Me and My Pets - Kären Smith, Burgess Pet Care
PUBLISHED: 18:57 27 September 2016 | UPDATED: 18:57 27 September 2016
Animal nutritionist Kären Smith gives us a tour of her York-based menagerie
Growing up, I was animal mad. We had a pet dog and various cats, but for me this wasn’t enough. I spent almost all my spare time on a farm over the road, staying up all night during lambing season assisting sheep who were having complications and hand-rearing lambs and calves who were orphaned or rejected.
My very first pet was a pony called April, who I begged my parents for, declaring that I didn’t want any birthday or Christmas presents if I could have my own pony (they held me to that!).
I started shadowing the local vet who came on farm visits and I was soon spending my weekends helping at his surgery.
After studying at Bishop Burton College, I produced competition horses for a while before landing my dream job as a veterinary nurse. I then moved into education, lecturing in animal management and veterinary nursing, and now work at Burgess Pet Care as their nutritional advisor.
Over the years, I’ve acquired various animals (or, more often than not, they acquired me) and have now built quite a menagerie of waifs and strays. I’m a doting mum to a dog, two cats, two horses, two donkeys, three wallabies, two rheas, two geese, four ducks and around 30 chickens.
They take quite a lot of looking after, but I absolutely love it. I’m up at the crack of dawn every morning mucking and turning out, feeding and watering all year round whatever the weather, then back at it after work. There’s nothing quite like watching the animals while the sun rises over the field. It’s immensely rewarding.
They’re all such different characters too. Togo, my Siberian husky is now 15 years old but still thinks he’s a pup. Jack and Sven the donkeys are full of mischief, always trying to eat what they shouldn’t eat. Sven has been clicker trained to open doors, touch targets and lie down. He was easy to train because he’ll do anything for a carrot.
My older horse Alfie keeps me sane – a ride out will cure all ills. As he has arthritis, I’m training baby Luna to be my riding horse in a couple of years, although watching her tank around the field like a thing possessed I’m not sure how tranquil those rides will be.
Wallabies Willow, Clover and Nutmeg are local celebrities and love to lounge in the sun. While the rheas’ sole purpose in life seems to be to leap in the air for no apparent reason then leg it around the paddock snaking their necks about, occasionally falling flat on their faces. There’s never a dull moment!
:: Kären Smith is nutritional advisor for Burgess Pet Care, a Yorkshire-based family company that’s been manufacturing quality pet food for more than 200 years.