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How one furry companion helped a mourning grandmother overcome her grief

Nursing her sick husband of over half a century through a terminal illness to the end left Pat with a grief that made her want to shut herself away – that is, until a companion came along in the shape of a collie…

Throughout her husband’s long battle with cancer, Pat Chester remained his steadfast carer; making sure he was comfortable and that he knew how much he was loved. For months all her energy went into caring for Pete – known to his friends as Chez – to the point where she stopped looking after herself, leaving her family sick with worry.

After 53 years with the man she loved by her side, Pat was left feeling “lost”, “empty” and without a purpose when he was gone.
Pat’s granddaughter, Andrea Embling, remembers: “The worst point was probably the week or two after the funeral. She weren’t getting out of bed, for about three days she hadn’t eaten anything, she hadn’t been out. 

“I’d actually had to go round and pretty much force her to get up and eat something, and it was at that point it was just like I just can’t let this continue, I’ve got to find something to get her to get up and go. I have work so I can’t be round all the time, otherwise I would have been to make sure she was ok.”

Pat’s grief was all-consuming and loyal Andrea knew she had to step in, and so suggested a path that would give her beloved Nan a new best friend; something to get up for in the morning and would get her out and about.

Second shot at happiness

Pat and Chez on their wedding day
Pat with her beloved husband Chez on their wedding day

Collie Cookie was in the care of our Bromsgrove rehoming centre and was looking for someone to take a chance on him. In his most recent home he’d lived outside and hadn’t had the opportunity to snuggle up on the sofa with a doting owner. What he needed was someone he could love and who would love him in return.

Pat says: “I needed somebody, but not Andrea there all the time because she’s got her own life and I’ve got to make my life on my own. That’s when she came up with Cookie. [Cookie gives me] companionship, and getting out and mixing with people with dogs, and just knowing there’s security as I’ve got him downstairs. I can be safe in the house knowing he’s there. If anyone rang the doorbell, he’d bark. 

“He’s absolutely gorgeous, he’s brilliant,” she adds. “I love him. We go on lots and lots of walks together through the bluebell wood and the fields and that. I wouldn’t do without him at all.”

When Cookie first arrived in his new home with Pat, he was underweight and his fur was in poor condition. Pat’s vet encouraged her to feed him up and Cookie enjoyed his treats and extra food, so he is now on a prescription diet to get him at the right healthy weight.

Changing lives

For Pat’s devoted family, seeing their Nan back to her old self, hearing about how much she’d enjoyed her days and knowing she was back meeting new people was the long-wished for proof that she was finding ways to cope with her grief. Thanks to giving a home to Cookie, Pat has a dogged companion who has become part of the family.

“Instead of her being in the dumps and moping and telling me how she wants to join my Grandad, I was actually hearing her saying, ‘ooh, Cookie’s doing this today, he’s going to be doing this tomorrow, and look at what he’s doing now’,” says Andrea. 

“Actually hearing her cheerful for the first time in weeks was just amazing. I’m so thankful that we found Cookie because he’s changed her so much to get her back to the confident, outgoing, bubbly person that she normally is.”

Pat has given Cookie the home, love and chance to be part of a family that he always wanted, and although nothing could ever replace Pete, the man she had built a family with since they married in the 1960s, the sweet dog has given his human companion back the spring in her step that was lost to bereavement.

Pat says: “We were always together, me and my husband. We didn’t need other people; we’d go out and mix but… we didn’t need people, we could enjoy our own company. But when one part had gone, that was it. 

“But this little furball come along, which I’m very, very grateful for. He filled a little bit of an empty space. He can’t fill my husband’s space, but he’s got that little bit, if you know what I mean. 

“He’s something to get up for, something to walk, something to do. It’s me, getting up and doing something and making a life for myself.”

Pets really do change lives. If you’re searching for a new companion to join your family, visit our rehoming pages today and give something back to homeless pets.

— Page last updated 2/08/2017