Sure enough, as I led the way towards a bench overlooking the town towards the lake and surrounding fells, Max trotted alongside me. He seemed to share my air of contentment and enjoyment of this quiet moment of freedom. Carefully, with one hand on the back of the bench to support myself, I settled into my seat. As I did so, Max hopped up alongside me. He settled on his rear haunches, panting happily while leaning against me.
I looked across at my new friend. He needed a bath, I thought to myself, and a good brush, but underneath it all was a wonderful dog. We had come as far as I could manage, which was really no distance at all, but Max seemed quite content. He wasn’t restless, as I had imagined he’d be, anxious about being out with someone he didn’t know or challenging in any way. Having been watching the world through the railings of his yard, I wondered if he was just enjoying the same sense of freedom as me. If anyone understood how I was feeling, I thought to myself, it was this little chap. I sensed him press against me a little more. I responded in kind and it felt lovely. There was no rush to get back, I decided. We had only been gone for 15 minutes at the most. I could hardly return him home now and claim he’d had a decent walk. With this in mind, I settled into the bench and let the sun bathe my face. It was so peaceful and still up there.
With Max at my side, for the first time in an age I felt free.
It was then, some time in that moment of stillness and contemplation, that things seemed considerably brighter. I sat there thinking about what I could do with my life, a question I had been turning over in my mind for some time, when the answer just fell into place. I was taking in my surroundings, which stretched out beyond a rusty gate, over the rooftops to the wilderness beyond. ‘Do you see that?’ I said to Max and pointed towards the majestic mountain rise that shouldered the lake shore. ‘That’s Catbells, it’s one of my favourite places. I used to take my bike up there. I just haven’t been well enough to get out and about in a long time.”
‘One day,’ I told him, ‘we’ll go there for a walk. We’ll make it happen. What do you think?’
And we did, we met many others also on their own personal journey. We started talking about depression, anxieties, lack of confidence, difficult childhoods, loss, grief bereavement and PTSD. Subjects which were once hidden away hoping one day they’ll join normal conversation and not be hidden away.
To give people the ability to talk openly and freely about their own stories.
And through the medium of our dogs we’ve heard hundreds, probably thousands of them.
And it’s all down to our boy Max and the freedom he has given us. Freedom to enjoy the great outdoors.
Jump forward from twelve years to present day and Max will make his way to St John’s Church hop up and wait for me to join him on our bench and gaze towards Catbells. It’s as if he knows what he’s achieved, he’s carried me and so many others out of our darkest days, to make life brighter an oh so much better. He guides you with a spring in his step and a swishing tail, but always a with a watchful gaze. He knows.
My journey started with Max and never a day goes by when I think about how lucky we are to have him. How grateful I am and always will be to have had him in my life. My heart bursts with pride when people tell me how much Max Paddy and Harry have helped them.
You see Max has always been our hero.and today is his reward day.
Thank you Amplifon and to all the incredible stories of the nominees in our group, you are all amazing.