My colleague Stephen has been speaking to people about the healing power of dogs this week. Lucky Stephen.
On Thursday, he brought us the story of Lunar, the Labrador, who has been Kayleigh Esplin’s lifeline through five years of chronic illness.
Kayleigh, 24, has hypermobile ehlers-danlos syndrome and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome – which mean she can’t work or enjoy the same physical mobility as her two legged pals. But Lunar is her coping mechanism.
“I can’t imagine how much worse those five years would have been without her,” says Kayleigh. “Much more lonely, that’s for sure.”
Yesterday it was the turn of Simon Creighton, 45, and Dexter. The former serviceman has mental health issues and is starting a new life in Angus after becoming homeless following the end of his marriage.
Dexter is a one-year-old Rottweiler who was rescued from Spain after a puppyhood of physical abuse that left him blind. Now they’re companions on the road to recovery.
Anyone who knows me will tell you, dogs are my thing. I know the name of every dog in the village and about 3% of the owners. If I’m interviewing you and I hear a dog barking in the background you can bet you are going to get a good write-up.
And while I have never had to depend on a dog to the extent that Kayleigh has with Lunar, or Simon with Dexter, I’d be lost without my idiot sidekicks.
And then there were three
I added a pup to the mix three weeks ago. A cocker spaniel. She’s asleep at my feet right now. It’s more manageable than the other two settings – 100mph or biting – but they’re all a delight and you can learn a lot about the world when you see it through the eyes of an 11-week-old whirlwind.
So here, since nobody asked, but I’m utterly besotted, are seven things I’ve learned from my spaniel.
1. Sleep, eat, exercise, drink lots of water, poop, repeat. If you don’t get the basics right you can pretty much forget about making a decent fist of anything else.
2. You get out what you put in. Yesterday, she ate the manure I’d put down for the roses and I ate a pot noodle and a family size bag of cheesy puffs. It felt good going down but we’d have been a lot happier in the long run if we’d followed the boring, sensible advice instead.
3. Get outside. Betty’s last jabs coincided with Scotland’s Freedom Friday. We left the garden, walked in the park, breathed in the fresh air. We were both much easier to live with when we got home.
4. Socialise. The lurcher from the other end of the village isn’t so scary when you get up close and have a good sniff. I’m told it works for people too.
5. Play nice. A waggy tail (or its human equivalent), a cheery demeanour and a bit of kindness guarantee you a better reception than steaming in all guns blazing and picking needless fights.
6. Look to your elders if you’re a wee bit lost. They’ve seen stuff. They might not attract the ‘aaaawws’ but there’s often a lot of sense going on under those thin grey hairs.
And 7. Running around like a daft thing is exhilarating but did you ever just stop and look at a bumblebee, or a tulip? There’s a whole world out there at the end of your nose and it’s really quite miraculous if you give yourself time to appreciate it.
If you know the name Molly Forbes it’s probably because of the films of Anthony Baxter.
He portrayed her David and Goliath battle with Donald Trump, who built a golf resort next to her home in Aberdeenshire, in You’ve Been Trumped and You’ve Been Trumped Too and this week he shared his memories of a “dignified and courageous lady” after we learned of her death at the age of 96.
Molly loved nature and knew every inch of the landscape around Balmedie now covered over with manicured greens and fairways.
She also tried to warn America what would happen if Donald Trump was elected president and it’s remarkable how much of her experience – the cruelty, insults, dirty tricks, divisions, legal threats, media manipulation – foreshadowed his four years in the White House.
The rest of us no longer have to think about the Twitter president – Isn’t it nice, wasn’t he so easy to forget after all that? – but Molly’s sand dunes are ruined and her family and neighbours still have his border war on their doorsteps.
Not a brilliant chapter in the Scottish history books but Molly’s quiet courage in sticking it out – and speaking out – gave us something to be proud of at least.
Interestingly, Donald Trump was the first occupant of the White House without a dog in more than a century.
I’m just saying.