I’m always humbled by stories people share of how my books touch their lives. When I first wrote about Susie-Belle, I had no idea how her story would be received, or if readers would relate to it at all. Five years on from publication I’m still awed hearing that not only do readers relate, but they want to make a difference for dogs like her. They do things. They change things.
Today, through hearing how one man and his family related to Susie-Belle’s story, I’ve seen again just how impactful books can be. I deliberately chose to write about the special role played in Susie-Belle’s life by the Diana Brimblecombe Animal Rescue Centre.My intention was not only to thank and acknowledge, but to encourage support for the work it does. Penny and Dan’s story brings this to life. I thank Penny and her family for letting me share it here.
Last week, the same day that Merlin died, so did Penny’s dad. Affectionately known as Mad Dan, he’s left behind a mountain of memories. Many involve dogs and the happy place they had in his long life. I wish I’d had the privilege of meeting this man. He sounds like my kind of human being.
Dan, born in Dublin in 1939 was a dog person to his core. Throughout his life he showed this. After moving to Swindon aged 16, he rescued Hobo, an unwanted beagle and it seems that here his love of dogs lit up. Over the years many canine friends shared Dan’s life. However it wasn’t until his daughters Penny and Alex reached a responsible age that they were allowed their first family pet, Sam. (I love this, how I wish there were more dads like Dan). A wonderful mongrel, the family spent a great 14 years together.
When Dan became aware of the dreadful cruelty in the greyhound industry, it wasn’t long before Ziggy, a beautiful, glossy greyhound was by his side. Sadly, her life was short and she passed away at the age of four. Partly to ease his heartbreak but mostly to help another canine soul, Dottie soon joined the family. She was the gentlest of dogs but scared of her own shadow. Everything terrified Dottie but with Dan’s care and sureness of touch she thrived. He slept downstairs with her as she wouldn’t climb stairs. He was a dog man to his core. She lived a contented life, passing away at the grand age of 12.
When Penny decided to get a miniature schnauzer, unbeknown to her, and completely by coincidence, her mum had just read Saving Susie-Belle. Reading it and learning about DBARC, Penny and Dan committed themselves to fundraising and helping other dogs like Susie-Belle. They had fun together and their joy was infectious. Their hearts were well and truly in it and in the years since, Penny has helped to raise significant funds. She’s a stalwart Schnauzerfest supporter, backed to the hilt by dad Dan.
Binky, Penny’s mini schnauzer has always been close to Dan. Their recent addition, Betty has enriched the lives of everyone. Penny tells how throughout Dan’s recent illness, Binky and Betty were by his side, keeping him company, offering unique canine comfort.
The morning of dad’s passing, Betty laid on his feet when he said they were cold. Dogs are beautiful creatures, they just know how to love unconditionally and perfectly.
As a committed supporter of the work of DBARC, Penny intends continuing in memory of Dan and the dog she first heard about them through,
I will continue to raise funds in my dad’s memory and for Susie-Belle. It was his suggestion that we accept donations for DBARC in his memory and this we will do.
Although I was very sad hearing that beautiful Merlin passed the same time and day as dad, I believe it was meant to be this way. So run free Merlin. And dad, you enjoy walking with all the beautiful dogs that pass over rainbow bridge.