Hobo was attacked by another cat whose owner had irresponsibly failed to neuter their pet. After four weeks’ of unsuccessful treatment at the local vet we were referred to a veterinary ophthalmic surgeon (the eye Supervet) where he has undergone an operation and ongoing treatment with the bill currently running at £2,000; financed solely from my much-needed new car fund. Even with cutting edge technology it’s uncertain whether he will regain full sight in his eye but I know the old fella would have wanted us to try. On one of my many visits to the surgery I sat listening to the receptionist answering calls from other pet owners in the same situation as myself and at £120 initial consultation fee many deliberated on whether to proceed with treatment once they were advised of the cost.

For many the charges are way beyond what they can afford and there are very little alternatives for those having no access to the finances required. I wanted to save old Hobo’s sight so I have made my peace with driving my ropey old Renault Clio until it makes its last journey to the junk yard in the sky but at least I’ll do so knowing that I did my absolute best for him. You see we made a commitment eleven years ago when we brought him home from Woodside Animal Sanctuary that we would take care of him for the rest of his life; even if it bankrupts me! However, it troubles me that in the twenty-first century we still live in a world where the level of care and healthcare available for those we love is determined by the size of your wallet.

When we sought care homes that would accommodate my Dad, a very insensitive and inexperienced social worker told us that you “get what you pay for”. It troubles me that the most vulnerable in society have their care dictated by their family’s personal funds. Having lived in Turkey I am all too aware that there are countries with no free healthcare and the limited options for people who don’t have the funds available for treatment are heartbreaking.

The constant worry and sleepless nights when our loved ones are sick are increased tenfold when we know that we just don’t have the resources available to be able to pay for the best possible treatment or care. So tell me then do we love any less by simply not being able to pay our way or do those we cherish pay the ultimate price for that?

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Love Is A Net That Catches Hearts Like Fish

Without doubt the old fella has left an enormous hole in our hearts but his legacy was living every moment in the joy of simple things and sharing laughter with those he loved. Often when I left my laptop open I used to find him surreptitiously reading your comments & chuckling in response to a story I had written about him as he was bemused that you all found the allotment exploits of an eccentric old pensioner amusing. He enjoyed your pictures of places he would never get to visit and was fascinated that we could connect with people living on the other side of the world. I will miss him more than I thought possible and the way he greeted me everyday with the words “hello sunshine”.  I also know in my heart that he would want you all to remember him with a smile as he did with you.

As some of you know Chloe Hellcat, the smallest of our cat family was rescued from the water by a kindly fisherman, which is how she came live with us and by which time as a waterside feral she had become an adept fisherman herself.

Sadly this is a trait we haven’t been able to remedy and unfortunately last summer she discovered an accommodating ornamental pond in the village spending a week trawling the pond to bring home wriggling Koi Carp larger than herself. Chloe always loses interest in her quarry after dumping it on the lawn so it was no surprise one Saturday morning when I found not one but two large golden carp flopping around on the grass. After the immediate shock wore off it was action stations as I frantically ran around the garden, filling a bucket and gingerly putting the slippery little suckers into it. Just as I had successfully installed both fish into the pail the little minx returned with yet another which I wasted no time in reuniting with its fishy friends.

As there is no ornamental pond within my garden the most obvious solution was to accommodate them temporarily in the old fella’s pride and joy until we could discover who they really belonged to. So after an anxious telephone call, Operation “Rescuing Nemo” was launched when my Dad called the local village hair salon to ask them to tell my mother to stop at my house on the way home after her regular shampoo & set.

My mother is no fan of any creature of the wriggling variety and I think it’s fair to say was pretty much horrified when I asked her to sit in the passenger seat of my cramped Renault Clio and grip a bucket of fish between her knees; no easy feat in a Jaeger skirt suit I assure you. However, as the journey to Dyson Abbey was only a two-minute journey she reluctantly agreed but I knew that Dad’s ears would be ringing once she got home.

As is always the case during the busiest time of the year, when holidaymakers flock to Devon to sample, amongst other things, our ‘andsome cream teas, frequent road works magically appear overnight. So it was no surprise on this Saturday morning that the short journey from my house to the old folks involved a longer detour through winding leafy country lanes. Whilst we whizzed past luscious green countryside, I was anxiously negotiating the meandering roads as my mother screamed at me to slow down each time water splashed her legs and I think she would have had apoplexy should any fish have escaped the bucket.

Additionally as it was so hot I had opened the windows so whilst squeezing right into the bramble covered hedgerows to avoid oncoming traffic my mother’s new “do” was completely windswept and speckled with leaves & the odd feather giving her the appearance of a manic “Miss Havisham”. I couldn’t help but feel she was going to be less than happy when we eventually got to our destination.

As luck would have it when I pulled up there was nowhere to park so we had to leave it on the main road which meant that the old dear was not going to be able to edge out of the car unnoticed. As I opened the passenger door for her, Dad was waiting on the other side of the low garden wall and the sight of a dishevelled Mum regally sat in the front seat with this bucket gripped between her knees reduced him to hysterics which I knew would cost him dear later.

When he recovered himself enough I passed the bucket to him so that he could liberate the fish into their new home. I have it on good authority that the old dear gave my Dad fish every evening for dinner that week, however, as I understand the old fella declined preferring instead the old faithful banana sandwich as he reckoned he wouldn’t be able to look his new lodgers in the eye if he devoured their cousins.

The old fella always wanted something positive to come out of something negative and in the spirit of all the rescues that we have carried out together as a family, if you’re on Facebook take five minutes to check out Jodie’s Cyprus Dogs Rehoming and if you can please share, as I think he’d kinda like that.

ayesha-6

 

A Camera Is A Save Button For The Mind’s Eye

When it comes to photography I am no Rhonda, Gunta, Rebecca, Marianne or Madhu. I’d hoped that over the past four years some of their skills would have rubbed off on me but regrettably the photography fairy has failed to sprinkle a little pixie dust on me. I’ve been privileged to work with some of the very best WordPress photographers on joint projects but I still lack the fundamentals when it comes to capturing a great shot.

In honour of Pet Fostering week I thought I’d snap a couple of photos of Milo one of our failed fosters to help promote how worthwhile it is taking an animal in to provide them with the best possible chance of finding their furever home. I mean, after all how difficult can it be photographing your beloved pet, my blogging friends Animalcouriers do it all the time!

Two hours later, I’d broken out in a sweat, got through two bags of cat treats, a stiff glass of wine and still hadn’t managed to get a good shot of Milo; well one that didn’t make him look like yellow fang evil psycho cat. Eventually my perseverance paid off or either my subject was tiring and decided to submit gracefully to my bribery. You can see Milo’s close up here in which he’s a great ambassador for rescue cats and we succeeded in getting our message out there that fostering saves lives.For those interested in fostering head over to your local rescue where I’m sure a warm welcome awaits.

I have a true appreciation for the talents of all my photography blogging friends and their endeavours to provide the sleek glossy pictures that regularly grace their blogs but I realise that a lot of work goes in to providing the completed article. So I’m curious, tell me what’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve done whilst trying to capture that perfect shot?

"Enough already"

I’m the reason my family couldn’t put out the nativity scene this year as I ate the three wise men – Milo”

I drink out of the toilet - Hobo

I’m not ashamed that I drink out of the toilet – Hobo

I steal the neighbour's Koi Carp from his ornamental pond

I steal the neighbour’s Koi Carp from his ornamental pond – Chloe Hellcat

This is me after I stole a bag of cat nip & I'm too stoned to move

This is me after I ripped open a bag of cat nip & I’m too stoned to move – Charlie

Rescue; It’s Not Just a Verb It’s A Promise!

Milo & I wanted to wish you all a very happy & safe weekend from everyone here at Dyson Abbey and also to remind you how rewarding fostering can be. Writing posts about wildlife and our precious four-legged friends is always such a labour of love for me but the photography not so much hence I’ll be saving the shameless photobombing selfies of our feline family for another day. I have a renewed respect for the patience of all of our photography blogging friends and it’s completely true what they say about working with children & animals (well bored felines anyway).

With most shelters overflowing with unwanted and neglected animals what can be more worthwhile than saving a life like Milo? If you’re on Twitter why not help by an RT which might just find an animal on the euthanasia list a home. And to remind you just how fulfilling either adopting or fostering a rescue animal can be, I’ve posted this touching verse which never fails to reduce me to tears. Hankies at the ready!

There I sat alone and afraid,

You got a call and came to my aid

You bundled me up in blankets and love

and when I needed it most you gave me a hug

 

I learned that world was not all that scary and cold.

That sometimes there is someone to have and to hold

You taught me what love is, you helped me to mend.

You loved me and healed me and became my first friend

 

And just when I thought you’d done all you do,

There came along not just one lesson but two

First you said “sweetheart you’re ready to go,

I’ve done all I can and you’ve learned all I know”

 

Then you bundled me up with a blanket and kiss,

Along came a new family they even have kids!

They took me to their home forever to stay.

At first I thought you’d sent me away,

Then that second lesson became perfectly clear,

No matter how far you will always be near

 

And so Foster Mom, you know I’ve moved on,

I have a new home with toys and a lawn

But I’ll never forget what I learned that first day,

Is that you really never give fosters away.

 

You gave me these thoughts to remember you by,

We may never meet again but now I know why.

You’ll remember I lived with you for a time,

I may not be yours but you’ll always be mine

 

Barb Lieberman

 

Public Service Announcement From Milo

Public Service Announcement From Milo

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter

Like many of you I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.  Whilst, I think that it has certain advantages for keeping in touch with family & friends located in faraway places and as a writer it does have obvious benefits but for many it’s a bit of a dual-edged sword. Too often I have come across inappropriate posts and videos which in my opinion have no place on a social networking site. It is alleged that this week Facebook have failed to remove a video of a helpless & vulnerable kitten being deliberately doused in fuel and set alight; what purpose does that video serve? I also fail to see why you would want to give the sociopaths that committed this heinous and cowardly act their fifteen minutes of fame. Furthermore, you have to ask yourself why certain Facebookers would feel the need to “like” this type of post. Whilst Facebook insist that they had reviewed the clip, which they insisted had met its guidelines, by simply doing nothing are they green lighting other evil-minded individuals?

Surely there has to be a more stringent policy where pictures of extreme cruelty are removed in a timely fashion and by timely, I mean immediately. Derogatory pictures and borderline slanderous statements that will obviously cause emotional distress to others also have no place. I have personally fallen foul of an anonymous user, who superimposed my head from my profile picture, along with several other girls onto the bodies of girls in stills from adult films accompanied by crass taglines and my complaint wasn’t upheld, subsequently, Facebook refused to remove them. Imagine the distress that this caused me and my family and likewise for all the other girls. It is inconceivable that some malicious individual could randomly target your profile picture in this way because they are not regulated. It begs the question that if any of us had been celebrities would Facebook fearing legal reprisals have taken a different stance or were we simply not important enough to merit their protection from internet trolls.

You don’t have to be a public relations expert to determine what is right and wrong most of us learn that as children but one wonders sometimes whether integrity is an out-dated principle for many multi-million organisations.  So if you’re listening Facebook you need to man up and grow a set along with some morals; your users will love you for it!

The world is a dangerous place to live. Not because of the people who are evil; but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.

Happiness Is Having A Scratch For Every Itch

One of the chores I detest most at this time of year is applying flea treatment to the cats. As we live in the heart of Devon’s glorious countryside, a monthly application is required and our cats detest it. Contrary to popular feline belief spot on flea treatments are not barbaric torture rituals although the SAS would envy the avoidance techniques applied by both Chloe & Hobo. Once the tin foil packets are unwrapped our beloved pets are MIA, so it was with a sinking heart and scars barely healed from the last application that I reluctantly agreed to help my Dad with the dreaded task in hand.

Mother at first was a little reticent about the assignment until she’d checked that the premiums had been paid on my Dad’s life assurance policy and that I’d had my tetanus booster jab. Once she’d established that we were both covered we were cleared for take-off and despatched with a cheery wave.

Armed with the tools of our trade, oversize bath towel, First Aid kit, gardening gauntlets, safety goggles (for us not the cats) and a large can of Red Bull (minus the vodka which would come later) to replenish my depleted energy reserves as this would be an epic capture and release mission, one which would require stealth, cunning and the quick fire reflexes of a cheetah. To encourage our elusive four-legged family into the garden where the covert operation was being carried out, we had decided to feed them their breakfast al fresco on the glass table top of my mother’s new and treasured patio set. An irresistible breakfast of lightly cooked fish had been lovingly prepared by Mum and the pungent aroma wafting around the garden would be sure to entice our little cuddle bunnies into the awaiting trap.

I should just mention at this point that in addition to our own two; “One speed Hobo” and “Chloe Hellcat” the menopausal nightmare, the foster “Miss Thumbs”;we also have a new addition of a rather large timid male tabby who’d obviously been living rough for a while and had taken shelter in our garden.

The New Lodger

The New Lodger

At first Dad had insisted that we didn’t feed him, as he’d probably go home when he became hungry, which lasted all of half a day before he inevitably caved in. After asking around we discovered that he had belonged to family renting a house further down the street who had moved out leaving no forwarding address and their family pet. So then there were four!

First up was Hobo who has never been able to resist an al fresco running buffet for cats; at least that’s what he thinks a barbecue is! As he jumped onto the table I had the towel ready and quickly secured him or so I thought. Hobo managed through sheer brute strength (he’s a big boy) and determination to out-manoeuvre me but I was up and running after him. At the privet hedge I headed him off at the pass and took him down WWE Smackdown style sitting astride him whilst waiting for my partner in crime to hand me the required medication. The low howls and growls emitted attracted the attention of many of our neighbours, who I’m sure were contemplating phoning the RSPCA to report us for animal cruelty. Dad who had been distracted by the World Cup commentary on the radio was a little slow off the mark and had forgotten to remove the cap from the little pipette which I had to do with my teeth. Regrettably whilst I was using one hand to restrain the struggling big fella I accidentally swallowed a mouthful of the solution and hoped that there were no adverse effects for humans as I didn’t want to be spending the following week marking my territory and sleeping in next door’s apple tree. I also made a mental note to gargle with vodka a little later just to be on the safe side, you understand.

Hobo shot off like the hounds of hell were in hot pursuit and sulked for a few hours after that before hunger pangs got the better of him and he returned for tea but made sure that we were all aware of his displeasure.

Miss Thumbs was a perfect little lady when it came to apply her flea treatment (although her table manners could use some work) and whilst a little miffed, the latest addition grudgingly allowed us to apply her medication before she slunk off to take refuge in the shrubbery where she spent the afternoon licking her wounds.

As expected Chloe Hellcat was something else altogether! Streaking into the garden like a high-speed train she leaped onto the table to be caught mid jump in my gauntlets; clearly I had a future with the England soccer team as a goalie.

Chloe Hellcat

Chloe Hellcat

As the littlest and lightest of all four cats one would expect her to be able to offer the least resistance but as a former feral cat she clearly wasn’t going down without a fight. With the disposition of a deadly Asian Hornet, she scratched and bit her way through my gauntlets and I wondered not for the first time why we didn’t have a tortoise instead of cats.

As her rear claws sank into my wrist and my blood seeped through the gauntlet I had no choice but to hold on for grim death and as she and I tussled and crashed to the ground I tripped over the leg of the table. As if in slow motion the glass table top shattered into what looked like a million pieces and I knew that the old dear wasn’t going to like that very much. My Dad had a more practical approach and headed off to the shed for a tube of superglue but I secretly thought there was not enough superglue in Devon for this particular job! Looked like he was going to be needing that life cover after all.

When the remnants of the patio table had been swept up and deposited in the dustbin and my war wounds bathed with antiseptic, he turned to me and said in all earnest “So when do you think we should worm them then”?

Final score Cats 1 Humans 3 and to borrow a phrase from the television commentators of the beautiful game “They think it’s all over, well it is now”!

The Hellfire Club

The Hellfire Club

Memories Are Timeless Treasures Of The Heart

Most of our village shops had closed gradually over the years having been undercut and replaced by the more competitive supermarkets springing up on retail parks all around the surrounding area. At one time there had been a furniture shop, optician, cobblers, women’s outfitters and an elderly dapper gentleman called Mr Coles owned the sweet shop. I can still vividly recall the sparkling glass counters, polished wood and even now the smell of beeswax and cough candies will transport me back to that sunny little shop with the old bell over the door to alert him to a new customer. The row upon rows of tantalising sweetie jars full of pear drops, toffees, gobstoppers or winter mixture which were ceremoniously removed from the shelf and the tinkling sound they made as they were carefully measured out into the old-fashioned metal weighing scales. I remember being able to be able to buy two ounces of any sweets wrapped in a small triangular paper bag which accommodated my meagre weekly pocket-money. The more expensive and luxurious cellophane wrapped boxes of chocolates, adorned with floral pictures, were kept on the top shelf and no supermarket box to this day has ever been as desirable or as opulent.

In the days long before Health & Safety became paramount, come rain or shine, a huge fluffy ginger tom cat called Duke spent his days sleeping in a padded wicker basket in the corner of the shop stirring only to greet customers especially the children whose legs he would wrap himself around leaving them giggling with delight. A trip to the sweet shop was never the same for me unless I stopped to tickle him under the chin and listen to him purring like my Dad’s old lawnmower. He seldom left the shop although on occasional sunny days he would lie across the doorstep to ensure that he never missed welcoming a patron.

My mother’s birthday was imminent and it was inevitable that I wanted to give her one of Mr Cole’s boxes of chocolates and I reckoned that if I only bought my sweet rations every second week I could save enough with the rest of my pocket-money to buy a small box of chocolate truffles as a birthday present. So determined was I that I ventured into the shop one afternoon after school, my grubby ten-year old fingers counted out my pennies carefully onto the shop counter but Mr Coles said that unfortunately I hadn’t got enough but he could put the chocolates away for me until I did. We agreed that would be the best thing to do and each week I would call into the shop just to check that he still had my box of chocolates and hadn’t sold it to someone else. Of course, now that I’m all grown up I realise that few people would have indulged a young child with a smile, courtesy and endless patience.

Cycling through the village one afternoon after school with my friends I noticed a dirty orange fluffy mound at the side of the road. I stopped to investigate and was surprised to discover that it was Duke who sat trembling in the kerb, terrified of the passing cars, so I propped my bike up against the wall and scooped him up into my arms. He mewed piteously once he recognised a friendly face “It’s alright old fella, I’m taking you home” I reassured him. Duke allowed me to gently place him in the basket on the front of the handlebars of my bike and I was able to guide us both back to the comfort of the little shop with one hand on the handlebars and one gently restraining Duke.

Poor Mr Coles was beside himself with worry when I eventually arrived at the shop but his relief was all too evident when he realised I was returning his companion and it was worth every second of the cautious walk back to the shop. As I left them to enjoy their emotional reunion, Mr Coles hung the closed sign on the door and locked up for the afternoon overwhelmed to have his chum return home safe and well.

A week later as I’d saved enough to pay for the chocolates and I proudly called in with my pennies jingling in my pocket. Mr Coles smiled a greeting whilst disappearing to the stock room as I was reacquainting myself with Duke. He came back with chocolates beautifully wrapped and as I went to count my money onto the counter, he placed his hand across mine and said “Put that away young lady, your money’s no good here today”. Taking the pencil from behind his ear he wrote across the receipt with a flourish “Paid in full with grateful thanks from your friends”.

Of course, the shop has long ago been replaced with a fish & chip shop but the echoes of that one kind act have remained with me throughout my life and whenever I am given a box of chocolates I think of that little shop and my good friends Mr Coles and Duke.

garden 004

P.S. Be Happy!

To our darling foster four-legged friends both past & present

We never intentionally set out to foster any other pets, in fact, we were content to be a two cat, one dog family but desperation, hunger, shelter from the storms or possibly fate drove you all in through the cat flap and into our home at one time or other.

Teddy

Teddy

You all must have been so frightened and hungry to sneak in past Hobo and Chloe Hellcat each night to steal a mouthful of biscuits.

We will never know what unimaginable horrors you faced living on the street when you outgrew your cuteness factor. How confused you must have been when the ones you loved and relied on the most were no longer there to protect you when they realised the extent of a lifetime commitment or surrendered you for the price of a couple of bottles of wine. We endeavoured for months to find out whether someone was missing you but all to no avail which was all the more distressing as we couldn’t understand why someone would let you go so easily. Each of you had your own very different problems but we overcame them in the end, with patience and time which was the one thing that this family has in abundance. With a cupboard full of pet food and a roast chicken each Sunday, another hungry mouth to feed would always go unnoticed in our household. Although we aren’t animal behavioural experts, we’ve learned from all of you as I hope that you have taken away from us that not all humans are untrustworthy and mean.

Hobo The Boss

Hobo The Boss

Even old Hobo, who’s now ten, has endeavoured to share with you the joys of playing with an old piece of washing line or has sat alongside you for hours whilst you struggled to come to terms with this new bewildering world.

We promise ourselves after each heartbreaking occasion when we reluctantly relinquish you to your new loving families where we know you will each have the lives you deserve, that this will be the absolute last time but we also know that we won’t be able to resist another four-legged friend who steals in through our door on a stormy night. We are truly grateful for the help of every animal charity that has assisted us with finding and carefully vetting your new devoted families who won’t abandon you at the first hurdle. Thank you for choosing us and the privilege of allowing us to share a little time with you. We wish for you only the very best of things; a warm bed, plenty of good food and above all a lifetime of devotion, dear friends.

With much love from the Dyson Family x

Little Miss Thumbs

Little Miss Thumbs

Fostering a dog or cat isn’t a lifetime commitment, it’s a commitment to saving a life.