This week new neighbours moved in. Two sisters with no animals . . . just busy busy busy with take away skinny lattes doing normal life things – all sparkly about their new beginning. Ten years ago, my sister and myself were them. We bought our house off the plans, thinking, we will sell quickly and move on again after making a profit! It was a three storey tiny town house. The third bedroom, I once described as a room, ‘you wouldn’t swing a cat in it’ (God only knows where that expression came from) – now is filled with climbing furniture and soft cat beds and is the bedroom for thirteen of our nineteen foster/forever cats. The small back garden is non-existent after I bid on a twelve-foot by ten-foot catio for the rescued cats. I only bid on it to get the auction going at a time when I was only fostering two cats for a rescue. I guess a few years later, I am lucky I won that bid. We have six dogs who don’t see eye to eye with the cats so it’s dog and cat time-share with the house. The catio means the dogs get lots of walks because I feel so guilty for taking their garden away. So it’s a win-win (for them!).
Hay feeding has stopped for now but in its place is the busy job of trapping feral cats and catching kittens. Filling water buckets for horses is less stressful compared to lifting square bales into your car and pulling them out at the various fields every morning and evening! Yes, one replaces the other. My back is finally recovering from the long hard winter! This week has been a busy one, mainly for my sister who is an expert trapper at this stage. One of the success stories was a 4 week old kitten called Gobnait who decided she was staying put in a garden that was owned by a lady with a boxer who didn’t take too well to a tiny ball of fur bouncing around. So, he tried his best to get rid of her and she – well, she put up a fight. It resulted in a torn mouth and a broken leg. The boxer came away with a few scratches. She was eventually caught when she got hungry enough to enter the trap. Yesterday she had surgery at Ennis Veterinary Clinic who sponsored her little broken leg being put back together with pins. She is a little confused but doing well and we did think she would lose her leg so it was a great joy taking her home with four legs. After her recovery she will be going to live happily ever after with Katie and Cait in Clare.
But, back to the house. No, there were never any plans to have animals but one day, years ago, we decided to ‘give something back’ as we both were doing very well career wise and life was being good to us. I was busy working as a Guidance Counsellor in a secondary school, doing the odd show on local radio, doing freelance journalism, and doing the odd glamorous job for an agency in Dublin.
It is funny how one choice can take you down an irreversible life path. A friend of my sister’s was volunteering in an animal charity shop in town so he told us to drop in and give him a hand. With a background in fashion and window design, I decided to do their windows every Tuesday. What I never anticipated was how I would react emotionally to the different people coming in with stories of animals being neglected and animal owners wanting to surrender their animals. And so, that is how our cat family started. A lady decided she didn’t want her two cats anymore and she left them on the shop floor and walked out without even a regret. We couldn’t leave them there and neither of us had any idea how to mind a cat. We learned!
And to the 5 boyfriends! They tend not to have staying power – well, not the ones I meet! Some do start off so impressed by the rescue work and the horse feeding programme. I will never forget one boyfriend who totally surprised me when I said to him one very cold frosty morning, that I had to go buy hay, and he clicked his jeep open and as if it was diamonds, there before my eyes were lots of golden yellow bales of hay. No, that didn’t last! You know how some people are on best behaviour in the beginning but I will always remember the effort he went to; it was truly a lovely gift! With the other boyfriends, sharing my time with lots of animals became problematic and that pretty much sums up ‘what went wrong’.
I have a friend who keeps reminding me that I should know how to maintain boundaries given my profession! The animal world, she constantly protests should not take over all my life! I was never good at keeping boundaries in my own life! She made me laugh one day when she said, ‘Catriona, make one room pretty and nice in your house just for you where the animals aren’t allowed in!’ The truth is, there is no free room! And yes, whilst I love pretty, pretty takes time!
These days, and with great honesty but maybe with a smidgen of shame, I tend to base someone’s attractiveness on: being an animal lover, able to climb a tree to rescue a kitten, or having the ‘know how’, how to load a horse, even pull one from a river! So, a few days ago, I was asked out on a date. Yes, I thought, the universe was listening to me!!! My only problem was finding something to wear, that would make it past the animals, down the stairs, to the front door, without gathering animal hair like Velcro, or the material’s threads being pulled by the love of my dogs and their paws. Navigating by some of my cats is like dodging cuddles with nails. They jump on your back as you pass. So, all my ‘is this date worth it?’ as I searched for something that said ‘Oh this old thing, it was the first thing I pulled out’, was quickly answered by one word: FIREMAN! Yes, potential to save kittens? Tick! Save a horse from drowning? Tick. Animal Lover? Tick, Tick . . . Tick! Of course personality comes into it as well!!!!!
So, dress to the ready, all animal stuff taken care of (ahead of schedule), I was going on a proper date! BUT . . . just when I was ready to step back into ‘normal’ . . . I just happened to get a little taste of my own medicine. Yes, I have often been called away to animals in need when out or often put my own animals first (ALL the time, if I’m honest!) and yes, I have really let down one lovely man in the past who definitely needed to feel first some of the time! But that is another day’s story.
So, my phone rang and my date had to stay on in work. So with both disappointment and relief, I stepped out of my dress and into a pair of jeans and wellys and headed out to the horses. The loves of my life!
Gratefulness this week: To Ennis Veterinary Surgery for sponsoring the little kitten’s surgery. Martina of Babydog Rescue who took 6 puppies into her rescue that Linda and myself rescued. They are now with Marita Davis who is taking great care of them. Martina has also donated lots of food to me for the dogs who don’t happen to get enough nutrition from their owners in some parts of town. To Gia who found me insulin late at night for one of my old rescue cats. And finally, to the anonymous donor who is paying for the next transport lorry for the calves and heifers to make it to Hillside Animal Sanctuary. So grateful to you all!
Lesson learning (in progress): You have to make time for humans too!
And a special mention for a special lady, Rhona at An Cat Dubh, who celebrated her birthday on Sunday with some of us in Bunratty! And thanks to Forgotten Horses Ireland for the lovely hour I got to spend at their Barn Party! I nearly felt I had a social life again! And yes, Happy Birthday to my nephew Rian!! Such a great boy!! x