I have always loved animals and from a very young age. I always wanted a dog and as soon as I was able to write I would leave notes around the house for my Mum and Dad. “Please can I have a dog, I will be a good girl” or “I will keep my room tidy” to sweet talk them. As I grew older these notes would become more along the lines of “I will do jobs around the house” or “I promise I’ll walk the dog every day and clear up any mess” and so it went on. The notes would be left on my mum’s pillow, in specific drawers or even on the toilet seat! Anywhere I felt would give more impact and would be noticed! To my utter dismay my approach did not work where my pet dog was concerned, my dad was absolutely fanatical about his garden; a real Percy Thrower and didn’t want anything to destroy the kingdom he had created. I did also ignore the fact that he had been bitten by a dog as a child & was always very wary from that day on so maybe I was being a little selfish!
As a surprise I came home one day to a beautiful black bunny rabbit who I named Flopsy. I instantly grew a strong bond with Flopsy - she had a wonderful temperament and was so soft and cuddly. I would sit and stroke her for hours on end telling her all my secrets. I adored how her little nose would twitch and how she was happiest when hopping around the garden to her hearts content – perhaps even ruining my Dad’s precious garden.
I remember the day Flopsy died still to this day. It was the summer of 1976 – the driest summer on record since 1772. We took a family holiday to Scotland and I sensed something was wrong when my Dad seemed rather distracted and out of sorts when he asked me to go for a walk with him. He explained to me how nothing lives forever and sometimes people and animals become so unwell that they die, my heart sunk as he revealed Flopsy had died due to heat stroke. I will never forgot that feeling of emptiness and despair. I never forgot Flopsy.
A little time went by without having a pet when Blanca (Spanish for white) albino rabbit arrived into the family household. I was thrilled. She was another beauty who may be described now as having “sass” - she certainly knew her own mind and was a free spirit! I loved her and we had many happy years trying to catch her in the garden when she was keen to escape!
We also had a big pond in the back of my garden where we had many fish. I found it so therapeutic and mesmerising when standing watching and feeding them. It gave me time to reflect on a bad day and take a few deep breaths to unwind.
When I left home I was unable to get my dog due to accommodation restrictions but I was thrilled to have Benson my little kitten. When the time was right excited beyond belief I was the proud mum of Winston - a black Labrador pup. He was such a gorgeous character and a big part of our family for many years, until the very sad day came when we had to say our goodbye to our beloved boy, the emptiness in our hearts was hard to bare, such a huge void was left.
Mum now to two young children, I was ready to have another dog to bring into their lives and brighten up their childhood. A friend of the family’s circumstances changed so at 11 weeks old we adopted Tia - a Border Collie. Ecstatic, happy children and very keen to name our little black and white bundle themselves, conscious of not confusing Tia it was agreed that we would only make a very slight change so little Tia was re named Kia.
Kia was intelligent, fun and as you would expect with the Collie breed incredibly energetic to say the very least! Kia loved nothing more than playing in the garden with the children, chasing around the trampoline and going for very long walks, she never seemed to tire. She even loved jumping in our very own pond and chasing our ducks.
Thirteen years later Kia’s health deteriorated and with a heavy heart it became apparent that the hardest goodbye ever was looming again. It never gets any easier saying goodbye and my children were equally heartbroken. They pestered me every year for another dog for Christmas.
Friends and family asked me to look after their pets which I thoroughly enjoyed to the extent that I undertook a big change in career and became self employed, running my own Pet Service. Now I was focused more at home and had time incorporated into my day to walk and train dogs, I believed the time was right to now get our own puppy again. After looking after so many gorgeous animals over a number of years and getting a feel for all different types of breeds, we settled on the Cavapoo breed for our next furbaby. We named her Ava – a name fitting for such a kind and gentle nature. She has brought so much joy to our family unit - you just can’t beat having your own dog and watching them grow with you from 10 weeks old, watching how they grow to fit into your family ways and traditions.
During this period I qualified as a Canine Behaviourist and more recently qualified with distinction as a Pet Bereavement Counsellor, with my own experience I am only to aware the significance of our pets dying and the magnitude of grief that follows. I myself faced the realisation that not all family, friends and work colleagues understood my grief and with my counselling background felt the overwhelming need to support others during their difficult time. Grief is grief. And our pets are family.