I was told today that my first Guide Dog Mick had to be put to sleep this morning. His arthritis had got to the stage where he was unable to move freely and was clearly in a lot of pain. I want to note here my gratitude to Theresa and her whole family for taking care of Mick for me when he retired and I took the decision that I couldn’t look after him properly. They gave him a very happy retirement which he so deserved.
I’ve already said that Mick was my first Guide Dog. We built up an extraordinarily close bond. Mick was the kind of dog that bonded with one person, first it was his puppy walkers, then his trainer and finally me.
When I first went on training in 1999, each time his trainer came into the room Mick would try to get to him. Sometimes, it meant him jumping up from lying down and trying to run across the room and sometimes it meant him trying to turn round whilst we were working. I was taught to be extremely firm with him and there were occasions when I thought that Mick would never like me. And then it just clicked. I had to go home one weekend to see my Great Grand Mother in hospital. When I returned he was so pleased to see me and I realised that we were going to make it.
It finally hit me that we had bonded when on aftercare, his trainer tried to persuade Mick that he could go to the toilet in the gutter and all Mick was interested in doing was getting back to me. It was then that I realised that Mick had bonded with me.
That bond saw us through university at Manchester. It was the most amazing feeling being able to walk down busy corridors and continue having a conversation with the person I was walking with, anyone who has used a cane will tell you that this is extremely difficult, particularly when the said corridor is full of students and lecturers. Then there was walking down busy streets in Manchester, and particularly Oxford Road. Anyone who knows Manchester will know that, that road can be particularly busy.
When I graduated Mick was there with me and guided me up on to the stage, to the person who presented me with my First Class Honours Degree and back to my chair. I swear he got the biggest cheer of the day.
He survived my trip to the USA and he survived nearly falling down the gap between a train and the platform at Norbury. Some dogs would have been spooked by this, but he was perfectly happy to jump on the next train I took him on. In-fact he was happy whatever we were doing, so long as we did it together.
During my first set of exams I decided to leave Mick in my flat only to return to find tissues from the bin all over the floor, and the bobble on my Manchester United hat unrolled. I gave him such a telling off for that one. Although many people have told me his chewing up of a Manchester United hat showed great taste. Speaking of things he did when I was away. I remember returning from Cyprus to find my pyjamas in Mick’s bed and a warm patch on my bed where he had clearly been lying, until very recently.
And then there are the more embarrassing stories. Like him being sick at my Great Aunt’s house the first time I took him there. And then he peed all over a friend’s leg when he first met Mick. On the same trip he peed into a plastic bag in another friends house.
I will remember all those visits from Guide Dogs staff who all said how well we worked together. I will never forget the confidence I got when walking out the door with Mick beside me. We both suffered from lack of confidence, but when we were together we bounced off each other and were able to handle anything.
There are thousands more stories, but I can’t remember them now. When Theresa told me that Mick had died, I felt empty and its now writing this, that its really hit me. I know that Mick is now with my dad and that when I die, whenever that maybe, my dad and Mick will be waiting for me.
So, Mick, rest in Peace knowing that your love and hard work will never be forgotten.