Saturday 21 September 2019

Roslyn Dee: 'My unexpected friend raises my spirits in his own little way'

Notebook

'Dogs are great company. We all know that.' Stock image
'Dogs are great company. We all know that.' Stock image

Roslyn Dee

As I eased myself slowly and gingerly on to the sofa, the excruciating pain in my lower back was further exacerbated, causing me to close my eyes against the spasm, and moan out loud.

As I dropped into my seat, cushion already positioned and heat-pad propped up against it, I was suddenly aware that he was now sitting beside me, my moaning having brought him over to me. Then, before I'd even opened my eyes again, I felt him press my shoulder and then, a moment later, and ever so gently, I felt him touch my face.

I reached out to him, telling him that I was OK. He was level with me now, looking me straight in the eye, his gaze one of bewilderment - and concern.

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Did he want to fix my cushion for me? Or make me a cup of tea? Or was he going to ask if he should fetch some Nurofen?

No, he wasn't. Not because he didn't care enough, but because he couldn't. All he could do was offer me comfort - sit beside me, move closer and touch me on the shoulder, and then, finally, lean right over and gently lick me - yes, lick me - on the face.

For my comforter, just a few days ago after I had banjaxed my back, wasn't my adult son, or a friend who had called in to say hello.

The 'person' offering me such extraordinary solace as I sat on that sofa, in pain and feeling sorry for myself, was Dudley, my dog.

Dogs are great company. We all know that. But for me, since this little wirehaired dachshund came into my life as a 10-month-old pup back in February, Dudley has been much, much more than that.

Although he was a kind of rescue dog, it is Dudley, in fact, who has rescued me. From loneliness. And apathy. And detachment. And from a grief that I believed would never be assuaged.

But here I am now, four years and two months after the death of my husband, and, although still shattered by his loss, I am finally finding myself able to smile again. Due to Dudley.

I now bounce out of bed in the mornings (apart from the last few days, obviously!), open the door to the living room and there he is, delighted to see me. "So, what's happening today?" his body language asks. "Go on, get those blinds pulled up and let's see what the world has to offer."

And I've discovered that the world, once again, has many bountiful gifts to offer, and that Dudley's presence has triggered in me something I feared I would never feel again - hope.

We trundle around everywhere together - along shopping streets, down country lanes, through parks, into coffee shops, and out to visit friends.

I need him and he needs me. It's as simple - and as complex - as that. And what a comfort there is in that co-dependent duality.

Dogs teach us so much - not least, to live in the moment. For Dudley there is no past and no future - only the now. And boy, does he make the most of that.

It's a quality, an ability, that I had lost. I was grief-wrapped in the past, unable to cope with the present because of the overwhelming sorrow that enveloped me when I dared to tiptoe into that forgotten territory.

Now the present is my friend. Even when I'm easing myself on to the sofa, groaning with pain. For the upside is that Dudley will be there beside me, giving me a lick of comfort that tells me, although he doesn't know it, that this too will pass.

Irish Independent

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