You may have picked up from my previous blogs that animals were always very important in our family.
The OSO had always had dogs in the family, and you have already heard how she had bought a pony for herself in order to keep herself busy! In fact, to be honest I think we all thought the animals figured far higher in her order of priorities than we did. Dad always said he was somewhere below the gold fish in the house pecking order, don’t think he was joking!
When Roger had just passed his driving test and he and Alistair were going out in the car together with Roger driving for the first time. The OSO said
‘Please be very careful, I’ve got my two most treasured possessions going out together in the car’
Quick as a flash Alistair replied
‘But we can’t fit the horses in with us’
My brothers knew where they stood in order of family importance!
When I first went into my wheelchair Mum thought it would be a good idea if I had a support dog to help me keep more independence, in all honesty, she was much keener on the idea than I was, because it meant she could have another dog and we all knew as a family that once she had got an idea firmly lodged in her head it was much easier to go along with her than try and talk her out of it.
To this day Dad’s most feared words to come out of mum’s mouth are
‘I’ve been thinking’
He honestly goes white and has a panic attack when he hears them!
Anyway, back to the support dog. You may know that these are brilliant dogs that are trained to do all sorts of things to help people with disabilities. They can be trained to answer the phone or door, get washing out of the machine, in fact virtually anything. I think the OSO was rather hoping they could be trained to do the ironing and even the dreaded sewing (I had to say that word quietly for fear of upsetting the OSO). We already had a dog, Gemma who was a rescued dollop hound. The dog lovers reading my blog may have never heard of that particular breed of dog, indeed you will have never seen it at Crufts because, as you may have guessed there is no such thing, it was just a name she called Gemma who was a big soft dollop of a mongrel. However mum didn’t think Gemma would make a good support dog because she was too big and too much her dog and wouldn’t listen to my commands (I ask you, what a feeble excuse to get another dog!)
Anyway, the search was on and eventually Mum heard of a collie bitch up in North Yorkshire who sounded good. So off we all went in the van to quote the OSO
‘Just to have a look and see if she is suitable’
I ask you, who did she think she was kidding?!
So inevitably, a bit later, we were all driving back from Yorkshire with a lovely little collie bitch called Jilly.
She, Mum and I went on lots of training and she eventually graduated as my support dog and had a special red coat to wear. She was very good, but I never could really work out why I had to call Jilly to go and tell Mum that I needed her (which was one thing she was trained to do) when it was actually much quicker just to yell Mum directly! But it did keep the OSO happy thinking she was helping me to keep my independence.
One of my favourite of Mum’s animals was Boy her pony. He was really great. Mum used to loop his head collar rope around the back of my wheelchair handle and he would just follow me round. He was really gentle. One time I had a real ‘Lassie’ moment with him.
I was with him down at the farm where Mum kept him, and I ran over a bump in my chair and I slumped forward and couldn’t straighten myself up., I was ok, but stuck! So I said to Boy
‘Go and get Mum’ just like I would have done with Jilly, and blow me down he did.
I know, you probably won’t believe it, but it honestly did happen. Needless the OSO laughed like a drain (where do we get that saying from? I’ve never seen a laughing drain) at my predicament and in the end all was fine.
I did have my own pet. A rat. He was awesome. I called him R for (R for rat ARTHER! Get it! Work on it if you don’t, just keep saying it- you will). He used to sit on my shoulder like a parrot and come round with me all the time. They wouldn’t let me take him to school (boring people) but he used to know what time I was coming home from school and climb to the top of his cage to wait for me coming in. When I was in hospital having a big operation on my back Dad brought him to visit me. All the other kids on the ward thought he was great, the nurses weren’t as impressed and hid in their nurse’s station!
Over the years lots of animals have come and indeed are still coming in increasing numbers into our family. I for one, was very glad, they do add so much to life, I wouldn’t have been without them, honestly Mum!