Chaldon Animal Sanctuary
The weather has been kind to us these last few months, a lovely Spring with long dry days, the sort we don’t get very often but really appreciate. We’re now into Summer with some much needed rain for the gardens, but not enough to make everything a soggy mess for long and not too many days of wet paw prints everywhere.
The black & white picture of sun & cloud at the top of the page pretty much sums things up here I realised after choosing it, life is grey and cloudy but with odd moments of sun showing. Days are generally busy, some are less hard than other ones, the natural way of grieving.
I’m glad you enjoyed me recapping the start of our sanctuary in the last newsletter, it was good for me to spend the time thinking & sharing it too. Many of you told me you’d stopped to think of us on 29th March, Chaldon’s anniversary day and had planted a variety of flowers, shrubs etc and it cheered me to hear that, thank you.
What have I planted I hear you wonder - well, nothing yet ! Of course I was intending to but was struggling to find the "right" something, but a very large sack ( 500 + ) of daffodil bulbs were donated and have been planted in our graveyard where Jacky’s ashes are scattered, it will be a beautiful sight next year. Finally a memory came to me about something that Jacky had suggested and we’d hope to have made this summer - a rockery ... so on the 29th, I didn’t plant anything but planned ideas for Jacky’s memorial - a pile of stones ! Hopefully I think that would make her smile but the idea has expanded & will be more of a Jacky’s Patch with a little water stream, herbs, a rose & all sorts.
Our anniversary day wasn’t easy as I spent time remembering when we moved to Chaldon 20 years earlier, things that happened, pets that moved with us & the hard work of course but also how incredibly lucky we were to be moving to this little haven. It was also 10 years before that when I moved in with Jacky - a lifetime of memories of our friendship.
Thank you for buying our wonderful anniversary Chaldon Friends ornaments, which with added donations raised a wonderful £195, brilliant as always.
There are still some of the Special Editions left for sale ( £6.50 & £2 postage )
In our early days together when I was working at the vets, Jacky used to say "I never know what you’re going to come through the front door with" as I came home with another nearly put to sleep pet that was given over to us. One of our most memorable new arrivals however was the day I returned from a dog walk and Jacky said "what have you always wanted?" ... that threw me somewhat as I didn’t know she was even referring to an animal so I replied "a piano?" When Jacky had finished laughing, she said "no, a cow" and that of course was our dear Trubshaw ... perhaps I should have named him Steinway !
Anyway, it’s happened - the first new animals to arrive that Jacky won’t meet, the first ones that will only know me as their new mum. However in a strange quirk of fate, Jacky knew of them although she died before they arrived. We had been asked months ago if we could take a stray cat in if he could be caught & said yes, he has only recently arrived and is settling in, more about him in the next newsletter.
The other new arrival was due to the stray ferret who literally turned up outside our back door last year, as Jacky used to say "with her red spotted kerchief over her shoulder" and Fifi ( formerly Miss Ferrettface ) joined us. As we hadn’t been planning her arrival, her housing was adequate but not as spacious as we wanted so our plan was to build a proper ferret run & when she had a larger enclosure, to find her a friend as ferrets are sociable animals. The ferret run was going to be started earlier in the year but plans went a bit awry ( blame Jacky! ) but has now been finished and so time to follow our plan of finding Fifi a friend.
I contacted a local rehoming group "Furry Friends" that have ferrets amongst other pets looking for homes as I’d seen a ferret I hoped would be suitable on their website, a pretty little girl about the same age as Fifi, also originally a stray. It was up to Fifi if she agreed or not with my choice as I had to take her to meet the other ferret, fortunately the two girls were fine & came home together. The first evening Fifi abandoned her usual bed as the new girl was in it but 24 hours later, they were sharing the same bed, a few days later they were cuddled up together as if they’d always been friends, a joy to see.
Here they are, Java ( coffee coloured ) on the left of the first photo & Fifi.
Do any of you remember our sheep Dylan who was put down in 2007 due to old age problems? I hadn’t realised that Emma who runs Furry Friends is the person who saved him all those years ago ( 1995 ) from the agricultural college where Dylan was ... and was due to be put down at the end of the course after being used to teach the students animal husbandry.
Dylan ( then 2 yrs old ) came here and joined our herd, after we’d had fun & games catching him as he was a very good jumper ( no, not the woolly kind you wear ! ) and just as we thought we had him cornered, he’d take a flying leap over the fence and disappear round the next field with us all in hot pursuit - such memories. So Dylan had 12 happy years with us and we look forward to a good few years with our new ferret friend too.
This was written last winter & I leave it as is, as we both used to laugh at Chico & I haven’t the heart to edit it now that things have changed. ‘You’d think something like printing a letter would be straightforward but not in this household ! Our printer is in a work unit cupboard to keep it out of the way of our furry family and when we want to use it, we open the cupboard doors and it’s ready for action ... simple surely? However, we’re beginning to think that Chico has ESP where the printer is concerned because no sooner is the door open and printer turned on, than Chico arrives to see if he can "help" ! His idea of helping is to catch the paper as it comes out or try to put his paw in the printer to speed it up, either choice is not appreciated by us as you can imagine!’
Here’s a ‘photo of him in his favourite "printer position", actually behaving himself briefly as the printer isn’t in use but he’s waiting hopefully as he knows it’s turned on!
While sitting in the kitchen with friends visiting, we saw Spice cat sitting at the kitchen window watching the world go by but he was totally unaware & unbothered by his tail tip hanging down into the sink - and a bowl of soapy water !! When Spice jumped down with his dripping tail end, we all laughed as our friend took this lovely photo. Spice had the last laugh as he wiped his soggy tail against our legs though!
Since this was written, there is a sad note to add as one evening, after having tea as normal, Spice suffered a thrombosis which paralysed his back legs Off for an emergency vet visit & there was only one thing to do for him & he went gently to sleep, doesn’t seem possible so suddenly gone.
My bed usually has a multitude of cats sharing with me & the dogs in their beds in the room, but during the upheaval since Jacky’s death, we’ve been having dogs arrive on the bed too. The cats faces have been a picture when a dog landed on my bed, the look of "who are you & what do you think you are doing?" gave me quite a few giggles. They soon got used to each other and settled down together, but I’m glad the dogs gradually made the way back to their beds before the hot summer nights arrived.
Similar events occurred in my armchair - I had 4 dogs and 2 cats "layered" on my lap one evening, very cosy we all were but I thought it’s not going to work long term in my little armchair now there’s more furries to fit in for cuddles. When passing our local house clearance shop, I spotted a piano & if you recall my ramblings a couple of pages earlier about Trubshaw arriving, you’ll know that one day, I hope to find space and time to have one.
It made me laugh seeing the piano at what Jacky’s reaction would have been "me gone only a few weeks and already you have a piano, just when do you expect to find time to play it" !! So I had to stop to have a look, just for the smile it gave me in her memory, I parked nearby and walked back to the shop and as I rounded the corner, there was a little sofa, cheap and cheerful, just what we needed.
So now we have a comfy 2 seater sofa ... well, it’s meant for 2 humans but we’re still working on how many animals can fit on it with me ... 4 dogs and 3 or 4 cats is not uncommon so this is quite empty with 3 dogs & 2 cats ...I squeeze in to the left of the photo !!
And if it hadn’t been for the piano, I wouldn’t have stopped that day and found the sofa so thank you Jacky, still taking care & providing what our animals need.
Logically I knew it would happen, the day would come - but I’d have preferred it not to be so soon. Yesterday ( mid - April ) one of Jacky’s dogs was diagnosed with cancer. It is inoperable and at the moment Buzby is still well & happy although I have no idea how long that will last. So each day is a bonus that we make the most of, extra cuddles, special titbits and a little time to adjust to such sad news and having to face another goodbye. It’s very hard to make sure that decisions made are right for Buzby while thinking "what would Jacky want" too.
In an odd way, I’m glad that Jacky didn’t have the pain of losing him - far from it getting easier, it seems somehow to get harder each time we lose one of our family. Losing any of our pets always affects us - we wouldn’t have them and live this lifestyle if we didn’t love them, but at the moment, it’s a bit too much having more grief to bear and I’m sad. Take a deep breath and think back to when we met Buzby, a very scared dog who was saved by another rescue centre just hours from death in a dog pound in Wales. He had been found as a stray on a motorway, his 7 days were up & he was about to be put down at the age of about 2 years. Our friends in the other rescue home, scooped him up with the others waiting the same fate that day even though they hadn’t enough kennel space for them all, then they rang round to see who could help. Jacky answered the phone call from them & when I returned from walking dogs, she said where we were going & why.
When we arrived there, we saw the dogs pathetically waiting in plastic travelling crates - waiting for somewhere to go ... and there was Buzby - a very forlorn scruffy face peering out & Jacky fell in love. When he was brought out of the crate, his front leg was bandaged all the way up and when our vet saw Buzby the next day, Buzby’s leg had a nasty huge wound. It was already about a week old & the suspicion was he’d been thrown out of a car onto the motorway where he was found. Certainly Buzby never liked cars & used to be travel sick on journeys.
We came home with two dogs that day and space was found for the others the kennels had saved as well. As with so many that come to us, Buzby was scared of his own shadow - of being stroked, of being indoors and we wondered if he had been a farm yard dog. Given time and love, he blossomed into a cheeky chap with a happy tail and a lovely temperament.
I’m sitting up the field writing this the day after being given the cancer diagnosis and Buzby is pottering around, gently waving his tail as usual. When I come back to finish writing this article, it will sadly be when Buzby is no longer with us so I’m off to give him a game of tug while we can both enjoy it.
Well, to my delight, I am writing a cautiously happy update - 2 weeks after diagnosis & Buzby is still happy although thinner but he is eating & wanting his walks. All his life Buzby hasn’t been a greedy dog, he enjoys his food but isn’t a greedy guts so when he started to get picky, I happily put him on to boiled rice with a little cat food. Cat food is of course, not a good long term diet for dogs - but we don’t have long term to worry about, but just take every day as a happy bonus.
Buzby was very happy for a few days on the new meals, then one morning, he refused breakfast and I thought "oh dear, the downhill slide, not long left now". That evening at dogs dinnertime & Buzby bounced into the kitchen, barking "where’s mine?" I had a sudden thought & employed some canine psychology as I made him the rice & cat food dinner - then put it into the large bowl I use for mixing the cats meals & Buzby wolfed it all down! I tried in his dinner bowl again the next day & he refused to eat but using the cats bowl & every meal was cleared up & enjoyed.
And now the update I didn’t want to do but it has happened. One morning Buzby got up already tired. At walkie time he barked & wanted to come but made his way slowly with us up to the field, laid by me & slept in the sun, I knew it was time before he suffered. He now lays in our graveyard, asleep forever.
We always believed that stress & shock affects our pets health, as it does humans of course & that has shown itself here, firstly with Buzby, then Tansy beagle was diagnosed with kidney failure but as I write this, she has responded to treatment & is doing very well thankfully. You can’t explain to them and even if you could, would it make a difference ... I know and understand what has happened, right down to understanding it was best for Jacky, but it doesn’t stop me grieving & likewise, it wouldn’t change anything for our pets.
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I’d like to offer my condolences to those of you who’ve also lost someone close in recent months as I know some of you have, I hope you are being given the support & strength that I’ve been so fortunate to receive.
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Our dogs have been remarkably good at adjusting to the new situation since Jacky died and in some ways, show little outward signs that things are not how they used to be. However I went to sit down in the lounge one day but Ben ( Jack Russell ) stayed at the other end of the bungalow waiting for Jacky to come out from the bathroom where he seemed to think she was, poor lad. He’s nearly deaf now so he doesn’t hear me calling so instead I waved at him and he did a double take - you could see him thinking "oh whoops, got that wrong" as he came trotting down to me, moments like that are hard for both them and me.
Now, 5 months have passed ( in a flash but also an eternity ) and the dogs take their clues from just me, not from two of us - dogs are like children and know when to run to their "favourite" parent ! They are more focused on listening and taking note of what is going on, where I’m going, what I’m doing and does it involve them or not. There were stresses on all of us during Jacky’s declining health, unavoidable but noticeable, and now things are calmer without doctor and hospital visits which stressed both Jacky & me, therefore of course, our animals too.
If it wasn’t in such circumstances, it would have been fascinating watching the subtle changes in all the animals behaviour. The cats are more relaxed, partly due to the building work opposite having finished. Sparkle cat was on my lap one morning when it was dog walking time. Granville came over and looked at me with a "well? - are you moving Mum?" and Sparkle stood up and gently head butted him, so sweet. There is a more relaxed attitude of co -habitation between them all now as everyone settles down after the upheaval. Our dogs have their dinners in 2 sittings & I kept the routine the same until recently. To gradually try to combine all into one sitting has been interesting & hard work, needing eyes in the back of my head but after the first week of struggling to combine who eats in which position in the kitchen, they are now all happy with the slightly changed routine which means that everyone gets fed faster, always good as far as dogs are concerned !
And me - people have said how well I am managing but as I said last time, and hadn't properly realised, it’s not the physical work aspect ( which Andrew helps with so much too ) but the mental work, keeping up with other jobs normally shared does sometimes get a bit difficult. I try to keep up with the post & e-mails but am well aware that many times I’m slow in getting letters written when days just seem to "get away" from me - I apologise for those delays. Every decision about anything, animals or house, large or small, are not shared & that did wear me down on top of the grief. With the support of so many, my family & friends always on the end of the phone or visiting, letters, e-mails, cards with a few words and kind offers of help from so many of you, I get through each day. Yes, when the front door is shut at the end of the day, I have to do this in many ways on my own - but not alone as I know just how much support and goodwill is behind me & spurring me on - I honestly thank you all.
Words spoken by a friend as I scattered Jacky’s ashes in our pet’s graveyard.
No life goes only from A to B,
it ripples on concentrically;
circling, spreading, touching, scattering -
a life that matters keeps on mattering!
Saving one pets life won’t change the world...
but it will make a world of difference to that one pet.