12 Jun 2017

I have worked as a volunteer with rescue dogs for many years. Times have changed a lot. At one time it was all about basic care, feeding, bathing, walking, kennel cleaning.

Then came the importance of helping dogs, who were often traumatised by abuse, to relax with people, play, learn some commands. Volunteers were encouraged to get the dogs to socialise.

I find they fall into a few groups. Some come bounding out, totally engrossed in the sights sounds and smells around them, never give me a glance. I could be anyone, it's just great to be out and about. They hate being taken back to their kennel.

Others cower, refuse to come out at all, pee themselves, refuse treats. They will need one to one help, often for weeks, before they venture out.

Then there are the ones who are rather reluctant at first, but get into the swing of it, maybe chase a ball, give me a kiss, have a little romp. Then, next thing they are at the gate, scratching frantically. On goes the lead, and they pull me at great speed back to the kennel, joyfully curling up in their blankie.

Guess which one I relate to?

When invitations arrive, I don't feel a rush of pleasurable anticipation, on the other hand I don't actually pee myself. Sometimes I get irritated by the sheer persistence of some people, annual inviations to gatherings I have never attended. It is hard not to think they do it deliberately, some passive aggressive thing, forcing my excuses to become increasingly bizarre.

Even when I really like the people involved, as the day approaches I feel apprehensive. Sometimes I wish they will have to cancel, so I can get out of it without feeling guilty.

This does not mean I am a shrinking violet though. Once I get there, I can work a room with the best of them, especially with a few drinks inside me. People seek me out, I have been described as the life and soul, which probably means I have opened my big gob and said outrageous things. I feel I have done my bit, turned up, brought wine and flowers, and genuinely enjoyed myself.until...

I picture my kennel, my blankie waiting for me. Then come the consequences - a couple of days of feeling drained and disorientated. Conversations will be replayed, the moods of those I have met will have left a mark on me. A few days later I will usually have a crashing migraine.

"Experts" tell us that friends and relatives, a social network, are as essential to good physical and mental health as a good diet. It is now being said that dementia can be brought on by living an introverted life style. What about those of us who like to keep a bit of distance, dislike crowds, noise, cope with company in small doses? Or when most of your family have died, and you weren't too keen on them when they were still alive?

When you rarely make the effort to see old friends, why seek new ones?

What type of doggie are you when it's time to socialise?


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