Mine’s a Mochi not Mocha
It is no secret I am not an animal lover. At four-foot-tall, and with no arms, dogs smell the fear and even the most placid ones bark at me. During lockdown, I took my two eldest children for their once daily outdoor exercise (I am discounting Mr Wicks), which meant passing a house where to everyone, this dog at the window would be most pleasant, and then I walked past! Interestingly, on those occasions I was in my wheelchair for our longer walks there was no reaction. Hence, they smell fear.
My narrow view on animals. They shed hair everywhere, can be dirty, ruin your furniture and give the house a not so nice aroma!
For animal lovers I suspect the above will be enough of my post this week! This is also not a Damascene moment. But I did want to reflect on the power and importance of working animals and pets more generally.
Last week I watched an advert for a charity that supports blind people with guide dogs. Traditionally, these adverts have focused on the puppies to encourage you to donate. And very successful they have been. This advert was different. It told the story of a family man who woke up on the day of a milestone birthday blind. He had no warning whatsoever. His career as a tattooist was over, and the advert told the story of how he is using the guide dog to enable him to build a new life, with a new career and ongoing parental responsibilities. I like the subtle shift and the focus on the contribution to be made by an ex-tattooist to his family and community rather than pulling on the heart strings and turning him into a charitable case.
Everybody knows about guide dogs. More people are now aware of hearing dogs. There are other working animals as well, all of whom have been a salvation for so many people during lockdown. And for a lot of people the only source of comfort throughout Covid-19.
But you don’t have to be a trained animal to deliver real comfort and love, particularly through difficult times. Although I have always said no to a dog, we did acquire two outdoor rabbits a couple of years ago. Mochi and Boo have provided my 12 year old – who has struggled during lockdown – with structure (having to feed, clean and exercise the rabbits each day), has increased her responsibilities (in terms of looking after them), and provided her with two additional ‘people’ to talk to, and who don’t answer back (unlike her younger brother!). My mother-in-law who suddenly lost her soulmate a month before lockdown (RIP Badger) will openly tell you her two cats have provided unconditional love and company during the worst time in anyone’s life.
And a colleague who recently split with her partner after ten years, will tell you the lifeline of help afforded by her recently acquired pet dog.
The bond between a working animal and their owner is deep. The same applies to families and their pets. It is enduring and helps to build people’s confidence. I will be more confident the next time I walk down the road – and less fearful – and will let you know if the barking stops!
28 July 2020