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WAY members share how dogs have helped through their grief

August 2021

Today is International Dog Day and we are taking the opportunity to share the heartwarming stories of WAY Widowed and Young members and the dogs that have provided such huge comfort through their bereavement. We also hear from our new Chief Executive Stephanie Patrick about her three beautiful poodles...

Leanne’s story

Meet Maslow, who’s a 3 year old Labrador (see below). In March of this year I lost my wonderful partner Stephen to Covid. When I staggered home from the hospital at 3am, I crawled into bed, still in shock, with no idea what had just happened and what I was meant to do next. Maslow (who was never allowed to sleep in bed with us) crawled into the bed and just laid next to me, occasionally licking the tears off my face.

He has been my absolute saviour throughout all this. He has walked with me for hours when I couldn’t sleep. He has laid quietly next to me when I couldn’t move - he has been there every minute, every second when I couldn’t cope, when I didn’t want to cope. When I was too paralysed with fear to think about the future, he sat with me in the present.

He is a trained in therapy, scent detection dog and search & rescue and when Stephen died was used to working 6 hours a day. Not once has he objected to his life going from exciting walks to a walk around the block because that’s all my anxiety would let me do. He also made me get out and about.

I took him on my first WAY meeting and have attended with him most weeks since. We have a lovely group of supportive, generous people who meet up once a week for a walk and talk.

Maslow

Caroline’s story

This wonderful bundle of curliness joined our little family of three 7 years before we lost Chris to cancer. Chris never wanted a dog, but he turned into pack leader and quickly he and Dillon were inseparable. He’d pick him up from doggy day care and he would ride ‘shotgun’ next to him for the short journey home.

In March 2020, we were told to say goodbye to Chris (2 days after we’d managed to get married with Dillon beside us). We sneaked Dillon into A&E; he jumped on him, licked his face, Chris sat bolt upright, said “D, D” and came to. 

That dog brought Chris back to us and we had another 3.5 months of normal life. Chris didn’t present as sick and was generally so active; he couldn’t stand being ‘shielded’ so every day we would go to the woods and walk Dillon. ‘His’ dog was there right until the very end, when he suddenly went three days after radio therapy.

So here I am 14 months down the line and Dillon now doesn’t leave my side. He’s the reason I get up (if I waited for our teenager, I’d spend most of the day in bed!). He’s the reason I leave the house. Each morning he puts his paws up next to me, ‘telling’ me to get out of bed. I give him the ‘lunch’ hour time and he ‘uffs’ at me to go out just before.

He’s turned into MY shadow now, where I go, so does he. He’s my night-time companion, on the sofa, then on the bed – the bed he was never going on, said Chris all those years ago! We run together, we cycle together, I’ve made sure we’ve continued to do all those things that we did as a family with ‘Mr D’. He even comes shopping with me. 

He brings a smile to my face and unconditional love, even in the darkest of times. And if I really don’t fancy the driving rain, wind or snow, I leave the house each day with my husband’s words in my head “the dog’s got to be walked, Caroline”. 

Dillon

Stephanie Patrick started in post this week as WAY’s new Chief Executive. She is a dog lover and shared this beautiful photo of her three poodles…

Not a day goes by without my dogs making me smile or laugh!! They are always up to some kind of mischief and they fill the house with joyful chaos. When I’m at home, they are my constant companions and their unconditional love and loyalty is something which I treasure. I never feel alone when I have them with me and there is no better way to return to the house than to see my three huge poodles squeezed into the window chair together, with their noses pressed to the glass waiting patiently for me to come back to them!

Read more from Stephanie here...

Steph with her three poodles

Michael’s story

These two have been my lifesavers since Alys died. Norbert is a Labradoodle and we’ve had him for nine years, since he was a baby. He truly is a gentle giant, extremely protective of Teddy (who’s 3) and he has a great sense of humour!

This photo was taken this summer on Whitstable beach. 

Norbert playing with Ted

Linda’s story

Tilly means the absolute world to me. When my husband died she was the only reason I left the house for a long time because she needed to be walked. While out walking she also showed me the beauty of nature and how healing it is. She really has been amazing. Originally we rescued her, in the end she rescued me.

Tilly

Emily’s story

I call my little dog Teddy my Velcro boy because he's always by my side. If I’m having a good day, he enjoys them with me, and if I’m having a rough time, he’s extra attentive and gives me lots of cuddles and ‘puppy kisses’.

I always wish my husband Alan would have been able to see the beautiful, clever, sweet dog our crazy puppy turned into, because I know he’d be as proud of Teddy as I am.

Teddy

David’s story

I didn’t want a dog. Angela got cancer. She got a dog and then she died. Now I have a dog (Marty). We are besties. I miss him when I’m at work. He sticks to me like glue. He is always beside me. Even when I'm on the toilet!

Marty

Kirsty’s story

Meet Lionel, our nearly 2 year old Border Terrier. We’d never owned a dog before and he has made our lives better in so many ways. I have three children and they’ve all experienced mental health issues on some level since their Dad suddenly died 8 years ago. The decision to get Lionel came in the middle of a night when my eldest child was really struggling. My youngest loves dogs and we knew he’d love him, but my middle child is resistant to change and took a while to come round to the doggy addition to our family. She now loves him just as much as the rest of us do.

Walks with him get us outside and we all love the comfort he provides when he sleeps on us after he’s been out for a good walk. We named him Lionel as we knew he’d look like an old man as soon as he was no longer a puppy - for some reason my children loved watching As Time Goes By with Geoffrey Palmer playing the character of Lionel - everyone who learns his name laughs and loves it! We are all happier with Lionel as a very important member of our family.

Lionel

Jo’s story – Jo Sedley-Burke is WAY’s Chair

Huey was a connection to my wife, Paula. He was her 40th birthday present and looking after him was the only thing I could do after she died. He is also a cuddle monster and being able to hold him helped.

BooBoo was because I can’t say no. Huey gets on with every dog so that was never going to be an issue and when a friend tells you they can’t cope or look after their dog anymore, it is a painful thing. So I wanted to help.

I’ve always had dogs since I left home usually two and on occasions three! I could talk for hours about my dogs. They bring me peace and good mental health, fitness and unconditional love. It’s like they know just how to touch your heart…

Read more from Jo here...

Huey the Shi Tzu

BooBoo

Veronica's story - Veronica is WAY's National Volunteer Manager

Rua the Red Setter was the last birthday present I gave my husband. He had been desperate for a dog and loved red setters. Ten months before his sudden deat, I gave in and Rua became part of our family.  Rua is a lively dog and our house is never dull with her in it.  Although in the early days of grief, she could feel like an added burden, she also forced me outside into nature where I learned that my grief could be soothed. She was also a lovely evening companion and filled the empty space on the sofa. My daughters dote on her and she continues to be a link to their dad. She drives us mad and makes us laugh every day, in equal measure.

Hear more from Veronica here...

Rua the Red Setter

We have a subgroup for WAY members who are dog owners that has more than 500 people sharing stories about their canine companions.

Drop us a line at enquiries@widowedandyoung.org.uk for more details.