Volunteer profile: Mike Robson with fabulous Fable

Meet Mike and Fable, a dynamic volunteer duo with a heartwarming journey. Fable, a Belgian Shepherd Tervuren with a penchant for M&S doggie sausages, has become a cherished companion to many through Wag & Company, and Mike says that volunteering has brought a lot of meaning into both their lives.

In Mike’s own words, here’s their story:

“Fable is our 5-year-old Belgian Shepherd Tervuren girl. We travelled down to sunny Truro in Cornwall to be ‘vetted’ by her breeder, Nicky, before being allowed to have her. There were only 41 of her breed born in the UK that year, so we felt fortunate and honoured to be trusted with Fable.

From the outset, Fable has been a gentle, loving girl, loving her walks and the beach! Full of character and always happy to play, she quickly formed a great bond with our then 8-year-old granddaughter Liliana.

At Nicky’s suggestion I decided to show Fable, something I’d neither done nor considered. Prancing around a show ring wasn’t on my bucket list! However, we gave it a go, and Fable had a lot of success both at local shows and at larger National Dog Shows, culminating in her qualifying for and appearing at Crufts 2020!

Lockdown then kicked in, and as we all know, ‘the world stopped’ for a long time.

We’d made the decision not to show Fable again (quit while at the top!), but I wanted to do something with her as she’s such an intelligent and companionable girl.

That’s when we came across Wag & Company, and I made contact to see if Fable would be suitable as a Friendship Dog. After taking Fable to Langley Moor for her assessment, we were then placed to visit David* (Dave), who lives in sheltered accommodation in Sunderland.

Dave suffers from Laurence-Moon-Bardet-Biedl Syndrome, a truly cruel illness which means he now is wheelchair bound with very limited vision and visits hospital 3 times a week for Dialysis. Sadly, his only visitor is his elderly sister who can only rarely get to visit him, so he leads a rather solitary life with visitors few and far between. Despite this, Dave is always upbeat and cheerful, and he really loves to chat!

Dave used to have German Shepherds, and he loves dogs, but he’s been unable to have one for almost 20 years, so he really loves Fable’s visits. Fable loves visiting him too, and he gets so much pleasure from stroking her and feeding her with her favourite treats, M&S doggie sausages!

I have so much in common with Dave, too. We’re both into punk and metal music (he was part of the UK Subs punk band), and we’re both fans of Sunderland Football Club. Fable and I think the world of Dave – he’s very much a friend now and a man I admire for his bravery. As well as my regular visits, we chat via phone and swap messages often, usually bemoaning that week’s performance of our football team!

Fable and I then got the Wag & Company friendship bug big style, and we now also visit a wonderful Care Home, St. George’s in Washington, where she’s a very firm favourite and gets hugs and strokes from the residents; they also get to feed Fable her favourite sausages!

Recently, we decided that a third new friend would be great, so now we also visit Peter, a lovely gentleman who lives in Sunderland. Peter and his wife Susan also used to have German Shepherds, but due to Peter’s illness, they can no longer have a dog. Peter was very shy when Fable first visited due to his illness and very uncertain about touching her, but within 20 minutes, Fable did her cute “Hello, my name is Fable, and I’d like a stroke, please” routine by putting her nose under Peter’s arm and lifting it on to her neck for a stroke.

Peter laughed, shyness cured, and Peter now loves Fable sitting alongside him to be stroked, not that he had too much choice! Rather coincidentally, on the Sunderland Football Club theme, Susan’s father was once a great player for Sunderland and an England international footballer back in the 1950s. Small world!

Without question, being a volunteer for Wag is a wonderful experience and one I recommend enthusiastically to many of the people I meet while out on walks with Fable.

I feel privileged to think that, in some way, Fable is bringing some happiness and cheer into the lives of the lovely people we get to meet, people who love dogs but can’t have one for whatever reason. From my personal point of view, I’ve met some wonderful people who I regard as friends and with whom I’ve formed strong bonds.

Wag has brought a lot of meaning into both my life and Fable’s, and we enjoy our visits so much.

We both look forward to visiting our new friends, and the team at Wag should feel very proud of the tremendous work they’re doing in enabling those who can no longer have dogs as pets due to illness, old age, etc., to enjoy visits from the wonderful volunteer dogs and their two-legged friends that they allow to accompany them.”

Footnote – the saddest news!

*”Sadly, my very good friend Dave Macintosh passed away unexpectedly on February 26th.

Dave had suffered from Lawrence-Moon Syndrome throughout his entire life which resulted in him being wheelchair bound, virtually blind and losing both kidneys, meaning he visited hospital three times weekly to undergo dialysis.

Despite this, Dave was never without a smile on his face and a positive attitude to life. He was an inspiration to me and I’m going to miss him so very much. It’s fair to say I’m heartbroken at losing Dave.

I only knew Dave for 11 months, but my visits to him with Fable were the highlight of my week. We’d talk about our mutual love of punk and rock music and the highs and lows (mainly lows, sadly!) of Sunderland Football Club. Fable adored Dave. She’d stand outside the door to his apartment, bark once to let him know she was here to visit and then rush over to him for an ear rub and hug.

While it’s so very sad to lose a friend like Dave, I consider myself very fortunate to have met someone as gentle, kind, and happy go lucky as him. That would not have happened without the team at Wag matching Fable and me with Dave and giving me such wonderful visits with him. Dave Macintosh was the best friend I’ve ever had and I’m a better person for having known him.

Thank you, Dave, and thank you Wag”.