When I first met Fly 12 years ago, i was not really enamoured of him, but I was persuaded to take him for a couple of weeks to see what he was like.
Fly was a collie, and had had a very rough ride. He was very untrusting of humans and inclined to protect himself at every opportunity. This being said I quickly worked out what was liable to make him turn and made sure that no-one ever had a chance to frighten him into bad behaviour.
The first couple of weeks he walked perfectly calmly on his lead, but kept as far from me as he could; not quite pulling, but he didn’t want to be close to me. He would not look at me and always lay down with his back right up the the front door. I resigned myself to the fact that he did not like people but was manageable with care.
One day, about three weeks into our relationship, he made eye contact with me and all of a sudden he gave me his trust, just like that.
I was overwhelmed. The things which frightened him into antisocial behaviour still did so, and I was just as careful in protecting him against the fear of beatings but he went on from strength to strength.
Fairly early in our relationship I took him with me on the train to visit my sister in Somerset. I live up by the Scottish Borders and was halfway down the country before I realised that not only did I not have a lead for Fly, he wasn’t even wearing a collar. There was no need for these accessories as he would not leave my side unless I asked him to do so.
He went everywhere with me, I had half a dozen sheep and he learned to work with them. I was a countryside ranger and he accompanied me whether I was alone or with the public. He was the easiest dog I have ever worked with, seeming to read my mind so that all I had to do was think about something and he was there, doing his job perfectly. I rarely spoke to ask him to do something, but usually just waved a finger vaguely and he would do whatever it was I wanted but hadn’t actually verbalised. I used to show off how a well trained dog could work, but the truth was, it was Fly who deserved the credit, not me.
I took him into schools with me, the children loved him and would do anything to be allowed to walk with him beside them. I no longer had any concerns about him biting someone, he would walk beside them, his plume of a tail gently waving at the tip.
Later I worked with the elderly and he came into the care home with me daily. Again, everyone loved him and thought of him as their special friend. Ladies who had only ever laid in their beds would come through to the lounge to see Fly, or be up, dressed and sitting by their doors in case he walked past. Each person he showed love to, as though he had been waiting to see them as much as they were waiting to see him.
Eventually he became too frail to go on his visits, apart for special guest appearances. He was not forgotten though, and I had him “write” a column in the newsletter. Two ladies in particular charmed me by showing me, “Fly’s column”, praising him to the skies. “Look at this,” they told me, “isn’t he clever?”. They kept the newsletter and his photos and treasured them over family pictures.
Five days ago, Fly took his final visit to the vet, receiving the one gift I could still give to him. I miss my friend so much but I know one lady who will have been waiting impatiently for him on the other side.
Run free, Fly.