It all started in my parents’ house in the middle of Cork City. I was lucky that they had three large gardens and a huge shed. I used to take in all the unwanted animals, dogs and cats off the streets that were dumped and find them new homes.
As word got out more and more animals were left at our gate as the years went by. At one stage I had up to ten dogs, loads of cats, hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, wild birds with broken wings, goats and three monkeys.
When I was just seven, in my heart AHAR was born and I knew I would always follow my heart.
Over the years there were always loads of funny stories like when we got a goat called Nanny. My mother loved animals but my dad would go mad if he knew we had a goat, so we were lucky he never went into the gardens, all he could see from the window was what looked like a large dog. So we agree, yes dad that’s a foreign breed of dog. That was until my mum took me to bingo with her and the goat escaped and went into the neighbour’s garden and ate the clothes off her clothes line. She came banging on the front door shouting at my dad about the goat.
When we came home he said the neighbour was in and said we had a goat and it ate her clothes. Then he laughed and said I didn’t think she was the type to have a drink problem…as if we have a goat!
The next day we got her a home with a milking farm but it was six miles away and my mother didn’t drive so we walked the goat all the way on a dog collar and lead and it took us ages to get there because everyone wanted to pet the goat and of course find out why we were walking it on a lead.
Then of course my birthday parties every year my mum would throw a party and the problem was that all the class would want to come. That would be up to 40 children… all because of the animals and the fun. Then a hotel in Cork closed down and they had a pet’s corner and my mum took the three squirrel monkeys, Ben Paddy and Judy. The fun we had with them, they would wreck the house in 2 minutes pulling everything down and raiding the presses. It was so much fun living with them as a child. People used to call my mum monkey Gibbons as she was raising four monkeys… me and the three of them.
So many people would call to the house every day to meet all the animals. We even had a budgie that my mum trained to tell you to get off the phone if you were on longer than a minute. This bird could roar! You couldn’t stay on the phone, because it worked. It kept the phone bill down.
The worst part of my childhood was going to school because I had to leave the animals during the day, so I continued it there instead. I used to have a hard lead colegate pencil box. This was used to catch the mice in the school before the caretaker Mr Nevil got to them first with his hammer. Myself and Avril Bowyer would search the school to find them before him and I’d carry them home and release them in my dad’s shed and put food out every night.
But one day, the Lord Mayor was coming so all the school was lined up in the school hall to meet him. Everything was going perfect until a tiny field mouse walked in for a look. Well if you saw around a 100 children jump on top of each other screaming at the house, boy did I laugh. So the head mistress roared, “where’s Suzanne?” I just walked over and picked him up and she said “quick get him out before the Lord Mayor comes”. So I did, but oops! As I was going out, he was coming in. He greeted me and asked “what’s in your hand?” I opened it and showed him. Well that was me in trouble with the head mistress.
It made the front page of the Irish Examiner. Lord Mayor goes to Scoil Mhuire and is greeted by Suzanne and a mouse. I was murdered. Thank God she never found out about the dogs in the attic.
If I was at the shop at lunchtime, and if I found a stray dog, I’d hide it in the attic of the school and then take him home after with me and we would pretend we needed the toilet during school and sneak up and feed him our lunch.
School had become too much fun. I had found a way to keep rescuing. Another time I was on the way to a friend’s house on the bus, when I saw 3 boys beating a donkey. I made the bus driver stop and let me out. I ran into the field and started beating them (much older than me, I was only 12 they were at least 18) with my school bag, until the guards came and helped.
The guards then rang the Cork animal’s home to come for the donkey and the guards dropped me home. My poor mother nearly fainted, “What has she done now?” But the guard just laughed and said no, she’s a hero she saved the donkey. But I knew by my mother’s face I was dead. Lol.
It was all fine after I met the Lord Mayor again when he gave me an award for bravery for saving the donkey and we made the Irish Examiner ….. again.