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A Dog's Life

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

I’ve been going to Wezzie Wednesday since October, and had guided tours of the estate and the wider area from the locals.

One day while I was there chatting, we were interrupted by some of the loudest barking I’d ever heard. We looked outside and that is when I first saw this ginormous, amazing, slightly terrifying German Shepherd dog. He was so big, or looked so big in comparison to the small front step he was on, paws slung over the front gate that looked like the smallest barrier between him and the terraced street, he dwarfed his owner too.

The dog, Sam, gained the nickname Bear to us as when I originally heard Sam barking that day and first saw him, I said, ‘that not a dog, it’s a Bear.’

Sam had been brought into the street as a pup and was a lovely little thing, the owner himself was known in the area as a dog lover and was seen out regularly with his previous dog who’d sadly died.

This little black German Shepherd pup was his new love. Then came covid and lockdown and the owner had to shield, so the dog couldn’t go out either, there was someone in the community that walked the dog initially but as time went on that had stopped.

The owner had an illness that even when lockdown eased he had to be careful but most importantly, by now the dog had grown so big he couldn’t walk him as he wasn’t trained and he literally pulled him over. We talked and talked about all the different scenarios, how could we help the dog and the owner? During this time, it became obvious to me that the covid story we should tell was via the perspective of Sam the dog.

I wrote some ideas in a scrapbook, a brainstorm of words and thoughts, some based in reality and some fantasy.

There is a lot written in old English folklore about the black dog representing a supernatural or spectral entity, how it’s sometimes used as a reference for depression. But fundamentally the thoughts about how covid had had such a profoundly negative effect on his life, a young dog full of life and happy suddenly confined to his house, couldn’t run or play or exercise and learn to socialise with other dogs and humans. In the most formative years he had to stay home during lockdown, it makes you wonder how many other dogs that happened to, and how many other owners felt that guilt.

All the ideas and possibilities grew in the scrapbook, we talked about him becoming a local legend, something akin to the Loch Ness Monster even, did he even exist? Was he an urban myth?

Each week people we were meeting and chatting with at The Wezzie were offered the scrapbook to take home, spend time with it, write in it if they wanted, draw a picture, stick something in, (or not), but keep hold of it. Then it comes back to the community centre. The scrapbook in itself is a beautiful object and we are thinking about scanning the pages now and making some books we can share for keeps, and we think its potentially a great piece of documentation for the overall project.

Through the grapevine many other conversations started to bubble up around the central idea that there would be in essence, a story of Sam that looked at his take on covid and addressed the issues around fear, loneliness but also of hope.

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