mmmm…what to say about ‘family’? This is only my second ever blog and I have a lot in my head about a number of subjects that I hope to get off my chest at some stage including animal welfare, photography, what my last 10 years has taught me and many more things, but I will ease myself in gradually me thinks. In the meantime, taking on this weekly photo challenge will help me to introduce a few of my special interests. This one is “Family’ and indeed I have much that I would like to share about them, again, for another day!
Of course my nuclear family is me, my long-suffering husband (I freely acknowledge I have not always been easy to live with!) and my three sons who are 15, 19 and 22. They will of course all be blogged about at some stage (!) hopefully in a way that they will find acceptable. Suffice it to say until then, all I will say is that I am very proud of each of them. However, there are two other little beings in my life and I consider them to be part of my family. I am not a crazy dog lady (although some would say I am!), I do not treat them like children (although some would say I do!) but they are most definitely part of my family. They are my two dogs, Pepper and Polo and they have changed my life.
Fifteen years ago I could not have imagined myself with a dog in my house, I didn’t like dogs, I thought it was unhygienic to have them in the home, I hated dog hair in people’s houses, barking dogs and worst of all I hated stepping in dog poo!! Now, I regularly find myself standing in the compound of a Spanish Shelter with 20 or 30 dogs around me many looking for hugs, wanting attention, paws prints up to chest height and dirt of all sorts covering me from head to foot! I myself cannot believe how much i have changed.
As with many things over the last 10 years, the trigger to this change was my diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis. Before and at the early stages of my illness I really was pretty poorly and spent a ridiculous amount of time in the house, not going out, not feeling like going out and often not able to go out. Much of the time I was, therefore, on my own. My boys were badgering me for a dog as children often do but my husband veto’d the whole idea for some time so for ages I could blame him! Then as I spent time adjusting to my changing health I began to think that perhaps having a dog would actually be a good thing – for me – not the kids. I set about researching what would be a good dog in my circumstances – key requirements: doesn’t shed hair (!), not too big, doesn’t require too much exercise – and we hit on the breed Miniature Schnauzer. My husband lifted the veto and before very long we had a gorgeous little pup in the house. /p>
This pup was a new interest for me at a time I really needed something. He was company for me 24/7, he was happy so long as he was with me. As I slept during the day he lay next to me. If I slept longer than usual, because I was having a bad day, he sniffed around me and nudged me with his nose. No, he did not want anything, I absolutely believe that he was checking on me. I never felt alone, we developed a bond I did not think possible (with an animal) and he became a reason for me to leave the house when I could. I realised what an amazing privilege it is to have a dog – how they do more for us than we could ever do for them, what an asset they can be to someone who is ill, lonely, elderly etc etc etc. Pepper introduced me to the love of dogs, I viewed them all in a new light no longer seeing them as a hairy, dirty thing to have around but a companion, a helper, a friend, a reason to go out even when I didn’t feel like it and for me a “godsend”. In fact I was so grateful to Pepper for what he had done for me that I decided I would like to get him a little friend. So along came Polo, the same breed but completely different personality. Pepper is wise, ‘all knowing’, mischievous, serious whilst Polo is the eternal puppy, innocent, naive, simple who spends his life wondering what is going on and whether he should get involved.
My love and enjoyment for them has led me to being involved in volunteering at a shelter, meeting people I would never otherwise have come into contact with, triggered my interest in photography which in turn has led to so many new unexpected experiences.
They are not children but they are LIKE children in the sense that they are totally vulnerable and dependent on us. Just as with children, if we choose to be bad to them they live a miserable, painful existence, if we see them as disposable or possessions then any excuse becomes acceptable to justify abandonment and neglect. As a result, many hundreds of thousands live as strays on the streets and thousand are euthanised daily. There is nothing they can do to protect themselves from us. So, I am doing what I can, I choose not to turn my back and look the other way, I choose to help when I can. I use my ‘talent’ to photograph dogs needing homes and my energy when it’s available to walk dogs and volunteer at the shelter. The satisfaction I get from knowing I have helped in some way to find a home for a shelter dog is immense and fills a gap created by the effects of my illness. In that sense I, again, get a lot more from these shelter dogs than I can ever give to them.
To finish this post, indulge me please – I would like to include two short videos of two wonderful dogs who are looking for a family:
Thank you for listening!