Dogs were never allowed inside our home.  Dan, the loving faithful Labrador who was part of our family for 13 years, who came on camping trips with us and who shared the childhood of our three sons, was nevertheless barred from crossing the threshhold.  Don having grown up on the farm, was adamant that the place for dogs was outside.  We all learned to disapprove of people who let their dogs roam at will through the house.

But here we are, years later, with Jebby — and how different things are.  Don decided sensibly that since he had MS and our travelling days were probably coming to an end, we should get another dog.  For company, for taking on walks, and just because he likes dogs.  We ended up with a little dog from the pound, a border collie Irish terrier cross.  I’ll have another attempt at a photo.

These days I am of course the one feeding Jebby, taking her on walks, looking after her shots.  And yet, she indubitably belongs to Don.  From that first moment of driving away from the pound and she gazed at Don with her eyes saying silently, soulfully, “You rescued me!”, she was Don’s dog.  Feels his moods.  Sits at his feet moodily when he is depressed.  Climbs onto his lap when he is really depressed, upon which he will often cheer up and decide we should go out onto the verandah in the sun.  Because this is a dog that has the run of the house, and although we sometimes glimpse in the eyes of visitors the sort of disapproval we used to feel ourselves, we couldn’t care less.  It’s our house, our dog, and we are trying to make life with MS as contented and enjoyable as we can.

There is a sense of urgency about finding another place to live (yes, the stairs!) and we have our names down for self-care units in various retirement complexes (mostly run by the Uniting Church, not only because of our own association with the church but because they have such a high reputation in aged care).  Twice we have been offered a unit, inspected it and were planning to take it- when we learned in each case there was a strict no pets policy.  Regretfully we turned down the offer.  Don has few things left to him; no longer able to read or drive or go for walks, he finds his little dog is a ray of sunshine in the day.

I think it is a wrong policy, and not just about Jebby. All the evidence shows strongly that as you get older or disabled, having a pet decreases depression and gives longer life, fewer health complications, greater wellbeing and happiness.

Luckily, I believe the “no pets” policy, in Uniting Church complexes at least, may be changing.