A Loss of Innocence

My friend Julia was aghast some twenty years ago when she realised my addiction to a programme called Pet Rescue. It was on most afternoons and in those days of videotape, I used to record it to watch when I got home. Both Julia and I worked in a place where daily we witnessed sadness and human beings suffering. I found Pet Rescue cathartic.It lasted a bare thirty minutes, including ad breaks (I think it was on Channel 4) and I would do a lot of weeping as I watched the stories of animal rescue, of abandoned neglected animals restored to health and rehomed in loving environments.

I found it hopeful.

Julia said it was the most low brow thing she had ever seen.

My viewing habits haven’t changed. Pet Rescue is no more, and after Rolf Harris’ horrific fall from grace Animal Hospital is something no one mentions anymore, but there’s still Paul O’Grady’s For the Love of Dogs, The Supervet with the astounding team at FitzPatrick Referrals, Rescue Dog to Super Dog (last one tomorrow night), and tonight Channel 5’s The Dog Rescuers.

Yes, Channel 5. Quite possibly the worst TV channel in the world. If Julia thought Pet Rescue low brow, goodness knows what she makes of Channel 5. She probaby has to lie down for half an hour under a damp tea towel at the very thought. I must ask her the next time we meet.

But low brow or not, I learn a lot from these programmes. I have understood how people are forced to give up pets when they move into accommodation where pets aren’t allowed; that buying pets from pet shops encourages the breeding of cats and dogs for profit and welfare is a low priority; that puppy farming is a major problem. I can nod knowingly when people talk of equines suffering from laminitis. Should I ever have a Shetland Pony (which is unlikely, but you never know) it will not be grazed on rich pasture. I can give a fairly accurate prognosis for a sick animal by listening to the music played while its case is discussed; I’ve learned about dogs suffering separation anxiety; how you must never use an ammonia based product when cleaning up where a cat has sprayed or peed.

I have also learned that pets bring out the best and worst in people. There are cases of appalling cruelty, where I seriously wonder if we are all part of the same species, or if there are those who have somehow evolved with empathy and sympathy missing from their make up. One little dog featured in the progarmme tonight had been stolen by a group of teenagers thought to be high on drugs, He’d been kicked, beaten, his neck and leg broken. He’d been set on fire, left for dead. Amazingly he was found, treated and made a full recovery. His story went viral.

It’s a lovely story. And to see that happy dog back with his openers, eyes button bright, tail wagging, is wonderful. But as I heard the story tonight I couldn’t help but compare his experience with those dogs currently being put through similar tortures during the Yulin Dogmeat Festival. Some of those dogs were also stolen from homes where they were loved. All those dogs, sentient creatures, will experience fear and pain to degrees it is impossible for me to understand. Their eventual deaths will be a release. Imagine learning your loved pet has gone through that hell. I look at MasterB, rescued from the streets of Brighton by the students who then rehomed him with me. In another part of the world his story could have had a very different ending. The idea of my happy, trusting, gentle boy being subjected to such horrors twists my heart.

My Boy

My Boy

Continue reading

The Blessed Delia, Brain Fade, Butchers’ Shops and Marc Ching, Hero of Our Time

I have never been a keen follower of Delia Smith, though many, including my sister, are fans of her cooking. Some years ago she did a programme about vegetarian cookery and included anchovies among her ingredients. Then, as the debate heated up about intensively farmed animals, the cruelty involved and the health risks, she stuck her oar in to say that poorer families could only afford intensively farmed chicken, and my opinion of her sank to rock bottom. Poorer families would be better off eating healthier alternatives to this type of meat. Why Delia should think it is everyone’s right to eat chicken no matter how barbarously the meat is produced did not impress me.

Her slightly inebriated exhortations to her beloved Norwich City football team warmed my feelings towards her a little, but when I saw she had a piece in today’s Guardian about the tactics being used by our politicians over Brexit/Bremain, I didn’t expect much. So I was surprised, reading this, to find myself largely in agreement with her.

I have done a pretty good job reading the paper today. I am feeling fairly brain dead à la Natalie Bennett after eight demanding days at work on the trot. I thought I was physically tired too, but it’s my head that needs a rest, so it was good to put my feet up, open the newspaper and work my way through the sections and then cast them into the recycling bag.

I have added some hoops to my growbag to support the canes which in turn support the courgette and tomato plants. I am going to have to have an amazingly good crop to cover the cost of the hoops, but as the years go by and they continue in use, that price should be offset. Continue reading