We got Monty just before lockdown this year, after years of talking about having a dog. He was seven months old and a bit of a teenager, but he has changed and enhanced our lives for the better.
He is the sweetest, gentlest dog who has what I firmly believe is a genuine sense of humour. He can tell when I am getting stressed while working from home and will hide his toys under a table or chair and invite me down onto the floor to retrieve them for him. Once I’m there, he’ll happily chew my hair and lick my ears and squirm around to show how pleased he is. I give him back his toy, with a big cuddle and go back to work. Five minutes later the toy is miraculously back in an inaccessible place.
He has even won over our two cats
He has the biggest, best doggy smile (like most Golden Retrievers) and his general exuberance and love for life is infectious. He has even won over our two cats – who were less than impressed that I had brought a big, hairy stranger into their lives!
We recently had a garden redo and the builder made it clear he didn’t like dogs, so we cordoned off the bit of the garden that he was working in. Monty sat politely in a garden chair watching everything and accepting an occasional pat. By the end of the three weeks, the builder was greeting him enthusiastically and stopping by for a proper pet. They are now firm friends – even when Monty was accidentally let into the wrong part of the garden and ended up belly-deep in the freshly poured concrete footings for the wall!
Monty is the heart and soul of my life.
Jasper started out life being trained with Canine Partners, a charity which provides assistance dogs for people with disabilities. When he was a year old, he went to ‘big school’, which was an advanced training centre in West Sussex. As he’s quite shy, he started to struggle and it didn’t seem like the right fit for him. Eventually he was put up for adoption, and as I was on a waiting list I received a call asking me if I’d be interested in meeting him.
To cut a long story short, I fell in love with him straight away. I said I'd like to trial him just to make sure we were a good fit, but I don’t think it took longer than a day for me to realise we were meant to be!
He has most certainly transformed my life
Jasper settled in amazingly, and the past four years with him have been such a joy – although, I don’t think I really appreciated just what a difference he’s made to my life until recently. He might not be my assistance dog, but he has most certainly transformed my life.
Not too long ago, I suffered from a miscarriage. Physically, I was ok but mentally I have really been suffering. Jasper has made everything so much more bearable. He’s always there for me, happy to cuddle on the sofa or go on a long walk to soak up the fresh air. Every morning, he greets me with his funny Labrador sneezes (as they do) and his flappy ear shake. He gives me a purpose to get up and out of the house, and he’s even brought my partner and I closer together during this tough time.
I could not have been without him these past few months and I will never forget the kindness that he’s shown me. He’s so gorgeous and truly the most affectionate, caring dog I could ever ask for – even if he does leave black hairs all over the house!
Lizzy is all the things you don't want. She's stubborn, always thinks she knows best and incredibly grumpy if her dinner is late.
Despite all that, she's been my rock since we rescued her at three years old. She's seen me through clinical depression and anxiety, and still is there for me when I need her. With the isolation the current climate has brought, taking her for walks and spending lots of time cuddling has been my therapy.
She’s been my rock
Lizzy never fails to make me laugh, and she remains bouncy and energetic, lighting up whenever she gets a sniff of agility equipment. I'm honestly not sure how she keeps going, behaving like a dog half her age, the only real sign being that after her mad romps she does need to sleep for a while. But, as soon as that's done, she's ready to go again!
I've grown up with dogs all my life. I used to have two German Shepherds, Sabre and Levi. By the time we sadly lost my two best friends, I was 21 and was just beginning my life after university. I met my partner and moved to Manchester for work. Since the beginning of our relationship, I made it clear that I wanted to have a dog in my life again. Sometimes, it felt like it might not happen for another 10 years with work and so on.
But everything fell into place in November 2019 when we brought Millie, our Labradoodle, into our lives. My boyfriend has never had a dog before and Millie has 100% stolen his heart and made him as dog-obsessed as me.
Having Millie in our life is like a hole has been filled
She's the most loving and chilled out puppy I have ever known. I was ready for the madness and chaos that comes with a puppy but we never really had it. She has many quirks, including sitting upright on the sofa like a human being. She loves to snuggle up into your arms and she's the perfect size to do so.
She is tennis ball-mad, and makes us take her out at 8 pm on the dot for her tennis ball chasing hour! Morning walks are reserved for a gentle stroll through our local woods.
Having Millie in our life is like a hole has been filled. Taking her for her morning walk gives me such a feeling of calm before the day ahead. It's our special time when nothing else in the world matters.
Our life now revolves around planning adventures with Millie and doing everything we can to give her the best years of her life. We often ask ourselves what we used to do before we had a dog. Watching her grown, learn and blossom into an adult dog fills us with so much pride – we can kind of see why people might have children!
I first fell in love with Monty when I saw his photo on a Labrador rescue site. By the time I had registered with them, he had been taken. To my amazement, he was back two weeks later as the lady that had taken him couldn’t cope. The following day I was off to collect him.
I took him to a field to do recall training and soon learned that he loves water! He sniffed out that there was water nearby and took off. The lead went through my hands like butter. He went swimming in the lake with all the ducks, and I ended up in the hospital with second-degree burns. He’s a typical teenager but I still love him!
He’s a typical teenager but I still love him
We couldn’t go past any stream, river or canal as he would want to be in it – and usually was. So, I took him to the local hydro pool for dogs. He loves it and now goes once a month. He cannot wait to be in the pool.
He is a retriever by name and by nature. If it’s on the floor, he will bring it to you, whether you want it or not. If he’s bored, he will fetch you anything he can find, and then run around the living room with it.
He is also a Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog, so he visits our local hospital, as well as one in Leeds. They all love him, have his photo on the walls, and know when he will be coming to their ward. We walk into our local hospital and everyone seems to know him. You can be walking down a corridor and hear someone say “Look, Monty is coming”.
We have owned two Golden Retrievers over the last 30 years, but sadly our last beautiful boy died in November. For the first time in all these years, we were faced with a home with no dog – and the loss hit us hard.
Slowly the conversations began: should we think about getting a puppy? We agreed that it wouldn’t be a good idea and yet we started looking at puppies online. Before we knew it, we were suddenly puppy owners again. You think you could never love the same way again, but the first time we met Dudley, it was pure love.
29 February 2020 was D-day – Dudley day. And home he came. He was a beautiful, brave, bundle of fluff. For the next few weeks, he started to meet the extended family – including Rory, our beautiful grandchild, and Cooper his new doggy bestie. We had just established a routine when things changed.
We were isolated but not alone
Coronavirus and lockdown became the new reality. There we were isolated. No more family, cuddles with the children, eating together, laughing together, being together. We were isolated but not alone.
Amidst the surreal, there was Dudley. Beautiful, innocent, wide-eyed Dudley. Dudley who is growing bigger and bolder every day and who believes he rules the roost. In truth, he probably does!
We chose Dudley because there was a connection, we couldn’t say what at the time, but now we think we know. It feels like he was coming to us for reason. None of us knew what was to come and somehow, he came to fill the void. This year will be defined in history by the coronavirus, but for us, it will be defined by the year Dudley came to save us.