Owning pets can be a real pleasure and ultimately transform your house into a home, but if you’re already a pet owner I hardly need to mention it. I’ve grown up with pets around me all my life and can’t remember a time when we didn’t own at least a few pets at a time.

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Keeping animals is tied into my genes. My Grandad, Henry and grandma Alice, although I never met them, lived on a Hampshire farm with my mother and her 7 siblings. As soon as my mum was old enough she too began her own small holding, she rented a field to keep a few pigs and another piece of land to keep a couple milking Jersey cows, then of course there was a flock of free range hens, a couple of farm cats and always by her side was a dog, her most memorable one, her first… a black and white collie named Molly.

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So it seems I can’t resist the draw of a wet nose to nuzzle me or a furry belly to tickle. I’ve owned many different kinds of dog through my life…or at least they’ve owned me…I’m sure that’s the way it goes with pets. I’ve had little long haired Dachshunds, a Collie cross, Labradors, a Staffordshire terrier cross, Heinz varieties, and a gentle giant English Sheepdog Crossed with an Irish Wolf Hound, he’s unfortunately one of the dogs I don’t have a photo of but if you have ever watched the film “Digby the Biggest Dog in the World.” That’s like him.

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Some dogs I’ve had from puppies and some as adult rescues, but one thing is sure…all of them a different personality needing a different approach! Currently we have big boy Maximus, a 5-year-old American Bulldog we’ve had since he was 6 months old and little 8-month old pup Bandit a Manchester Terrier crossed with Jack Russell. They are like chalk and cheese in personality yet they are inseparable…such good buddies. Max isn’t very social with other dogs but when he finds a buddy he’s a friend for life, he has a skin condition and a heart murmur too, but nothing stops him having fun, he loves the water and carrying logs about… oh and getting very muddy!  Bandit on the other hand will make friends with everything… especially cats although he’s a real scaredy pants.

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It’s not just a dog thing…we also have 6 Hens; 5 are Hybrids and one is a golden silky, (a little bantam.) Goldie and her late sister Speckle had always been a broody pair of hens as is their trait, silky hens are well known for it. A few years ago the bantam pair hatched a trio of Buff Orpington ducklings. (Yes we also used to keep ducks too!)

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Hatching ducklings was definitely a wonderful experience, watching and waiting for the first egg to pip is so exciting. Buff Orpington duck eggs incubate for roughly 28-29 days and just before they are ready to break through the shell you can clearly hear the chick inside pipping, the mother replies to the little noises and encourages the chick or duckling in this case to break out of the shell. When all three of the ducklings had hatched and were ready to go out for waddles in the sunshine at just a few days old the silkies and ducklings were moved into a separate enclosure to avoid any hen pecking and it was such a lovely sight to see surrogate mum and ducklings wandering about together, mother hen did look rather concerned as her babies had their first swim though! Both of the silky hens kept a watchful eye on the ducklings and called to them if they strayed. Happy days!

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Last but certainly not least is our cats…7 of them. Eldest to youngest; we have a large black and white rescue, a 9-year-old named Ruby, she’s also the alfa cat. We have Guinness another black and white who’s nearly 7 years old, she was the second cat to join the family when she was 6 months old, Guinness is a domestic short haired crossed with a Siamese, she truly thinks she’s a princess! (Our first cat was Jeepers, an affectionate male black cat who’s sadly no longer with us and I must mention sweet Jack our second male black cat who is sadly over the rainbow bridge too. L) Lucy and Drusilla are sisters both 6-year-old black cats, Lucy’s a crazy little personality and Drusilla the posh quiet one, (sadly Drusilla has gone AWOL… although we spot her locally regularly.) Luna is a very small affectionate but feisty three-year-old black cat and is mum to 2 year olds, Jasmine the grey and white tabby and Elsa the brown stripe and white tabby, two sweethearts who adore our little pup, Bandit. The last cat to join us was 16mth old Gemma or as we affectionately call her Little Gem. Gemma was found at the side of the road as a tiny kitten, we believe she was feral, when we found her she was the size of a 4 or 5-week old kitten at the most and it was the week before Halloween. The tiny scrap was hiding at the edge of the curb on the road up against a car wheel…when approached she hissed and spat and tried hiding behind the car wheel. Once we managed to pick up the little scrap we saw how badly in need she was of basic care. Little Gem was just skin and bone, covered in dirt, oil and mostly in fleas! I’ve never seen so many fleas on such a small mite, they were running all over her! At this point it was hard to see her colours as she was so covered in dirt and her fur so un-kept. We bundled her up and took her home wrapped in my jumper, she was only a little handful. Shopping time…Kitten worming syrup…kitten formula milk…kitten food was all in order…A.S.A.P!

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Firstly, a drink of formula milk with a side order of mashed up kitten feed. She walloped it down so fast she hardly stopped for a breath…so we had to slow her down and gave her tiny bits at a time so as not to bloat herself. Secondly a warm bath with some mild baby wash…fleas by the dozen came off her and a sink full of grime too! Once she was clean we could see her beautiful calico colours and after a cuddle dry in a warmed towel it was bed time in a box of warm blankets with a warmed pad underneath. Gemma was exhausted but content. Her second little meal disappeared in seconds too but this time mixed with a dose of kitten wormer. The second bath of the day also released another wave of fleas which is one reason she had to be kept in quarantine from the other cats. The vet suggested regular baths to de-flea her since she was too young for flea treatment sprays or spot on preparations. Now little Gem is a fit and healthy 16-month old calico who’s happy with her life with the other neutered cats here. There are a couple of strays who know a good place to pop in for a feed too!

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I guess there’s nothing I can do about my animal craziness… there is no cure! I’ve not even mentioned the mice and rats I’ve owned or the Hamsters let alone the wildlife rescues, weasel, seal cub and robin chicks…more of the animal adventures that have livened up my life. Animals have a lasting effect and not only transform a house into a home they leave footprints in your heart! : )

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