In the latest of our series of mini interviews with friends of The Ralph Site we heard from Valerie Allcock, who shared some of her animal companions and has given us some wise words of advice for anyone experiencing the loss of a much-loved companion.
1. Do you currently share your home with any pets? If so, please tell us about them.
I have an eleven-year-old cat named Bonnie and a dog named Tenor, who is two.
I rescued Bonnie from Limassol in Cyprus in 2008 after finding him lying on a beach walkway with a broken leg, desperately ill. With the help of a friend I got him to a vet and after five days he was taken to a rescue centre in Paphos, where I agreed to sponsor him whilst he got well, before bringing him to England. He arrived at Manchester Airport via ‘Pets on Jets’ in January 2009 and I have never once regretted saving his life that day.
Tenor arrived in England from Romania in September 2016. I had followed his life story via Facebook since he was a tiny puppy, found abandoned outside the gates of a rescue centre in September 2014 (shortly after I had lost my beautiful German Shepherd dog Tara to the devastating effects of epilepsy).
I felt a strange bond with this young Collie-type dog, and after two long sad years of tears and depression, my husband finally agreed we could adopt him. He has already brought us both such happiness in the five months we have had him.
I rescued him, but in truth he has rescued me.
Tara was our sixth German Shepherd rescue in many years – her predecessors Sultan, Dinah, Oscar, Rudi and Casper were all beautiful, faithful dogs who each lived long happy lives. After losing Tara we decided she would be our last. So Tenor is with us now, happily settled into our lives and our home. I firmly believe he was destined to be here.
2. What was the name of your first pet?
My first pet was named Bess. She was a fluffy white Terrier.
3. Why did you choose that name?
I was only a child at the time, and I had an Enid Blyton book about a dog called Bess.
4. Cats, dogs or another species? Can you choose? And why?
I love all animals, but I would have to say dogs – they offer unconditional love in return for very little: to love and be loved, to be safe, have a full tummy and just to share your everyday life. I have been so lucky to have shared my life with so many wonderful characters.
5. What is your favourite memory of an animal who has shared your life?
That is courtesy of my German Shepherd Rudi, who I remember playing with my two granddaughters in a paddling pool in our back garden. They were three and five years old, and now both are in their teens they still talk about those happy times.
6. Which three words would you choose to describe him?
Adorable, loving and faithful.
7. What is your favourite fictional animal and why?
Rupert the Bear. As a child, my father would read me a story about Rupert every night. Those times were very precious.
8. If you could be any animal, which one would you choose and why?
I would be a dolphin – I am a Pisces and love the sea!
9. What advice would you give to someone grieving for a much-loved pet?
I would say that grieving over a treasured pet is perfectly normal and would offer my support for as long as needed. Some people feel guilt or fear that they are ‘being childish’ but the loss of a pet is immense – they share our lives for many years and in so many ways. I would advise never to be afraid to seek help from your own doctor if your grief is making you ill; this is something I had to do myself and I was so grateful for the help and compassion he gave me.
10. When and how did you first come across The Ralph Site? What do you think is the most important role of The Ralph Site community?
After losing Tara, a friend recommended The Ralph Site to me. Its most important role is to bring so many grieving people together, to offer compassion and comfort at a time of deep sadness. We all understand because we too have been in the same dark place: we share, we support and most importantly, we listen and care. My favourite saying for The Ralph Site is that ‘Strangers become Friends’ and this has certainly been very true for me. Without the support of so many, who have indeed become wonderful friends, I doubt my life would be anywhere near as happy as it is now.
We’ll be featuring regular mini-interviews with friends of The Ralph Site in future; so do keep an eye out every first and third week of each month!
Until next time, very best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support