“Hurry up” yelled John as I feverishly flicked my litter all over the room, “Its 9.30 already and the sun is shining so the world and his dog will be on the roads”. He knows I need to go to the bathroom before a trip in the car so I glanced curtly in his direction before trotting to the hallway mirror to check my fur. My whiskers needed a quick lick before springing proudly outwards and I was ready for our day out at the Raystede Centre in Ringmer (East Sussex). The Centre started caring for animals 60 years ago and provides sanctuary to a whole host of creatures including goats, horses, turkeys, ducks, geese, tortoises and terrapins.
I was looking forward to seeing the donkeys because of their delightfully large ears and characteristic ‘eee-awe’ which can apparently be heard up to 2 miles away. I have a lot of respect for donkeys who have been used as working animals by humans for thousands of years, often being abused and neglected while they carry heavy loads for people across the world. Lizzy and Dolly are 18 and 12 years old respectively and were living in a field near Brighton when their owner died and they had no one left to care for them. The keepers told me that donkeys are bright animals and take time to assess what they are being asked to do before agreeing to it which has unfairly led to them being labelled as stubborn. They form strong bonds with their human and equine companions and (like horses) should be kept in pairs or herds, never alone. They are not waterproof and need adequate shelter to protect them from the elements as well a visit from the farrier on a regular basis.
The alpacas live in the fields with the horses during the day and are cleverly left to roam the secured sanctuary at night to protect the birds and wildlife from foxes by braying as an alarm call, kicking and even spitting at any potential predators. They looked rather hoity-toity and wouldn’t stay still for the camera so John and I moved swiftly on to the waterfowl haven. We knew where it was before we got there due to the great cacophony of noise that was coming from the flocks of ducks and geese honking and quacking around the lake. As we strolled along the footpath near the water’s edge, a greylag goose walked past that was taller than me. For some reason John thought the sight of my behind swaying as I swaggered alongside a goose waddling was quite amusing. The cheek!
There were no cats visible in the cat pens even though they were occupied and I expect the moggies were not in the mood to be gawped at. You know how particular pussy-cats can be! But I did see a picture of a fluffy black and white called Branson with a fetching beauty spot on his nose. He was found abandoned in a suitcase outside a shop in Eastbourne, traumatised but thankfully unharmed. With this kind of past, it’s no surprise that cats like Branson can be a bit shy, but given a bit of time and space they blossom into little cherubs. Unlike this little tyke in the picture, a hyperactive white terrier type schnauzer-cross called Edwina who needs a home with experienced owners to manage her high-energy outlook on life. Bruno the chocolate Labrador was a handsome boy and much more laid back than the crazy yapper.
We continued around the Centre and came across the rabbit run which included a rather creative demonstration of what a garden for a rabbit should look like. Next to each other were 2 plots. One was a boring bare patch of grass with a small hutch at the end where a sad rabbit might live. The other was called Home Sweet Home and was an interesting space filled with grass and earth, shrubs and leafy plants, bits of wood and a decent sized hutch
Have you ever met a rabbit who thinks she’s a chicken? John and I did at the weekend. This rabbit spent her life with chickens and was not socialised by her previous owners. So when PAWs Animal Sanctuary in Findon, West Sussex rescued her, she was unable to settle with other rabbits and soon became affectionately know as Mrs Grumpy! This big bundle of fuzz is now well cared for and lives happily with 2 tortoises and a cat. Her name is Fluffy and she has long soft downy ears and fur so thick and lush that the tortoises snuggle up to her at night for warmth and comfort.
PAWs has been rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals for the past 30 years and is a small locally-based charity run by Stacey and Sheila in their back garden. John and I met Stacey on our visit and she welcomed us in and showed us round, telling us about the animals she is currently caring for. Some of them are permanent residents, like Fluffy who needs special care and patience, and some of them are looking for new homes. Basil the black cat was rescued from the house where he lived when his owners moved out and left him behind. Then there’s Harry the long-haired black and white cat with a black beard and half a moustache. There was a number of cats with amusing facial markings and I must admit I felt a little jealous. I reckon I’d look good with a white handlebar or a Fu Manchu!
Now, you know how curious cats are. Abbey the old tabby cat you can see sitting on my camera bag was sniffing round my equipment the whole time we were there. Her tongue hangs out because her jaw is misshapen due to wearing a metal brace in her mouth for 5 years following a road traffic accident. The brace should have been worn for only 6 weeks but the owners never took her back to the vet to have it removed. When this friendly little pussy-cat was rescued, she had dreadful ulcers and infections in her mouth, but PAWs fixed her up and she is now living a comfortable life. I thought she was being a nosey parker but it turns out John had hidden some treats in one of the compartments in the camera bag, so me and Abbey hooked them out with our paws and enjoyed a snack together in the sunshine.
Abbey has lots of company at PAWs including a donkey, guinea-pigs, a peacock and a clutch of chickens. The chickens spend their days clucking and pecking around the garden and are tucked up safely into bed at night. If you pop over to PAWs on a Sunday afternoon, you can buy some of their scrumptious free-range eggs, drop a couple of quid in the collection tin and sit on the bench in the garden, watching the animals and talking to the volunteers who are busy grooming, feeding, medicating, exercising and bonding with the animals.
Like every animal charity, PAWs is always full and has a waiting list of animals to come in. But PAWs provide a unique service to the animals of Sussex because they rescue 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However they can only go out in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve to rescue an animal in distress if they have the resources to care for it. They don’t have secured funding or a national infra-structure to support them so public donations and support from local businesses are essential. All proceeds from donating go directly towards the upkeep of the animals and enable PAWs to meet the increasing costs associated with caring for animals. They have also launched an appeal to raise money for a desperately needed bigger and better animal sanctuary so good luck to them for that project. Thank you PAWs for the dedication and hard work and sacrifices you make every day to look after animals in need.