I’ve had a shadow at my side for most of the last sixty-odd years. It’s taken different shapes and sizes, but it has been a comfort, a non-judgemental inspiration, and an ever-cheerful devoted friend.
My present shadow has been my constant companion for the last fourteen years. She’s a small chocolate and tan collie-cross rescued from the streets of Caerphilly during a cold February – a poor skinny little thing with the sweetest nature you could wish for.
When I say constant, I mean that almost literally. She likes to know where I am at all times, and if I leave the room, even when she’s asleep, she senses I’m gone and comes to find me. From the time we wake in the morning to falling asleep at night, she’s never far from my side. I can’t even go to the loo by myself.
She takes me for walks on the beach, over rugged moorland, and along babbling streams beneath ancient trees, and through her, I’ve met most of the people I know locally. She gets me up in the morning, too early, sometimes, and sneaks under the duvet on cold nights and keeps me warm. She’s always happy to see me and makes me smile. She never holds a grudge, no matter how many times I take her to the vets to have needles stuck in her. She gets me out and keeps me fit, and she never argues or grumbles – well only when I tell her it’s still an hour to dinner time…
She’s the last in a long line of wonderful doggy companions who have shared and enriched my life. The shadow is usually behind me these days. At almost fifteen, she’s slowing down and spends as much time sniffing as walking, but we still go out twice a day, rain or shine, to appreciate our surroundings. Without her to get me out and keep them strong , my old bones would crumble, and my soul would probably crumble with them.
Today, was a walk along Brandy Brook to the ruined mill. The stream was fast running after the rain, and the track was a mass of primroses and hung with hazel catkins. There was an odd violet in a sunny spot and leaves were coming on the brambles and blackthorns. Birds were flitting about in the trees and undergrowth, busy with their nest-building.
We met a couple with a golden retriever and had a doggy chat, and then met friends through whose land the track runs. Their garden is full of daffodils and the stream is one of their boundaries.
My shadow is asleep now on the sofa. Her little old legs don’t have the strength they used to have, and tonight, she may need help getting up onto the bed where she sleeps at my side, but tomorrow, she’ll get me up again and out. I can’t help feeling slightly sad at the diminishing number of tomorrows we shall have together, but I know every one will be worthwhile and a privilege.
When people lose their beloved dogs, they aren’t ‘just a dog’ – they’re family. It’s hard to think of life without her.