Chaldon Animal Sanctuary
It's that time of year again. Yes, Christmas is nearly here. Where the last twelve months have gone to is a mystery, the days just seem to fly by. As always we've had the usual ups and downs which go hand in hand with our lifestyle.
The "girls" are now fully at home and integrated with the original chickens. The newcomers look so well now that they have grown their feathers in nearly all their bald spots and appear very happy pecking around in the earth. The change is simply amazing to see but yesterday when it rained all morning they sat around in their houses with decidedly the "hump" until the weather improved.
Generally chickens are thought of as thick, but ours certainly are not. Our kitchen sink looks out over their run and they only have to hear the tap water running and they charge over to their gate to see if we are coming. Likewise if our back door is opened they have discovered it might herald a visit from us and so a reception committee is quickly formed. Sadly four of the girls died which wasn't unexpected but even those four plus the remaining 26 have enjoyed a natural life - a far cry from the horrendous days they spent in battery cages.
Since last writing to you our family has diminished some more, the last loss being Gulliver a wonderful Sussex spaniel who had been with us for twelve years. He came from a rescue centre where he had been for over a year. Not a friendly dog to the staff and in fact, still had his castration stitches from twelve months previously as he refused to let the staff near him. He fell in love with Liz (the feeling was mutual) and on his first evening here, rolled over on his back and let her remove the stitches. A wonderful memory of an animal who gave his trust wholeheartedly to the right person. Buck is our latest arrival and you can read about him later on with our other news.
In the last newsletter you may remember we mentioned how Drummer was missing his playmate Webster who had died. You'll be pleased to know that Drummer has found new playmates and it has been absolutely fascinating watching him learn to play a different game with different dogs.
With Webster the game was of swapping balls and sticks - very little contact between them.
Now Drummer plays with Mungo and the game is completely different - they grab each other, roll around on the ground and charge after each other playing tag - all accompanied by play growls and much noise and waggy tails.
Drummer also decided to take a bit more notice of our other German Shepherd who is a year younger - but the game is again completely changed. No rough and tumble but sharing a stick (a four foot branch is popular) with them trotting about with it between them, or if Brogan wants to go and play with his girlfriend Purdey, Drummer shows his shepherding instinct and cuts in between them before joining as the three take off across the field.
It's great to see how they play in various ways depending who the game is with - and wonderful to see Drummer no longer looking for his old playmate. As we write this, the three dogs (Drummer, Brogan and Mungo) are rolling around on the floor together while Purdey is washing another mate Chutney.
We also have a Cocker Spaniel called Homer who decided he wanted a game with Liz recently and he plays by placing his mouth around her hand as she pretends to grab him - he bounces back and then forward to do it all again. He is so gentle and it makes us grin to see him - particularly as we never dreamt such play with him would ever be possible.
Unfortunately he never learnt bite inhibition as a pup and he came to us because he had learnt to bite - and he meant it. So to see him now understand not to do it, but also to go further and be able to control himself so that he can play, shows the most amazing transformation into a happy chappie.
THINGS THAT MAKE US SMILE
Three cats waiting to go out of the cat flap in the kitchen as one wanted to come indoors. No-one seemed to notice that the back door was wide open.
Fanta our friendly fox having her tummy tickled and squealing in ecstasy like a puppy.
Our chickens running - they really are so ungainly.
The little dogs going underneath the tummies of the big dogs to get somewhere first.
And asking one dog to do something, but having the dog next to it complying while the first dog plays deaf.
When going to feed Trubshaw and friends, and having a number of cats suddenly appear from the undergrowth to come and say hello and watch us.
Icicle our goat standing on her hind legs and catching a juicy branch of a tree between her front legs, only to have it blown away by a strong wind. She remained for several minutes trying to work it out.
Two brave magpies cackling as they walked behind a fox who had dared to come into the field in broad daylight. The fox had come back to the site of a magpie kill of the previous day and the magpies obviously wanted her off the premises.
A thirsty cat (Polka) went and had a drink at one of the many water bowls around. There are two bowls side by side - a huge one for big dogs and a little one for little dogs - and cats
There were two thirsty dogs who sat, one behind the other, behind the cat, in a queue waiting for her to finish!
They could easily have gone to the second bowl - they could have shared with Polka - or even pushed her out of the way (not that we approve of such behaviour), but no - the boys (Janty and Spock) sat and patiently waited until she'd finished, which we thought was very gentlemanly, and lovely to see.
During this summer we took in a feral black cat who needed a home where he could roam freely to do his own thing with food and shelter provided. We kept him in our little green house that is near the back door between our storage sheds and kept him in for 2 weeks for him to get use to when feeding times were.
During that time we barely saw him as he stayed hidden and if we peered in at him in his hidey hole the ferocious look and foul language made it quite clear that we were not welcome - he did not intend to make friends with us and would quite happily take a finger off if we approached any nearer! No problem, we were happy to keep our distance and just keep an eye on him and provide meals and shelter
When his 2 week adjustment period was up we left his door open early one evening and he disappeared into the night when we weren't looking. We kept our eyes open and kept food down for him but didn't see any signs of him - the food was going but we were sure that was a combination of our other cats and the foxes.
Just over 2 weeks later he suddenly appeared by the back door and wailed at us that he wanted food. He had lost a lot of weight and he ate a huge meal before vanishing again - but the next morning at the same time he reappeared.
We were delighted that he had decided to accept our hospitality and each day would move his dinner bowl closer to the back door.
It took only 7 days for him to come into the kitchen to eat his meals (now also arriving at teatime) so that if it was raining he was coming into the dry to eat.
Then he'd turn up during the day for a nibble of biscuits and as we have a stable door for our back door, he was soon jumping up and into the kitchen to help himself from the biscuits near the back door.
At this stage if we went into the kitchen we made a point of looking for him and would either stand still and wait while he finished or reverse quietly out of the kitchen and wait until he'd left. As he gained confidence we were able to go out but wouldn't approach him naturally.
Imagine our amazement when only one short month after his initial reappearance he came towards us wanting to be stroked - wonderful progress which leads us to think that instead of being a true feral he was an abandoned ex-pet that had been living on his wits and nerves for a long time.
During these few weeks we had been using the nickname of Black Cat - accurate but boring but as he was now used to the sound of it, we christened him Buck (using the B and C letter to keep the same sound), which he now knows.
He sits on the shed roof just outside the back door watching us coming and going doing our jobs.
It is wonderful to see him respond to being called and to come trotting in for meals and only this last couple of weeks (Sept) he's started turning up at bedtime when we put food out for the foxes. We would leave him in the kitchen with a bowl of food and wondered how long it would take for him to stay overnight - on the third morning he was still in the kitchen tucked up in a furry hooded cat bed! Once he has decided something is safe he comes on in such massive leaps and bounds.
We had tied the cat flap open during his early days so that when the weather was bad he could still get in - and out. He quickly learnt to use the cat flap properly to go out and took just a few more days to learn how to come in as well.
It is lovely to know that as we turn from blustery autumn into winter he can come indoors to enjoy the home comforts cats love so much.
P.S. Update...October and Buck didn't turn up for 3 days much to our concern. When he finally returned it was with a cold and he was feeling very sorry for himself, so into the hospital quarters (our bathroom) he went! He made the most of being poorly with lots of extra fuss and tickles as well as a vet visit needed as he wasn't eating. He has gradually improved but at the time of writing this (10 days into his illness) he shows no sign of wanting to leave the bathroom...he could be a proper indoor cat for the winter at this rate!
P.P.S.latest...now November and fully recovered, Buck has moved into Liz's bedroom and as this is written is asleep on her bed, and so far has ignored the cat flap!
As we said at the beginning of our newsletter another year has passed by and our thanks go to all of you who support our "family" in whatever way.
From cash to used stamps, newspapers, towels and blankets, bric-a-brac, dog and cat food and your words of encouragement, we couldn't continue without you.
Fred, Phil, Keith, Janice and Ian have all played their part, and to all our supporters our grateful thanks and best wishes for a Happy Christmas and New Year.
Jacky and Liz.