Today Angie Taylor was laid to rest - she was 45. She had spent some years in the Army, worked for a while after that in Northern Ireland for the Ministry of Defence. She and her husband Roy moved to Spennymoor, Co. Durham, where she became a care worker. But her passion in life was for the welfare of dogs, especially lurcher types.
I first met her like this:
In October 2006, after many anxious delays, I had to have my trusty red setter Rusty put to sleep (his back legs had gone). Instead of using my new found freedom to relax and do a few tours of the countryside, I set about finding a replacement. First I went to Deerness Kennels near Durham City: the staff let me walk through the kennels sponsored by the RSPCA, and then through the kennels housing all the other strays. I returned to the office and mentioned that the only dog I was very taken with was the dog with the intelligent look who stayed at the back of the kennel when I passed, even though he simply did not want to know me; the manager said, "That's Storm. We'll have to see Angie". I said, "I will phone to make arrangements."
Then I went to Sadberge Dogs Trust, near Darlington; again I took a liking to a lively black but small lurcher; they said they would keep the dog for me for a week (I think). However, when I returned home, I telephoned Deerness and arranged to meet Angie to discuss this Storm which she was apparently responsible for.
The next day I went back to the Deerness Kennels, arriving before Angie did. One of the kennel assistants brought Storm out and we walked him slowly around a grass lawn. Angie arrived, and, after a short discussion with the assistant, decided that I would be a suitable new owner. Storm was chipped, I received his papers, he was put into the LandRover and away we went.
Some time later, Angie told me what she knew of his history. The dog had been wandering around Bishop Auckland for several weeks, being chivvied, harassed and starving. In the middle of a huge thunderstorm (hence his name) one August afternoon, he hid in someone's garden shed; the door was closed on him, the dog-wardens captured him with a noose on a pole, and he was brought into Deerness Kennels. He was so emaciated and traumatised, with a running wound on his front leg, that the owners of the Kennels were almost convinced that the best thing would be to put him to sleep, but Angie intervened and persuaded them that she could bring him back to health. She washed him, gave him antibiotics for his wound, and that began to heal. But the most difficult part of the rehabilitation was getting him to trust her. Many days she entered his little cell and sat for ages doing nothing but being there, sometimes she talked out loud to him, without looking at him, and for long enough she got no response, until gradually he came to her and let her touch him. All the while, she said, she was praying to God that she would be able to find the right person to become his new owner. Then, when I turned up, she took it that my appearing was God's answer to her prayer - which was the reason why she quickly agreed that I should take charge of him. The rest of the story I know only too well!
This is the boyo last night. After 20 minutes racing up and down in the back garden and furiously digging a hole trying to get to Australia, he runs into the sitting-room, flings himself on the floor and pants madly for several minutes. He is no longer the frightened dog he once was!
Last night I celebrated a traditional Requiem Mass for Angie.