Four legs feature this week – and it is not just the MacNaughties. Filming at an animal refuge I find myself being introduced to a range of abandoned creatures.
They are down, but definitely not out. In fact, most have managed to fall nicely on their trotters.
There is George the micro-pig who literally outgrew his owners and their small bungalow. Now this ten-ton Tessie has a new home with no shortage of volunteer tummy ticklers.
Then there’s Farley the goat who is trying to eat the fluffy microphone and who keeps butting me ever-so-gently in the back. Farley once had a starring part in a film. Yet, despite the temporary fame, no-one wants a male goat and when the movie was finished, so was poor Farley.
Yes, the old goat was destined for the knacker’s yard. But this is a story with a happy ending. After the final shout of ‘it’s a wrap’, the director put the doomed creature into his car and took him along to the refuge instead.
The Mossburn Animal Centre is home to nigh on a hundred of these hooved and pawed waifs and strays. And for the woman who set it up, it started with a steed.
Juanita Wilson was stewarding at a riding show in England when she saw a young pony being mistreated. On complaining to the owner, he simply removed the saddle and said, ‘well, if you’re so worried about it, you can keep the thing!’
And there she was, in a foreign muddy field, literally left holding the baby – or, in this case, a horse called Fleur.
Since then Fleur has become a favourite – and Juanita has become the local animal lady. Yes, twenty-five years on she and her team care for a whole menagerie. There are sheep and rabbits. There are geese and chickens – and they all muddle together on a hillside farm.
With so many mouths to feed, money is always tight. So she will not take in more than she can sensibly care for.
‘Some animal refuges have come to grief that way. You really have to have a kind heart, but a hard head.’
I ask how she can bear to hear the stories of abandonment and cruelty and she sighs. ‘It’s generally done more through ignorance than badness.’ I go further. Does she actually eat meat? Yes, she says. She is not a bunny hugger, but she needs to know exactly how the animal has been killed.
Despite her claim to practicality, Juanita has a heart of gold. She also has a medal from the queen for services to animal welfare.
Thank goodness for these caring groups. Last year the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found nearly six thousand homes for rescued animals.
I return to my own house smelling strongly of goat. Which disgusts the chief – and intrigues the MacNaughties. They sniff round, sensing a story. I tell them how very lucky they are…