Sheila’s call to the wild is a helping hand

Reporter:

Lauren Hough

I had heard excellent stories about Capricorn and the centre’s owners, who have just been granted planning permission for a large extension and were keen to show me the wonderful things they do for their stray animals.

Holly, a cheerful volunteer, gave me a warm welcome and seemed thrilled that I had taken an interest in what they do.

Holly offered me a tour of the centre and as we walked, explained how planning permission will allow them to make big improvements to the building, allowing them to accommodate the rescued animals more comfortably.

Mid-way through the tour, Sheila Stewart, who established the centre some 26 years ago, returned from a visit to the vet and was eager to tell me her plans.

“This means better facilities not only for the animals but for the volunteers too,” she said enthusiastically.

She explained that the plans include 16 top-of-the-range kennels with its own kitchen area in which to prepare the dogs’ meals and also a run at the end for the dogs to socialise in.

“This is a good way to find out how the dogs act around each other to let potential future owners know how well they behave,” Sheila continued.

I must admit that, as I wandered around the facility, I felt a tinge of sadness to see so many animals that had been abandoned or left here for one reason or another.

I counted at least 10 rabbits, a dozen ferrets, six dogs and numerous cats.

It is also home to dozens of small animals such as guinea pigs and mice.

I was surprised to see such a wide variety of animals at the centre – there are geese, chickens, exotic birds, sheep, a peacock, ex-racing pigeons and a very cheeky goat named Hector.

Each of these animals have all of their own sad stories. One that stood out was the story of a young buzzard.

“We rescued him but can’t release him into the wild because he is going blind,” said Holly. “It’s having enough trouble hunting for the food we give it already.”

Buzzards can live up to nine years of age and as this buzzard is still only young Sheila will have to care for it for a long time.

In the next aviary was a barn owl called Igor.

Igor was a gift for a young boy who watched Harry Potter and decided he would like an owl.

“A lot of the time when someone has an owl as a pet, they don’t realise the kind of care and attention it needs and they are often abandoned,” said Holly. “Because Igor has been raised as a pet, it can’t be released into the wild either.”

I was truly inspired by the work that Sheila and the volunteers are doing for the animals at Capricorn.

Sheila told me how much they also rely on not just the volunteers, but the people who have helped in any way to raise money.

“We’re very grateful to everyone who has been rallying around for us,” she added.

I found it very difficult to come away from the rescue centre without adopting one of the caged animals. If I could, I would have taken all of them home. Sheila has dedicated a large part of her life to caring for these animals and all of the ones that have come before them and I think that is an amazing feat for one person. When I think about my rescued dog, KD, I will think about all of the hard work that people have put in to keeping the animals alive and as healthy as possible and all of the effort that they have put in to help finding each and every animal a happy home.

See full story in the Leader

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