Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Our dog helped us, now we’ll repay his kindness

Frances Burscough

In the grand scheme of things it’s not really a very big deal. And yet it made us all shed a tear, my boys and I, when we heard the news.

In my case it was actually floods of tears, flowing so clearly that I was offered a tissue and a hug by a passing stranger outside the vets.

Bailey, our beloved faithful dog, is going blind.

Finn had first noticed something was up last week as we walked the dogs down on the beach at night. Shining a torch at an animal in the dark would normally result in both its eyes gleaming an eerie fluorescent green, like a cat’s eye on the motorway or a startled fox caught in a headlight’s beam.

But on this night, Bailey glanced over towards us and only one eye flashed. The other one didn’t reflect at all and instead seemed to absorb all light like a black hole in space.

I knew straight away that something was quite wrong and, right enough, when we got home and looked closer into the affected eye it was lifeless, as though its pilot light had been blown out ...

Eight years ago, when the boys were still at primary school, our family went through a crisis. Their dad and I split up, and for the weeks immediately afterwards all three of us were struggling to cope in this strange, fragmented state which our family unit had now become.

Just one thing was clear; there was a void in their lives that had to be filled but I hadn’t a clue how to do it or where to even begin.

So I sought advice from a friend, who had tragically lost a parent when she was a child. She told me how a relative had bought her a dog to help comfort her and what a wonderful difference that had made.

Eureka! That was it. I’d never owned a dog before — in fact, I was very allergic to certain types and so I’d always been a bit nervous around them but, to be honest, I was so desperate for a solution I would have tried anything.

So along came Bailey, a fluffy white bichon frisée, chosen quite at random through the Belfast Telegraph classifieds, mainly because I’d been told that this particular breed had hypo-allergenic fur. I didn’t even wait to see him, before I agreed over the phone to the sale. In fact, my part of the conversation went something like this:

“Can I get him today? Great, what’s your address?”

Bailey was one year old at that stage and had been living with a family in Glengormley since he was a tiny pup. They had two small toddlers and had just got a new baby to add to the melee so the decision to sell the dog became inevitable when they noticed that the sound of the baby crying made him bark frantically. God love them, who on earth could have coped with that?

But their misfortune instantly became our salvation.

As we drove home through Belfast, both boys in the back of the car and Bailey in his crate sandwiched between them with his wet nose poking out through the grille and his tongue excitedly licking their little fingers as they whooped with glee, I knew straight away I had made the right decision.

And from the moment we carried him in through the door, then watched him frolic around and explore his new space, rolling on the carpet, sniffing every nook and cranny and meticulously marking his territory, a new dimension of fun and mischief was instantly added to our temporarily sad home.

From that day on, instead of waking up missing daddy, my boys were woken up each morning by a wee bundle of joy, scampering up on to their beds, affectionately licking their faces and coaxing their eyes open with tiny furry paws.

Beautiful, funny, comical Bailey. What a difference he had made to our lives! Without a doubt, the most wise, prized and precious purchase I have ever made.

But now he’s growing old, he’s lost his spark and his vitality is fading and it’s time for us to pay him back for all the joy he’s brought to our lives.

One after another, we haven’t stopped hugging him since we came home from the vet.

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