Borrowing Strangers' Dogs Helped Me Through Losing Mine

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It all started when...

When we met her, my dog’s name was Natasha. She was a timid little mutt, cowering underneath a desk. She’d been separated from the other dogs at the rescue centre – too frightened, or too fragile, or too fancy in her soul to fraternise with the other pups. She was, as she would later try to tell us, too human-like in her sensibilities. At the time, Natasha was 8 years old, we think. She had crooked, rotten teeth, a slipped disc in her spine, matted hair that had been shaved off rather severely, and a nervous temperament. To hold her that first day was to cradle a creature rigid with fear. We don’t know where she’d come from or why she’d been abandoned – over the years, I suspected that perhaps she belonged to a little old lady who died and left her alone. But that could be because it’s a more bearable backstory than anything else.

It was 2010 and I was still living in Sydney, Australia, when my then-boyfriend and I met with Natasha’s guardian, a stern woman called Monika who prefers the canine species to humans and makes no secret of it. We were interrogated thoroughly about our lifestyle choices, personal habits, access to a garden, security of fencing, proximity to parkland, and general responsibility as people. I understood, of course. By this time, Monika had spent years picking up bedraggled, neglected dogs from death row at pounds around Sydney. She had seen the cruelty and carelessness of humans and she was reluctant to give any of her charges up to anybody unworthy. I respected that, and complied with her interrogation fully.

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Picture by Sian Butcher.