A Very Purrculiar Practice: My Cat Shelter and Other Animals
Copyright 1997, Sarah Hartwell

"Hello, Cat Shelter? Do you do dogs? Only I got your number from the paper."

Do we do dogs. Interesting question. What exactly would a cat shelter do with a dog? Not that we don't see our fair share of dogs. There's Nikki's Collie/Spaniel cross that bounces round the shelter during morning shifts, much to the amusement of the cats who can't believe any fur-bearing mammal can be quite so undignified. And there's Barb's ancient, arthritic Labrador which somehow came back from the vets with her although she only went in to pick up a couple of spayed cats. As for Kris's cat-loving Jack Russell that thinks it's a Pit Bull (until it finds a cat to mother) or Jill's Rottie that's afraid of its own shadow but gets used as a climbing frame by the feral trusties. The least said about them the better - they're honorary cats.

"It's just that I'm looking for a Westie."

Well there's always Chloe the old-fashioned style White Persian, she'd be a dead ringer for a Westie since both ears have sort of flopped due to recurrent infections and a couple of operations to remove diseased cartilage and who lost half of her tail to a car fanbelt. The local Persian Rescue are supposed to be picking her up Thursday, but fit her with a tartan coat and take her walkies and who'd know the difference?

Okay, so officially we're the cat shelter, but we seem to have this reputation of dealing with anything we come across. Last month one of our drivers was taking six cats to the vet in our trusty van when a small suicidal deer leapt in front of the vehicle. The unconscious deer (immobilised with stetchy-twangy straps in case it came to at an inconvenient moment and started leaping about) was bundled into the back of the van with the cats. The startled vet advised us that we didn't need to provide our own supply of cat food 'on the hoof'. Personally, I think it took the idea of 'fresh food' a bit far. Sadly the deer did not pull through, adult deer being nervy and not amenable to treatment, but someone, somewhere got a nice supply of venison out of the incident.

Then of course there was the squirrel episode. This grey squirrel had the luck to be outside the shelter gate when involved in a hit and run accident, therefore ideally placed to be bunged in a basket (using the feral handler's standard issue welder's gloves) and trotted off to the vet where he was treated at our expense. Sadly for Sammy, it is illegal to release a squirrel back into the wild as they are classed as vermin, but he is now living the life of Reilly at a wildlife centre where he is sponsored by several shelter volunteers who post up regular Sammy bulletins on the noticeboard.

Flopsy the Old English bunny was found dumped on our doorstep in a cardboard box. While sitting at the shelter in a kitten pen pending transport to the RSPCA he was adopted by a couple (or rather their children) who kept a menagerie of cats, rabbits, guinea-pigs, budgies, chickens and a very confused one-winged greenfinch which lived in the aviary with several canaries who had never seen a 'canary' quite like him. We were offered a pair of Dwarf Lop rabbits by a caller who was rather taken aback when we asked if they came fresh or frozen.

Sadly Hotchi-witchi the hedgehog was not so fortunate, Named, I am told, after the Romany dish of clay-baked hedgehog, he was rushed to the vet as a Sunday morning emergency case exhibiting injuries typical of a lawnmower accident. The warden waltzed in announcing "Hey, John, I've got something different for you today," to which our unflappable vet merely responded "Not another bloody hedgehog!" Poor little HW didn't make it as far as the operating room despite promises of a lifetime's supply of cat food should he return to the shelter in a tripodal state. He didn't make it as far as clay-baked hedgehog either, our vet being less than adventurous in his cuisine.

We've even branched out into chickens on occasion, i.e. Stumpy the bantam who lost most of his feet to frostbite and who thought he was a kitten. Not to mention the goldfish who were rehomed, or rather re-ponded, via our noticeboard or the deformed Iguana brought back from a pet shop when Viv went to pick up a supply of Liquivite - free Iguana with every 6 cans of Liquivite or something.

So do we 'do' dogs? Well, it seems that we do everything else, but sadly for the Westie-caller we did not at that moment have any dogs other than frontal-lobotomised Rotties or manic, bouncy mongrels which entertain cats during their daily visits.

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