Suzie the dog is fe­line the love…

Kelly’s dog, Suzie, has raised nearly 50 fur ba­bies – not pup­pies, but kit­tens...

Real People - - OUR MAD WORLD! - with Jane Com­mon

I’m a dog per­son,’ I said em­phat­i­cally. ‘I don’t do cats.’

And, in my opin­ion, never the twain should meet…

It was Au­gust 2014, and I’d just of­fered my ser­vices as a fos­ter carer for dogs at our lo­cal shel­ter. But the man­ager told me that the an­i­mals most in need of tem­po­rary homes were… cats.

Sad, but not my thing – nor my boxer dog, Suzie’s. She was of­ten bul­lied by my par­ents’ two cats!

Suzie had been my con­stant com­pan­ion since I bought her as a pup in 2009. I’d grown up with box­ers so, when I spot­ted a lit­ter for sale near my home, I rushed to meet them.

The tini­est pup came over, chewed my shoelace – and fell asleep on my foot.

‘She’s the runt,’ the breeder said. That just made me want her more, poor lit­tle thing!

At home, I was amazed by Suzie’s in­tel­li­gence and placid na­ture. She was calm, sit­ting hap­pily by my side in cof­fee shops, and out­go­ing, greet­ing hu­mans and dogs alike.

That was why I’d asked about

fos­ter­ing. Suzie would ap­pre­ci­ate some ca­nine com­pany while I was at work as an en­gi­neer.

But, a few days af­ter my en­quiry, the shel­ter man­ager called.

‘A dust­man has just brought in a box of four-week-old kit­tens he’d found in a bin. The shel­ter’s full – please can you help?’ she begged. Put like that, did I have a choice? And, when I col­lected the kit­tens – a jum­ble of black, white and or­ange, with flashes of bright pink tongues – my heart melted. They were to­tally de­fence­less… how could any­one dump them?

My job was to bot­tle-feed and so­cialise the kit­tens un­til they were old enough to find for­ever homes.

When I walked in with them in a big cat car­rier, Suzie stared, wideeyed. Then she started whin­ing...

‘Come into the bed­room,’ I said, guilt pinch­ing as I shut the door on her. I wasn’t sure how she’d re­act to this fe­line in­va­sion and felt it was best to keep them sep­a­rate for now.

Over the next two days, I dili­gently fed the kit­tens – Wil­liam, Molly, Andy, Jes­sica and Stella – and en­ter­tained them with balls of wool.

Though still weak, the mog­gies were full of fun. Suzie was des­per­ate to meet them, whim­per­ing to be al­lowed in.

Was she jeal­ous, or cu­ri­ous? ‘OK – come and say hello,’ I gulped, my heart ham­mer­ing. What if Suzie snapped at them, or they swiped her with their claws? I needn’t have wor­ried. Clever, kind Suzie sat down and waited for the kit­tens to ap­proach her.

As they licked her, then used her as a climb­ing frame, she didn’t flinch. In­stead, she sat stock-still, with a broad smile on her face. Af­ter that, Suzie spent all her time with the kit­tens. She licked them clean in the morn­ings and shared her bas­ket with them at night. If they were hun­gry, she’d whine to alert me.

She in­stinc­tively knew they needed a big, hairy mum. ‘You’ve done a great job of so­cial­is­ing the kit­tens,’ the shel­ter man­ager said when I took them back.

‘It was mainly Suzie,’ I said. ‘She re­ally found her ma­ter­nal side.’ Af­ter that, we be­came reg­u­lar cat fos­ter car­ers. Suzie made feral, badly-be­haved kit­tens calm and gen­tle, just by her lov­ing pres­ence.

With ev­ery lit­ter we re-homed, I felt a surge of pride...

Then, in sum­mer 2015, a grey kit­ten called Kushi ar­rived.

He was blind in one eye af­ter be­ing starved as a new­born, and skit­tish. But Suzie cud­dled him, and soon he was shad­ow­ing her ev­ery­where, even hitch­ing rides on her back.

‘Should we adopt Kushi?’ I asked her.

Not grow­ing too at­tached had al­ways been my golden rule, but Kushi clearly needed Suzie.

So, while my pooch moth­ered our nev­erend­ing pro­ces­sion of fos­ter kit­tens, Kushi took on the role of fa­ther and pro­tec­tor.

Then, in July 2016, we adopted an­other cat in need – com­pletely blind Sunny.

Now, they all sleep on my bed at night: Suzie at my feet, Sunny be­side my head, and Kushi, the fid­get, here, there and ev­ery­where.

To­gether, we’ve raised nearly 50 kit­tens. I’m a cat per­son now, but mostly, I’m a Suzie per­son. I couldn’t have done it with­out her.

Kelly Hart­man,

31, New

York, USA

A dog or a cat per­son? Both…

Kushi and Suzie with adop­tive kits

I couldn’t do it all with­out my Suzie! Our ca­nine climb­ing frame!

Nat­u­ral ‘ mu m’ Suzie with Sunny

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