by Hayley O'Keeffe
A one-eyed dog saved from the meat trade in China is now supporting her disabled owner through a gruelling 12 weeks of coronavirus isolation.
Mary Garland, 50, who lives in Maida Vale, North London is severely disabled and confined to a wheelchair. She takes immunosuppressant medication and is classed in the 'high-risk' category.
Normally Mary has a busy social life and fills her days seeing friends and attending events in support of the No To Dog Meat charity, which rescued Annabel, her beloved chow-chow.
A constant companion
Annabel was found in a terrible state - partially skinned and had an eye missing. But the charity's actions, and Mary's love and care, now mean that Annabel can lead a normal happy life.
And it seems that Annabel is keen to repay the favour now that Mary is in need, and the pair have become each other's constant companion since the lockdown began last week.
Mary said, "It has been hard not being able to go to charity events, see friends or take out the dogs, but Annabel is a great company.
"She is so calm and helps calm anxiety at this stressful time, I am a qualified psychotherapist so I understand how to manage anxiety, but it is very hard sometimes even with those skills, and Annabel has been a godsend.
"She has been through so much in her own life, and now she is helping me through this challenging time, she comes and cuddles me all the time and touching her soft fur is really comforting in my wobbly moments."
Plans for the future
While in isolation, Mary is busy making plans for her future life with Annabel. The pair recently attended Crufts, where Annabel was No To Dog Meat's ambassador dog, wowing the crowd at the NEC in Birmingham. Mary is keen to get back to doing that good work.
She said, "Annabel is such a loving girl with her own disability so we are in it together. She is giving so much love and joy keeps me going when I can not see family and friends.
"All disabled dogs deserve a chance and all pets who are rescued make a wonderful companion.
"I can’t wait until things pass and we can attend events again, and Annabel is the best ambassador No To Dog Meat can have and I am grateful to play my part, dogs really do save lives."
What is No To Dog Meat?
No To Dog Meat is a UK based charity set up by animal rights advocate Julia de Cadenet, which supports Chinese dog shelters in carrying out daring rescues from meat markets and slaughterhouses in the country. Some of the dogs are then brought to the UK to be pampered by owners like Mary.
The charity has suffered serious problems during the coronavirus crisis, in getting food to dogs in need, and also with rumours in some regions that pets help to spread the virus, which is not true.
Some of the rescue dogs have had to be taken into hiding, and others have been unable to travel to the loving homes the charity had found for them.
The charity's long-term success is all too evident though, simply by witnessing the close bond that Mary and Annabel share.
In fact, prior to the coronavirus crisis, the charity was planning to put forward some of the rescue dogs to become Pets As Therapy dogs, due to their calm and empathetic natures after the adversity, they have faced.
You can find out more about No To Dog Meat and donate by going to www.notodogmeat.com