Elwyn Parsons spends six days a week with his beloved wife at the nursing home she now lives at. By his feet, always, is his loyal companion, Badger.
The 74-year-old rehomed the jack russell from Blue Cross two years ago and the former stray immediately brought some joy back into his life following wife Carolyn’s devastating dementia diagnosis.
She suffers from an aggressive form of the disease, which took hold when she was just 68 and left her needing full-time residential care within two years.
At around the same time that Carolyn, now 74, went into care, the couple’s much-loved dog, Dylan, passed away. Suddenly, home felt very empty for Elwyn.
He initially ruled out getting another pet but after two years of living alone, the former army quartermaster sergeant was missing the presence of a four-legged friend more than ever.
Elwyn said: “We always had dogs. Dylan broke my heart and I never thought I would have another dog after that. But I was watching a TV show about dogs and I thought I’d have a look.”
However, Elwyn had a very specific criteria; it was essential that any dog could happily accompany him to Carolyn’s care home as his world revolves around being by her side as much as possible. They have been married 53 years after meeting at a dance aged 19.
Thankfully, the home – a specialist Alzheimer’s care facility – allows dogs to visit.
Elwyn spoke to the Blue Cross rehoming and advice unit in Newport, Wales, about what he was looking for after initially enquiring about another dog. And when Badger came through the door, the team knew they could be a perfect match.
But first, they took Badger with Elwyn to the care home to see how he reacted.
Hannah Wiltshire, Newport Manager at the time, said: “It turned out that Badger loved the attention from the carers and nurses. He strolled straight into the living room where all the other patients were relaxing. Badger was rehomed to Elwyn the following day.”
Since then, this once timid boy has thrived with Elwyn, who says he now has a new sense of purpose.
“There are things I’ve got to do,” said Elwyn. “I’ve got to feed him, I’ve got to walk him. Before him all I would be doing was going from my chair down to the car and to the home where Carolyn is, getting out of the car and walking a few steps. Now I take three walks a day with him.”
Elwyn added: “He really has done something. He has brought me quite a bit of joy. I love him, I took to him straight away, I couldn’t help it. He took to me as well.
"I couldn’t have wished for anything better. I think he’s brilliant. My brilliant little boy.”
Nobody knows what the Christmases of his past held, but this year, Badger will be warm, safe and happy with Elwyn, enjoying the festivities at Carolyn’s care home.
Blue Cross recently used Badger's story to highlight the comfort that pets can bring to people like Elwyn in its Link in the Chain conference. Our charity also calls on care homes to have a clear pet policy in place, due to the heartbreak which can be caused by residents needing to give up their animal companions when moving to residential care facilities.