“Life is miraculous. Even when it’s disastrous, it’s still incredible. I’m fascinated with everything – trees and dogs – but no one wants to hear me talk about it.”
Title – Christmas at Battersea
Author(s) – Multiple authors, compilation by Punteha Yazdanian
Genre – Non fiction
“Tails are swished and ears wiggled as the residents stretch, wake and shake off their early morning grogginess.”
Battersea Dogs & Cats Home (a rescue facility in the UK) never closes its doors, even on Christmas Day. They take in any kind of dog or cat, irrespective of age, condition or temperament. The residents of the kennels and catteries are well looked after by the Battersea staff and volunteers, who work even on Christmas Day. In 2013, the Home took in 113 dogs and cats during the Christmas – New Year period alone. This book, published in 2014, is about that particular Christmas season. The book was an outcome/plea by Battersea for people planning on bringing home new dogs/cats in the festive season – to remember the many orphaned, abandoned, abused animals in need of a home, and also consider the time of the year if choosing to adopt. Christmas is a time of celebration, parties, large gatherings with families and friends – a rescue animal would find it difficult to adjust to a new home and life, and consideration needs to be given to their rehoming process.
Book #5 from the Christmas pile begins with a foreword by Paul O’Grady, presenter of the television shows, “For The Love Of Dogs“, and “Paul O’Grady’s Animal Orphans“. On the day of Christmas 2013, a selfless team of the shelter staff and volunteers go off to work on a cold winter day, to give the canine and feline inhabitants the most special day. The may not understand the significance Christmas holds for their human friends, but they know that those taking care of them want them to have a day filled with love and special treats. Battersea has three centers – London, Berkshire, and Kent. On Christmas Day, each resident across each of the centers receives a present carefully chosen to match the animal – small terriers get tennis balls and squeaky fluffy toys, while bigger dogs receive heavy duty, indestructible playthings, and catnip-stuffed snowmen and festive baubles for the cats to juggle, chase and chew.
The book comprises fourteen stories, about each of the adopted animals. The narrators include new owners, shelter staff, vet doctors and nurses, and even the police (for service dogs) – their experiences with animal shelters over the years, and rehoming and re-training rescue animals. You get to meet Sam (short for Samurai) the Akita cross, Faith the Great Dane, Milo the Jack Russell, Shadow the Pug and many more dogs. Along with kitties, including Tonka and Bisbee, the ‘brothers from different mothers’. The book also gives a glimpse into how the shelter tries to match each animal to a human, thereby finding the best potential homes for their residents.
From orphaned puppies, to abandoned and abused animals (left in a bin, thrown into a freezing lake, dropped onto the streets once past the “breeding” age), the stories are a mix of sadness, horror, anger on one side, and joy, hope, and the belief in miracles on the other. As much as the neglected animals have gone through, Battersea chooses to focus on their future instead, and how to make it memorable. And ultimately it’s not just the animal who finds a home, but also the owners who find their homes and hearts complete with their newest resident and family member.
Three particular stories stood out for me. A litter of eight puppies born a few days before Christmas, now orphaned, and named after Santa’s reindeer. The litter was a mix of Akita, Foxhound and Staffie. Cupid, Dancer and Prancer were taken in by different families. The owners don’t know each other, and the stories are written separately (hence, the three have the same backstory which made them stand out). Two of them are reserved and stubborn, with a dominant Akita trait, while the third is affectionate and friendly, with a predominant Staffie trait. It was fascinating to realize the three dogs are siblings, though living in different homes, unknown to and so different from each other.
There are colored, glossy photographs throughout the book, so you can have a look at each of the animals mentioned in the stories. All in all, a heartwarming book filled with festive tales – tear jerking and uplifting at the same time. A wonderful read for all pet lovers – simply unputdownable.
Rating – 5/5