Biscuits and milk laid out for Santa
Excited children hoping to catch a glimpse
Laughter and joy fills the air
Inching towards them, sleep envelopes
Elusive as ever, Santa visits
Various parcels under the tree
Even a stocking for the dog!
A crisp, bright winter morning,
I saw a fox
Sharp teeth glistening white
Glossy, soft auburn fur
Magnificent bushy tail
A second look…
Tongue blue and lolling
Deep angry slit across the belly
The hint of intestines
A brutal scene
I cried for her
I couldn’t look away
To my dear, sweet Casper,
The couple who bought you actually wanted a baby…I’m not sure what made them decide to get a puppy instead? In a way, I’m not sorry that they chose you because it meant that I got to have you, but not a day goes by without me wishing that you came to me under different circumstances.
The couple didn’t know anything about caring for a dog and didn’t mean to cause you so much harm and damage. That said, ignorance is not an excuse and I had to restrain myself from completely losing the rag with them. On the day I first met, you were coughing and thin and extremely wary. I couldn’t see any toys. Well, there was one toy, a large red ball meant for a much larger breed. It was bigger than you were and made a loud noise as it rolled towards you. You were TERRIFIED. They laughed and said, “He loves to play Hide and Seek with his ball”, but it was clear you were trying to get away.
I asked the couple some probing questions and my heart sank as I began to unravel the sad story of your life so far. From their description, I am pretty sure that you came from a puppy farm, so things weren’t going well for you right from the start. The couple met the “breeder” in a car park and chose you from the several pups he had in the boot of his car.
They took you to their houseshare and you were kept in their bedroom for the majority of the next four months of your life. You were not taken to the vet for a check-up or vaccinations, not even when you started coughing. You were never brought outside. Do you remember the babygrows they made you wear? The ones for human babies? The couple left you alone all day in that bedroom with no toys while they went to college and then on to their evening jobs. I don’t blame you for crying, who wouldn’t in your situation. The other people that lived in the house were not so understanding.
So, it came to this…the couple finally admitted that they were not taking care of you properly. That is what they told me anyway, but I suspect the other housemates had given an ultimatum.
While they talked, I sat on the floor of their living room wiggling a raggy at you. There was no pressure…I didn’t even look at you. Slowly, I saw you tip-toe towards the raggy. Do you remember the first time you played tug with me? It was that day with that raggy. I guess it was actually the first time you ever got to play properly.
They wouldn’t let me take you with me that day. I saw you try to follow me out the front door and it broke my heart to leave you there.
It took a few days for me to convince the couple to do the right thing. I told them about my dog Pogo and my cat Shelli who would keep you company if I had to leave you. I described all the places that I could take you for walks; the sand dunes at Bull Island, the Dublin Mountains, and many more. I told them all about the training club where you could do agility with me. A few days later, I collected you and took you home.
That was two years ago! It took a while to sort out the physical issues. You were riddled with fleas, worms and mites. We fattened you up and got your cough treated. Sadly though, the couple also damaged you psychologically. I have tried so hard to help you but you still suffer with crippling anxiety and fear. I have seen how you completely shut down when you are confronted by something unfamiliar. I know how you suffer from panic attacks at the vets. I know you have a never-ending list of fears: small dogs, big dogs, people with hats, loud noises, people with hoods, people on bikes, old people, people who try to touch you, children, statues, the dark, being left alone, people you don’t know, the pack being separated, men of any kind, swans, heights, new places…etc
I long for the day when you realise that you are safe and I will never let anything hurt you. For now, I will continue to only walk you in places you are familiar with so you don’t have to worry. I will gently rub Rescue Remedy onto your ears when I know you will be faced with a stressful situation. I will bring you to your agility classes and watch your anxiety melt away as you sail over the jumps. I will read book after book and do course upon course until I know exactly how to help you. I will massage you and do TTouch until you learn that it feels good to relax and chill out. I will play tug with you and throw a ball for you to chase until my arms are numb. I will spend the rest of your life doing everything that I can to undo the damage.
My dear, sweet Casper, there is nothing I need from you in return. You have already given me your unconditional love and that is the greatest gift of all.
Forget my head if it wasn’t screwed on,
Or my shopping list, my purse, my phone.
Rush to find the ‘safe place’ I left them in
Galloping from room to room,
Out of my mind with urgent searching.
There they are at last!
The shopping list a bookmark, purse a paperweight,
Even my phone is found, in the bathroom sink.
Now, where did I leave my keys?
Rita always had a way with animals and they loved her as much as she loved them. When my brother and I were planning the funeral ceremony, we joked that the only thing missing were the animals.
When we arrived at the church, what did we see skulking around the car park, only this beautiful black cat. It got braver and made it’s way to the church porch where it rubbed people’s ankles as they arrived.
During the funeral, Jonathan and I saw a movement in the aisle and looked down to see the cat confidently striding up the aisle towards the coffin. It stared at the coffin for a moment, and then looked towards us with gentle eyes. It stayed near us for the rest of the ceremony and we felt very comforted by it’s presence.
After the funeral, people discussed the cat at length. People had many different ideas and beliefs as to why a cat was at the funeral. Some believed that the cat represented all animals and was coming to the funeral to pay it’s respects. Others thought the cat was Rita in disguise coming to see who was attending her funeral! Then there were some who believed that Rita had sent the cat to give us all a sign that all was well for her. And of course, there were those who believed it to be nothing but a well-timed coincidence.
What ever the reason, the actions of this little black cat provided a church full of people with comfort and hope during a very sad time.
It is two years today since my human granny, Nana Rita, died. My mammy and I are really missing her and we’re feeling very sad. Casper and Jimmy never met her, so they don’t really understand.
Nana Rita was a really cool granny. I first met her on the day mammy came to get me. It was a long drive home, so Nana Rita drove and I curled up on mammy’s lap. Nana Rita showed mammy how to make cool toys for me and she played with me and Shelli.
The first Christmas, mammy had to go away and myself and Shelli stayed at Nana Rita’s house. It was snowing so she bought me a little jacket to keep me warm and dry. I still have it! It is yellow with blue edges. It had a hood but I didn’t like that so Nana Rita cut the hood off for me.
Mammy was back in time for Santa and we all stayed at Nana Rita’s and had a yummy dinner and presents and everything. Lots of visitors came and Nana Rita said ” This is my lovely little grandpup”. Everyone said I was the hit of Christmas! I don’t think any pup could have felt happier in the whole world.
Once I went for a very special day out with mammy and Nana Rita. Nana munchy (my dog granny) was there too. It was great fun. There were lots of stalls selling things for dogs. We had lunch and I sat on Nana Rita’s lap and had a rest and a cuddle. (That is us in the photo).
Later, there was a fun dog show. Nana Rita was so proud of me when I won ‘dog the judge would most like to take home’. Munchy won ‘best groomed’ so we were all delighted. Our prizes were big bags of dog food, but we decided to donate the food to a dog rescue so we could help some dogs that were not as lucky as us. It was a lovely happy day!
Tonight, mammy and I will sit on the couch together and remember the happy times we spent with Nana Rita.