A Christmas message from our Chairman featured in The link Newsletter
Just as the supermarkets start planning early for Christmas so am I with my Christmas diary filling up rapidly. St Peter’s the village church children’s Christmas party is booked and you will find me trying to organise various children into eating bars of chocolate with a knife and fork whilst blind-folded, the cub scouts’ Christmas party is booked where they will each perform a party-piece for an audience of their parents, we shall have some carols played on a variety of instruments, maybe even some carols will be sung and there will be many joke-tellers. I insist on hearing the jokes before letting them loose in front of an audience, I have been caught out before.
Christmas lunch at the Kennel Club, which is a splendid and formal affair is one of two early Christmas lunches I enjoy. The other is the village CAMEO group where I am an honorary member. CAMEO stands for Come And Meet Each Other and runs once a month in the village hall, open to all it is a monthly social group for the elderly and perhaps the lonely in the village to meet up over a cup of tea and have a chat.
I confess I don’t often manage to get to the monthly meetings if at all and I am probably only invited to the Christmas lunch because I like a chat and I am happy to chat to anyone, sit me down with a cup of tea and before you know it I will have you tell me your life story, people are endlessly fascinating, in my experience they always have stories to tell and if you are prepared to forget your own problems for a few minutes and concentrate, smile, nod and occasionally ask a searching question then I can pretty much guarantee you will be rewarded. I suppose in that regard I am much like our beloved Labradors, mine will sit and listen, they will sympathise with their eyes and console with their nuzzling and all they ask in return for this counselling service is an occasional rub of the ear.
Loneliness, anxiety, depression were not things with which I was greatly aware when I was younger, I was always busy, surrounded by family and friends, tied up at work but as I have reached my middle- age I am more aware that I have patients who mean far more to their owners than just a pet but for many living by themselves a reason to get up in the morning and a reason to feed themselves, a companion to chat to when there is no one else, a reason to get out of the house to go and exercise and as we all know walking a dog is a wonderful way to start a conversation, mine nearly always starts with “sorry, she is enthusiastic, loves people, couldn’t possibly eat a whole one, I’m sure it will wash off”.
I reprimand my clients when they suggest they are getting too old to have a dog,” if a strong Labrador is too much get a quiet Greyhound”, I appreciate I have a vested interest but I know the tremendous benefits of owning a dog, the charity may question your ability to manage a young Labrador when you are 80 but I have plenty of clients in their 80’s with Labradors including one of 90 who plays tennis twice a week, I am not sure if it is the Labrador or the tennis which is keeping him so active.
As you know I feel that the charity is a family and our dogs are part of that family, last year I asked you to ‘be more Labrador’ at Christmas,to extend to your family and friends the gifts that your Labrador would choose; your time, your energy, a good meal, a long walk in the countryside. This year I hope you will do the same and also consider those who are by themselves who would enjoy a visit from you and your dogs, a cup of tea and a chance to tell you their life story, Christmas can be an isolating time for the elderly and especially those living alone but also increasingly for the young as well who perhaps are alienated for whatever reason from their families, Christmas comes with a tidal wave of expectations of seasonal jollity which appear normal on the television but which may not be matched by reality.
So when you write your cards this year please give a thought for those who would benefit from a labrador’s ears to nuzzle and if you happen to hear a wonderful life story don’t forget to tell me all about it.