Someone asked me why I was doing the big cycle ride for an animal charity. Well , I’d like to tell you why; a few reasons anyway. Before I go on, I would also like to say that I support many other charities too, like Alzheimers, Age Concern, MacMillan, etc, etc. But I decided to do the ride for the Mayhew Animal Home, a smaller charity who don’t get nearly as much in donations as all those bigger ones I mentioned.
My love of animals started when I was very small. I was born on a farm and loved to be among the animals. I’d help collect eggs, watch calves being born; and adored helping at milking time! Dogs were always considered to be working animals and not pets; and cats were feral creatures that were tolerated to keep the mice down. they’d come into the milking sheds to get a small share of the warm milk as a reward.
We left the farm when I was 4 or 5 to move to a council estate in Peterlee. But my Uncle and his family stayed on at the farm and we used to visit often. that was when I started to notice cats. My cousin begged to keep two of the kittens that one of the farm cats had just delivered as pets, and finally was allowed to do so. My first introduction to the thought that cats could be pets…
But we’re talking a long time ago and the old farm ways were still very much the standard way of life. Those two female cats were never neutered, and went on to produce litter after litter of kittens for years. I loved my Uncle, but even as a child I knew that the way he dealt with those kittens was very, very wrong. I would watch them being born, the most joyful of sights; then I’d watch as my Uncle would appear with a bucket of water and take the kittens to some unspecified location, never to be seen again. I can’t describe the horror and the heartbreak that I felt, knowing that those little bundles of fur had been drowned in that bucket…
Fluffy and Sammy (the two cats my cousin took in) didn’t live long. They were worn out with constant births and stolen babies. Before Sammy dies, I begged to keep one of the kittens. Dad said I could as long as there was a tortoiseshell one (there never had been in all the years). I watched eagerly as they were born one be one.. And sure enough, there was my little tortie kitten. Overjoyed, I rushed to tell my disappointed Dad! But he’d promised, so that was that. Or so I thought.
Unfortunately, Susie’s arrival (that’s what I called her) coincided with the onset of Mum’s Alzheimers when I was 11 and it transpired that I couldn’t keep her. she went back to live on the farm, then a few weeks later I was told she’d been run over by a car (coveniently…) I broke my heart.
Here’s susie 🙂
My early experiences with dogs made me terrified of them for a long time. On the farm there were collies – working ones, not pets. when I was about 5ish, I was cornered by one of the dogs; a good worker but not good with people. She back me into a corner, put her paws up on my shoulders, bared her teeth and started snarling and growling in a threatening way. I was terrified! But instinctively, I did the right thing and stood still, looked away from her eyes and tried to stop myself from screaming until she decided I wasn’t a threat and left me. It was to be a long time until I could go near a dog again.
So, when I moved to Cumbria, I got involved with a local animal charity; just a small local one that took in feral and stray cats, neutered them and found them homes. Important to me, because of the history of un-neutered cats on the farm. I had just started sharing a house with my friend Marion, who is definitely an animal lover and we both did stuff for the charity. Trouble was, we ended up with lots of the waifs and strays.
Firstly, there was Pongo. A gentle giant of a Tom cat, who had come in , been neutered and was too old to find a home. Of course he came to us. And what a joy he was – spent his remaining years lying in the sun purring, in front of the fire purring or on his bed purring. When he got ill, he stoically got on with it. On his last night, he gobbled up some custard (hi favourite). when we got in from work, we found him in the living room, where he’d died peacefully.
while Pongo was with us, we acquired Inky – another older cat that was finding it difficult to get a home. She was a gently soul, who would wait for me every evening after work to welcome me home. We also got Celie – a ginger kitten, who we found with her litter mates on a pane of glass in Borrowdale. Celie turned out to be Marion’s cat – they choose their own people!
The menagerie was growing!
Tomorrow I will blog about the other cats and dogs that I’ve encountered. And will then explain why it’s so important to look after the charities that look after the animals…