“If I had known the amount of work and stress that lay ahead of me, I would have run a thousand miles,” were the brutally honest words of Brent Lodge animal hospital founder Dennis Fenter.
However Mr Fenter, the staff and volunteers who work at the centre in Sidlesham have plenty to smile about.
Hundreds of visitors walked through the centre’s gates to celebrate its 40th anniversary this month, an incredible feat considering it started as just a ‘back-garden project’.
“I rescued a couple of birds and in the human spirit boasted about it,” said Mr Fenter.
“Someone thought I knew everything about birds and started bringing more in – and then it just grew.”
Emma Pink, who lives on site, said: “I have been here 12 years now – I started volunteering when I was 12 years old.
“Brent Lodge has changed incredibly and I have watched the place grow.
“It has become more professional.
“We are trying to get into education a bit more and expand into other centres across the county.”
During the open weekend visitors could tour the centre, speak with staff and buy some goodies, all in aid of raising much-needed funds.
The public’s support for Brent Lodge has always been very strong, but the centre is always treading a tightrope when it comes to finding enough money to keep running the centre.
There are three full-time workers at the centre at Cow Lane, some part-time workers and a group of volunteers.
Mr Fenter points out there are many highs and lows that come with setting up an animal hospital.
He recalls an incident 15 years ago, when 140 birds were brought in after an oil spill.
Staff and volunteers worked frantically to rescue the birds by cleaning them and setting them free.
“They managed to succeed on the first day, but 50 per cent of the birds that came in the following day did not make it.
“One of my high points was actually one of my mistakes.
“We bought in a tawny owl and made too much of it and it became very tame.
“It came back every night during the winter for three years and perched on the back door.
“It came and took the food.
“It was a wild bird living free and it came down to me. That was a thrill.”
For more information log on to www.brentlodge.org