Cath, 42, lives in Manchester with her 3 rescued dogs. She was brought up in a caring and compassionate family, and has been around animals all her life. For years Cath has worked and volunteered at many different rescue centres, and now runs her own business as a self employed massage therapist and Yoga and Pilates teacher.
I went to work at Freshfields when I was 17, in between GSCEs and A levels. I was so awe struck by everyone there and getting to work so closely with animals, that I never went back to college. I felt I was going to learn everything I needed there.
I’d always been drawn to animals and grew up with a dog and various other animals. I became concerned about stray, abandoned and vulnerable animals after finding a puppy, which my parents found a home for, a domestic rabbit which we kept and various baby birds which I’d found fallen out of nests onto the pavement – my amazing mum would put them in the airing cupboard and try to hand feed, always unsuccessfully.
When I was nine, I realised my dad didn’t eat meat. He said he’d read a description of a slaughter house in a book and didn’t want to eat meat any more. I connected the dots and went veggie too. My mum and brother followed later.
We lived in a new town, in Lancashire, which was basically four big council estates. My parents were communists, active in the community, organising projects like swap shops, veg co-ops, kids’ holidays and running unemployed workers’ centres. We boycotted South African products during the apartheid years and went on marches and rallies for trade unions and against Maggie Thatcher. So “power of the people” and the power of the boycott was definitely nurtured in my family. When I learned about the extent of animal exploitation: the pet trade, animal experiments and that dairy and eggs caused as much suffering as meat, I went vegan. I also went home to my parents ranting and they immediately went vegan too.
My summer break between college courses and volunteering at Freshfields never came to an end, and I gradually moved in. First, I lived in the house, in a room full of cats and then in a caravan, which I shared with a few dogs, in a field with horses. I lived there on and off for a few years before leaving Liverpool.
I worked at a few other rescues including ARK animal rescue in Japan for three months, helping with the influx of dogs and cats who found themselves there, after an earthquake had destroyed their homes. At the Vale Wildlife Rescue in Worcestershire, I worked with all manner of wild animals which was really interesting. A couple of years ago, I helped on a neutering scheme in Morocco with HSAM. It’s always an eye opener working abroad and you often get to see the real side of life; meeting local people and ending up off the beaten track.
I’ve always shared my home with rescued animals, most of which I have found and taken in. I have a soft spot for staffy types as they are often pre-judged as aggressive dogs, but are usually so loving and friendly. I now have an American bulldog from Freshfields, a collie cross who we took from a man threatening to tie him to a lamppost as all the rescues were full, and a staffy cross that I found running around alone.
I walk my neighbour’s dog too as he’s one of the unfortunate many who don’t get walked by the people they live with. I always think people who have dogs and don’t walk them are missing out on so much. Walking is so good for you and it’s great to see your dog have a good time. People don’t realise how frustrating it is for a dog not to get out. I think I’d be a lot more stressed if I didn’t get out into nature on a regular basis!
Most of my time now is taken up running my business as a self-employed massage therapist and Yoga and Pilates teacher. I got into Yoga when I realised it could change the way I felt. I used to feel quite depressed and anxious about the state of the world and the amount of suffering there was. Yoga helps you take control of your feelings and your physical health. I decided to become a yoga teacher to promote love and compassion – which is what yoga teaches. I trained in Reflexology, Indian Head Massage and Hot Stone Massage at my local college – I really got the bug for holistic therapies!
I’ve recently completed a three year BTEC in clinical and sports massage for the treatment of chronic pain, and also a Pilates teacher qualification. My business is called Lighten Up Therapies as I believe when you relieve tension you feel lighter, and also as a reference to love and light. I run yoga and pilates classes in community centres and provide massage from a clinic in Manchester. I also visit workplaces across the North West to offer yoga, pilates and massage.
Working with people to treat pain issues and helping them to take a step back from the pressures of life to contemplate, reminds me that most people are just struggling along and trying to keep up in a messed-up system. Quite a few of my clients have turned out to be veggie, have rescued animals or are involved in community activism which I always find heart-warming.
I hope to one day run a vegan retreat centre somewhere beautiful. This will inevitably be shared with a few rescued animals and will hopefully inspire people to choose to be gentle and compassionate, to themselves, each other, the planet and all the living beings we share the planet with.
To view Cath’s website please click HERE.