EVEN though he’s chewed the corners of the skirting boards in the kitchen and has dug holes in the garden so it now resembles the surface of the moon — our now six-month-old doggie has carved out the most special place in our hearts and has become an integral part of our family.
My five-year-old daughter, Saoirse, and 40-year-old husband, Craig, had been asking to get a puppy for years. I finally succumbed to their pressure last summer and we welcomed Roly, a golden retriever puppy, into our home.
I wouldn’t declare myself to be a ‘dog-person’ but Roly stole my heart as soon as I set eyes on him.
He provides company to Saoirse, who is an only child. During this third lockdown, she needs him more than ever.
Roly is a docile and calm puppy, which is just as well because Saoirse often adorns him with tiaras and tries her best to dress him up like a princess.
Before the current lockdown, Roly attended doggie day-care once a week at The Bark Park on the Old Mallow Road, owned by Sara Healy.
Sara knows too well the kind of bond that people share with their pets, in particular their dogs. She is the ultimate dog-lover, the proud owner of four golden retrievers; Laina, Cogan, Tatum and Nika and two Labrador Retrievers; Mocha and Déjá.
She dreamed of working with dogs since she was a young girl. When she was 18, Sara bred her first female Golden Retriever, Vida, and offered a home-from-home service to the owners of Vida’s puppies. This service became more popular via word of mouth and Sara soon needed to upsize her business to meet demands.
Sara said: “There were numerous occasions where I would have 15 dogs in my kitchen, looking for their morning walk. I began hearing from dog owners about how difficult it was to leave for work, knowing their dog was going to be on their own for more than eight hours each day. I could see how genuinely guilty owners felt at having to do this. So, The Bark Park was born.”
As well as offering Doggie Day-care services to their ‘Barkers’, Sara and her team run training classes, including puppy play-school, leash training and basic obedience training. Roly attended Doggie Day-care once a week prior to lockdown. It provided an essential opportunity for him to socialise with other dogs.
Sara explained: “For younger puppies, doggie day-care provides owners with the opportunity to socialise their pups at a young age and helps raise stable, well-adjusted and confident puppies.
“Doggie Day-care not only alleviates the guilt owners feel about leaving their dogs during the work day, but also provides exercise, great fun and mental stimulation for dogs in a safe environment.
“It is a great source of comfort for dogs who suffer from separation anxiety and it can help with obesity issues because the dogs are encouraged to run and play more if their friends are around them.”
The Bark Park is a loving community of dogs and dog-owners.
Sara said: “We have formed great friendships with our owners since we all share the same passion for dogs.
“I feel it’s not just six dogs I own as we have developed such a close bond with so many of our Barkers. If they are sick or injured, we worry about them just as much as we would our own and when we hear that an Oldie has passed, we grieve for them as much as we would for our own.”
The relationship between a dog and its owner is unique and special. Our dogs love us unconditionally and wholeheartedly.
Sara said: “For me, my dogs are an extension of myself. One of them in particular can read me like a book. She knows what I want from her before I ever have to ask. It’s a truly incredible partnership that cannot be matched.
“I couldn’t imagine not sharing my life and home with a dog; they provide companionship, an excuse to get out in the fresh air — all these things are vital in the current climate.”
Saoirse, Craig and I are grateful that Roly is part of our family. While dealing with the mud he drags into the kitchen after playing in the garden with Saoirse is a never-ending chore, I wouldn’t have it any other way. He has brightened the darkest of days. He has comforted us when we have felt lonely, tired and fed up.
“He has made us laugh with his ridiculous antics. He sits on his Fireman Sam blanket next to Saoirse while she completes her home-schooling assignments every morning. She rubs his head while she works out her sums or practises her reading.
“Their love for each other is a sight to behold. Roly is her loyal companion, her trusted soul-mate and a friend to play with. I am grateful they have each other during this difficult lockdown. I look forward to the day when I pack Saoirse’s bag for school and Roly’s bag for a day at The Bark Park and send them out into the world again to learn and explore.