Sanctuary Life

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Find out about the dogs, cats and four legged friends at the Pet Samaritans Animal Sanctuary in Derbyshire.

In Memoriam of Joan Bentley Animal Lover and Pet Samaritan

goats - grazingIt is with great sadness we regret to inform you, Joan Bentley – founder of St Bernard’s Animal Sanctuary and the Pet Samaritans passed away  on 28th November, 2016 at the age of 73.   Joan started St.Bernard’s many years ago and was a dedicated animal lover from an early age. She devoted her life to rescuing animals and wildlife. It was reciprocated – all creatures loved her too. She was particularly fond of cats and was never seen without some feline friend in her arms or by her side.  In later years she formed the Pet Samaritans, an organisation she dedicated to the well being and happiness of all animals through education, campaigning and rehabilitation at the animal sanctuary at Old Whittington in Derbyshire. In 2013, she was recognised for her services to the local community by winning the Peak FM Local Peoples award.

She was gentle, kind and caring and will be sadly missed. A prolific writer, Joan wrote many poems often about animals under her pen name Daphne Shepherd. A collection of her poems will be available soon through the Sanctuary website and Amazon kindle.

A Memorial Service for Joan is to be held on Tuesday, 13 December, 2016.   All are welcome to attend. Please contact the Sanctuary on 07432 071122 for more details or send an email to  Joan requested no flowers for the service but any donations to the animals in lieu of flowers can be made to the Pet Samaritans, Broomhil Mews, Broomhill Rd., Chesterfield, S41 9EA or via our website donation page.

Joan Bentley with her beloved cat Grondahl

We’ll leave you with one of Joan’s poems about her favourite horse, John Peel.

Phantom Hoofprints

I saw a set of hoofprints
As I walked a lonely share
I followed them and thought they seemed familiar,
Paused and saw a moving shadow
Cantering ahead – a fleabitten grey…
John Peel? My childhood friend,
Alive. Not dead.
I smile.
Still temperamental too,
Nipping and shying at the horse alongside
Lochinvar? Is it really you?
Whoa lad. No doubting it,
Sixteen hands, brave, bold, bright bay,
Full fired up and go all day.
Such times we had together,
When I was young and we rode out
Across moors and mountains, sandy lanes,
In sun and rain and storm, all weather.
Life then held neither fears nor doubts,
I wish I could go back, live it again.,
Or mount now, ride through crashing foam,
And wash away my grief and pain,
The endless partings, little gain….
But my horses turn and splash,
And with last roll of eye they leave me,
Canter back to hallowed meadows,
Clean and sweet….
On some Celestial favoured track.





Teddy The Mighty Chihuahua Enjoying His New Home

Thanks to Teddy’s new owner for sending us these lovely pictures of Teddy in his new home. It’s so wonderful to see pets get another chance at a happy life. It makes what we do all worth while.
Apparently Teddy has some new girlfriends in his life, Paris the Jack Russell and Bella the Labrador and is enjoying lots of walks with the family. God bless you Teddy and owners.
teddy rescue dog


chihuahua rescue




Hansel and Gretel Fairy Tale Owls

Our two owls were having a hoot today at being moved to their new location near the St Bernards Wildlife Rescue visitor centre. They love to watch the goings on at the sanctuary and take a keen interest in all the new arrivals. They are still quite shy around strangers but have started hooting whenever they see people they recognise. They are the best of friends and cuddle up together. We are hoping to build a new large aviary for them soon with lots more room so that they can strengthen their wings and get fitter. The timber and wire is estimate to cost £800 but the good news is we have a volunteer joiner who has offered to help with construction. If anyone would like to sponsor Hansel and Gretel or could help towards the material costs, please get in touch or pop up to visitor centre anytime between 10am and 3pm. You can also help direct on our donations page.

Kittens doing well

kittens-demelzas-3-1 It’s unusual to have kittens this time of year but Demelza’s little beauties are thriving.- they are two boys and a girl (the ginger on the right) and she is feeding them well so they are plump and cuddly.  Their eyes are still blue but will start to change colour any time now, sometimes the ‘fixed’ eye colour doesn’t come till much later.

The kits are eating as well as nursing, they have kitten pouches and biscuits – we like Purina Kitten biscuits, also Royal Canin and Hills Science Diet.  Don’t forget to put a shallow saucer of water down and change it twice a day.

Already they are starting to use a litter tray, it has to be a shallow one for kits to get in and out easily but doesn’t need to be especially large.  A cardboard box does fine and then you can throw the whole thing away and get another.

We’re socializing the kits and they like to be picked up and fussed then they run back to mommy.  Demelza is as feisty as ever though, we have to accept that she is a feral cat and it may take along time (if ever) to persuade her to friendly.

The kits will be offered for adoption when they are over nine weeks old and have been vaccinated and had a vet health check. Watch this space!kittens-demelzas-2-1




Ghillie is as good as gold


Ghillie is a Parson Jack Russell terrier who came in recently as is settling very well.  He is a polite and well mannered little boy and hasn’t put a paw wrong since he’s been with us.   Terriers are a bit different from other breeds and can be a bit fesity – they were bred for ratting and a tough outdoor life.  Ghillie loves to be out in the fresh air and on walks and having a run around but at the same time he likes home comforts and duvet by the radiator.

He’s an intelligent chap and is interested in everything.  He doesn’t seem to bother about cats and likes to meet other dogs, although most dogs have their dislikes if they feel threatened.  He loves our lady whippets!

He’s vaccinated, chipped and neutered so all ready to go.  An outdoor life with lots of freedom and running up over the fields and through the woods would suit him perfectly.  He’s an affectionate dog who will be a faithful friend and good companion.

If you’d like to come and meet him please get in touch.  We’re open every day between between 11.0am and 2.0pm.  We close a bit earlier in winter because of getting all the animals fed and exercised and ponies brought in before it gets dark.





Tiny tot kitten needs a new home

kittens-toffee-1 She’s had a hard life so far – Toffee was living in a garden and too frightened to be caught.   The kind people who brought her in to us had to be very patient and gain her trust in order to catch her.  She came to us on Bonfire Night which would have scared her even more.

Toffee looks black but she is really a dark tortie, there are flecks of brown in her coat.   She has a sad face at the moment but that will all change when she gets a new and loving home.   We think she’s around nine weeks old, she might be older because she is small through malnutrition.

When we first saw her she was covered in fleas and full of worms.  That was easy to treat and then it was off to the vet for a health check and vaccination.   The vet says she is fine and healthy now, it’s just her weight has to catch up and she needs to be kept warm.

Toffee is clean and well behaved, she is still a bit scared but loves to be held and cuddled, she likes to snugge up and doesn’t want to be put down!  Doesn’t she have a sad little face – it will all change when she feels secure again.

If you’d like to come and meet her please get in touch, we’re open every day between 11.0am and 3.0pm.kittens-toffee-2-1



Fussy and friendly Tinkerbell for adoption

cats-tinkerbell-2-1Tinkerbell isn’t just very pretty she has a lovely nature as well.  She came in because of domestic circumstances and need a loving new home.  Tinks is an affectionate young lady around 4 years old, she’s spayed and vaccinated and is clean and well behaved.

We love her snow white coat and large golden eyes with the neat black patches above.  She also has a few black splodges on her back and pretty pink nose and pads on her feet.

Tinkerbell is used to going outside and being an indoor cat too, she’s a good natured little lady who gets on with other cats as well as people.   If you’d  like to come and meet her please get in touch.  We’re open every day between 11 and 3.0pm.





Kitten birth emergency


This little cat was brought in a few weeks ago, she was a stray and living out in a garden. It was obvious from her bulging tummy and huge appetite that she was pregnant and yesterday she looked imminent.   We checked on her first thing this morning and even before we peeked inside the nest we heard a distraught meowing.  Tiffy was in trouble.

Even though she’s a small youngster she’d given birth to five kittens.  That part was good but the cord was still attached to some of them and they were all tangled up and still attached to her.  An experienced mommy cat would have chewed through as the kits were born but Tiffy is a first timer and obviously didn’t know about this.  When cats live in families they see how to do everything, mousing, hunting, birthing, looking after their babies – but for Tiffy it’s all new and no mom or aunties to help her.   We force unnatural lives on our cats because we want them as pets.

It only took a few seconds to free the babies and as soon as we put them in the nest box this good little cat went straight in and started fussing and nursing them.  We don’t normally like to handle new born kits because our human scent can put the mother cat off caring for them.  We’ll disturb Tiffy as little as possible and let her have privavcy.  Hopefully all will now be well.


The horse with the tangled mane

horses - chester 2 copy

A spooky story for Halloween – and it’s true!   We first saw Bella at a meat market, she was on her own in a pen and looking very sorry for herself. She was 13hands, 3 years old, a coloured cob with pretty markings. The most outstanding thing about her was her superb mane, it was thick and long and she kept spinning round and tossing it.
It was a battle to buy her, the meat man was bidding on all the cobs. We managed to outbid him, £160 and Bella was coming home to the sanctuary and not the slaughterhouse which was the other outcome.
Bella wasn’t an easy pony to handle though, she was what was called ‘wick’ – a sharp and feisty filly, always on edge and jumping at every little thing. She could gallop like the wind and outrun every other horse on the place. The plan was to let her settle in her own time, she had no malice but was too tricky for anyone inexperienced to handle.
We fetched Bella in every night, stabling her was part of the socialising process. She had a feed, a rack of hay and a soft straw bed. Hopefully she was forgetting whatever had happened in her past to make her so jumpy and nervous.
Usually she was waiting at the gate, she liked the feed and was always ready to come in. It was Autumn and around Bonfire night, one evening she wasn’t waiting as usual, she was nowhere to be seen. I wondered if a firework had spooked her so I set off down the field to find her. Not a sign of her anywhere though. I alerted all the staff and volunteers and we searched further, eventually reporting her missing, thinking that she must have broken out somehow and ……. busy roads, horse thieves, well, I didn’t want to speculate where she was or what had happened to her.
I went out several times, shouting Bella till I was hoarse. It was pitch black, no moon and my torch was like a searchlight.  All the other ponies were in and the stable doors firmly bolted, they seemed unconcerned and were munching their hay placidly.
I was up at first light and grabbed the car keys, ready to look further afield. She could have run for miles and be anywhere.
When I turned the corner into the stable yard, I stopped dead in my tracks. There she was – Bella was in her stable, her head over the door. She whinnied softly to me as I raced up and hugged her. Then it hit me – Bella was in but the door had been shut the night before, now it was firmly bolted on the outside. .There was no way she could have fastened herself in.
Had she jumped in to her stable? It was possible but ……would have taken some doing. Bella had never shown any inclination to jump anything in the months we’d had her.
Had someone found her and brought her home, putting her in the stable for safety? Mmm. Our dogs would bark if a pin dropped and we hadn’t heard a sound from them all night. I couldn’t see them letting someone on the yard, let alone opening and closing stable doors.
As I stroked Bella I realised she felt damp, her coat was streaked with sweat, it was drying but still stiff and greasy. She had to have been ridden hard to get in such a state. I looked at her hooves, they were ragged, she was limping and foot sore.
Her mane was the most puzzling of all, it was completely knotted. Not just little tangles, it was a mass of thick knots, impossible to undo. Her lovely mane now hung in heavy clumps.
What had happened overnight? It was a complete mystery. No one rang to say they’d found her and brought her back. The police, who we had alerted, had no reports or sightings of her.
Bella was subdued, we had to cut her mane off and it took a month for her sore feet to recover but apart from that she was alright.
We never discovered what had happened to Bella on the night she went missing – except that when she disappeared it was the evening of Halloween and All Soul’s Day when she came back.  An old fella who lived in the village told me his own theory.  He said that he’d seen this happen before and that the witches had been riding her! They pick the fastest and most spirited horse for their Halloween races.
Whoever took her it was a mystery that was never solved – it’s a true story and exactly how it happened.  Bella lived in the sanctuary for many more years, in time she became plump and placid and never went missing again. We always locked her stable door whenever it was Halloween though, just in case.


Neglect causes dog months of suffering

dogs-buddy-badskin-1 We were shocked when we first saw Buddy,  his skin was appalling, bare al across his back with weeping sores.  He was brought in as a stray  but someone must have know what state he was in, constantly itching and scratching.   He went to the vet straight away and it was a tense time waiting to see if the diagnosis was mange.

Fortunately, for this lovable young Lab x staffi, the problem was a massive flea infestation.   A simple ‘spot-on’ treatment would have prevented all the weeks and months of misery for this good natured dog.

He’s free from fleas now, no more itching and irritation and his hair is growing back really well.  A diet rich in oily fish is helping.  He’s a great dog and well behaved.  We’ll be looking for a new home for him as soon as his skin is a bit better.  If you’d like to come and meet him please get in touch.