Sunderland, Hartlepool and South Tyneside Branch

Author Archives: Julia Allen

  1. Jean & The Cat Lady of Spitalfields

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    An unusual title for a hidden gem of a story within the history of, Branch Trustee, Jean.

    It’s been a while since we penned a profile of a branch member. So we thought we’d step away from the current troubles of the world for just a moment, and give you an interesting read. This particular profile comes with a serendipitous link to times gone by, and the hint of a thread that runs through a small part of a family tree: the love of animals, cats in particular. So, without further ado, we’d like to introduce you to Jean.

    Jean has been a trustee of the branch since 2018, and she is a keen volunteer when it comes to events, and hands-on fundraisers such as raffles, stalls and sales.

    Jean has a broad spectrum of skills and experiences when it comes to her working life; including running her own cattery in her early 30’s, caring for up to sixty to seventy cats at a time. Jean’s rescue cat, Tyler, is now approximately 10 years old – and what a handsome lad he is too.

    It was Jean’s compassion towards animals, as well as her support for the branch and our team, that brought her on board as a trustee and volunteer.

    But Jean’s family history offers a somewhat sad, yet beautiful, story of a long lost auntie, that lives on in the hearts and minds of those who encountered her.

    Jean knew her auntie Joan growing up, and got to know her more when she was in her mid-twenties. Joan was has been described, by many, as a lovely lady who perhaps had ‘something spiritual’ about her. She was a talented artist who, as a hobby, would centre her artwork around fantasy and folklore: beautifully painted scenes of fairy lands and the like.

    Joan was unconventional. By the late eighties, Joan had no fixed abode, and would be content to roam from place to place. In a gesture to help Joan, her family (Jean’s mum) organised for her to live in a flat close by. However, only two weeks after, Joan vanished from the area.

    Her family never saw or heard from her again. That is, until recently.

    An article by The Gentle Author in December 2020, sprouted from a collection of stories and memories about a lady who used to walk the streets of Spitalfields, London, using all of her time and energy to find and feed all of the stray cats. She was known as The Cat Lady of Spitalfields.

    Photo by Phil Maxwell (used with his permission): Joan, The Cat Lady, taken in the 1980’s.

    The opening of the article seems an apt summary from one looking at Joan’s story and commenting with warmth and interest. It reads:

    “In my imagination, Joan Lauder (1924-2011) was a mysterious feline spirit in human form who prowled the alleys and back streets, a self-appointed guardian of the stray cats and a lonely sentinel embodying the melancholy soul of the place.” – The Gentle Author, Spitalfields Life.

    You can read the article and see some brilliantly captured photos of Joan, here. And we encourage you to do so, as it is a fascinating and lovely read.

    Joan passed in 2011. While it is a sad part of the tale that Jean and her family would only hear of Joan again through this article after so long a time had passed, it is also quite amazing. Fitting with how Joan was described by those who knew her, perhaps this story’s ending, now uncovered, was something of a spiritual ‘breadcrumb’ – only to be found when the story was ready to be told.

    But we thought it was something quite special.

    So, here’s to Jean, our brilliant trustee, and to Joan – The Long Lost Cat Lady of Spitalfields.

  2. Stanley: A Kitten Rescue & Foster Story

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    Told by Stanley the kitten, as imagined by Stanley’s guardian, and our very own Animal Welfare Rehoming Coordinator, Alex.

    Hello everybody!

    My name is Stanley. I am a 9 month old kitten who was rescued by the lovely people at the RSPCA when I was really small. I was lucky enough to go straight into a foster home with my mam and my brothers and sisters – a lot of my friends unfortunately do not get to have that opportunity. I guess that’s why I am here! Hopefully, after telling you all about my life as well as the lives of some of my friends, more people will want to give other cats and kittens the same opportunities as my wonderful foster carer gave me.

    I might as well start at the beginning. I can’t remember too much (I was very, very young) however what I do remember is a soft, friendly, human face, with a big black coat with gold bits on, picking me up and snuggling me into their coat. I was cold and wet. My mam did everything she could to keep us warm and safe, but she could only do so much for us, as we were left alone, without a human guardian.

    The kind human then picked up my brothers and sister and put them with me. I was wrapped up in a soft, fluffy towel in a basket. I kept looking at my mam and she kept telling me, ‘it is ok. It is all going to be ok’. I knew then, I was safe. The friendly human gently picked up my mam, put her in the basket with us and put us in the big, toasty van.

    So that’s how I got rescued. How did I get into a foster home? Well let me tell you!

    The RSPCA sometimes have foster carers on speed dial – this is so when situations arise, those who may need a little extra TLC and specialist care have a safe, warm, quiet and calm place to go. This is particularly useful for us kittens, and cats who are very frightened or nervous. I have heard from my friends that the cattery is also a brilliant, temporary home for cats like me; taken out of a dangerous situation, and given food, shelter and care, until we find a forever family. But for kittens like me, it is really important to be able to play and roam and learn in a homely environment. It helps us socialise and learn more easily how to behave around other cats and humans. Growing up in a cattery makes that a little bit harder for us, being so young. The cattery is also full of smells and sounds that can sometimes make nervous cats really stressed. So having foster carers on hand to offer round the clock care, is such a special and important thing for cases like that.

    My mam, myself and my brothers and sisters were so lucky to go straight into a foster home. That’s why it’s important for the RSPCA to have as many people on speed-dial as possible!

    Before we were rescued, my poor mam had to go days without food, while trying to make sure we were fed and kept safe. But now we had food, fresh water, toys, beds and a lovely warm place to feel safe. We also had this thing called a litter tray. My mam taught us how to use it. Once I got the hang of it I loved it! It was so clean, and the messy stuff would just disappear, so then it was free and clean for toileting again! More than all of that, we got love. We got cuddles and playtime. My mam could get a break from us because our foster carers made sure we were always entertained and tired us out for nap times.

    Here is a photo of me and my mam in our foster home. She was giving me a bath after I had been playing with my favourite toy.

    Because I was lucky enough to be found with my mam and siblings, she took care of us, and our foster carers helped to make sure we were safe, fed and healthy. We had our own room with all of our toys and beds in. It was nice because whenever one of us was feeling overwhelmed, we had our own space to relax and stay calm.

    After I had been in my foster home for some time, I was then ready to go to a forever home. I’m not going to lie, this was a little bit scary. I hadn’t been without my mam and siblings ever before in my life! But one thing my foster home taught me was that I can do whatever I set my mind to. I am brave and I am so loveable. With that in mind, I sat for my photo and did my best pose to show the wonderful world of humans just how handsome I am!

    I was adopted by a family who already had pets. They already had a dog and a cat, and after losing their other cat unexpectedly, there was a space for a well deserving soul… Me!

    I am now a happy, cheeky, loving little boy who was lucky enough to be given a chance in life. Not only because the RSPCA rescued me, but because of my amazing foster carer and their lovely, safe home. I learnt important behaviours and social skills, as well as boundaries of being in a home. I was always safe and warm and it was so quiet and peaceful. It was exactly what I needed as a tiny, growing kitten.

    RSPCA Sunderland, Hartlepool & South Tyneside are in desperate need of emergency foster carers. We need people, just like my foster family, to welcome cats and kittens like us into their home, temporarily, so we can have the best start in life.

    If you have a spare room, a quiet home and even no other pets (sometimes this is best!) please consider contacting the RSPCA Sunderland, Hartlepool & South Tyneside Branch. We have a brand new cattery, so there will always be a safe place for my friends to go, however like I said, a foster home is always a better option, particularly for kittens and nervous cats.

    You will gain experience and skills, as well as new friends. Most importantly, you will know you have made such a difference to an individual’s little life.

    For more infomration, please email

    Or you can phone us –

    0191 250 7148

    Even if you aren’t sure you or your home would be a suitable foster home, please get in touch with us regardless. The lovely RSPCA humans will have a chat with you and let you know.

    Thank you so much everyone for reading my first ever blog post! I will be back with more, but I wanted to get the important stuff out there first. Please help us help my friends. Little kittens like me need the care and love of dedicated foster carers. If you can, please be one.

    Lots and lots of kitten love,


  3. Diary of a First-Time Kitten Fosterer

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    Hi all. Mel here. I’m part of the team here at RSPCA Sunderland, Hartlepool and South Tyneside.

    Recently, I put myself forward to foster a stray kitten. So, today, I thought I’d share that experience with you. This blog is for anyone. But perhaps it leans more toward being an insight piece for anyone considering fostering with the RSPCA.
    It also calls out to the animal lovers amongst us, of course. I mean, look at this face, for starters…

    This is Greg.
    We named him after Dr. Gregory House, from the American TV series. I know, right? Standard. Sadly though, this is because Greg came to us with a severe leg injury (hence the namesake). In fact, he was missing a hind foot.

    So, from the start, Greg needed a little extra TLC, and a little crate rest to help his wound heal. While his injury had been treated, unfortunately, it wasn’t healing in the way we had initially hoped, even with crate rest.
    You see, after a couple of days, Greg’s ‘inner ninja-kitten-playtime-to-the-max’ came to the surface of his gorgeous personality. And he wanted to climb and play, just as kittens do. This meant that keeping his wound clean, rested, and away from obstacles was proving very difficult, and we wanted to give him the best opportunity to be able to move freely and with confidence, without hurting himself or causing more harm. 

    With vet’s advice, it turned out that little Greg would need a full leg amputation.

    Here is my first real insight for those looking to foster: Animals that come through to RSPCA care don’t often have the most perfect of starts in life. While, with Greg, he was very young and adapted very well, even though his history, so far, had not been an easy one. With foster animals, this is something to bear in mind. It may not always be smooth sailing. For me, it was about being prepared to go on a journey.

    Once Greg had his op, it was my job to make sure that he was able to rest, that he took his medications on time, that he could eat OK with his buster collar on (aka Elizabethan collar, or “cone of shame”)… actually, let’s back up. Just so you know, buster collars and kittens… yeah, that’s not so fun. 

    On his first night back, he was still a little ‘out of it’ from the op. The collar was quite big, and he was struggling to reach his bowl (aside from the fact that he was NOT happy to have this thing on). So we managed to find him a ‘comfy collar’, which would be otherwise known as his rubber ring.
    To cut a long story short, this took some trial and error. Greg was crate rested overnight, and I would check on him through the night to make sure he was OK, and that he hadn’t managed to pull the collar off and get to his stitches. We worked it out together. Also, knowing that I had the support of the RSPCA branch team on hand when I had a concern – that was a real help. Part of the fostering process, I should also mention, is to document everything: dates and times of medication, vet visits, care-related trips or required purchases, eating, drinking, motions, behaviour, and any changes to any of the aforementioned.

    This is my second little snippet for those considering fostering: It’s best not to put a time limit around your availability, where possible. You see, had Greg’s injury healed after his initial treatment,  it’s likely that he may have only been with us a couple of weeks. However, with the op and the recovery time, he was with us for well over a month. With some animals, their time with the RSPCA may be much longer or shorter than this. It all depends on the circumstances around each individual animal.

    This leads me on to the final, quite unexpected, experience from my time with Greg. Everyone knew we would miss him. They knew we would fall in love with him, and some even suggested we may not want to let him go because we would miss him so much. 

    The thing is, fostering doesn’t always give you the option. So, we had prepared for this from the very beginning. Seeing him go to a loving home, once he was all healed, happy and well, was an amazing thing. And we would be OK. Of course, I was going to miss him. I still do.

    But here’s what I hadn’t anticipated: My worry, or my sadness wasn’t for me at all. It was for Greg. I found myself worrying that he had made his home here, that he had bonded so much with me, he would now wonder where I was, or why I wasn’t there, or where he was going.

    Here’s the thing though: His adventure was only just beginning. And, while his forever home wasn’t here with us, his adopted home was exactly what he needed: a loving, quiet home indoors where he would meet and get to know his new family (including another furry friend), build even more confidence, and live happily and well. 

    I soon heard back from his new forever home, that while he was initially a little unsure and spent a little time hiding (as he did with us too, at first) he was already getting cuddles and up to his usual mischief.
    That was amazing to hear.

    My job was a simple one. Not easy. But straightforward, challenging, and rewarding. I was there to give him what he needed when he needed it: love, care, a fresh start, and a sense that he could trust people. I think we were able to give that to him in spades. And I’m so happy to have been a small part of his big life adventure.

  4. Buddy’s Blog 4 | Learning Name Reflex | Introducing the Welfare Wisps

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    Buddy’s Blog: 4th Edition!

    Today’s blog is a mixed bag. We start, as always in Buddy’s blog, with an update from Buddy and, in this specific blog, a little video of Buddy during a training session. But please do read on, as we are launching our new educational project aimed at kids and, here, we’ll show you what our brand new Welfare Characters are all about. Over to Buddy!

    Hey, it’s me, Buddy! I’m still the bestest Buddy, in case you forgot from last time. I’m also getting so much wiser. I think I am definitely Buddy the Wise. Wow, I have been learning soooo much, and I want to tell you all about it.

    My most excitings and fun, and one of the best everythings ever, is the fields where I walk and play. because there’s loads of fun spaces for pups like me to sniff and play and explore. But I can sometimes get really excited about all the sniffs, so I’m learning how to make sure my excitedness is OK and that it’s not going to make me run way too far to where I can’t see anyone and then feel a bit scared.
    So, my human two-leggers have been coming with me to show me how much of a good boy I am. They have a biiiig leader that they clip on Buddy’s harness. I think they don’t know how big it is, but I do, because I’m Buddy. So anyway, it’s big big.

    It’s so big that I can run and jump through the long, hairy greenness in the field, and sniff and explore and, at the same time, it helps me remember that my two-leggers are with me.

    They call my name too, Buddy, so that they know I’m still with them. I think they might not be as brave as me. I’m the bravest!
    When they call me, I know it’s them, and I can run back to them to say, “Hello, I’m here, I’m Buddy” and they like that. Then they call me good boy. I’m also famous, so you can see my most famousness in my video, here. This is me in the greens, on my biggest leader.

    **For more information on training stimulation and rest, please consult with an animal behaviourist / qualified trainer. You can find some dog training and behaviour guidelines, here.

    Anyway, here’s the next excitingness (I know, even more)… The humans at RSPCA Slumberland, Happypool and South Tinyland have given a big big big announcement. It’s still not as big as Buddy’s leader though. But yeah, anyway, they are making fun and learning excitings for the very little two-leggers. They have asked me if I want to help to show all of you about the new learnings, and how they work. Because I am Buddy the Wise. So, here’s me, Buddy, and here’s the bigger two-leggers telling you all about it.

    Bye for now, from me – Buddy! Woofs!


    Back to the humans…

    Thanks Buddy, and thanks for letting us use the famous Buddy cartoon to help us announce our new plans. You may have seen on our social media over the last week or so, our initial introduction to our brand new kids characters: The Five Welfare Wisps.

    We would like to take this opportunity to explain a little more about them.

    Our aim with the Wisps fulfils a hugely important aspect of the work of the branch: the prevention of cruelty and the promotion of kindness towards animals through education. This is something we are very passionate about, and we are progressing towards something very exciting. For now, we just want to properly introduce you to these fab little Wisp characters and to demonstrate how we will be rolling out their presence in the future. Each Wisp represents one of the five animal welfare needs: Home, Company, Behaviour, Food & Drink, and Health.

    These concepts are often not as simple as they sound, and can be fairly complex subjects, especially for younger minds and non-readers. So, our aim is to simplify these concepts through the use of story, symbols and image. To give you a better idea of what we mean, please download our example, aimed at kids, using Buddy as a guideline. Click here to download: Wisps-Buddy-Facts

    What’s more – you can get involved. As part of the project’s growth, we are looking for guidance and feedback. So, if you have experience with teaching younger children, key stage 1 reading, or storytelling – we’d love to hear from you. To get in touch, please email




  5. Your Dog & Lockdown Changes

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    Your Dog & The Easing of Lockdown

    When lockdown was brought into play, we considered the impact of the ‘new norm’ on our pets, and we offered some ways in which to help your pet stay well, happy and stimulated.

    Now that lockdown measures are beginning to ease, it is just as important to consider the impact of these changes on your dog.

    Let’s explore why this is important.

    Much may have changed

    During lockdown, it’s quite likely that we have all been spending much more time at home than usual. So, for those with pets, you may have been around them much more. This won’t go unnoticed by your dog. And, for many, this is something your dog will now have come to expect as the norm.

    While some dogs may easily slip back into old routines, where their owners are at work, and they perhaps spend less time together, others won’t make this turnaround so easily.

    Separation Anxiety

    Even if your dog had no problem with separation in the past, signs of separation anxiety, or other behavioural changes may still occur following the lockdown period. Dogs can be very sensitive to change, and it doesn’t take them long to become reliant and used to you being around much of the time.

    If you are beginning to ease back into your usual routine, and if that involves being away from your dog more frequently than in recent months, or changes to your dogs routine, be conscious of these changes and try to build up to them as gradually as you can.

    You could even consider installing a camera in the home to monitor your dog’s behaviour when you are not around. Look for changes in your dog’s behaviour: excessive salivating, pacing, crying, barking, chewing, destructiveness, obsessive behaviour such as shadow chasing, and so on.

    If you’re unable to install a camera, perhaps check with a neighbour to see if they could help you monitor any signs of distress: crying, howling, barking. Maybe they could even check in on your dog, if they are available to help.

    If you suspect that your dog’s behaviour is changing as you ease back out of lockdown, in ways that could indicate distress, anxiety, new fears, etc, it is important that you consult with your vet and/or with a behaviourist to navigate these changes and look at where they may be stemming from. This way, you can utilise behavioural expertise in order to manage these behaviours and help your dog feel more comfortable with the changes.

    Remember also, that these changes may occur in any of your pets, cats too. If your cat is particularly accustomed to having you around, and spends a lot of time indoors with you, this could also be something to note.

    Walking and Exercise Changes

    It is also very likely that, during lockdown, your walking routines may have changed somewhat. It may be less of an issue since measures were put in place to allow people to exercise more regularly, and with fewer restrictions. But as we come out of lockdown, changes to these routines may become more abrupt. For example, walk times may change dramatically for those returning to work.

    Consider feeding times also, as walks and exercise should allow for both adequate resting periods after eating, and time for your dog to ‘do their business’ afterwards.

    If your dog’s exercise routine has changed since lockdown, it is important that you consider phasing these changes back to the norm, rather than making sudden time alterations.

    You could perhaps engage the help of a friend or neighbour, (preferably someone your dog knows, and is happy to walk with) if you have to go back to your working routine straight away, or speak to a reputable dog walker to see what sort of phasing routine you can manage together.

    Additionally consider changes to the manner in which your dog has been being walked lately, such as: always being walked on lead as opposed to free running or longline walking; having gotten used to walking at a distance from other dogs and people; being walked in specific, quieter areas, and so on.

    Every change matters. So, it’s good to be a little extra vigilant when returning to the norm. Our pets don’t know why these changes are happening and, for some, this can cause anxiety.

    During all of these changes, our dogs may have been less used to socialisation cues or behaviours. It may be that you need to re-build your dog’s confidence and skills in socialising with other dogs, and with people. Be mindful of any changes in your dog’s behaviour. And if you note any of concern, speak to a professional.

    How to Manage Changes

    Make a plan.

    Before any major changes occur, if you are able, put a plan in place to build up to these changes as gradually as you can.

    For example, consider what your dog’s behaviours were when you first got them and brought them into your home as part of the family. Consider how you perhaps built on routines, such as leaving them only for shorter periods and building up in stages.

    Allow your dog time and space to adjust, try not to rush them into any new routines. Allowing them to adjust at their own pace is likely to make the process less problematic.

    For some, the process may be a much smoother experience. You may find that your dog slips right back into their old routine without any bother. But it may not be the case for every change. Every dog is different. You know your dog, so you’re the best person to recognise when they are not ‘themselves’, so be mindful of this while lockdown measures bring changes to you and your dog’s routine.

    If your dog has been restricted in socialisation situations, allow them to build up their confidence around other people and dogs, gradually.

    You could, for example, walk your dog with a friend and their dog to monitor any changes in behaviour towards each other. Give them enough space to feel comfortable, without letting them off lead together straight away: such as having them on a longline, allowing them the freedom to sniff and explore, while still keeping safety measures in place to deescalate, should they become fearful or anxious.

    When walking with another dog in this way, it is also helpful to keep your dog’s lead loose (while maintaining a good grip at the handle) rather than taut (where the dog is pulling) as tension on the lead may create a sense of tension in your dog.

    The most important thing is to keep your dog in mind while changes occur. Plan, as much as you are able, to phase these changes gradually. Consult with your vet or a behavioural professional if you are worried about any changes in your dog’s behaviour. And be patient.

    These changes will come easier to some dogs over others.

    If you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s wellbeing, please consult with your vet.


  6. The All Things Rodent Quiz

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    The All Things Rodent Quiz

    On our latest Facebook poll, our cheeky little rodents scurried past the post with 75% of the vote against reptiles.

    So, here it is - The 'All Things Rodent' quiz!

    How high can you score?


  7. Puppies | Key Stages of Development

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    Puppies: Key Stages of Development

    Just as you might expect, a puppy, as he or she grows, will go through various developmental stages. Like humans, they learn as they grow – and each stage is an important step in their healthy development. As their guardians, part of our job is to make sure that our puppies are being nurtured properly and allowed to grow through each stage with our support and understanding.

    It is important for us to recognise where our pups might be struggling or showing signs of unusual behaviour. So, if you feel that your puppy is going through some behavioural issues that don’t seem in line with the information below – please speak with your vet. They may advise you to speak to a qualified behaviourist, moving forward.

    But for now, let’s look at each developmental stage, and what you might expect to see:

    Approx 0–7 Weeks Old

    Socialisation. The early development stage, where your puppy learns to socialise, is essential. It is in the first few weeks that puppies learn social cues from other animals, their siblings and parents (and, later, humans). And, with some breeds, the window of social development is even smaller, so please seek the appropriate advice around your specific breed.

    Social cues from others in the litter, as well as their mother, teach puppies ‘bite inhibition’ (learning to moderate the strength of their bite, otherwise known as having a ‘soft mouth’). During this developmental window, puppies will also learn to be receptive to and ‘ask for’ attention, as appropriate to being nurtured and fed, as well as play. It is during the first seven weeks that puppies find their confidence. In essence, they are learning to be a dog, and to interact appropriately with other dogs.

    Approx 7–8 Weeks Old

    Into the world. It is usually at the eight-week mark that puppies can be separated from their mother and litter. They have learned important social cues already, and they should be mentally mature enough at this age to adapt their social behaviours and learn how to apply them to their interactions with humans. At this age, they will also tend to form strong bonds with their new guardians (us).

    Approx 8–10 Weeks Old

    Fears and overcoming them. Between 8 and 10 weeks, puppies will go through what is sometimes referred to as, ‘fear stages’. At this age, puppies are inquisitive and impressionable. So, associations that they make with sounds, people, objects, and so on, will leave a lasting mark. You might notice, at this age, that your puppy seems fearful of everyday sounds and objects in the home, other people and animals. This is normal. The key thing for us, as their guardian, is to help the puppy associate all of these interactions with a positive experience. They may also take their cue from us. So, if we react fearfully, or even overly excitedly, around those objects, sounds or people your puppy is showing fear around, we risk negative consequences. It is important to stay calm and neutral, and rewards your pup for calm, relaxed behaviour and relaxed play.

    Where new experiences are uncomfortable for your pet, such as vet visits for jabs, etc, stay positive and give praise. But avoid overly-soothing your pup, or acting upset or concerned. Your soothing and showing concern, will teach him to quickly associate the interaction he is having as something unpleasant and which causes worry.

    Approx 10–16 Weeks Old

    Training. Of course, you will be training your puppy from as young as eight weeks. But from ten weeks on, you might consider giving strong focus to the basics: sit, stay, come, etc. Now is the time, if you’re looking, to enrol in a puppy class. Always use positive reinforcement (reward and praise desired behaviours and ignore undesired behaviours).

    Talk to a behaviourist or trainer who uses positive reinforcement or do a little online research to learn how this technique works, and why it is successful.

    Stay positive. Your puppy is trying to understand you. He won’t get it right overnight, so be patient, and enjoy the bond and the rewards that come with watching your puppy learning. And, in turn, you will be getting to know more about how your pup learns, and how he communicates.

    Approx 4–6 Months Old

    Finding their feet. We’ve hit pre-adolescence. This is the age in which your pup will be finding his own feet in the world. Curiosity and independence will grow; he will explore more and venture further. Keep up your training – it is at this age where you can increase training skills by introducing challenges and distractions for your puppy to navigate. This will keep them mentally stimulated, and that ever-increasing bond will persist between you and your pup.

    At the six-month mark, speak with your vet about getting your pup neutered. Although this is the recommended age for your puppy to be castrated/spayed, every puppy is different. So, speak with your vet if you have any questions or concerns.

    Approx 6–12 Months Old

    The teenager. During this time, you may see changes in your pup’s interactions with you. His need for you to play, keep him stimulated and give him attention will likely be at a higher level at times. He may become more easily frustrated through boredom and will seek stimulating activities frequently. This is the age in which your dog will reach sexual maturity. Remember, if your dog is not yet neutered, keep them on a lead whilst out on your walks. If you are training lead-work, do this either indoors, or in a private, secure areas.

    It might be a challenging time but stick by your pup – he is going through a natural, behavioural stage of development. Your positive attitude will pay off.

    Approx 12–18 Months Old

    Emotional maturity. From a year, to 18 months, your dog will be finding his place within the home. He will be learning boundaries and adapting his behaviour from all of the social cues and training he has picked when he was very young. He may even test his boundaries from time to time. This is where all the work you have put in to learn his ‘language’ and for him to understand yours, pays off. Stick to positive reinforcement patterns. Take notice of what your dog is trying to communicate in his body language etc. If you are worries, at any stage, that your dog’s behaviour is becoming overly challenging or concerning – speak to your vet, who may recommend seeking advice from a behaviourist.

  8. Buddy’s Blog 3: The Humans Are Learning!

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    Buddy’s Blog 3: The Humans are Learning!

    Hi! It’s me – Buddy!

    I’m back, and I’m famous now. Look how handsome my new logo is. One of the RSPCA Sumlan, Hearty-pool and South Shiney-time arty people made this just for me. Her name is Abbie, and she is one of the excellent people we call volunteers. Woofs for Abbie! High Paw!

    But enough about the humans because, look! It’s me again, the bestest, good boy ever, Buddy!

    I’m here to share some more things from my everythings list. Today, I can tell you about my learning things. I am always learning, because I’m just little Buddy …for now. But I think even big boy Buddy will enjoy learning things because new things can be the funnest. My mam and dad think it’s a good idea for me to tell everyone about my learning things, because they are learning with me, and it might be helpful for all the other Buddys and mams and dads out there. So, here goes! (With a very waggy tail).

    Learning 1: Noms-puzzles and toys

    I’m Buddy, so I loves all the noms and the toys. And sometimes they are all at the same time. My mam and dad are helping me learn how to use my amazing boop-nose to sniff out the treats, and then to work out where they are hidden. Sometimes I’m really, really the smartest, and I get them straight away. But the humans are learning too, because they know how to make the puzzle trickier (and more interesting) for me, Buddy! So, I have to work hard, and it helps me to use loads of energy and to feel really, really good when I sus out where the noms are hidden.

    Fun Buddy Fact: Often, a puzzle game can be even more mentally stimulating than a walk.

    You can see me with my puzzles and toys in the video of me – where I’m famous. Famous Buddy! The humans have also helped other Buddys by sharing some fun puzzle noms games, here.

    Learning 2: Sometimes, don’t be chasing the other fluffs

    There are other four-legged fluffs in my house. I love to chase them, and play. And sometimes, they are sitting on my chair, or looking at me funny, so I want to bark at them and tell them who’s boss. But my humans are also learning with me, and they are helping me to learn when to not be woofing at the fluffs.

    They use funny sounds and help me find other fun things to do when I think I’m the king. (I’m secretly the king, but I will play along with the humans and the other fluffs, because I’m the goodest, bestest boy!) The other little-leg fluffs are my friends, but I think they’re not as smart as me, so I’m trying to be nice to them and I’m learning to know when to just be chilled out Buddy with them so they don’t get their scratchers out. Hey, me and the guys are in the video together, too!

    Learning 3: I want to, but might not want to

    Oh wow, this was so weird. My water bowl got all big and squashy, and it had one of my squeak-squish toys in it. Aaand, it was outside on the green floor where the sky cheeps fly over. My mam was asking me to go get the squeak, but I didn’t really want to.

    Why was my water bowl looking all silly? I’m brave. Buddy the brave. So, I was gunna get my squeak toy, but then I had more important Buddy things to do, so I ran away. I wasn’t scared though. You can see in the video.

    …I was a bit scared.

    Learning 4: Is it scary?

    OK, so I think some things are scary. Like the see-through, human water bowl (plastic bottle), and the growly snake (vacuum), and the big roar monster outside (tractor). But my mam and dad let me be free and explore or run away if I want to. They don’t really say anything. They look happy and sometimes even not bothered at all by the growling, roaring things. So that helps me learn that they might not be so scary at all. And that makes me feel so, so much better. And then, when I learn that they’re not so scary, sometimes they’re even fun – especially the see-through bowl.

    My humans have said that they will tell all the other mams and dads what all of this Buddy learning is about. So, they say to go here for more. See, my humans are learning just like me, Buddy! Because while I learn all their silly noises and sounds, they learn mine too. Sometimes mine are very small and very fast. I use my booper, my blinkers, my wagger, and my whole body to tell my humans when I’m happy, I’m scared, or even when I’m frustrated and would like them to leave me alone. Sometimes I get a bit worried when things come too close to my neck, under my booper. And, because I can use my Buddy language, and my humans are taking the time to learn it – we work out other ways to play, and ways to help me, Buddy, feel safe and relaxed. It’s just the best when I know I can be my smartest, cutest Buddy self! Because I’m aaawesome!

    Buddy Fact 2: Body language signals from dogs can be very subtle and can happen very quickly so, in some cases, certain language can be mistaken for other things such as aggression or guarding. So, it’s important that we take notice of what they are trying to communicate. If your dog is communicating fear or worry in any given situation, take the time to observe why this might be. Especially if their behaviour has changed (either over time, or within seconds). Think: what is different for my dog now? Could it be an environmental change (new person in the home, a move, new sounds/sights etc), is the behaviour consistent with a specific action such as feeding (being around food), during play, petting, etc. Perhaps their language changes when you’re petting a certain area of the body, such as the ears, neck, back, etc. Your dog will give you signs and signals if they are uncomfortable. It is important that you ‘listen’ and do your best to understand what they might be trying to communicate.

    Back to Buddy! While you’re here, check me out, Buddy – starring in my very own YouTube video, where you can see all of my learnings in action!

    See you next time! Lots of waggy tails, snuffles and woofs!

    Your friend,


  9. The Big Fat Cat Quiz

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    The Big Fat Cat Quiz

    Well, dogs grabbed it at the first poll over cats. But that cats snatched it back, winning at 58% to 42% over rodents this time! So let's celebrate all-things feline with the big fat cat quiz. 

    Have you got what it takes to get the Puuurrrfect score? Only one way to find out!

    Enjoy, and let us know how you get on!

    Don't forget to share with your friends too - keep the fun going!

  10. A Life With The RSPCA

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    A Life With The RSPCA

    Above: Michelle meeting a giant tortoise in Mauritius

    You may have been following our ‘Interview With…’ series if you are subscribed to our monthly newsletter. (If not, you can subscribe, here)

    Well today, we interview Michelle about her vast experience with the Society. From being eager to stand up for animals as a young girl, to volunteering locally as she got older, and eventually working as an inspector, chief inspector and now establishments liaison officer.

    Please note – there are references to animal cruelty in the following post.

    Tell us about your experience working with the RSPCA?

    I started so many years ago as branch volunteer Auxiliary Secretary while I was still at school. It was Mr Jim Davison from Greenside (the regional organiser at the time, now known as branch support specialists), who took the time to meet me and show me what the RSPCA is all about. For that, I am still very grateful.  It was during this time that I met my first Chief Inspector, Derek Campbell. Sadly, Derek is no longer with us, but he was a huge influence on my life. I then became a kennel volunteer for Newcastle branch at Kyle Road kennels in Gateshead, in late 70’s early 80’s.

    I met lots of inspectors then including Mike Butcher who went on to head up the RSPCA Special Operations unit that deals with organised cruelty such as dog fighting. A very special and dedicated officer.

    Photo above: Michelle and the team carried out blood testing on some swans during a suspected lead poisoning incident.

    What motivated you to work with the RSPCA?

    It was seeing the cruelty and neglect that was around us every day. I remember ranting on about the SELFA (Stop the export of live food animals) campaign at school in 1973 and the Harp seal cull in Norway. Seeing animal cruelty upset me and motivated me to do something to change it. I saw how it could be alleviated and changed by the efforts of the inspectors, and I believed that I could make a difference, as they were.

    How long have you been involved the RSPCA? 

    I would have been 12 years old in 1973, doing my bit by making my feelings known, rescuing baby birds and lost ferrets, stray dogs etc. I would also sell flags on flag week and volunteer to collect in tins.

    I then progressed to voluntary work in the kennels before, at the age of 23, I joined the inspectorate.

    Training has changed so much since my day, but some of it is similar and it’s a huge life changer in many ways. In a mock TV interview at HQ as part of my training, I was asked, “What are you going to bring to this role?” Apparently, my answer was “glamour.” Clearly at 23 I was confident in my looks and style, or just very cheeky, as anyone who knows me Glamour and Michelle do not sit together in the same sentence.

    I was then sent to work in Newcastle a young girl in a team of 5 experienced male officers.

    The way we have worked has changed so much over the years, from having to stop and use a phone box to call in for your emergency jobs, then queuing up to use your securicor radio to now having police-style radios, mobile phone, PDA and computers in the van.  I loved using an ordnance survey map over concerns about a pony on a remote farm up in wild Northumberland. I found a ‘short-cut’ on which I had to open and close 7 farm gates and wait for the sheep and cattle to move to allow me to drive down the track.

    Working with a wide range of animals in such differing circumstances has its challenges. Working with wildlife can be eye-opening, and amazing and I have been able to work with animals that I would never have guessed id get so close too, when I first started the job, including whales dolphins and seals which we have on the coast. I then developed an interest in what lived in the sea.

    Above: Michelle attended a call out to some beached whales.

    In my early days, there were no call centres. So, from 5pm Friday night until 9am the following Monday, we (inspectors) would take emergency calls from our landline at home. We would hand-write all jobs and messages. Then, if needed, we would occasionally have to call out a colleague who was off duty if an animal needed an emergency response.

    In 1999 I became the Chief inspector of the group I grew up in. It had grown from 6 of us to 17 over the years, technology had inevitably changed the way we would work. The NCC (National Control Centre) would take the calls and distribute jobs to the local inspectorate teams. We now had sat nav and PDA’s to help get us get to the job with accurate information.

    In 2019 I moved sideways to work on a project with the animals that are in boarding.

    So many animals come into our care for many different reasons. In some cases, they may need to be with us for some weeks/months before they can be rehomed.

    I hope to make a positive difference to these animals by overseeing their general welfare and promoting behaviours which make their stay with us both as positive and as short as possible. This can be as basic as giving them a cosy bed and toys.

     What is a typical day like in your role?

    Put simply there isn’t one, as an Inspector your day changes and surprises you in so many ways, and as a chief there were some routine days checking reports, chasing up case documents, sorting vet enquiries, and making sure your team has all it needs to do the job. Then “wham!” You are thrown in at the deep end again because something has cropped up. A phone call saying someone has just discovered a house with 6 big rooms and each one is crammed with cages of mice, rats, chipmunks, chinchillas and other small domestics – “Can I get some help to move them?”

    I recall putting a swan in the footwell of my car to take to the vet simply because I was the closest to it, and everyone else was so snowed under. You just never know what’s round the corner. It’s all part of the job.

    Above: Meeting some turtles whilst on holiday – ever the animal lover

    What are the things that stand out to you as being the most enjoyable about your career so far?

    When I was an inspector, the challenge of gathering key evidence, and then the rewards of seeing justice done for animals, and the happy endings when an animal finds its forever home.

    Seeing justice done can be an emotional and bumpy process. As an example, one case I worked on involved the death of a dog whose body had then been burned to try to destroy the evidence.

    The fire service helped me to prove that an accelerant had been used by bringing their sniffer dog along to the area where the fire had been. Establishing the cause of death which, devastatingly in this case was by strangulation, was not an easy task. I  thought what would we do if this was a human, and so I sought advice from a human pathologist, and he offered to attend the postmortem with the vet and they worked together to find out the truth, both giving evidence in court.

    The person responsible was sent to prison for the maximum term.

    In what ways is your role rewarding?

    Making a difference both to animals and to people. When we help a person, it can change their life. For example, Nelson, a collie dog from many years ago, had a nasty skin allergy and his owner lived alone. They were the best of friends, but the owner was unable to get Nelson to the vet regularly. Over the weeks and months I worked with them, I was able to do this, with the support of the local branch, and week by week I saw the hair grow back, and the dog become less agitated and frustrated by the constant itch.  Nelson went from being a stressed and very unhappy dog to becoming a loving, soppy and, at times, quite lazy dog. The relationship between Nelson and his owner was one of respect and companionship. It stayed with me.

    Even when neglect occurs it’s often due to unforeseen circumstances, and this is where the RSPCA can make a positive contribution. The branches are key to this kind of caring, as they can offer advice, support and positive interventions to act and support to prevent neglect from happening.

    What’s your funniest or most memorable experience/memory from your time with the RSPCA?

    My days of fostering animals has to feature as a huge positive, too. I recall 2 special dogs, one of which was a yorkie terrier who gave birth to her litter of puppies in my bedroom. I couldn’t bear to be parted overnight as I was sure they were on their way. I didn’t get any sleep and, 7 pups later, I was in awe of the little lady.

    Above: lady and her pups

    Then there was Smartie, a lovely lad who opened my eyes to the joys of Staffies. We are still friends now and his parents are the most amazing people.

    Smartie came for a weekend after having been scalded. The poor thing was covered in white paste which he needed for a couple of weeks to heal his skin. My sofa still has a sheen on it to this day.

    6 months later, once the case was concluded, he left me crying in my office at Felledge Animal Centre, as he went off to his new home.  I saw him from my window sitting proud as a king in his new 4X4, off to his house, family and garden (only an acre in size) with trees and squirrels he never will catch.

    Above: Smartie loved the smell of fresh laundry

    Do you have a favourite animal/breed? 

    No, not at all. As a family we normally had Labradors, but now we have a springer spaniel. I fell in love with Staffies after seeing the remarkable nature of Smartie. When I was younger, I had ferrets (only one at a time), but now I believe they are better in pairs, as they love the company and to play together (neutered of course). They are great fun.

    What do you hope for the future in your role?

    I hope that the role I am currently doing, which is part of a project, has demonstrated its value and so the society will consider expanding it across the country.

    At the moment, working from home during this Covid-19 emergency, I am concerned for the animals and the long-term future of the RSPCA.  Being a charity, we rely upon funding from the kind people who support us and, for many, spare cash is not going to be available.

    I can’t imagine a world without the RSPCA, and I don’t think we will need to, however I do think we may need to change what we do, or how we do it, and for those who can’t spare money, I ask can you spare the time or your skills to do something else that will help the animals? If you can use any old “stuff” you have to make a bed or a toy, or offer your time to cuddle a cat or walk a dog, paint a picture that you can raffle for us, do a positive post on Facebook or write to your MP about something we want to change then please get in touch, and do your bit, however small, it all helps, small steps will get us there on the long walk which is caring and compassion.

    Is there anything more you would like to add?

    The branches are the backbone of the RSPCA and together as one we can overcome deliberate cruelty and promote kindness to all.