LARGE PRINT: My Life in His Paws
Whenever I find a ‘dog’ book I think I might like to read, I’m afraid I have a confession to make – whether it be a library or a bookshop, I read the last chapter. If the dog dies the book goes back on the shelf. I can’t bear it, I cry for days. I look down at my dog Golly, he smiles up at me, and it just becomes too much.
There are two dogs in Wendy Hilling’s book, so I was caught. The first one became deceased but what a great life Monty had; and Teddy her second dog was still going strong when I reached the last page.
The book isn’t well-written, but it would be a shame, it would seem wrong, if it was. It is an honest book.
Wendy Hilling was born, and was subsequently diagnosed, with a rare but dangerous skin disease known as EB. EB is a painful disease where a faulty gene means that the skin isn’t properly anchored. It blisters badly both inside and out. Just the littlest touch can cause blisters. Wendy almost died when the curry she ate was too hot and blistered her throat, causing it to constrict. She stopped breathing. EB is an inherited disease. Wendy and her husband Peter both lived with it. As she progressed into adulthood it worsened and Peter became her full time caregiver.
It was around this time that they thought they might like to get a dog. A dog they could walk. They decided they might like a rescue dog – they had no way no way of knowing what they had started.
They found two adult dogs, dreadfully, awfully treated. Once beautiful golden retrievers, now so neglected, skin and bone, frightened, beaten both physically and mentally. They took them home, Monty and Penny. Penny died never really recovering from the early abuse, Monty however was destined for great things..
Wendy says that she had always hated being looked upon as ‘disabled’. She found having a handsome dog at her side deflected the negative attention. But she also found Monty was a quick learner. He watched what Peter did, helping her dress, undress. He fetched on command, emptied the washing machine, helped her shop at the super market. He made a big difference to her life and became for some years her constant companion and carer.
In time, as Monty grew older, it became apparent that another four legged carer was needed. This time Wendy worked with a group, Canine Partners.
Normally when a dog was needed they chose and trained them. A special dispensation was reached and Wendy, with help of course from Monty, was able to chose and train her own dog, another Golden Retriever called Teddy.
Yes, Monty died. Yes, it was sad, but Teddy was on the scene. Trained by Monty, Teddy became another amazing dog, as Wendy’s condition worsened and she needed him more than ever. Almost on a daily level, Teddy saved her life. An emergency alarm was installed in the home. If Wendy stopped breathing, took a fall, Teddy hit the alarm with her nose. When the operator answered, Teddy barked. The ambulance was dispatched and Teddy, knowing help was on the way, rushed to wake Peter, to alert a neighbour.
This book is about their lives together, their total, utter love for and dependency on each other. Teddy became a media star. He brought a positive light upon the disabled. But mainly this is an inspiring book about how the love of a dog for his mistress grew into this life-saving, inspiring, heart warming story.
I look at Golly again, lolling on the floor at my feet. I pat his head. Yeah, he would do all that for me, he would if I had trained him cause he really, really loves his mum too. He just needs a bit more training. Well okay, a lot more training.
A lovely book. A lovely dog.