Details have been changed to preserve anonymity.
One of the consequences of my line of work was to hear peoples personal stories some of which were sad, some very emotional, some evocative and some inspirational.
This was Sharon’s story.
Sharon was a young lady probably in her late teens with a bubbly personality and she would have been memorable if for nothing else for her arrival in my office with her dog Doogle who needed no training whatsoever!! Rather unusual for a professional trainer and behaviourist!!
She explained that she had taken Doogle from the local shelter and immediately formed a close bond. Training him to fit into her lifestyle was no problem and it was quite obvious that this lady was a natural dog handler. He was a hairy rather nondescript dog who had been in the shelter for over a year. Due to his ordinary appearance he was constantly overlooked by prospective owners until Sharon came along.
He was extremely well behaved, his shaggy coat was well groomed and his lead and collar were obviously good quality. Sharon was a lady who took her responsibilities seriously and spent her lesson grilling me on a variety of subjects from feeding, grooming, activity toys, exercise, travelling, competition obedience, agility, in fact just about anything regarding Doogles welfare. The questions were all prepared in advance and were all carefully written down so that nothing was forgotten. Finally with her list of questions all dealt with we chatted for a while and I just casually asked her if she was ready for Christmas which was imminent.
Her reply went something like this.
“It’s going to be the best Christmas ever!! “
Maybe a week in the Seychelles or a few days at a luxury hotel I thought. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
“Yes we will go for a long walk on the beach in the morning, followed by a Marks and Spencer microwavable Christmas dinner balanced on my lap with no washing up followed by both of us on the sofa watching the telly, me with a box of chocolates and Doogle with a dog treat”
I must admit this didn’t appear on my 10 most decadent ways to spend Christmas and it must have showed on my face.
Sharon explained and all became clear.
For her entire life this time of the year was spent doing exactly the same thing.
Each Christmas her parents either hosted Christmas day or visited other family members and the entire day followed exactly the same ritual.
Dinner, followed by the washing up, the Queens speech on the tv and finally endless games of cards. Nobody went for a walk, anything on the tv was forbidden apart from the address to the nation by Her Majesty and worst of all; no pets. All this was made worse by the fact that ever since she could walk Sharon only wanted one thing in life. A dog.
Unfortunately her parents didn’t approve.
Dogs, they informed her were dirty, smelly, hairy creatures that had fleas, carried disease and bit people!!
It appeared that Sharon had left home, got a job, was living in a bedsit and finally her dream was now a reality, she had her dog.
She was also studying zoology hoping to specialise in animal behaviour, something else for the parents disapproval. Sadly Doogle was not welcome at home so Sharon was spending her first Christmas alone.
As Sharon and Doogle left two thoughts came to mind, the first was a little perverse and I am embarrassed to say gave me a degree of pleasure. This delightful young lady was going be a big disappointment to her parents!!
And the second thought was yes; for her and Doogle it was definitely going to be “The best Christmas ever!!!”
Ps Many years later a check on the internet revealed that “Sharon” achieved her ambition and is now a renowned zoologist. I don’t know if she was ever reconciled with her parents but for their sake I hope they came to terms with the fact that where “Sharon” went animals were sure to follow!!
Without my pets my wallet would be full, my house would be clean, but my heart would be empty.