This week has been entirely dictated by two very significant occurrences that will, for one reason or another, go down in the history of the branch. The butterflies in my stomach just won’t abate and I’m caught wondering whether we are on the cusp of something brilliant.
Approximately three months ago we, the RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch, committed to two rather radical, risky and potentially brilliant ideas. Both are so monumental to us that I find myself sitting here, on a Saturday night, hoping it’s all going to work out right.

This week  we signed the lease on a retail unit in the Northern Quarter in Manchester city centre. The shop is no doubt our biggest investment risk to date. It is a fabulous unit next door to the Manchester Craft Centre.

Manchester Craft Centre, on the left is the shop (just out of sight)

We have just a  few weeks to open on a shoe string whilst making sure we come up to the bespoke, chic standards of the neighbouring shops. We are going all out to design an interior like you’ve never seen before in a charity shop. It’s a gamble and a worry and I hope to goodness we can pull it off because like never before we so desperately need a steady income stream and we really need this to work out.

The green shutter hides our new shop door!

For the next few weeks I’ll be thrown into chaos as I try to be in three different places at once, but with the cattery struck down with another bout of cat flu and adoptions close to none existent in the run up to Christmas, I’m hoping I’ll be able to fit in 8 days a week no bother! And, as always, I have a rather magnificent team behind me to make sure we get through it all together and will keep me semi-sane. But you know what, this week I have never felt so much support from the public before. We’ve had the most heartening response to the WISH Campaign token appeal in the Manchester Evening News that I’m going to be counting tokens in my sleep soon. And we’ve also had the most fantastic response to our Cat Photo Competition on Facebook (winner will be announced tomorrow!). It all adds up to making me feel like we can actually achieve what we want to, so here’s hoping for a rosie future for our new chic shop!

RSPCA Adoption Centre at Pets At Home

This is the greatly anticipated new RSPCA Adoption centre at Pets at Home in Stockport.  It is the first of it’s kind in the country and the idea behind the initiative is two fold: to help promote animal welfare and adoption of RSPCA rescued animals. Our branch, the Rochdale branch and the Bury & Oldham branch have assisted the national RSPCA to set the centre up; everything from devising policies and procedures to training the new staff.

On Wednesday this week we went into set up the pens for the arrival of the animals. The animals will stay for a maximum of 4 weeks and will be replaced with new furries looking for homes when their time is up. (However, we’re really hoping they won’t stay for the full 4 weeks and will find new homes in that time.) The bunnies will come from our branch and will always be adult pairs (neutered, vacc, chipped etc), whilst the cats will always be adults in groups or pairs (again, neutered, vacc, chipped etc). RSPCA dogs will just visit for a few hours at a time once or twice a week.

So, I thought I’d share with you a sneak preview of the centre….

The welcoming, informal reception area complete with online pet searching facilities.
Catherine and I setting up the bunny accommodation.
Rochdale Branch setting up the cat accommodation and settling in Marlon and his siblings.

Thursday and the cats are happy in their new temporary home.

Marlon and his siblings Merlin, Murphy and Marley have been in the care of the Rochdale Branch since they were 10 days old. They are now 8 months old and still homeless. Despite numerous media appeals to find them homes they have been repeatedly overlooked because they are black. It is much the same story with our bunny selection that moved in on Thursday.

Sonia and Gaynor wasted no time in settling in; very typical of these girls!

We’ve had Sonia and Gaynor since 28th June. They came from a very overcrowded home where breeding had got completely out of control. We’ve rehomed the other 8 that came from the same home but then none of them were black.They are awesome characters and I really hope that the new Adoption Centre will secure them a future of much deserved happiness.

It actually took me three hours to leave them, not because I was worried they’d be ok, it’s just that we’ve had them so long and love them so much that it felt like I was leaving two of my own animals there. Well, I suppose I was really and it’s kind of inevitable that you end up feeling like that about the longer stay animals. But the next day I got a wonderful update from Nicola (pictured above) and it was hastily shared with everyone else at the branch who was missing them.

Nicola’s update: “I’ve just fallen through the top of the box and landed on my sister’s head.” Rabbits have settled in really well. They were lay full length on floor when I came in this morning.

On the two days I’ve visited the new centre I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback and support from the public. It’s been great hearing people thank us for advice received and saying how helpful we’ve been and we’ve even had our first animal adoption enquiry! It feels like a very exciting venture and I really do think that with the three wonderful new RSPCA staff members running the centre – Nicola, Rachel and Michelle – we have quite a winning recipe.

On Monday morning between 7am and 9am I’m told Manchester Radio will be broadcasting live from the centre. At 2pm that afternoon we will have an official grand opening with the help of the national RSPCA’s Chief Executive Gavin Grant. It will be a monumental day and our girls, along with our smashing dog Ellie, will be there to share the limelight. I hope more than anything that this venture helps our rescued animals find new adoption opportunities and we dispel any myths that might exist about adopting ‘second hand’ pets. And maybe, just maybe, Ellie might get a home for Christmas.