WHEN Liz Mansfield, newly widowed, obtained the post of running a hostel for ‘troubled and troublesome young girls’ she took with her Peggy, a dog the size of a cocker spaniel, with the looks of a Labrador.
The girls took to the dog and by the fifth day Peggy had taken to them.
Although the girls quarrelled over all sorts of things, they never argued over Peggy. Liz found why - the first time words had become heated, Peggy had shown her teeth!
After a few weeks the cook and the cleaner said there was a change in the girls’ behaviour and attitude. “We don’t think it’s because of you,” the cook said: “We think it’s to do with Peggy.”
One evening Liz asked: “Would you like to have a kitten? I am thinking of getting a Siamese.”
There were whoops of joy when Nam Kong arrived, 12 weeks old.
Nam Kong’s breeder’s children had played with him from the time his eyes had opened, so he was used to being handled, and was forever scrambling into laps and jumping into outstretched arms.
But Peggy was not abandoned. Some of these ‘troubled and troublesome’ girls gave her extra attention to stop her becoming jealous or hurt.
In summer the hostel closed for a week and they all went on holiday to a farm in Devon. The girls insisted on taking the cat and dog.
The girls and pets slept in the hay barn, and cooked in the brick barn.
The farmer asked them to exercise Prince, an old pony. He had been lame and the vet said he should be gently walked several times a day.
The girls became very fond of Prince and there were tears when it was time to go home.
Liz said that there was a big lawn behind the hostel which might make a paddock, and a spare garage which might be turned into a stable. Tom, the farmer, offered a horsebox for the journey. So the girls finished up taking home Peggy the dog, Nam Kong the cat and Prince the horse.
The hostel received an inspection from ‘management’ and Liz was afraid the animals would not be approved of.
But things had much improved over the past year; the girls had ‘settled’ and seemed happier and calmer. One of the visitors said: “I reckon it’s because of the animals.”
Liz agreed. “Having Peggy,” she said, “gave them a sense of responsibility. Then when Nam Kong came along, a defenceless little scrap, it brought out a protective instinct; and Prince gave them a sense of responsibility and achievement. The animals have done in a short time what we might never have done without them.”
In ‘King Solomon’s Ring’ by Konrad Lorenz, children read: “The gift of a pet, if wisely bestowed, can be a gift of huge worth, for it can create and reciprocate love, the greatest gift of all.”