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Animal attracton that's wedded bliss

PUBLISHED: 16:42 11 September 2009 | UPDATED: 14:59 03 July 2010

John and Tonia Garner

John and Tonia Garner

ACOUPLE who met on the internet only to discover they lived half-a-mile apart in the same village have married and filled their home with creature comforts.

ACOUPLE who met on the internet only to discover they lived half-a-mile apart in the same village have married and filled their home with creature comforts.

John and Tonia Garner's passion for each other is matched only by their love of animals and instead of asking for wedding gifts when they tied the knot, the pair pooled cash from well-wishers

to set up their own wildlife hospital at their seaside home in

Hemsby.

The venture - which formalises years of occasional animal care - has seen them evolve into self-taught experts able to mend an owl's wing, a pheasant's foot and bottle-feed baby rabbits, among many other skills.

Following four releases on Monday, the couple and Tonia's nine-year-old son Reece are enjoying a slight lull after a

busy summer and are currently nursing back to health an owl, a moorhen a pheasant and a hedgehog.

Foxy Lodge in Newport Road already has a string of success under its belt and a photo album of patients' records for every sick or injured creature that comes through its doors.

Some animals and birds are housed in outdoor aviaries, while the very sick and weak are kept in heated pods indoors.

Mr Garner, 50, a signalman with Network Rail, said they both loved animals but were moved to do something more after hearing about an owl that was put

down after suffering a treatable injury.

Mrs Garner, 45, deputy manager of a Mencap home in Winterton, said that there was nothing

else locally and that she was constantly amazed and heartened by how far people would travel to bring her a pigeon.

She said juggling work and home with the constant feeding and cleaning was a challenge but that everyone was thoroughly enjoying the rewarding work even though it meant no more holidays or

days out.

Run on a shoestring budget funded by table-top sales and donations, the family are already thinking that Foxy's could outgrow its home.

Previous patients include a Tawny Owl blinded in one eye by a splinter, a spineless hedgehog, a Little Owl with a broken wing and a clutch of rabbits, pheasants, moorhens, birds that have fledged too soon and a bat.

"If it gets any bigger," Mrs Garner said, "We would

think about moving house and getting somewhere with more land.

"We are taking it that seriously. It is very rewarding. We are

all about rehabilitation and release, we are not a sanctuary."

Funds have been boosted recently by Rosemary Goode, who already runs an animal charity shop in Gorleston, and has opened a new one in aid of Foxy Lodge opposite Wilkinsons in Gorleston High Street.

She found out about the centre at a local vets and said she was so impressed when she visited she just had to help.

Donations of goods for sale can be dropped at the other shop at 6 Lowestoft Road.

More details from www.foxylodge.yolasite.com or call 01493 384237.

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