Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.
Sunday November 8th 2020
On Thursday, in Highbury Park, I learned of the death of Joyce whom I’ve known for many years.
Like everyone else I have spoken to since, I was stunned.
I first met Joyce many years ago.
Our introduction was effected by my outgoing young dog Ellie, who one day ran up to check out three dogs who were walking with a lady in Kings Heath Park.
The lady was Joyce, and she warned me to keep an eye on Harry who wasn’t keen on young dogs.
Ellie, unaware of any threat, instantly fell in love with him. And after tolerating a whiskery kiss, he succumbed to her charms.
Ellie doted on Harry and they became friends. Years later, after he had died, she always looked for him when we met the rest of the group in the park.
I, too, fell for Harry. I was also taken with Lizzie, who was a tiny yorkie. If I stooped with my arms outstretched and called her, she would skitter hundreds of yards to claim a cuddle. Her little legs moved so fast that you literally could not make them out: she looked like an animated cartoon dog propelled along by four catherine wheels.
The youngest dog at the time was ball mad Maggie, a sweet border collie pup who, when she was older could find me in Highbury wherever I was, request a treat and then vanish without there being any sign of the rest of the family!
Joyce was one of the first dog walkers I met when I was attempting to walk the newly arrived Isis in Kings Heath Park. At the time, I despaired of her ever enjoying a walk as she froze after every reluctant step and refused to move.
Joyce was intrigued by Isis and wanted to know her story. She wanted to know about Aeza and Dogwatch UK.
“When it’s time for my next dog,” she promised, “I’ll get in touch with Dogwatch.”
She observed Isis very carefully.
“In time,” she said, “that little dog will be following you around the park off lead.”
Much as I respected her understanding and knowledge of animals, I couldn’t believe that this could ever happen. Her prediction, albeit many years later, did turn out to be true.)
The first Dogwatch UK dog Joyce took on was Sophie, a spirited little dog from Spain who soon made herself at home.
When she lost Harry, Joyce took on Ruby, whom I think also hailed from Spain.
Terrified of people, Ruby bonded almost instantly with Joyce, and, I believe, has learned to trust other family members.
She soon began to play with Maggie and Sophie at home, and is perfectly calm with park dogs, but she still steers well clear of people. She will take long detours in order to avoid coming into contact with anyone, and if she is unable to see a safe route back to Joyce, she’ll skirt the paths, make her way back to the car park and wait for her by the car.
Sadly, about two years ago, Maggie was diagnosed with an inoperable cancer.
Ruairi is the household’s third Dogwatch adoptee. Like Ruby, he is quite relaxed around other dogs, but he is completely distrustful of people. Twice, with much encouragement from his person and whispered sweet nothings from me, he has dared to sniff my hand, but generally he remains aloof and poised for flight. At home he’ll not even approach Joyce’s gentle husband
Very sadly, it is clear that both Ruby and Ruairi are scarred by the abuse they were subjected to before they were rescued.
Like most animal lovers, Joyce was also a respecter of people, and enriched the lives not only of the animals who crossed her path, but of many people too.
I have never met a kinder, wiser or more generous lady.
She will be greatly missed.
*Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or www.dogwatchuk.co.uk