When our lovely old boxer gentleman left us, it took us a long time to even think of getting another dog. After all, he'd been with us for thirteen years.
Some time later, we came across the charity Irish Dogs for the Disabled, who place assistance and stability dogs they have bred and trained with disabled children and adults. We applied to become socialisers, and our first dog with the charity, Flynn, came to live with us.
The questions we get most are:
'What does a socialiser do?'
Well, the dog comes as a three month old to live with our family for a year to eighteen months. During that time, we take the dog everywhere - and I mean everywhere, as he has a special coat which allows him into places dogs usually aren't. But most of all, socialising is about love.
'But won't you be heartbroken when you have to give the dog back?'
Oh yes. The dog has been a much-loved member of the family. But he is going on to do his Very Important Work, to be trained to be part of a family where one member, often a child, really needs his help.
Flynn is now living with a little boy and his family, working as both an assistance and stability dog, helping the child to walk for the first time without aids.
Then came the lovely Harper.
Harper has been living with us for the last fourteen months, and has just aced her Hip Test (which means, more or less, that her hips are perfect). She will leave us shortly to become a brood bitch for the charity, mommy to the next generation of stability and assistance dogs.
Will there be tears? Yes, many. But let's not forget the love, and how we ended up on this particular path, the legacy of our old boxer. We are down on the socialiser list again, and will welcome with joy and a spot on the sofa another little lab into our lives.
'Would you recommend socialising?'
Absolutely. If you have a place in your life for a dog like Flynn or Harper, do get in touch with a similar charity near you.
Just before Flynn was to leave us, we finally got another forever dog, Christopher Lee the pug. I'm not sure that if we hadn't gone the socialiser route that he would have come to join our family.