The pet shop closed on 31 December after 10 years. It was quite a shock to think that I had known M for an entire decade of my life. So much of my life as it is today depended on my walking into the shop in the first place. I had vowed never to walk into another petshop after I found a starving, unweaned, semi-conscious kitten in one and took her home – she’s still alive, aged 16 and living with my Mom. So much of my past decade can be counted in pet shop events.
I started thinking about the funny times we spent.
The day when we appeared to have a succession of lunatics in one after the other …
… the woman who came in, dressed to the nines, who wanted a bone for her dog and spent 20 minutes discussing the merits of the various types, then decided she wanted one for free. She also didn’t have a dog with her and said she had left him at the station or the supermarket, depending on who asked her.
… the man who came in after that, with his “close affinity for cats” who had never had one.
… followed by someone who wanted a pet but didn’t know which type they wanted (Do you have any dogs? No. Do you have any kittens? No. Do you have any rabbits? No, but what type of pet do you want? Oh, anything.) Response – sorry none of our animals are for sale and we suggest you think long and hard about the responsibilities of looking after an animal before you get one.)
Then there was the time when M was ill. I, along with another volunteer were looking after the shop and the bunnies got loose in the garden, advertising the fact by suddenly appearing at the back door and virtually waving their paws at us. Rabbits move very fast indeed, something I didn’t understand before I had to spend a long time running after them so they didn’t run into next door’s garden and became the foxes’ lunch. We recovered all four when the other girl acted as goalie and I chased the rabbits towards her, whilst several customers waited, watched and laughed.
There was a week we had very poor takings and I managed to sell an average day’s takings in an hour one Saturday, celebrating the fact by lifting up my top behind Hugh and going “whazza!” at M. I failed to appreciate I reflected beautifully in the back door and gave H an eyeful to remember.
There was the time we had two mice come for a holiday (their owners were abroad). They lived in this fancy cage with an elaborate tunnel on the outside that fitted together. M was cleaning the cage and I was holding each end of the tunnel with the mice in it when it began to fall apart and the mice escaped. Cue five minutes of frantic fumbling from me, trying to keep the blasted thing together, lightning reflexes from H who managed to catch one of the mice and shove it back in the tunnel and lots and lots of swearing. The three of us got the cage back together and said the bawdy equivalent of “thank goodness for that” before being interrupted by a quiet “ahem” – there had been a client at the counter throughout the whole drama and we hadn’t noticed her!
Then there was the time when I had proudly bought my besom from a local shop and took it in to show M. H said “do you know what that is?” and M and I exchanged knowing glances, said “yes” in unison and giggled. Shortly after that, H started referring to us and a few others as “The Coven” – no idea why.
There were the sad times too … when Lucky the rabbit was killed and other times when various special creatures passed over. The day my Dad died, I was boarding a plane to Plymouth and got the call just in time to get off the flight. M had met my Dad on several occasions and they were very fond of each other. My husband was seeing someone else at the time and home was the last place I wanted to be. I went straight to the pet shop, walked in and M knew immediately what had happened, without me having to say a word. She took me outside and we sat in the garden, drinking tea, crying and laughing at our memories of a very special man. She gave me strength to go home, pack and sort out a flight to South Africa.
Plastered all over the door between the back room and the front of the shop were pictures of animals who had been homed, notes from grateful recipients of advice and care, along with the usual legal notices and licences. I wish I had taken a photo of that door now,
M’s biggest concern about leaving the shop is the animals who now won’t receive help and care – there won’t be a shop on the high street for people to just walk into and animals will suffer as a result.
While it is true that she is now likely to miss a great number of opportunities to rescue and rehome, I don’t think that we are likely to have to start offering our services to other rescue centres just yet. I am sitting with another cat in my spare room after a rescue on Saturday!
M came to meet the cat, to give a second opinion on its condition and also to understand a little of its personality so she could make sure that she suggested an owner to match the cat. B, my partner, was saying that I had been on tenterhooks since Friday, when I managed to get hold of the people looking after the cat, and he was quite relieved it was all over, as I could relax (and so could he). M explained that just about every single cat rescue we had been involved with had gone wrong at some point and she was absolutely the same – she didn’t relax until the cat was safe.
This kicked off a whole new set of memories about rescues that had occurred that were only funny when they were over …
… the cat rescue where we had successfully rehomed a cat out of a rather awful home, only to have the new owner dump it back on its doorstep the next day when she discovered her landlord wouldn’t allow pets. The cat was lost for a few days after this, then returned to its old home and the old owner called me at 6am on a snowy winter’s morning to say the cat was back. I had to go to work, so my then-partner went out with a cardboard cat carrier (Rule Number One of Rescue – don’t delegate!) and the cat escaped from it half way back to mine – it was a huge tom and a cardboard container was completely unsuitable for transport any distance. We then had to call the old owner again (you can imagine the conversation) and I spent the morning trudging around in the snow, guilt-ridden and in a panic, trying to find the cat. Luckily, it returned to its old home yet again and we rehomed it later that day.
… the old “is it a boy, is it a girl?” question – currently, three of us, all of whom are fairly experienced with cats and have had upwards of 40 cats between us, have looked at the new cat and whilst we suspect it’s a girl, we can’t tell for sure – it has been neutered and has characteristics of both. Short of hanging round the litter tray and peering from underneath when it has a tinkle, I think we’re going to have to wait for the vet to tell us (update – the vet got it wrong too!).
… a cat I eventually rescued and rehomed who had become very close to a neighbour’s boy cat … so much so that they spent some time mating in a very companiable way (not at all like the hiss-spit-scratch of normal cat behaviour). I was having … kittens because I thought the poor cat would have kittens and by that stage it was living with me … only to find out that the cat was a boy and the neighbour’s cat was gay. Phew! No kittens and a very relieved me.
While the days of the petshop are now over, I now believe our animal rescue days will continue!