Some of my earliest memories are of pestering my parents to buy me a pet, whether it was hamsters, gerbils, rabbits or a dog. I’m not sure of what first triggered my love of all things furry, but now, in my thirties, my passion for animals has blossomed into what some people may describe as less of a hobby, and more of an addiction.
At ten years old, I desperately wanted to upgrade from a hamster to a rabbit. I remember being on holiday with my parents, and ten pounds burning a hole in my pocket. “If you can save up ten pounds,” my dad said, “you can have a rabbit.” Well I showed him didn’t I? I called his bluff and spent not one penny of that ten pounds during the whole week! Perhaps it was just out of sheer admiration for my determination at such a young age, but my dad did indeed stay true to his word and bought me my very first bunny, Snuffles.
And I have always had at least one rabbit at any given time since that day.
As a teenager, my career ambitions were to be either a dog behavioural therapist, or to work at a zoo or animal park, but my plans were thwarted by my deteriorating eyesight caused by a genetic disease of the retinas. However, although working in a zoo may be off limits for a person with very limited sight like me, for obvious safety reasons, I didn’t let this deter me from pursuing my number one passion in life.
Seventeen pets at the moment!
Right now I have; two dogs, two cats, three chinchillas, one tortoise, four African pygmy hedgehogs, one rabbit and four guinea pigs making a grand total of seventeen mouths to feed! Just in case you are wondering; no, I don’t live on a farm, just a humble two bedroom semi-detached house with a very large garden!
Apart from the dogs (Rilla and Daisy (all of my pets are named after either food or drink i.e. Rolo, Chip, Smartie, and Pringle which are my four hedgehogs.
When I first got the dogs,, (Rilla twelve years ago as a freshly certified guide dog, and Daisy four years ago as a freshly certified ball of fluff) they were both absolutely mesmerised by the rabbits and guinea pigs, but now, after years of welcoming home various creatures great and small, I think that I could walk into the house with an armadillo tucked under my arm and neither of them would bat an eyelid.
How do I manage to care for the animals as I am blind?
People may wonder how I manage to care for all of my animals considering that I am blind; the truth is that, with a little bit of creativity and patience, I can in fact do most things that my sighted counterparts can. Rule number one is to have a place for everything and everything in its place. Knowing where each animal’s food, dishes, and bedding are is a must in order to save me having to feel around for what I need. Also keeping my pets as tame as possible helps greatly so that I can do a little role call to make sure that everybody is correct and present, and also so that I can feel if any of them have any injuries or illnesses that may need a trip to the vet. I also get somebody sighted to check over my mini zoo regularly to make sure there is nothing that I have missed.
Bells on Jaffa and Bailey the cats’ collars mean that I can keep track of where they are as they prowl around the house although you can almost guarantee that Jaffa can be found vegetating on our bed!
If you want relaxation and self-satisfaction, pets will bring you both!
If I make it until bed time without having sat on a cat, the day is considered a success, but along with the chaos, my furry family bring me relaxation and a great sense of self-satisfaction, and I have no doubt that my unconventional family will keep growing for years to come.