The last few weeks have been really tough for me, the staff and the volunteers who work hands-on with the animals. We have experienced first hand the dark, disturbing side of this society. Sometimes it takes its toll and you end up clinging to the hope of a quiet week, but with staff and volunteers on their holidays, the relentless influx of new arrivals and weekly events to organise the micro-world of RSPCA Manchester and Salford Branch has felt nothing short of chaotic of late. 
This week has been the worst in a long time. It has been traumatic. I do not use that word lightly, it really has been traumatising. One incident was so bad that those of us involved cannot talk about it. I really didn’t things could get much worse after this event, but indeed they did and it is this news that I share today, not as a form of cathartic release akin to therapy, but in order to celebrate, commemorate and above all remember him and why we do what we do.
Some of you may follow us on Twitter or Facebook and be familiar with the story of our SBT case dog who was physically abused by the hands of his owners. We still need to keep the details vague to protect the investigative process but also because the full story is so horrific and disturbing. We hadn’t even shared his name in public until now because we didn’t want to do anything to jeopardise his case. He was, however, signed over, which means he was released by his owner to the care of the RSPCA so he could receive all the treatment that he needed and eventually be rehomed.
When Buster was being picked up to be transported to our care I got a call from the animal collection driver. He was concerned about whether I was aware of the extent of Buster’s injuries. I told him what I knew and it turned out that it was very different to reality; Buster was in a revolting state as a result of horrific injuries inflicted to his body and face. When we greeted him at our kennels he became dubbed ‘our battered beefcake’. I know this sounds absurd but humour often creeps in to lighten the darkness and help us to cope.
Buster was one of those animals who was an instant hit with anyone and everyone he met. He was an animal that defied logic and reason. After all the suffering he had experienced he should have been a cowering mess or an aggressor. Buster was neither; he just seemed so happy that you got the sense that he was relieved to be away from his past and that he knew he was somewhere loving and safe.
Buster wounds were as a result of being assaulted by members of the family he lived with and then being left without treatment for them. The attacks had penetrated deeply, causing extensive injury to the skin, infection and damage to the hair follicles. We were quite convinced that he’d be left bald where he’d been hurt, but after expert veterinary care we were delighted to see some sporadic hairs sprouting; there was hope that he wouldn’t have to wear the scars for life.
By the beginning of the week Buster’s skin was looking really good. A trip to the vets confirmed he was well enough to start his course of vaccinations and be castrated. This was a good day because it meant it was time to get cracking with finding him a new forever home. This also meant that he could spend Saturday out of the kennels, visiting our colleagues at the RSPCA Adoption Centre at Stockport’s Pets at Home store.
The idea of being able to put him up for adoption within 48 hours was an exciting prospect, especially because we thought Buster would take much longer to physically heal than he did. He was so good with his daily application of cream, never once flinching or protesting. He’d often surprise us in the early days by rolling around on his scabbing body, having a right good wriggle and a rub. He just never seemed overly concerned by his injuries, instead just preoccupied with happiness and the company he now kept.
You may have figured out by now that I am talking about Buster in the past tense. This is because something very rare and unpreventable happened to Buster whilst he was under anaesthetic being castrated. His heart stopped. He was a healthy, strapping lad but his heart stopped. The veterinary team tried for 20 minutes to resuscitate him but despite their tremendous effort he died.
Buster’s story wasn’t supposed to end this way, we wanted a Disney-style happy ever after. He was a very precious and treasured soul and he deserved a different ending to this. But no-one is to blame, instead all we can do is celebrate his valour, his infectious appetite for life and his wonderfully loving nature.
It has taken some time for us to accept his loss and to be able to talk about it publicly. But even then I think we’d rather you didn’t say anything the next time we see you. Somethings just don’t need saying. But I know that we all felt honoured to have met him, looked after him and loved him and to the day we die I suspect none of us will ever forget Buster. 
Buster enjoying a Kong stuffed with treats. (Our last picture taken of him.)
Thank you to everyone who kindly donated in his name; your gifts continue to be shared with many more dogs, including the three we admitted at the end of the week: Meg, Bailey and Tilly. What’s so sad is that there is never a shortage of neglected and abused animals needing our care. All we can do is keep getting back up, dusting ourselves down and get on with the job of loving these beautiful animals. This is a privilege to be able to do and I thank you all for enabling us to do it.