Suzie the dog is feline the love…
Kelly’s dog, Suzie, has raised nearly 50 fur babies – not puppies, but kittens...
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.
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