When I moved back to my home town a little over 6 years ago, I was in a bad way physically and mentally. I couldn’t have been much worse. I thought I was coming home to die. I really did.
Imagine my surprise when I didn’t. I just kept going and then, beyond belief, I started to get better. I was improving physically all the time, though it did take me a while to accept that I wasn’t going to die from the infected pressure sore that had put me in hospital for a month and convolescing with family for many months after.
The toll on my mental health, having come so close to death after leaving my old life behind and starting again in a place I really didn’t feel I belonged, was beyond profound. I was depressed for a long while, even though I’d been given yet another chance at life. I’ve had a lot of close calls. Spina bifida is still not an easy condition to live with, in many more ways than one. I wasn’t so sure I wanted another shot when my life had been so changed and having to accept these changes and move on is not a process that I’ve ever quite felt done with.
To help me through the severe depression I experienced, I did take antidepressants for a while. They helped me through the worst of it but I found the side effects were affecting my health to a degree that neither my doctor nor I found acceptable. I still remember the day my doctor gently placed his hand on my shoulder and explained there was nothing more, medically, that he could do. It felt at that moment like he was crossing his fingers for me.
Since then, I’ve had to go it alone. Or at least I would have had to if it weren’t for that decision I made to move and surround myself with family, all of whom are generally within minutes from me at any given time. Given my family lead very busy lives, I would still spend almost all of my time alone though, were it not for a chance encounter with a wee ball of white fur.
Six years ago today, one of my sisters and I went to play with a couple of puppies at a local pet store. My sister loves anything small and cute, so I think it was probably her idea. Don’t tell anybody, but so do I.
One puppy was bigger than the other. He was strong and boisterous and definitely the pick of the litter; a proper little character. The other puppy was small and meek and had a perpetually worried look on his face. He was so uncertain of the world and he seemed scared and alone.
We left the puppies. I really did want one but I hadn’t even considered getting a dog before and decided to be a proper adult and not act on impulse. Two hours later, I was back at the store trying to choose which puppy I would take home with me.
The larger puppy was still full of confidence and energy and was bounding around like he knew what was what. The smaller of the two started following me around. He would walk almost under my wheelchair and yet seemed instinctively to know how to keep out of the way and not get hurt. I took him home.
My boy Troy has been following me around ever since. When I look behind my wheelchair all I see is a long, flowing, fluffy, white tail swaying gently from side to side. He doesn’t look scared anymore. He’s a confident dog, sure of himself and quite certain that his reason for being is to have fun with me. The first thing I see in the morning is his happy wee face looking down at me expectantly and nothing makes me happier.