I have written before about the impact that Joshua’s pets have in his life and how much he loves our dogs in particular. But the main downside of having pets is the aching sadness that you feel when they die. Yesterday my sister’s family lost their 16 year old cat, Sooty, and they were all devastated. He had been unwell but even so, it was a shock and a real loss to their family. Much loved pets are indeed like members of the family and so their passing has to be mourned, as he had been in my niece’s life for most of her 22 years.
Joshua and I were already visiting his Aunt’s house, we had been invited for tea, but my sister gave me the sad news when I woke at 5.30. We agreed that we would still visit as we could empathize, having lost so many pets over the years, and also , oblivious Joshua would create a good distraction from the sad news. Joshua certainly played his part well as he was very giddy and excited to be at his Aunty’s house, he squealed with delighted and grinned constantly. We all sat in the conservatory and reminissed about Sooty’s exploits and Joshua kept touching his cousin’s gently, trying to cheer her up perhaps and he gave out a lot of hugs too. He will not have understood what was going on but he will no doubt have picked up on the atmosphere and he did his best to reverse it.
Although we have both cats and dogs, Joshua is most definitely a dog-man , he is not that interested in cats and will only occasionally tolerate them sitting on his knee. He tends to pick them up by their heads, like a tennis ball I have always joked, and lift them off him! I am not sure if cats are too small for him to appreciate or too aloof for him, but he often cuddles and plays ball with the dogs and Joshua and Ruby, our cocker spaniel, have a very close bond. She does not seem to be able to predict Joshua’s seizures in advance, but she is very tuned into him during his seizures, she sits next to him as reassurance and will not leave his side, clearly sensing a problem and feeling a duty to protect him.
There was a fascinating TV programme on channel 4, where dog trainers find rescue dogs and train them to become assistance dogs for disabled people : I saw one episode last week when a dog was trained to wake up his owner with narcolepsy and to guard her if she were to collapse when out and about, until she came round again. The dog made her feel safe enough to go out again and she re-gained her independence. It was a really uplifting programme and I am looking forward to seeing more episodes, possibly they will feature a dog that can forewarn its new owner of upcoming seizures or one that encourages an autistic child to speak and relate to others. I have no doubt that dogs are a good force in our lives.
I know that the pain of losing a long-standing pet is hard to bear, but they add so much to our lives that the positives certainly, in my view, outweigh the negatives and I certainly feel that a house is not a home unless it contains pets – but possibly three cats and 4 dogs could be considered over the top!