This is one of the stories I was given for my new book of Dog Stories – which I would like to call Tell Tail Tales…
I was exercising my two dogs in the local park recently. They are my very first dogs and I freely admit that I’m not the best trainer. My dogs are brothers and sometimes a law unto themselves as they run around madly playing with each other ignoring every other living soul around. I love to watch this carefree play but I’m aware that sometimes other people see two naughty dogs misbehaving so I’m careful where I let them off the lead when they are in the mood to be a little bit mad.
This particular day there was one other person in the park, a man in his forties looking as though he’d been dealt the poorest of hands in life and he was with a staffie cross. He came over to me to assure me that his dog would do mine no harm, not that I thought it would but I recognised that some dog owners might have their doubts. He sat down on the bench next to me while my dogs played around his.
Sometimes we see in others something that touches us deeply. I saw that this man had never been properly fed, heard in the tone of his voice that he had spent much of his life alone, perhaps not lonely but alone all the same and that in many ways he did not fit in. He wasn’t the sort of person that I, or others, sought to spend time with but he did not scare or worry me as he talked. He explained he had not long moved to the area from the other side of the city and had more or less inherited the dog with his property. He called the dog over and as it turned I saw that its side was marked. It had the most horrendous scars, scars that could only come from the very worst ill treatment.
The man sitting next me explained that the previous keeper had tortured the dog with a three bar electric fire, pressing the fire into the dogs flesh and the wounds were raw and untreated when he took care of the him. And “took care” is exactly what he had done. He changed dressings daily for six months, fed the dog by hand and tended to him. As my dogs played madly in the park, I could not help but compare the quiet exchanges between the man and his companion. Without any words I could see the two were made for each other and in nourishing the dog, this malnourished man in all senses, had nourished himself too for what he had undertaken had been returned one hundred fold – the dog adored him and in some way completed him.
In that quiet moment I learned a lot. Sometimes things are meant to be. Sometimes horrendous cruelty brings healing beyond all expectation and a small dog fills a gaping hole in a life that has barely been lived to bring deep fulfilment. The simple kindness of the man sitting next to me towards one small animal filled my morning and as I called my dogs and stood up to leave, I wished them both well. This man and his dog taught me all I needed to know that day about the importance of life and the meaning of love.