The late Bishop Edward Daly’s beloved cat Tom was given his forever home last week, and now new owner Dave Graham has encouraged others to consider adopting an older pet.
Bishop Daly, whose photograph became the iconic image of Bloody Sunday in 1972, passed away last August at the age of 82.
Tragically his ginger feline companion Tom, who he had cherished for more than 15 years, suddenly found himself homeless as a result.
Generous Dave Graham from Coleraine, who previously worked for charity Cats Protection, explained how he instantly fell in love with Tom when he met him at his local animal rescue centre.
“I went along to Rainbow Rescue and Rehoming after one of my very special rescue cats, Bloomer, sadly passed away just before Christmas.
“He had been very close to one of my other cats Disco, who bagan to pine very badly for him.
“Bloomer had also become somewhat of a ‘father figure’ to two young kittens I had adopted from Cats Protection, one of whom had a heart condition. I adopted them together so that one wouldn’t be left on its own.
“I wanted to get a new companion for Disco, and had really liked a gorgeous one-eyed kitten I met before I suddenly spotted Tom sitting on his own in the corner.
“As soon as I put the kitten down, a lovely family snapped it up so things worked out well - because as soon as I met Tom I fell in love with him instantly.
“I was told he was at least 16, but more likely 17-years-old, and that his previous owner had died. It was then that I learned about his sad story.
“I was surprised that none of Bishop Daly’s congregation had taken poor Tom in, but perhaps they didn’t know he was in such a desperate situation.
“Perhaps they just assumed someone else was looking after him, which can sadly happen quite often after someone passes away.”
But kind-hearted Dave said he couldn’t get stop thinking about Tom’s tragic story.
He asked: “Can you imagine your beloved dog or cat was your everything in life, you’ve been together for years, you look after each other and you’re best friends. Then suddenly you pass away and they’ve got no-one to look after them. “How horrible would it be for them to loose you and suddenly find themselves all alone and without a home?
“I looked at Tom and I just hated the thought of that. I especially hated the thought of his owner looking down at him from heaven and being upset at seeing him all alone.
“Because Tom is now deaf and was used to being with one owner for his entire life, the rescue worker explained that the shelter was not the ideal place for him. He was extremely nervous and needed a home - a forever home.
“I found myself ringing my partner Glynis but the phone went dead. So I went home and spent the whole night thinking about Thomas, and poor Bishop Daly. I just couldn’t bear the thought of him being alone.
Dave added: “A friend said to me recently that a priest’s life can often be very lonely. But Tom was Bishop Edward Daly’s constant companion for 15 years. Can you imagine how close they would have been? I believe that they each would have meant everything to each other.
“I came back for him the very next day - and I’m so glad I did!
“Despite being completely deaf, Tom has settled in and after just five days has made best friends with three of my other cats. That’s incredible after being initially nervous, having been on his own for so long.
“You certainly wouldn’t believe he’s the equivalent in human terms of an 85-year-old!
“He loves to play with his toys on a stick and his favourite - chasing the laser.
“He’s a real character. This is certainly his forever home. I’m so glad he’s part of the family.”
Jemma Heath, Manager of Rainbow Rescue and Rehoming which rescues and rehomes stray and abandoned cats and dogs every year in the Northwest area, spoke of her relief when Tom found his new forever home.
“It was just incredible when Tom was adopted. It is always fantastic when animals in the centre find their forever homes, but it is even more special with the older cats and dogs who are often sadly overlooked.
“Sometimes they wait in the centre for years. You really are rooting for them after spending so much time with them.”
Jemma agreed that Tom’s case highlighted the need for more people to adopt older cats and dogs.
“Rescuing a dog or cat is one of the most rewarding things a person can do for an animal. Some of these animals do not know what love is, some have never had a warm bed before, or been in the loving arms of their families.
“In most cases the best life a rescue animal has seen is the home we offer them at our centre, our hope is always that they will only be with us a short time until they move on to their forever family, but sometimes this is not reality, especially at this time of year, when many people choose to pay hundreds of pounds for puppies because they are young, or come with a piece of paper that tells you they are ‘pure breed.’
“In our rescue centre breed, size or age does not matter, we want to offer them all the same chance, and we can only do that with the continued support of the public.”
Those interested in adopting a cat can visit the cattery, where you will be able to meet and interact with all of the kittens and older cats awaiting for their forever homes.
When looking into adopting a dog, Jemma explained that the process is slightly different.
“Cats are a bit more straightforward, when you come to adopt one you can walk around the cattery and see who you develop that instant connection with and go from there.
“But with dogs, we bring them to meet you based on your needs. Naturally, if you have never owned a dog before and would like a small dog, we won’t show you a large one with complex needs.
“In saying that, we always find that the dog chooses the owner. For example, I came to the rescue centre thinking I wanted to adopt a small dog myself, but I fell completely in love with my German Shepherd Sasha, who was around one-year-old.
“Six months ago I also adopted my Springer Spaniel Abby who was around eight years of age.
“There is truly no better feeling than giving an animal in need a loving home. I often say ‘I don’t know who rescued who’ and it’s true. I don’t know if it was really my dogs who actually rescued me rather than the other way around! They light up your life with their love and attention, they’re always there for you, ready to greet you as soon as you come through the door.
“It seems that people want to have their beloved pets for as long as possible, which is why they want to get them when they are young.
“But until you have adopted an older dog or cat, you have no idea just how truly rewarding it is. It’s about giving an animal a perfect home for the rest of their lives. Their forever home.”
Dave who now has eight cats, echoed these sentiments: “I would always encourage those interested in adopting a cat or a dog to consider an older pet.
“Particularly with cats, people often don’t realise how active young kittens can be. They are a handful whereas older cats are so chilled but have playful moments as well - the ideal combination!
“Older animals have so much love to give. They’ll always be ready for a cuddle on the sofa.
“But in general, the feeling that you get from adopting an older animal, knowing that their previous owner is looking down at you from heaven, is just the best feeling in the world.
“It’s indescribable. You might regret not having them for the past 10 or 15 years, but giving giving them their forever home makes it so worth it.”
The Rainbow Rehoming and Rescue Centre is currently running a special campaign seeking new homes for older cats and dogs who are in real need of rehoming.
The Rainbow Rehoming and Rescue Centre is open Tuesday - Sunday from 12pm until 4pm. You can contact the Rainbow Rehoming and Rescue Centre at 028 7181 2882, or via email at email@example.com.
Visit www.rainbowrehoming.com for more information.