Cop­ing with an an­i­mal col­lec­tor

When love turns to ob­ses­sion, it’s the an­i­mals that lose out.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - TR­ISHA FISK

Some peo­ple col­lect stamps, mount­ing them in lovely fold­ers ar­ranged ac­cord­ing to their per­sonal pref­er­ence, per­haps page by page ac­cord­ing to ge­og­ra­phy, colour, or sub­ject mat­ter.

Some peo­ple col­lect barbed wire sam­ples (truly!), short lengths of twisty me­tal with barbs and ra­zor edges tacked in par­al­lel rows, clipped to pol­ished wooden dis­play boards.

Some peo­ple col­lect tea­spoons. Records. Salt and pep­per shakers. Or­na­men­tal pigs.

Some peo­ple col­lect cats. Tall, short, long-haired, smooth-haired, bob­tail, fluffy tail, grey, ginger, black, white, black and white, tor­toise­shell, Si­amese, Burmese, Per­sian, Maine Coone, hunt­ing cats, swimming cats. Mog­gies.

They keep go­ing un­til ev­ery avail­able hor­i­zon­tal sur­face in their house is dec­o­rated with a liv­ing, furry or­na­ment.

There are peo­ple who pre­fer dogs and end up with half a dozen run­ning riot in­side, as many out­doors tied to ken­nels, old cars and un­der trees.

There are horse col­lec­tors, pad­dock bling in a va­ri­ety of colours, ca­vort­ing around in a herd.

There is noth­ing wrong with col­lect­ing things, although you do have to won­der just how much care and at­ten­tion an in­di­vid­ual pet can be given when so many oth­ers have to share the space, strokes or even food.

But it’s the com­pul­sive col­lec­tors who set off alarm bells for the Vet. There is just no way one el­derly lady can groom and ex­er­cise 53 dogs. A bach­e­lor liv­ing in a car­a­van can­not ad­e­quately house 42 cats. The un­em­ployed, solo woman on half a hectare can­not feed and ex­er­cise 15 horses, es­pe­cially when half of them are un­cut colts.

No mat­ter how much they love them, or how good-hearted their in­ten­tions, one has to be re­al­is­tic.

The Vet was work­ing pretty hard to con­vince Mar­jory Cut­forth that he would help her find homes for some of the 50- odd cats she was liv­ing with in a wool shed. We needed to treat them for a weird range of prob­lems that cats in a nor­mal pop­u­la­tion den­sity never suf­fer from: fun­gal is­sues with their feet, ab­scesses from fight­ing, snuf­fles through­out the kit­tens, eye in­fec­tions. It was just not a healthy en­vi­ron­ment, stuffed so full of fe­lines.

She was adamant. She couldn’t pos­si­bly give any of them away – no-one else would look af­ter them prop­erly.

We started work­ing our way through the cats, spay­ing and neu­ter­ing, but it was hard to keep ahead of the flow of kit­tens, some born within the group, and ex­tras that Mar­jory just hap­pened to find. Even at a re­duced price, the out­lay for so many oper­a­tions would have taken care of any pen­sion sur­plus she had for umpteen years.

And then, to make things even worse, she started di­ver­si­fy­ing into dogs. There was no room in the shed for them so they got tied to an old wa­ter tank out­side.

“What do you want dogs for Mar­jory?” we asked her.

There is no way one el­derly lady can care for

53 dogs.

“Oh, I am go­ing to breed them. Good money for cross-bred pup­pies you know.”

We had seen some crazy prices for small mon­grels ad­ver­tised on Trade Me, but Mar­jory’s were not in the cute and adorable bracket.

It was just too much for the Vet. The thought of those mis­cel­la­neous hounds hav­ing a love fest and more mis­cel­la­neous pup­pies didn’t bear think­ing about. It was time to call in the SPCA and so­cial work­ers.

Now in the Far North, the SPCA strug­gles for fund­ing, along with ev­ery other re­gion, and prob­a­bly more so as any af­flu­ent char­i­ta­ble souls have so many other wor­thy causes to sup­port. It means the first wave of in­ves­ti­ga­tion and check­ing of a sit­u­a­tion is gen­er­ally done by vol­un­teers, and they might have had to travel 100km or more to get on site, nav­i­gat­ing down wind­ing back roads, un­metalled tracks to an in­hos­pitable re­cep­tion. Brave peo­ple.

It would have been pretty easy to as­sess the sit­u­a­tion at Mar­jory’s just from the smell alone, even if the vol­un­teer hadn’t been in­vited in for a cup of tea and a chat. It would have been easy to see the dozens of cats slink­ing out of the lime­light, and the dogs would have kept up a steady ruckus. It might not be much of a home, but it was theirs and they would guard it with as much noise and lung­ing at the chain as they could man­age.

It was easy to imag­ine the re­port writ­ing that would go on as soon as the vol­un­teer got back to base. But there are le­gal pro­ce­dures and proper ways to go about things, es­pe­cially if none of the an­i­mals are ac­tu­ally starv­ing, or in pain and suf­fer­ing.

Un­for­tu­nately, pro­ce­dures like this also take time, to safe­guard against any rash de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

When the pow­ers that be fi­nally man­aged to mo­bilise enough helpers and trained per­son­nel to phys­i­cally re­move a zil­lion an­i­mals and house them while their fate was de­cided, what did they find? Noth­ing. No an­i­mals. No cats. No dogs. They had all van­ished, dis­ap­peared into the morn­ing mist off the har­bour. Goneb­urg­ers. Trucked out.

One has to ad­mire the de­ter­mi­na­tion and sheer bloody-mind­ed­ness that en­ables a per­son to catch and cage so many cats. To cart them to a truck or van or what­ever she man­aged to call into ser­vice. To load dogs as well into a con­fined space with­out them eat­ing each other, or her. To shift the whole ca­boo­dle out.

To where? To what sort of sit­u­a­tion? Bet­ter or worse?

Who knows. But no doubt the next vet will get sus­pi­cious, no doubt the new neigh­bours will won­der why there is so much bark­ing go on, and the lo­cal store­keep­ers will get wise to where all the ex­tra dog and cat ra­tions are go­ing. Then, per­haps, the cav­alry will be called again, get a chance to catch up with Mar­jory and the sit­u­a­tion can be reme­died.

Think of them all, cats, dogs, kit­tens, pup­pies and their mis­guided carer. Think of them next time you go past the SPCA ‘do­nate a tin of dog food’ bin at the su­per­mar­ket. They just might sud­denly have a huge in­flux of an­i­mals to deal with, and your do­na­tion will be grate­fully re­ceived. n

What did they find? Noth­ing.

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