Shad here sharing some photographs from the shoot John and I did a few days ago. I like to flex my photography muscles by taking pictures of a wide variety of subjects in different settings and you probably know that I love to take photos of landscapes and wildlife, while John gets excited about buildings and people. He also enjoys the commercial shoots because they often involve inanimate objects, giving him the opportunity to get creative and make those objects come alive.
Commercial shoots are part of Shadow Photography’s portfolio and we get particularly excited when working with a company such as the Baby Soft Boutique because its a small business trying to compete in a world of giants, just like us. The Baby Soft Boutique specialises in handmade baby blankets and other beautifully crocheted pieces as you can see and each item is unique. I’m thinking of getting myself a snug jacket for those winter months but I can’t decide on a colour!
It is with a heavy heart that I share some sad news about the loss of a dear friend. A few days ago John informed me that my great buddy Tiffin was hit by a car just a few doors from where she lived and she died instantly. Her sister Muffin and our other friends Basil, Ginger and Zoukia are all in shock over this unhappy event. Tiffin was a unique combination of courage and vulnerability, beauty and strength, dignity and silliness. She spent half her time wide-eyed and scatty, the other half stealthy and agile. She slept for England and loved her food. I remember whenever I visited her house for dinner she would go around licking all the bowls clean afterwards. When her owner scattered biscuits on the patio at lunchtime she would always be the last to leave, sniffing out every single morsel.
Luckily she was found only minutes after the accident and at least we know what happened to her and had the chance to say goodbye. But it is disappointing that the person who hit her did not stop to check if she was alive and did not even move her out of the road. I understand that accidents happen and unfortunately cats don’t realise the danger that cars represent, but there is no excuse for leaving a cat lying in the middle of the road. I know my readers are compassionate people who would never hit an animal and leave it behind without blinking an eye, but not everyone is like that. Stop and check the animal people! If it’s wild call the RSPCA or take the pet to the vet for life-saving treatment and to be scanned for a microchip in the hope that the owners can be notified. Today we mourn the loss of a lovely girl whose life was cut short and to help us work through our grief, her ashes will be returned in the next few days and she will be laid to rest in her garden, the place where she was most happy.
Its nose is much longer and stronger than mine although mine is better at picking up scent, its ears are much bigger and flappier than mine although mine can swivel, and its tail is much lengthier and bristlier than mine although mine can puff up when I’m startled. You’d be hard pushed to find any similarities between my furry feline form and the gracious grey bulk of an elephant, but my fascination with these gentle giants from the elephantidae family go back a long way. It could be the delicate balance of strength and gentility that intrigues me, or the emotional intelligence and supportive social activities of the herd that is so beguiling. To satisfy my elephant infatuation, I watch nature documentaries on the television with John and I follow the stories of the Asian elephants rescued by the animal welfare charity Wildlife SOS in India.
Most recently the story of Rhea, a 53 year old circus elephant kept chained to one concrete spot unless she was performing unnatural tricks for her ignorant audience. Rhea lived with 2 other elephants called Mia and Sita for decades and would have formed strong emotional bonds with these elephants while they were trapped together in those miserable conditions. Mia and Sita were rescued in November last year by Wildlife SOS and taken to their Elephant Care and Conservation Centre in Mathura near New Delhi but due to legal complications, Rhea was left behind. Alone for 5 months without her best friends she must have doubted she would ever see them again but Wildlife SOS worked tirelessly and never forgot the promise they made to her to return and secure her freedom. Finally in April the elephant ambulance made the 350km trip back to Tamil Nadu to rescue Rhea and reunite her with her companions. I remember watching the video of that magical moment when she saw her ‘sisters’ again, their heads came slowly together and their trunks intertwined, eyes twinkling with delight. The 3 elephants in these pictures are Mia, Sita and Rhea and they enjoy spending every moment of their days together as they recover from their years of sorrow and pain, deprived of food and water and beaten into submission. Now they have shade and sand, food and veterinary care, and their own private paddling pool.
Most of the elephants at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Care Centre are taken for long walks every day by their keepers where they can be free to explore their surroundings and experience soft earth under their feet often for the first time in years. Unfortunately most of the elephants have painful foot conditions that require daily treatment because of the abnormal lives they endured before. Rhea would have spent years on her feet never being allowed to lay down which might be why I love to look at the picture of her laying by her sand pile with her 2 friends Mia and Sita beside her, able to relax and take a snooze for the first time in decades. She snores by the way!
Looking after the elephants is hard work – preparing 25 kg of fruit and 100 kg of fodder per elephant per day takes an awful lot of chopping, bundling and carting around. The keepers also hoist bunches of fodder up to the rafters to mimic the trees and the elephants love to stretch their trunks high to grab the juiciest bits. Phoolkali puts the huge reeds of grass into her mouth with her trunk and strips the leaves off which she chews happily while she discards the tough stem. She also enjoys sugar cane treats along with her walking buddy Asha who also loves peanuts. Talking of peanuts, 6 year old Peanut (seen here with her devoted keeper) is the youngest elephant to be rescued by Wildlife SOS also from a circus, although many of the elephants were liberated from desperate lives as begging elephants or tourist attractions, being ridden by holidaymakers who clearly had no idea of the monstrous treatment an elephant receives in order to become compliant. Now these magnificent and forgiving animals have a chance to be who they are, to get wet every day and flick sand on their backs and bellies, to chomp on thirst-quenching fruit and snuggle with their friends.
There is no creature as curious as a cat. And I have always been curious about what lies beyond the adoption pens at the National Cat Centre in Chelwood Gate. The NCC is headquarters for Cats Protection and boasts the largest cat rehoming centre in the UK looking after anything up to 200 cats and kittens at any one time and rehoming over 1000 little cherubs every year. John and I walked into the reception area excited to meet Danielle the Centre Manger for our exclusive behind the scenes tour. John had brushed my coat before we left so I looked extra silky and I puffed out my chest fur as we were greeted by a smiling Danielle who started by introducing us to Poppy. Poppy is a friendly black and white that has been in care for many months and now spends her days helping reception staff answer the phones and checking the corners for mice in the hopes of getting noticed by prospective owners as they wander through. Just off reception is a meeting room specially designated for potential owners to sit and spend time with the cat they like before deciding if things could work between them. It’s full of comfy chairs, ping pong balls and a window that lets you watch the birds land on the swaying branches of the trees outside. Danielle told us about a cat called Marmite who lived at the Centre for a long time because he had FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) and I smiled to myself as I imagined him in the meeting room greeting the lady that would later adopt him.
As we moved through the double-doors into the adoption pen wing, Danielle showed us the Enrichment Room which we could not enter as 6 year old Tabitha was in there undertaking a desensitisation programme. This involves carefully exposing the cat to various situations in a controlled manner such as the sound of a vacuum cleaner, meeting a stranger or hearing a doorbell to determine which triggers cause the cat to have behavioural issues. Tabitha has been rehomed and returned 3 times because she becomes aggressive so the desensitisation programme will help her become accustomed to normal household noises in the hope that she will soon find her forever home. I had a quick word with her through the door while the humans were talking and she said she gets angry when she is rehomed because she doesn’t know anyone there and it makes her feel scared.
We strolled through the pen wing admiring the cats along the way until we reached another double-door and Danielle asked us to dip our feet in a tub of wet sponge. I was mortified, as a cat who is fastidious about keeping his paws clean, soft and dry, but it was necessary as part of the infection control procedures. So I dutifully placed each of my paws in the disinfectant goo and looked up at John who knew exactly what I wanted and fetched a paper towel to dab my tootsies dry. The next section contained the Admissions Wing where cats first arrive and the Cat Care room where newcomers get their vet checks, vaccinations and flea treatments. I shuddered at the thought and we moved on to the Isolation Wing for cats who have unfortunately been diagnosed with infectious diseases such as flu, FIV and ringworm. We were not allowed into the isolation wing for obvious reasons not least of all that we would have had to dress up in multiple layers of unattractive plastic aprons and pull-up boots which you can see being modelled by Boris. My heart went out to the cats in isolation who often spend weeks receiving veterinary treatment and wearing the cone of shame before their symptoms improve and they are well enough to be put up for adoption. We didn’t go into the maternity wing either out of respect for the feeding mums and mums-to-be who need peace and quiet while they care for their babies. We did take a look at the operating theatres and were impressed with the great facilities, especially when Danielle said that Tuesdays to Thursdays the onsite vet team perform 6 to 8 surgical procedures a day.
No trip to the NCC would be complete without talking to one of the many dedicated volunteers who give up their time to support the Centre and have essential roles to play including collecting cats, cleaning pens, making enrichment objects and raising funds. I got talking to a nice young lady who had just been sitting quietly with a nervous cat called Anya. Anya had been found in a bin and needed a dedicated volunteer to spend time with, bonding and slowly building her confidence, learning to trust humans again. I am so full of respect for this wonderful work that I gave the volunteer an extra firm head butt behind her knee and she rubbed my back in return. Marvellous!
360 View – Of the homing corridor
We came to the end of our tour and Danielle walked us back out to reception as we discussed some of the key welfare issues facing cats today. The importance of early neutering is fundamental to controlling unwanted cat populations and Danielle said that Cats Protection vaccinate kittens against disease at 8 weeks and neuter at 9 weeks to ensure healthy moggies all round. The other big concern is the lack of microchipping in cats and Danielle looked sad as she told us about the many cats who become separated from their owners and brought in to care but end up being rehomed because their owners cannot be traced. I told Danielle how worried I am about the cats and kittens that are sold cheaply or given away through online auction and sales websites. Sadly many of these animals are destined for terrible fates. But I was encouraged to hear that the Cats Protection advocacy team are working with some of the main online marketing sites to raise awareness of the plight of these animals so that improvements can be made. I saw Tabitha on my way out and told her to be brave when she goes to her next home because there are some very nice humans out there who love animals and will understand her needs if she just gave them a chance.
John went up to Felbridge Showground in East Grinstead the other day for a commercial shoot of some brand new Equihunter horse boxes. Look how shiny! These luxury horseboxes are nothing short of the best in the field of horseboxes, and I should know having been to Felbridge to test them out. This involved some strenuous activities such as sitting and laying for prolonged periods in different positions in the splendid lounge/kitchenette area behind the driving cabin, as well as interviewing the horses for their opinions on comfort and safety levels. I was tempted to go back to Felbridge to see my horsey friend who nudged me with his soft bristly nose on my last visit, but I had other plans.
While John was in Felbridge earning his pennies, I went to a music shop to spend them! I’ve always had a musical ear which I’m sure John will confirm as he has heard me meow many a song while listening to the Saga-louts perform their rockin’ tunes. So he offered to buy me a special item for my new hobby, a keyboard which I can learn to play and hopefully one day entertain him with in appreciation of the gift. I came home with a great Roland V-Combo which has more buttons on it than the Kennedy Space Centre! So watch this space because all I need is a few weeks to practice my arpeggios and then I’ll learn to play a proper song. It will be so much fun. I remember playing as a little kitten, leaping across the keys from middle C, hitting a G major scale and finishing with a basic blues. So I’m hoping that this practice in my early years will help me have another go this time round. Wish me luck! I’ll keep you posted.
When John came to pick me up from my holiday he gave me a big bear hug (mmm!) and told me how pleased he was to see me (aww!). I had gone to spend a couple of weeks with a cat cousin of mine by the name of Holly because she lives in a fabulous country pen and needed a pal to help her through her troubles. As John drove me home, he told me all about his antics while I was gone, like the boat regatta he attended in Fareham (without me!) and the trip to the seafront with one of his daughters at midnight to take pictures of the ‘blue’ moon. Then he got this sheepish look on his face and admitted that he had written something for the blog (can you believe!). Yes folks, ‘the boss’ wrote something in MY blog! Just kidding! It wasn’t bad at all John, so thanks for looking after things while I was gone.
I met Holly a couple of months ago when she came into foster care having been rescued from a violent home situation. As you can see from the pictures, she was in a pickle for sure. Her tail was fractured, her jaw was damaged and she had a few teeth missing. As I walked towards this bony creature the first time we met, my delicate nostrils picked up the most unpleasant whiff that gradually became a stench and I could see her fur was filthy, like she’d been dipped in dirty bath. John told me it smelled like stale tobacco from living in a house full of heavy smokers and she had been kept as an indoor cat. The objectionable smell however was not the most noteworthy part of our first meeting. Rather it was her extraordinary personality that struck me. She dipped her head and came slowly towards me until we touched noses and her tail went straight up in the air, no heckles and no hissing. Despite the smell, we were soon rubbing each other’s cheeks and sitting next to each other comfortably watching the world go by.
So when John suggested that I spend my holidays with her, I was only too pleased to go visit. Image how thrilled I was to find her odour free and looking fab, with her white fur transformed from a yellowy-brown to a bright snow. We immediately connected, chasing each other around playfully while John unpacked my suitcase in the pen next door. After he left, Holly’s fosterer came to see us with a bowl of treats and hid them all around the pen for us to find. This was a big step forward for Holly because following her injuries she had previously been unable to close her jaw, resulting in her tongue hanging out all the time and a rather undignified dribbling problem. Her fosterer used to mash up her food which she then scooped up with her paw, yet here she was outrunning me to the biscuits and chewing like a proper cat. This explained her new found curves, dry chin and fluffy coat which she took pride in grooming every hour.
The lodgings we stayed in were full-board with everything included (meals, drinks, sleeping quarters and entertainment) and the rural surroundings were delightful. I spent many a happy moment watching the pigeons pecking berries out of the trees, the fish swimming lazily under the net in the lily-leafed pond and the resident cats strolling importantly past. I had a lovely holiday with my good friend Holly and it was a privilege to watch her become the wonderful trusting cat she always wanted to be. She truly is one of the strongest kids I’ve ever met and her high-spirited character was the magic that drew the attention of a kind-hearted family looking for a cat to adopt. When they came to visit, it was clearly a match made in heaven, with Holly smooching around the legs of all 3 humans, jumping on their laps and meowing demurely while they cooed all over her. Her kinked tail and goofy smile will always be a reminder of her past life but now she has an exciting future to look forward to. Congratulations Holly on finding a loving forever home where you will always be cherished.
This entry marks the 150th article posted on Shad the Cat’s blog since John and I started it way back in 2012. To honour the occasion, I decided to give you a little insight into one of John’s pastimes. It’s a fascination with phone boxes. Large or small, red or tiger print, he loves phone boxes. When I’ve asked him why, he tells me that they are a cherished feature of his childhood and a reminder of a lost time, when he had to go out to make a phone call from the phone box just as you went out to post a letter. People must have moved much more in those days because John says there was no remote control for the television and eating cakes involved baking them first. If I had opposable thumbs I reckon I’d enjoy baking. I’ve watched John tackle enough flat blueberry muffins and one ton loaf cake to know what not to do! Although since he treated himself to the electronic bread maker, the standard of cakes in the household has taken a definite turn for the better.
The first telephone kiosks were introduced after the First World War when the telephone network was nationalised and owned by the General Post Office (a government department until 1969). However, other services such as the Police and the Automobile Association had also been developing a network of sentry boxes to enable patrolmen to communicate with each other. Since those humble beginnings, phone boxes have undergone a series of transformations, no doubt influenced by the privatisation of the telecommunications side of the Post Office business in the early 1980’s. As the design of personal radio equipment improved and telephone equipment became modernised, new British Telecom branded kiosks sprang up marking the decline of the red telephone box.
This historical icon has now been made obsolete by the rise in mobile communications and many red telephone boxes have disappeared from our streets. There are a few that remain standing, some unused and dilapidated, others declared listed buildings, or metamorphosed into cash machines, wildlife centres and even a miniature café in Brighton. It seems that the old-fashioned red telephone box is quintessentially British and holds a place in the affections of the nation which is why I have no doubt that John will continue to take me with him on his quest to photograph as many of them as possible. Next time you pass a telephone box, give a little smile to one of the lost symbols of our national heritage.