For the Love of All Animals

The Fourth Emergency Service? The Burrows family lead by example
August 2, 2022

As a family of animal lovers, we sometimes find it difficult to say “no”. A good example of this is the time we brought home three baby guinea pigs: and a few weeks later picked up their two sisters as well, because the owner contacted us saying that ‘nobody wanted to take them’.

I think my love of animals stems from my childhood and my mum. When I was growing up, in a small, rural village close to Coniston Water, we had a large garden, and a cat. Occasionally we had to wrestle the cat to pry whatever small animal he had managed to catch from him, and nurse it back to health before setting it free again*. This meant that we had a box with a baby bunny, or a baby bird nestled in one of its corners more often than you would expect so, my sister and I learned, at a young age, that animals are to be treated kindly and that we should always help if we can. This has resulted in multiple rescues, a few heartbreaks and a lot of laughter over the years.

There was the baby deer which wobbled into the road and then collapsed; tired and severely injured. We presumed it had been hit by a car; it had a lot of broken bones. My sister sat on the grass verge with it and stroked it as it put it’s head on her knee and, sadly, went to sleep. There were tears all round that afternoon.

We also found a small hedgehog on the lawn during the day, walking in circles - a cause for concern - so we brought him in the house and found he was covered in ticks and mites. We removed as many ticks as we could and managed to give him some water through a syringe. We contacted a lady who rescues hedgehogs and arranged to meet her to drop the little guy off so she could look after him properly. After a few weeks, we collected him, happy and healthy, and released him back into our garden where he belonged.

One of the most surreal rescues happened on a country road alongside a fishing lake. It had been a warm day and, just as darkness fell, the heavens opened, throwing a terrific downpour. As we made our way along the lane (my mum driving, me in the passenger seat), the headlights of the car lit up the road ahead to illuminate hundreds of frogs! The whole road was almost completely covered in them; it was like something from a horror film. There was absolutely no way through without running over a lot of the frogs. The rain was hammering on the roof of the car but I knew I had to get out and move them; not only so we could continue our journey, but we were on a blind bend and a car could’ve easily come from the opposite direction and squashed the lot of them without even realising. With every line of frogs that I cleared from the road, my mum inched the car forwards to give me more light. It took about half an hour, and I was absolutely soaked to the skin when I got back in the car, but I moved every single one of those frogs out of harm’s way and into the grass verge to safety. I’ve never seen anything like it since and I genuinely feel lucky to have seen it at all.

Most of the rescues we’ve done have lasted a few days, just enough to make sure that the animal is healthy enough to be released back into the wild, but there was one rescue that lasted months. Phil, the pigeon. I had noticed him, perched on a ledge at the back door of where I worked at the time, but didn’t think much of it. At the end of the day, he was still there, and it was then that I saw he had a broken wing – it was hanging down by his side. I grabbed a cardboard box from work, carefully picked up the pigeon, placed him in the box and took him home, much to my husband’s surprise. (I have to say, I’m very lucky to have married someone who loves animals as much as I do). In the end we called him ‘Phil’, put him in our empty rabbit hutch and kept him safe and fed for months. We tried letting him out a couple of times, but he came straight back and sat outside our back door! Eventually his wing healed so we let him out, watched and waited. He flapped his wings a couple of times and then flew off into the distance. Good old Phil.

Even as I write this, we have a baby hedgehog nestled in a box in our kitchen! I found him in the middle of the road yesterday lunchtime with a magpie hovering around him and I’m currently waiting for our local rescue centre to get back to me. (He isn’t injured, looks bright, healthy, alert and is eating, drinking and toileting. If this wasn’t the case, I would take him to our vet immediately.) We also currently own a puppy, three guinea pigs and a continental giant rabbit but we’ve had lots of different animals over the years from fish to horses, cats and even rats. (Rats are lovely pets and very undeserving of the reputation they have). I don’t think it will matter how many animals we have, or how old we get, we will always rescue animals in need of help, and I don’t think we’ll ever regret a single one. I certainly don’t so far anyway!

*If you find a sick or injured animal, please contact your nearest wildlife rescue for their advice and do not move a wild animal unless it is in immediate danger.

What to do if you find sick or injured wildlife - PDSA