Confessions No.4

Living in a small community means everybody has your back. Even if they don’t know you that well, even if they don’t like you, you’re family. When one elderly gentleman, who lives in our community and suffers from dementia, decided to go for a wander and could not be found for some hours; everyone was out looking for him.

People walked alone or in pairs, allowing for social distancing, up and down the road, in between the houses, into the hills and onto the shores. We would stop and confer for a moment as we passed each other, all concern and confusion for where he might have gone.

My friend and I ventured inland, under the shade of the hazel forest, accompanied by Bandit the dog who went before us. We walked the path for a little while and suddenly the dog veered to the right. We followed him. And there the man was standing in the bracken and the dog, alert, next to him.

He knew exactly where he was but hadn’t accounted for the deer fence that did not exist in his memory. Not knowing myself or my friend that well he was reluctant to come with us so I headed back to the street to find help. I called the dog and at first he was unsure about leaving, standing close to the man and looking at me questioningly. He knew Bandit, incidentally, strange the things that people remember.

I soon found someone who knew the man well, folk were out in the streets so it was easy to alert them. We made our way out of the forest gradually with Bandit identifying a gentle path to take. The man was returned home safely to his worried wife and everyone praised the dog of the hour.

I have found, in this time of lockdown and tragic uncertainty, that the dog has been an incredible support and comfort. Any time that I become upset, angry or stressed he is immediately beside me, jumping into my lap and nuzzling my face. He doesn’t like it when I swear! I hug the dog and my pain is eased greatly by his sympathy. For a moment all hardships are forgotten. All that matters is the mutual love and dependency between myself and this animal.

He helps my sanity on a day to day level. He wakes me up at roughly the same time every morning. He will rest his head on the bed next to me and stamp his feet, softly growling. If I am really very tired, if it is the weekend or if he has arrived too early at my bedside, he will jump onto the bed and snooze by my feet for a while. And if I am ignoring him for the sake of another five minutes he will sit by my head and sometimes even paw me in the face to tell me to get up. He gives me a routine and a sense of normality which has been essential in these past few weeks for someone like myself who is prone to wallowing and inactivity in dark times such as these.

The companionship of an animal is invaluable in these and I believe at any time. Their intuition for the emotions of humans and their care and devotion to us is extraordinary. Bandit recognised that one of our pack had strayed and needed finding. He could sense the anxiety that we had for our neighbour and he joined in the search for the lost and vulnerable man. He will not get a medal as some were suggesting but he did get a large helping of sausages for his tea.

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