As this week draws to a close I’ve awoken to the realisation that there has been an over-riding theme to the last seven days. It’s one that is all too familiar to us all, yet often so alien in the guises that it adopts that we don’t necessarily see it for what it really is. 
The online Oxford Dictionary offers a variety of definitions for the concept of ‘family’, including: ‘a group of related things’ and ‘a group of peoples from a common stock’. Of course both these nod towards a shared biology but they still hint at the notion of commonality, shared experiences and beliefs.

It was mid week when I heard a staff member describe our branch as a family. It was in response to a discussion we were having about the affect that discord at work has on us individually, but also as a branch. She said it affects us all so personally because we are a family. We all do what we do because we want to do best by the animals that need us.
I suppose seeing people take animals for granted the way in which we do and the desire to make a difference, no matter how small, creates not only a sense of belonging but also the belief that the animals are part of the family too.What invariably happens at the RSPCA Manchester and Salford Branch, whether something goes right or wrong, is that  we all feel the affect. But because we are a family we share and support one another through it. This becomes a unifying, if not edifying, experience a lot of the times and helps us to find the strength to carry on.
What makes our family function is the people that are a part of it. Each and everyone of them contribute to creating our branch and to keeping me sane. I want to share with you examples of some the things they have done this week so you can see just how much of a family we really are.
An email from cat cuddler Jacquie who recently adopted her second cat from us included this picture and the caption below.
Absolute nutter!  Over 35 years sharing home with cats and NEVER met one as crazy as this beauty (formerly named Xyla).”
This superb video was sent to me by our cat cuddler and foster carer Emma of a sheep in the grounds of where we house some of our animal. If you can’t open the link the sheep is actually burping – it is the most peculiar thing!

We rely on photos to capture peoples’ hearts.

Outstanding photos (voluntarily) taken by Nicola who works at the RSPCA Adoption Centre at Pets at Home in Stockport. She brings her own camera to work so she capture the beauty of our animals. Phots maximise the chances of rehoming our animals. Nicola absolutely loves the animals and relishes telling me all about how they get on when they visit the centre for the day. I got a delightful text bestowing the virtues of Murray, plus this beautiful picture below of him nodding off having lap cuddles.
This morning foster carer Simon sent me this image with the caption ‘Trying (and eventually failing) to hog the sofa’.

This little mite was one of four that were being kept in a rabbit hutch.

And on a day when I thought I might implode I got sent this great linkand the challenge to find which one might be a fake!
There are many more examples I could share, such as home visitor Alan bringing in his cat puppet in to see me and creating much amusement for me as he demonstrated how he managed to raise so much money during a collection we had last weekend. Or the email from home visitor Julie letting me know that when she left my third floor office she got lost twice on the way down, ending up in a cupboard each time! Or trustee Gilly who sent me the funniest message to cheer me up. She had taken her two year old daughter on a vet trip and her daughter told the (very experienced and highly qualified) vet that he was “doing really well at his job”. Brilliant!
These daily acts of kindness demonstrate just how special our team, family, friends – call them what you like – are all about. We are blessed to have each other. I am blessed to have such brilliant people in my life. People who share a united belief in what we are doing and a gritted determination to keep chipping away. This week I can see what we have so clearly. This is in doubt because of the challenges and loss we have faced. 
The biggest loss of all this week has ricocheted across the ‘RS Family’ (as I heard someone describe us). An incredibly dedicated, well loved and highly respected officer tragically and suddenly died this week. Her loss is profound, tragic and cruel. Our branch send our deepest sympathies and love to all her family, blood line or otherwise.
Let’s not take for granted what and who we have in our lives, most of all the furry shaped folks that my dear friend Emma routinely calls ‘the kids’.
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