Meet our Founder, Pauline!

Today’s Covid-19 Isolation Conversation is a little different…
Meet our Founder, Pauline!

Tell us why and when you started animal rescue.
Ever since I was a young child I had a real affinity with animals, and would often prefer their company to friends. I started rescuing animals in a small way about 45 years ago after volunteering at a local animal shelter. What I saw there broke my heart and I knew then that I wanted to help make a difference. There were so many poor homeless animals that needed help, and the cruelty inflicted on some of them made me determined to do something to alleviate the suffering.
How did it feel when you purchased Holly Hedge?
Holly Hedge was a dream come true. It was a struggle fostering so many at home, although my kids loved it, and when boarding kennels I was using as an overflow came up for sale, Esme Berni our amazing friend and at that time recent benefactor, gave an amazing donation enabling us to purchase the kennels in March 1992, so that more animals could be saved.

What made you choose Holly Hedge Animal Sanctuary as the name?
The kennels we bought were called Holly Hedge Boarding Kennels, so just changed boarding kennels to Animal Sanctuary which was far more appropriate.

Who was your first rescue animal?
My first rescue was a dog that had been left behind by a travelling fair in a field near where I lived. He was found bleeding from a wound underneath his neck that looked like he had been cut from ear to ear. I took him to the vets where he was stitched up, and when he was fit and well, I rehomed him to a friend of my parents. Word soon got around that I was a soft touch where animals were concerned and it soon escalated from there and animal rescue became a full time job in my own home.

What is your favourite thing about (or at) Holly Hedge?
My favourite thing about HH that it is in a beautiful, tranquil setting with two fields, and an area of woodland. Everything at HH revolves around the wellbeing and enrichment for all our rescues as their needs come first and foremost above all else.

What are you doing to keep away quarantine boredom?
I am doing a lot of writing for HH, as well as caring for my 12 year old foster dog who needs a great deal of tlc as he was very badly neglected.

Tell us something about you, that we don’t already know.
It had been 20 years since my last holiday and my 11 year old daughter asked if we could go somewhere on a plane as she hadn’t been on one before. That was a bit of a tall order as I had a lot of foster animals to care for, plus the Animal Concern rescue phone line (as the Charity was called before Holly Hedge became a reality) needed to be manned, and I could think of all sorts of reasons why it would be impossible to go away. So, after a lot of soul searching eventually it was decided that my husband would take a week off work and the calls would be taken by a person who helped in my little office a couple of hours a day. So with great trepidation I booked 7 nights in Ibiza with two of my children and two young grandchildren.

When we arrived at the hotel and stepped from the coach, within seconds a skinny little cat zoomed straight in on me, meowing pitifully around my legs. I naturally stroked her and she almost followed me in to the hotel. I knew that if she was still there when I came back out again I would have to feed her. Of course she was there, so I bought some cat food from a shop next to the hotel, and she wolfed it down in seconds. Although she was thin she was bulging a little on either side and I wondered if she was pregnant. She was always there waiting, and I would get food from the hotel which she demolished in seconds. Really, that was the end of the holiday it should have been, and into animal rescue mode I went. I would leave my family by the pool, looking all over the place to see if she had an owner, but to no avail. It was established she had no home to go to, and belonged to English people who had returned home, leaving her behind! It was 1991 and I can’t remember if mobile phones were around then, but if they were, I didn’t have one! I knew she would have to be brought back to England, but not being able to communicate in Spanish I had no idea how to go about it. I managed to get some information from the shop about a local vet who I arranged to come and see her, and he confirmed that she was about 4 weeks pregnant, and that she was fit enough to travel so he vaccinated her, which was a worry as it’s not the norm to vaccinate pregnant animals. But this wasn’t a normal situation so it had to be done or she couldn’t be brought over here. She waited for us to feed and water her several times a day and always made a bee line for us, purring away and rubbing round our legs.

I was given the name of a rescue who were about 20 miles away, so I hopped in a taxi after ringing them to sort out somewhere for her to stay. (Thank goodness they spoke good English)! There were only a few days left of the holiday from hell to sort everything out and I was panicking. The shop kindly allowed her to stay in the back area at night so she was safe, and money was left with the rescue to look after her and put her on the flight to England where she would have to go straight into quarantine. There was so much to organise it left little time for “holidaying”! On our last day Suki as we named her was collected by the rescue and went on the first stage of her journey to England.

I left her with a lump in my throat, but knowing we would meet again if all went to plan. I felt so guilty that my kids didn’t have much of a holiday but they understood and wouldn’t have had it any other way as they love animals too.

3 weeks later Suki arrived unscathed. I went to visit her in quarantine and she looked very pregnant but in good spirits. I visited her regularly, and saw her the day after her 4 babies were born, she was a very proud mum. After her quarantine was over Suki and her little family came home with me. I would have loved to have kept her but I already had a house full of rescues and she was so home able. They were all found wonderful homes and lived very happily in England. That was the last time I went on holiday, until 2011 when I went to Australia.