Once a year I hear from an elderly lady (Irish born) living in London. Her hearing is very bad so she keeps talking and I listen. Yes, I wish she could hear me laugh when she makes really funny jokes about life, and I wish she could hear my similar feelings when she talks about how much she loves animals. She even recalled this Christmas when she called, about going to ‘a dance’ in Kilorglin and how she wanted to go home when she saw the goat in a cage suspended high above the crowds but her friend was having none of her tearful protests. ‘She wanted a dance!’
Her regrets always remain the same: she wishes she could have come home but there is no one here now who can mind her and help her, and she wished she had spent more time with animals rather than people. Late in life two cats came into her world and changed it for the better. I don’t know where I heard this line – maybe it was The War Horse: some of my best friends never spoke a word to me. I hope she sees me as a good friend who doesn’t get to speak a word just like her adored cats. She always says ‘I’ll keep talking and will hang up Catriona when I’ve talked enough!’ Our last conversation ended when she told me, ‘my favourite is MacDara the goat! I wonder would he lie at the end of my bed!’ She laughed out loud and hung up.
Donal Rogers’s best friend was Kim, a loyal little dog. Some might argue why did he put himself through the ordeal of court dates and appeals ‘at his age’ to intervene in a court order to have his dog pts. But when we leave out the word ‘dog’ from that argument: Kim, his best friend, was going to be killed for an isolated incident. Ironically Kim probably was doing what any best friend would do if we thought our best friend or family member was under threat. No one knows but maybe Kim was trying to protect her best friend from her perceived danger. One friend protecting the other which resulted in the protector needing protection from a pts order.
We will go through life and gather names for our ‘hero file’. How many times do we get asked ‘who is your hero?’ And I believe many of us going forward now will say the name of a man we never met: Donal Rogers. He fought for his best friend’s life. Losing her was not an option and this was his driving force. He persisted. An 85 year old retired Garda knew his loyal friend shouldn’t die because of one mistake: she didn’t. She didn’t because he stepped up and decided, Kim can’t die because one person wants her life to be ended. He probably lay awake many a night between court dates, with Kim at his feet, fearing a world that would not be easy without her in it. His best friend who never said a word. Her owner: an ordinary man who made himself extraordinary to the rest of us as we watched on with baited breath for the outcome.
Donal died on Christmas Day and as the news filtered through different people’s newsfeeds, and then reached bigger news platforms, you stop and think how one man and his dog does matter to the majority of us; a deeply human story that travelled from Roscommon to the wider world.
Yes, Once upon a time there was a lovely elderly man who lived down a leafy lane with his little dog called Kim. All they needed was each other… life was perfect….
And what about the happy ever after? How can there be one now? Donal has passed? Yes, but he left this world with his best friend in it. I’m not sure how his world would have been without her. And Kim? It will take lots of love and time to help her settle into a new world without Donal.
Whenever anyone questions how much dogs really love us, there is always the real life story of Hachiko we can refer to: a dog who waited 9 years for his owner to walk off his usual train from work. He stopped waiting when he died. It is not an easy watch because the love dogs have for us is truly overwhelming if we stopped to think about it. Donal didn’t need to think about it: he knew Kim would do anything to protect him because she adored him. What Donal did for Kim is this: he was exactly the man she believed he was: her hero.
Rest in Peace now, Donal. You saved Kim…