A long time ago, someone asked me what I was most frightened of. Answer: Not being there. I remember when my daughter was small, that fear that she might need me and I wouldn't be there was all but overwhelming. I wonder if it is the same for all parents. There is nothing that can produce such a physical shaft of pain as thinking that your child is hurt and may be calling for you and you are not there. I was 12 when Brady and Hindley were on trial. In later life, I worked with one of the officers on that case. He was a hard-bitten, cynical, granite copper, but even he broke down on hearing the recordings made of Lesley Downey crying for her mother. I can only imagine what it did to that poor woman.
It is an impossible lesson to learn that you can't always be there, though, isn't it? Be it for your child, your partner, your parents, even your pets. Our retriever is now 13 and although he is shaky on his back legs, he is still avid for his food and his walk - more of an amble these days. It isn't so long ago that we had to walk a few paces in one direction until he came hurtling past us, then wheel round in the other direction until he came hurtling past again. We would do this 5 or 6 times until that initial explosion of energy was gone and he could settle into a walk we all enjoyed. Now, it is more usual for us to stop and wait for him to catch up. So, my fear is that on the rare occasions I have to leave him, I worry that he will be all right on his own. Stupid, but there you go. He sleeps on the floor at my side of the bed, so close that I have to reach over him with my feet to find the floor. Perhaps he not only feels safe there, but also knows that I feel better if he is there, too. I hope that one day I wake up and he has just gone quietly over the Rainbow Bridge. Easier for both of us than that last one-way trip to the vet. Because the "being there" syndrome brings a whole raft of responsibilities with it. If it does come to the vet trip, it will be me who takes him - the last loving thing I can do for a dog who has given us 13 years of fun, laughter and love. Yes, I will make sure of being there.