A little green jacket hangs in the cupboard downstairs.  It isn’t particularly special.  It isn’t a designer jacket.  It isn’t a new jacket but it is totally unique and utterly priceless.  It has served a purpose; in fact many over the years.

On 16th January 2012, my dog Lady died. She was my soulmate, my mind-reader, my critic, my admirer, my constant companion, my very best friend.  On the days leading up to that fateful day, my little green jacket, with its furry lining, provided warmth when she shivered, comfort through its familiar smell and solace within my perfume which enveloped her.

After the vet had gone, I wore the little green jacket and, although Lady had been taken, it now provided me with warmth when I shivered, comfort through her familiar smell and solace in her scent which enveloped me.  It took me months and months and months til I could wear that little green jacket again.

The pain of my loss was utterly excrutiating and it is not something I wish to re-visit.  Suffice it to say that, after 15 years of living with this darling little girl, my world felt empty and my heart felt as if someone had pierced through it with the sharpest knife.  I was inconsolable.  My sadness was indescribable.

Fourteen months on, as I begin to write this, Maisie lies peacefully at my feet  seemingly unaware of the fate that could have awaited her, had it not been for the team at Battersea who saved her.

Eerily haunting, pleading, longing, frightened, abandoned, empty:  these are the words that came to mind when Maisie looked at me.  What a shocking example of cruelty to an animal stood in front of me in the kitchen on her first night with us.  Shocking, because our new rescue dog from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, had, indeed, been abandoned; found in a graveyard in a London borough, emaciated.  As if that was not a terrible start to this year-old dog’s life, it appeared that she had been badly treated by a man, according to the handler at the Home.

One year after Maisie’s arrival into our family, she still cannot be left in a room alone with the door closed; she paces up and down breathing heavily, panting like a caged animal.  Her anxiety is high when the doorbell rings or when a stranger arrives and she hates getting into the car at night.

The question on everyone’s  lips is:  “why would anyone have an animal and then treat it so appallingly?” .  My response to that is: “ …because they know they can get away with it”.  Apart from the terror in their eyes, and their often irrational behaviour, animals with a deeply unfortunate past, cannot explain in a language we understand, what happened to them, nor who mistreated them.  It is simply a case of behaviour and responses portraying their past.  It is for we owners to try and work out the causes and effects of certain actions so that we can try and erase, as much as possible, the memory of what has gone before.

It must have been an unusual sight for my neighbours, back in the middle of October 2012.  The rain had been heavy through the night and the early morning brought with it a severe chill in the air.  To accommodate both, I slipped on my pink and blue daisy designer wellies, and my soft white and pink dressing gown as I took Maisie into the garden at 7.00 a.m.  I was hoping that my neighbours were busying themselves with their own morning preparations, with little need to look out of their upstairs windows and into my garden below.  This was especially so after Maisie, still startled by every leaf that fluttered and blade of grass which moved, jumped up at me and slid her now beautifully muddy large paws right down from my shoulders to my feet and then repeated the action standing behind me.  Clearly, it was time to go back indoors and into the comfort of her new bed!

I gather that the water in free-flowing streams in early Spring can be refreshing.  However, it depends from which angle you are looking at it!  I quickly discovered that Maisie does not like water. Having achieved training off-lead, several months into the adoption, I was happily throwing a ball across a field,  Maisie nudged it further into the air, and headed it into the stream.  She sat at the side of the bank, looked disappointedly as the ball travelled even further away from her, looked at me, back at the ball and sat wagging her tail furiously demonstrating to me that she wanted me to reach it as she was not going to get her paws wet!

Not wishing to disappoint her further, and like any good owner, I went to retrieve the ball for her.  The rain was lashing down, and I carefully but not-so-skilfully reached down the bank into the water using the ball thrower to guide the ball back to me.  In a second, I lost my footing and ended up with trainers guiding me headlong into the water and up to my knees in mud and branches.

I thought Maisie might be concerned but she ran away from the scene of the emergenc y and sat waiting for me to reappear with the ball – which I duly did!  We then squelched our way back home with every step squeezing out the grey muddy water from inside my trainers!

There is nothing more enticing than the aroma of fresh coffee wafting through the air. There can be nothing more enriching than sipping it in the warm, afternoon sun in September overlooking a meandering river which gives the appearance of being speckled with diamonds as the sun casts it final glow before setting.

The sound of the chinking of cups,  the happy laughter of friends getting together, dogs barking on the far bank waiting for a ball or two to be thrown into the water, filled the air.  Swans fanned the water with their huge wingspan as they came to rest on the waves created by the sailing boats and yachts as they passed by us, merely a few feet away.

Maisie was on patrol! She didn’t miss a trick as she sat comfortably on the terrace of the beautiful hotel  where we had taken her on holiday for a few days before the shorter days  of Autumn beckoned.    Maisie deserved this; we deserved this.  It had turned out to be a difficult and emotional year.

Shortly after adopting Maisie, and realising we had a great challenge ahead on our hands with her, we also discovered that my Mum had terminal cancer. It meant a great deal of hospital visits had to be scheduled in and Maisie had to endure several hours at a time being in the house alone; something she initially hated but something which, like us all who face new things, she grew accustomed to.

When we brought Maisie home from Battersea, after the long car journey for her, we invited my Mum to come over.  The usual human/animal bonding we have known in the past, was as remote as a snowflake in the summer.  It was evident by the body language of both that this was not, initially, going to be a match made in heaven.  However, as my Mum’s illness progressed, and as only an animal can, Maisie instinctively drew close to give comfort and make a fuss of my Mum as she lay in bed.  They would share a sweet biscuit, a tiny piece of cheese, a crumb of cake.  Maisie would put a paw on my Mum’s arm, or sit on her foot, just to be close.  It seemed as if, while I was out of the room, Maisie stepped into the role of carer and comforter and she did a great job.  They became ‘partners in crime’

From my Mum’s initial comment of :  “What on earth possessed you to bring such a large dog home with so many issues, I will never know.  You must be mad.  I don’t think I will ever take to her …. “ to “Come and have a cuddle with Nanny my darling.  You are such a lovely dog ….”    is why I am dedicating this Tale to my Mum and because it goes to show that anything can be achieved.  It has taken patience, persistence, kindness, compassion, time and understanding, sprinkled with unconditional love, to get where we are today.

Returning briefly to the beginning, we had arranged for a painter/decorator to work on our hallway; what a time that was.  As I had said previously, we had been told that Maisie had been, judging by her response to males, cruelly treated by a man.  The decorator could not draw close to her, and she was not prepared to take a chance on him either!   So, we spent a week trying to keep them out of each other’s way, while I was trying to work with clients at home at the same time.

We have had difficulties when the postmen arrived, when delivery people knocked, when workmen were around but, little by little, each one is gaining her trust.  But there is still a long way to go.

I feel so very strongly that we have to do something for the animals who have been denied even the most basic needs and, if writing a short piece about my personal experiences of rescuing Maisie encourages someone to go to Battersea or any other shelter, then this time has been worthwhile.

Stored somewhere deep in her mind may well be the memory of being unloved with no family to protect her but a new life for Maisie truly began just over a year ago.  Just as a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, to find it has wings to fly, so my Battersea Babe (as I affectionately call her) has found the taste of freedom to run and to know that someone is always waiting for her with open arms.

 

Dedicated to my Mum,  Sheila, who died from her Cancer on 6th May 2013