IT seemed like a good idea. The right thing to do. Giving something back. But there is nothing I regret more in this world than my decision to adopt a snow leopard.
I couldn’t have known how challenging it would be. How damaged this poor animal already was. What a drain it would become on my energy and finances.
£3 a month? That’s just the start. Before I’d had even two months to enjoy the benevolent glow of that direct debit, I was getting emails warning me about how badly Steven – my leopard – was managing.
He’d been caught in a poacher’s snare. He’d been spotted in Chinese territory. Climate change-associated loss of habitat had left him hungry.
I’d thought he seemed proud, independent, a noble animal who just needed a helping hand. But instead I’d found myself fully responsible for a spotty, scruffy freeloader unwilling or unable to help himself.
Weighed down by worry, unable to concentrate at work for fear Steven had once again proved too hapless to bring down a Siberian ibex, I upped my direct debit, and again. But his problems only worsened.
It was when I found myself lobbying the Nepalese government at 3am on a Tuesday that I realised it had gone too far. This snow leopard was ruining my life.
I cancelled my direct debit. I tore up the picture of Steven on the fridge. I gave his cuddly toy replica to a charity shop. I closed my heart to his never-ending needs.
Now I sponsor an otter, Lynne, in a nearby sanctuary instead. She’s not as exotic or exciting, but she’s reliable and all she wants is regular fish.
Sorry, Steven. But you needed more from me than I could give.