Tuesday 6 December 2016

Pat on the back for Great British blow-ins

Fiona O'Connell

Published 21/06/2015 | 02:30

"I'll be honest with you, Fiona," Pat says. "We have the crap of the crap up here. There's so many of them, yet not one dog that's worth anything, money-wise" (stock image)

Some folk around these parts can trace their roots way back. Others married into the community, or their families moved here when they were children.

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There are also blow-ins from all over the country - such as yours truly - alongside a veritable united nations of global nomads. But the greatest blow-ins I've met are from the UK.

Pat has her hands full running Deise Animal Sanctuary in a neighbouring county. Yet she lived up to her promise to never turn away an animal in need, when she responded to my SOS about two pigs facing the pork chop, with a chirpy "all right, darlin'!"

But then, as volunteer Abbie told me, "Pat and Rob take on everything - and I mean everything."

And they do so in their endearingly English style. As I witness when Pat goes out into the field of sheep.

"Do you want some tea, girls?" she hollers. "Come on, then! Come on, you lot!"

Pat hails from the English midlands, where she was an animal health inspector. She and her partner Rob came to Ireland for a party 20 years ago and never left.

"We're doing our own thing," Pat says. "We don't do sob stories. People have enough sob stories. As long as we can pay our bills and feed our animals, we're happy."

For there are many furry fugitives here who cannot be re-homed. Like Stuey, who drank antifreeze, which gave him kidney failure. A ferocious little lady called Mrs O'Reilly has likewise been left on the shelf, while they have to use sign language for Whisper, who is stone deaf.

"I'll be honest with you, Fiona," Pat says. "We have the crap of the crap up here. There's so many of them, yet not one dog that's worth anything, money-wise."

Such as Sweetpea, who was so bald from mange when he arrived that he didn't even look like a dog. "He was tied up in a black bin bag and chucked out the car window. The vehicle behind had to swerve - luckily they stopped to see what it was."

All rescues are neutered. Or as Pat puts it, as she gives him a hug, "he's having his nuts off next week, aren't you, Sweetpea? Oh, he's a good dog!"

Mouse the wolfhound is the boss who breaks up all the fights. "We also have to train some of the dogs to be good with cats, chickens, and the other livestock."

Deise treads a precarious path, being both sanctuary and working farm. They treat those male pigs and sheep that "have to go for meat" with as much compassion as possible.

But it's not just animals that learn how to get on together. Pat and Rob also help rehabilitate young offenders, teaching them respect for life.

"We're very careful," Pat says. "Everything is overlooked. But it's good to give people a second chance."

And good for us that such Great British blow-ins make Ireland their home.

Sunday Independent

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