50 Shades of Animal Power

I have mentioned previously that my emotions have changed following stroke. In some areas I am more emotional and in others less so. By less I mean I am no longer tolerant of people moaning about trivia, complaining about their lives yet not prepared to change themselves, their behaviour.

I had not however envisaged becoming quite so attached to a goldfish, yes I did say goldfish. In the early months following stroke, when I had returned home, I spent many, many hours alone. Once the physiotherapist, Occupational therapist or nurse left, after being moved into the kitchen, I was sitting there in my armchair, and there I would remain alone until Nick and Henry returned from work and school, unless someone visited. I did sleep a great deal but when awake I was not able to do anything really to pass the time, except watch my little friend Gilbert, the goldfish, swimming around in his tank, I had not until now realised how much I enjoyed the company of this little fellow.

Then last week he displayed signs of distress: he was lying on the bottom of his tank and displayed breathing difficulties. I read up on what might cause this and how I could help him.  I followed advice and tried everything possible, but sadly little Gilbert, my kitchen companion, passed away. He has been in our family eleven years and even moved home with us earlier this year. In the days pre stroke, when life was extremely hectic I simply fed him, cleaned him out and that was it.  I would never have sat for hours watching his routine, knowing when he takes his afternoon snooze etc., or even believed in such a thing.

All animals we choose to have in our home have a place somehow in our recovery: from the animal offering some companionship, as mentioned above, to the extreme of becoming our carer.

There are charities that train and provide assistance dogs; one is called ‘Dogs for Good’. They train dogs to take care of their allocated owner. They are trained in such a way that they can replace a carer.  These trained dogs can do many human tasks for their beloved owner such as wake them up, operate lifts and pelican crossings with their paws, stand up to open doors, operate light switches, operate hoists, open drawers, even do laundry and hang out washing and as if that was not surprising enough, even do the food shopping by using their mouth to select items their owner points to on some shelves. It costs £20,000 to train such a dog but if you think what it would cost in salaries for people to cover different shifts and the dog would offer constant company and care. This doesn’t even mention the companionship of the dog, as stroke survivors we know only too well how terribly lonely it can be so much so some of us become hugely reliant on the company of our goldfish, so this resolves that aspect also. If we have a fall or pass out they can raise the alarm for help, we are not left for hours alone.

Plus as we all know dogs are wonderful friends and they know when something is not quite right, so what better comfort for our families to know we have such a splendid carer at our side?


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