On the walls of Julie Loade’s home sit so many happy memories. The photographs picture family members across several decades; each one laughing or beaming with the biggest of smiles, and always by Julie’s side is her husband, Dave.

Devastatingly, Dave was diagnosed with cancer and passed away after just a few short months in 2015. He was 53.

Julie’s loss was tremendous. The Loades were married for 30 years, brought up two beloved daughters together, had recently become grandparents and were surrounded by good friends. Cancer is cruel.

Cavapoo Dusty in the garden

Seeing signs

Julie and Dave had been the doting owners of a Labrador, and when she died had decided not to get another dog because losing her was too upsetting, but when Dave became seriously unwell he suggested to Julie the time might be right to give a dog a home again.

“When he was poorly, towards the end I brought him home from hospital to be at home, and he said to me ‘You need to get yourself a little dog so that I know you’ll go out of the house and you’ll have something to do, someone to talk to’,” Julie explains.

“Dave’s ashes are buried in the church in the village, and so that’s my walk. He did say to me, ‘If you get a little dog you can come and talk to me and bring the dog’.”

A few months after the initial shock of Dave’s death had subsided, Julie decided the time was right to get a dog to keep her company in the home she now lived in alone. She thought of visiting Blue Cross’s rehoming centre in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, as Dave had worked to rebuild the kennels there a few years previously.

A little whippet caught Julie’s eye, and her daughter Natalie agreed to take her mum to see the sighthound in a couple of weekends’ time.

In the meantime, Julie had been invited to a psychic evening at her friend’s home. She wasn’t too keen on going, but her daughters said they would take her along to get her out of the house.

Julie remembers: “I was sat with this lady, and just out of the blue she said, ‘I’ve got Dave, and he is laughing because you’re going to get a dog who looks like a teddy bear’.”

Julie tried to brush off what the lady had told her. “I started to laugh and just thought ‘no!’, and she said, ‘Oh yes, he said you’re definitely going to get this dog who looks like a teddy bear’. So we came out of there and I knew I wanted a dog, but the teddy bear thing just didn’t come into it.”

Days afterwards, Julie did meet a dog who looked just like a cuddly toy. His name was Rupert and he was being looked after by Julie’s best friend. Rupert was a cavapoo, a cross between a Cavalier King Charles spaniel and a poodle, and not a dog that Julie had ever come across before. Meeting Rupert reminded Julie of the psychic’s words, but she thought not much more of it and just enjoyed making friends with the sweet dog.

Julie and Dusty stop for a cuddle whilst on a walk

Downs and ups

The weekend finally came when Natalie was to take her mum to our Thirsk rehoming centre, where Dave had built the kennel block, to meet the whippet she hoped would become her firm companion. 

Pictured: Julie collects Dusty from Blue Cross Thirsk to begin his new life as her best friend

Julie says: “On the morning I was going, I did look at my picture of Dave and I said to him, ‘Well I’m going to see a whippet, not a dog that looks like a teddy bear’.”

Having felt that she was now in a good place to give an unwanted dog a home and placed all her hopes on some happy news, Julie was bitterly disappointed to discover that the whippet wasn’t a good match for her. Julie’s young grandchildren visit her home regularly and this whippet was a timid type who needed a quiet home without the hustle and bustle of small children. Charlotte Waite, Blue Cross Animal Welfare Assistant, was on reception and suggested Julie have a look through a folder of other dogs in our care who were looking  for homes to see if any might be a good match to her lifestyle.

“I was absolutely gutted,” says Julie. “She handed me the folder and said would I like to have a look though that, so we went and sat down and right at the very last page, there was a picture of him. And I went ‘Oh!’ and my daughter said, ‘Mum, he looks just like a teddy bear!’.”

Right at the back was Dusty, a cavapoo; the very same type of dog as Rupert, who looked just like a teddy bear. 

The stars seemed to be aligning, but unfortunately for Julie, Dusty was popular and we had application forms an inch thick from people wanting to give him a home. Utterly deflated,

Julie explained to Charlotte that she just wanted a best friend to keep her company and left her phone number just in case she might be in with a shot. 

Dusty’s photo remained in her thoughts during the journey home and again the words of the psychic those weeks before – which must surely have been coincidental, mustn’t they – entered her mind.

Not long after she arrived home, the phone rang. It was Charlotte, who told Julie that after meeting her and hearing about the wonderful home she could offer a dog, Dusty seemed like the perfect match, and did Julie want to meet him?

Julie takes Dusty for a walk on the lead

Meant to be

Dusty was being rehomed through our Home Direct scheme, where pets stay with their families while we find them a new home. This means dogs can avoid coming into a kennel environment, which can be a stressful experience for animals who have only ever known a loving home life before. Plus, it allows us to keep kennel space free for pets with nowhere else to turn, like strays or abandoned animals.

Julie and Dusty do everything together

Dusty needed to find a new home because the little girl in the family was allergic. They were very sad to have to give him up.

Remembering the first time she met Dusty, Julie says: “They left me with him and me and Natalie and Florence, my granddaughter, played with him, and I just fell in love with him straight away. I loved him to bits.”

The following week, Julie picked up her new best friend and brought him home. It’s a day she describes as extremely happy but also very sad, as she really felt sorry for the family having to give him up. They wrote Julie a card, saying they knew she would take good care of him. 

When Julie arrived home with Dusty, the first thing she did was speak to Dave. 

She says: “I brought him home and I looked at Dave’s picture on the wall and I just said ‘well, you were right because he looks just like a teddy bear’. 

“It was as if he was handed to me, strangely enough. Everybody says that Dave sent you this dog. He did, I’m convinced. 

“And from the day I brought him in this house, he just settled. I’ve had no problems with him. He’s just fantastic and he’s my best friend now. I talk to him all the time, and he sleeps on the bed with me on Dave’s side, and I can hear Dave saying to me ‘get that dog off my side of the bed!’. I absolutely love him and everybody loves him.”

Dusty is a cheeky chappy who is ever so well behaved. He loves to tear about the house and garden playing with whichever toy he has selected from the many in his basket, and he has a keen mind too. Julie has put great efforts into training him and he has mastered a range of skills, including giving a high five, rolling over, and even speaking on command! The bond between the pair is solid, and when his energy levels have lowered, Dusty will join Julie on the sofa for a cuddle.

Julie gives Dusty a high five

Any pet owner will tell you just how much they mean to them. They provide a shoulder to cry on, are brilliant at keeping secrets, and bring us so much joy. For Julie, Dusty has helped her through her darkest hour and he must be heaven sent.

“It’s two years since we lost Dave and I honestly think if I hadn’t found Dusty… I was struggling. I do still go to counselling and I feel that I’m still here because of Dusty,” Julie confides. “I love my two girls to bits and I love my grandchildren, but it’s not the same when they don’t live with you and you only see them certain times, and then they go home. I am very lonely; I was married for 30 years and we had a fantastic relationship, and I miss him dreadfully.

Julie Loade: "He’s just my best friend and I love him to pieces; I don’t know what I’d do without him, I really don’t.”

“I just feel that Dusty has helped me massively to still be here. He’s just my best friend and I love him to pieces; I don’t know what I’d do without him, I really don’t.”

To mark two years since Dave passed away, and in his memory, Julie spent the day with their two daughters, Natalie and Sophie. Knowing Dusty is there has helped her family too as he means they feel more comfortable their mum being at home on her own when they must return to their own children, she says: “When they dropped me off in the car, Sophie said to me ‘I don’t mind you going in on your own because I know Dusty’s there’. They were very worried about me, but with Dusty there they know I’m not at home on my own now.”

We’re thrilled that Julie and Dusty have found each other. Charlotte, who helped match the pair, said: “Julie and Dusty have brought so much happiness into each other’s lives, especially at a time when Julie was going through such ongoing, terrible grief after losing her husband. They have formed an amazing bond and came into each other’s lives when they both needed it the most. 

“Julie has provided Dusty with the fantastic, loving home he required and has gone beyond that and provided him with a best friend for life and Dusty has provided Julie with incredible companionship and a reason to smile again. They are truly a match made for each other and I am delighted that they managed to find each other through Blue Cross.”

Julie is now encouraging other people to give a home to a Blue Cross dog. Not only will they change your life, but you’ll change theirs.

She says: “As soon as I got him home I could take him straight out for walks. There was no waiting for injections to be done, like there is with a puppy. I just think they’re fantastic, Blue Cross, and I would encourage people to go and see all these poor dogs that need a home.”

Understandably, Christmas is a difficult time for Julie, and she is hoping this year will be a bit easier than last. She will be surrounded by her close family, and will try very hard to keep Dusty – who loves food – away from the dinner table! She is looking forward to watching her grandchildren and Dusty play together.

This Christmas, with Dusty by her side, Julie will be able to hear Dave laughing at the very real teddy bear who shares her home; a gift who must have been meant for her.

— Page last updated 14/12/2017