The Dog Walker

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When in my thirties, I was considered a good-looking woman. I worked as a professional demonstrator, hired to present products at exhibitions and conventions, trade shows and that sort of thing. I was good at it, and basically had more work offered me than I could handle.

One of the deliberate limits on my business was that I would charge, depending on the complexity of the product and the industry, for ‘learning time’; for getting up to speed on the sort of answers a professional, informed potential customer might require. This cost me some of the ‘pretty face’ jobs, because it made me too expensive.

But, for the same reason, I was often employed for computer shows, because I knew what I was talking about. I covered some of the biggest, like the Office Equipment shows in Munich and Stuttgart, as well as the Business Efficiency Exhibition in Olympia in London.

I even had a couple of gigs in Las Vegas at The Consumer Electronics Show. However, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

All in all, I was doing very well for myself. I was professional in all ways, including keeping proper accounts, which also helped me talk about accounting systems during a time when accounting was moving off electro-mechanical machines to electronics in the 1970s and 80s. And although I had numerous casual hook-ups, I never bedded a client.

When I was 39, in 1985, it all changed. I was driving in west London, where I lived at the time so as to be close to Heathrow Airport, when I was T-boned through the left, passenger, side. The result was serious damage to my spine and my left leg. My spine had several surgeries, resulting in metal plates and various other pieces of hardware being inserted.

Doctors, over a period of months in hospital, were able to avoid amputation, but the left leg from the knee down was useless. I could not walk without crutches. They also gave me, because of internal injuries, a hysterectomy.

Eventually, I was fitted with a form of calipers, stretching from my thigh to my shin, that could lock my leg in a straight position. I could stand crutch-free, say at the kitchen sink, for a little while, before the pain in the right hip and the spine got too much. I had some movement of the left thigh, but the lower left leg, when unlocked, would just hang down vertically. So I was able to get in and out of my van, pulling myself up on the grab handles with my back to the driver’s seat, and then swiveling around.

Career-wise, I was finished. Exhibitions, as a demonstrator, require that you a) looked and walked normally so as to get to the potential customer on the exhibition stand, b) stand and converse for prolonged periods of time without wincing in pain, c) be able, as a woman, to wear a skirt showing a normal, shapely leg, preferably one not covered in scars and metal calipers. And so, Cathy White was officially classified as ‘Disabled’.

At age 38 I had long blonde hair, a 34c-24 34 figure and was 5’9″ tall. At 40, I had shorter, curled but still blonde hair, could just make 5’9″ standing tall on my good leg, and was a 36d-26-36 figure from months of laying in a bed. And I had had to work damned hard to keep my measurements down to those.

Clearly I was not going to be able to come out of hospital and resume my career. Even if I thought I could work from a wheel-chair, it would take a couple of years of physical therapy to get me strong enough and mobile enough for the hours of the job and its related travelling.

Prior to the accident, I had a slate of booking at shows and exhibitions that was 14 months out. All with signed confirmations.

Fortunately for me, if there was a silver lining, it was that the van that hit me belonged to a leading national public company, and was being driven during regular business hours on company business. It didn’t help their defense, however, that the driver, although an employee of the company for several years, was driving whilst prohibited, because of a previous accident his employers were aware of. After all, that was in one of their other vans.

My lawyer, a young, earnest and determined fellow, did me proud. Because of my neatly maintained accounting, and the slate of forward bookings, he was able to fully demonstrate the degree of lost earnings, and prove that my career would have been lengthy and profitable. I had been clearly destined to continue my career beyond 40, and for many more years. I was sufficiently professional for him to prove I was hired for my knowledge and experience, and not for being a ‘pretty face’.

I finished up with a nice house just yards from the sea in Dorset. It was an older, character house, but I was able to get a single-person elevator installed, because there were two storage cupboards, one directly above the other. That made it easy to move around, either with a wheel-chair or a 2-wheel Zimmer frame. To be honest, it was more a period cottage than modern house on the outside, but had all the latest gadgets on the inside.

I got a van to drive around in, with a platform on the kaçak iddaa back that would take my motorized scooter/chair. Physio-therapy got my right leg back to the point I could drive the van without having to get it modified for a disabled driver, as it was an automatic. And after paying for the house, the settlement guaranteed me enough, through investments, to live comfortably, and even to take some nice holidays.

With the physio and the calipers, I could even walk a few steps around the house without crutches, using the furniture where necessary.

The climate in Dorset is good for a wheel-chair bound person. The summers are warm, rather than hot, and the winter not too bad with just occasional cold spells.

In the summer, I would go down to the sea front, where there was a reasonable-length promenade that I could take a spin down on the scooter and get my fresh air.

At other times of year, I would drive around and explore which old pubs and restaurants I could get into. I didn’t mind using my crutches as long as any steps were just a couple at a time. In fact, on those two-step level changes common in old English pubs, when going down, I would reach forward with the crutches and then sort of swing over them to the lower level. Going up meant putting the crutches right in front of the first step, bending and putting my right leg forwards and upwards, and then lifting myself and the crutches by straightening my good leg. Slow, but effective.

As I approached, at 44, my second spring down there, I got the urge for some companionship. A companion that also need some support, some TLC and some quiet to see out their latter days, and wouldn’t argue with me. In other words, an older dog. As luck would have it, a local paper advertised an Open House at the RSPCA kennels not too far away from where I live, and so on the Saturday afternoon, there I was.

I went around slowly, looking at the dogs in their cages. Some came dashing over as soon as I got close, and were barking and spinning around, and jumping up against the wire enclosure. They were not for me; too energetic, and my slowness was not in their best interest. Then I saw him. As I approached, he laconically raised one eye, trying to decide if I was worth the effort of him making a pitch for a new home.

In the end, he stood up and shambled over. He was clearly a Heinz 57 mongrel, several years down life’s trail. He had a black patch to the top of his head that extended down towards his right eye, like a hat. His head and neck, other than the patch, were mainly white, his body black, with four white feet.

I called one of the volunteers over. “What’s his name?” I asked.

She answered “We don’t know. He turned up at the gate a few weeks ago without a collar. Despite efforts, we can’t find a missing dog that matches his description. We figure he was abandoned by the world.”

Before I could bite my tongue, I said “I know the feeling.”

She looked at me and said, “If he sees you looking at him, he comes, regardless of what you call him. Vet says he is probably about 6 or 7, perhaps more, but generally healthy and his teeth are still good. Certainly eats well, and is not a fussy eater. Seems house trained, as he doesn’t mess his cage and seems well able to tell us when he needs toileting. Doesn’t currently need any shots, as we gave him the full annual menu when we got him. So he is all yours for a donation, as it is Open House.”

“Well, he certainly seems cool, calm and collected,” I said.

She opened the cage, and he came out and sniffed all around me, and around the chair. He didn’t bark, and when I extended an open hand, palm up, he looked at it, sniffed it and then licked it. I asked “Do you have a lead so I can walk him around a bit and see how he is walking alongside my chair?”

She reached into the cage where there was a lead hanging that I hadn’t noticed. “We have had one of our older dog walkers coming in almost every day, and she says that he is well-behaved to walk, doesn’t pull on the leash, or jump up at people he meets. And basically, doesn’t give a damn about young yappy dogs, particularly bitches!”

I smiled. “I think the dog walker would probably say the same about me.”

She laughed. “All I know is all of us here like him. He’s good, he’s got personality, he’s friendly, especially with young kids. We’re glad to see the back of some dogs, but this one we might actually miss, even though a forever home is obviously in his best interests.”

So I took the dog for a walk. Or at least, he walked, I rode. He didn’t get himself run over by my scooter, or pull on the leash. When I went out of the gates, and went to cross the road, he sat down at the curb as soon as we reached it. He stopped every now and then, to sniff around, but what dog doesn’t?

We got back, and she came over to see how it had gone. “So he has no name that anyone knows?” I asked.

“No, but the lady who has been walking him nicknamed him Trilby, because of the angle of that patch over his right eye, like how kaçak bahis some men wear trilby hats.”

I looked at the old dog. He looked at me. I asked him “Do you want to come home with me, Trilby?”

He put his head on my good knee, looked at me with big dark, almost black eyes, and wagged his tail. I was hooked, and he was just drawing me in.

“Okay,” I said after ruffling behind his ears for a couple of minutes, “how much?”

“Like I said, Open House, so make a donation.”

“So how’s two hundred and fifty pounds?” I asked.

“For that, we’ll throw in the lead and an RSPCA calendar,” she said, with a laugh.

We went to my van after signing the paperwork and making the payment. As I loaded my scooter on the platform at the back, he just stood, patiently, and watched. I took him around the passenger side and opened the door and he just leapt in. He got on the seat and sat on it without any command. I closed the door and he watched me hop round the front of the van and climb in. Clearly not his first time in a vehicle. Someone, at some time, had obviously taken the trouble to train this dog.

The volunteer had given me the name of a local pet store – part of a chain – that allowed pets to actually enter the store. So off we went to buy him his immediate requirements. Trilby stayed patiently in the car as I unload the scooter, and came and stood next to it when I let him out of the van. I grabbed his leash and we went in the store.

There was a dog near the till, who gave Trilby a long look, but Trilby walked calmly by him like he had been shopping here for years. We found the dog section, and an assistant came up. He knelt next to Trilby and patted him.

I asked “Ever seen this dog before?” and he shook his head. “I just got him from the RSPCA and was curious if he had been in here before.”

The young boy shook his head. “I haven’t seen him. Old Thomas might have, when you get to the till, as he’s been here since the dark ages!”

Anyway, we got stuck in to our shopping. Trilby seemed to take an immediate shine to a nice looking beige bed with a dark blue cushioned base for him to lie on. We also got bowls for his food and drink, dry food appropriate to his age (as best we knew it) and some canned food that the young boy said was the best, but was a bit more expensive.

“Well, while I can afford it, he can have it,” I said.

We also got some toys, and a ball for him to bring back. When we rolled it down the store, he went straight after it, brought it back and put it in my outstretched hand. We also got the poop bags, and a special scooper gadget I could work from my chair to pick up after him.

Old Thomas on the till didn’t recognize Trilby. “I think if I’d seen him, I would remember ‘cos of the patch over his eye, but he don’t ring any bells.”

When we got home, I put his bed down in the corner of the living room. The ground floor was pretty well open plan, so he could lay in his bed and see everything, from me making meals, to being able to see the TV. He tested it out before exploring the rest of the house.

He appeared to enjoy his dinner, and afterwards I let him out in the back garden, watching him by using my Zimmer frame, with its two front wheels, which is what I normally use around the house, sort of rolling it and hoping behind it on my good leg. When I got in the elevator, which doesn’t have doors and just goes up through a hole in the ceiling/floor above, he hopped on last and hopped off first, but didn’t get in my way.

When eventually I went up to bed, he followed me. I put a folded blanket on the floor for him at the foot of the bed. He laid on it when I got into bed, but upon waking in the morning, he was on the bed curled by my feet. Given he hadn’t woken me, I decided to let it ride and see what habits he wanted to have. Of course, by then, he was keen for me to go downstairs and let him out. Interestingly, he went to exactly the same spot in the corner of the garden he had yesterday.

So over the next week or so, we settled into a routine. Out into the garden when we woke, always to the same spot.. It was just the time of year when my gardener restarted, and he said he would ensure that Trilby’s toilet was kept okay by scooping and by switching some of the soil every so often with new stuff out of the compost heap.

When I made his meals and then made mine, he would wait, sitting by his dish, and eat the same time I did. He was more the perfect gentlemen than many men I had dated. Which was why I had given up dating men way before the accident. I was now an open lesbian, and quite happy with it.

If the weather was dry, Trilby liked to go down to the promenade for a walk, with me on my scooter. Often, lunch time. we would go out and explore the country pubs that welcomed dogs, and he was always well behaved, although the bag of treats he knew were in my pocket may have influenced that. Afternoons often saw us back on the prom, not always on a long walk. One a day was good enough most days.

When we didn’t illegal bahis go along the promenade, I would park the scooter and he would sit and people watch. As people approached us, he would wander over and say ‘Hi’ and patiently accept a pat. He seemed in particular to love little kids in strollers, and soon recognized some of the regulars. He got so popular, some of the Mums would come over and chat to me while their children patted Trilby. Within a couple of weeks I had a whole new circle of friends – mums, kids, pensioners – that used the promenade regularly.

Interestingly, they would all ask Trilby’s name before asking me for mine. To many of the kids, I was simply Trilby’s mum.

******************************

After a couple of weeks or so, I started seeing this young woman down on the promenade. She looked about 14, she was so skinny and not very tall, and I was really surprised the first time we talked to learn she was actually just 20. I asked her where she lived, and she just muttered something about “over there” pointing towards the next town. Looking at her I tell she was either homeless or couch surfing. She wasn’t exactly dirty, but she wasn’t exactly clean either.

She always made a fuss over Trilby, who would spot her coming and trot over to see her. In fact, it was he who greeted her, at the beginning, not the other way around. I asked her if she’d seen Trilby before, and she just shook her head. Actually she didn’t say much at all,

She did have changes of clothes, but I never saw her carrying a suitcase or anything that could have contained them. As I got to know her, it became apparent that the local Catholic Church was kind of supporting her. The priest there had got her registered with Welfare, so she had a little bit of income. She ‘lived’, if that was the word, in an unused shed in the church grounds, and the priest’s housekeeper would slip her some food and occasionally do some laundry for her. The nearest she got to a bath was a swim in the sea.

I asked her where she bathed in the winter, when the sea was too cold. Apparently, she would go to one of the big cities for the winter – Bournemouth or Poole – and use the Public Baths and sleep in one or other of the Churches that provided Emergency Shelters. But in summer, she liked our little stretch of the coast. This was her second homeless summer. She never explained why she was homeless.

We were a week chatting before she entrusted me with her name, and then only the Kate part. I would sit on my scooter, and she would sit on a bench. Her eyes would be scanning people constantly as they approached.

One day, I came right out and asked “Are you looking for people you could rob, or people you are scared of finding you?”

“Rob? No!” she replied, looking quite offended.

“I believe you. Are there people you don’t want to see you?”

“Maybe.” I realized that was as far as this version of that conversation was going to go.

One Friday, she mentioned that the housekeeper at the Rectory had been away all week.

“Does that mean you need some laundry done?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Where do you keep your clothes?”

“In the shed in the graveyard.”

“Well, have I got a deal for you! Bring all your clothes tomorrow, and we’ll take them to my place just past the end of the Prom, and we’ll wash them all. You can have a nice hot bath and I’ll cook you dinner. What would you like?”

She didn’t answer. She just looked at me and stared. The silence seemed an eternity.

“You’d do all that? Why?”

“I prefer Why Not?”

“Why?”

This time I left the silence. After a long silence, I simply said “Because Trilby likes you. Any friend of Trilby’s is a friend of mine.”

She smiled, and it was then I realized I had never seen her smile before. It was a beautiful smile. As she smiled, she hugged Trilby.

“Are you sure you want to do all that? For me?” she asked.

“I’m sure. What do you want for dinner?”

“Do you do real spaghetti? Like the long stuff, not out of cans?”

“I’ve got some of the long stuff, and a jar of spaghetti sauce that we can add vegetables or meat balls to.”

“Vegetables, please.”

With the ‘please’, I knew I had her. She would come back and have dinner and we would do laundry.

The next day she turned up in the afternoon with her bag of clothes – a black plastic bag of dirty laundry. As soon as she arrived and had completed greeting Trilby, we headed for my place, just past the end of the Prom. I lived in the house nearest the sea of five houses that lined one side of a street running down from the main road to the Prom parking lot.

She was amazed at the place when we got in, especially all the stainless steel appliances, and also the elevator. That fascinated her. I let her ride it up, and Trilby, in the fastest I had seen him move, ran up the stairs and greeted her at the top, and still beat her back down to the bottom.

We went upstairs to the bathroom. I love my bathroom, done to my specifications. There is a big walk-in shower, so I can take my Zimmer in there. When I am older and weaker a manual wheelchair could go in there, as it has a concave floor to stop the water running out, and so no lip to get over.

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