When I was younger I always talked about all the animals I wanted. My dad laughed and said about having a rescue on a hill. It was said in jest, as with most childhood dreams, and discounted as not ever being a possibility.
I realised recently that I have achieved my dream. It was nothing much and nothing spectacular, but it made a difference and for those that passed through our doors we truly were a rescue.
If someone says rescue to me I think of a big facility with lots of animals, resources and hopefully staff. We were two people, one with no dog experience and one with a fear of cats and zero experience with them. We had no training and yet we achieved a lot!
We had no resources- instead we had an old one bedroom flat with a tiny bathroom and two laundry rooms. Those laundry rooms housed 14 dogs, approximately 36 cats/kittens, 45 TNR cats recovering after surgery , two guinea pigs and one injured magpie. They saw them transform into healthy animals able to be rehomed or released.
Our old and battered sofas were a spot for families to be introduced to one another. It was a space for children to meet their new furry friends and for new mums to curl up with their new babies before they took them home.
The years in Korea that I spent rescuing were some of the hardest I’ve ever had. It taught me a lot. It changed me.
I changed from a naive person into someone who hardened herself to the excuses and justifications. It didn’t always make me a good person but whenever I was on the brink of losing myself to cynicism someone would come along and change that. I made new friends through rescue and I saw who my friends truly were. They were the ones who helped no matter what. I met amazing people with the biggest hearts and I remain close to a lot of my adopters. And even the ones I don’t speak to often have a special place in my heart.
Rescue also taught me a lot about myself. I realised that it was right to fight for what I believed in. I gained confidence – I knew I was good at it and I trusted my instincts. There was no time to be indecisive. I had to trust my gut and go with it. I worked hard and what I didn’t know I spent hours trying to learn. I asked for help from others and looked at different policies and ideas from all over to ensure that I was doing everything right.
I tried to share what I learnt with everyone I met. I used my animals to teach my students about animal welfare. They all named my rescues and asked questions about how to care for them. I wanted to make children understand that street cats aren’t something to be feared but to be protected. I wanted them to understand the consequences of abandoning their dogs or buying that puppy in the window. I advised as much as I could online and my bus journeys were spent on the animal rescue pages or private messaging new pet parents.
I slept very little and didn’t see half the things I wanted to see. I spent countless nights on the sofa bottle feeding and early mornings applying ringworm lotion, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.
A typical memory was getting glammed up for a charity event. We spent an hour getting ready and within ten minutes of being there and half a glass of wine we were getting a taxi home due to a noisy dog. But, that was made worthwhile by seeing that dog get adopted and find an amazing new home where they were loved and cherished.
As I sit here reflecting, I’m surrounded by my five miscreants. I have an old dog, Baker, snoring beside me and Piper curled up on my lap. The cats are chasing a moth and entertaining themselves, coming back for cuddles whenever they feel like it, and I realise I am so blessed.
I may not have seen all the sights of Korea but I did something which to me was far more valuable – I made a tiny difference. We had a different adventure to what I had originally planned, I did it alongside my best friend even though he didn’t enjoy it most of the time. But, surely the fact he put up with it says something.
As I look around my room each one of the faces looking back at me remind me of my time in Korea and the challenges I faced. Each animal who passed through our home helped make me who I am today. That’s why I can never regret the work we did, the money I spent, the hours lost. I can’t regret it because I would do it all again in a heartbeat!
(A few before and after pictures of some of the animals we found homes for).