I’m not sure how Hugo knew we needed him. Even I didn’t know. That was until the day I went to Dogs for the Disabled to collect a bag of dog food for the two dogs that we foster, and came home with Hugo too.

He was big, and he was black, and he was everywhere. If he wasn’t on my lap, he was at my feet, on the sofa, or in the bed. Wherever we were, Hugo was never far behind. Originally only coming to stay for a few weeks, this beautiful soul, with his enormous eyes and heart, decided he was going nowhere.

Like the words in the poem, he ‘found the place that he was seeking when he stopped here to rest… his final linoleum floor’. Hugo had been forced into early retirement following an unfortunate incident which shortened his life as an assistance dog. But, as with all things, when one door closes, another one opens.

Therapy dog Hugo checking in for duty at Cork University Mercy Hospital.

Invited into the local hospital one day to visit, he found his true calling along the corridors and in the wards. Not seeing illness or tubes or drips. Nor hearing the wheeze of the bed, the hum of the machines or the rattle of the drugs trolley. He shed his strands of love in every corner of the hospital, finding those who needed him. He got them, and they got him. But all good things have to come to an end, and as the December days shortened and the nights drew in, it became apparent that our lovely Hugo wasn’t too well.


Gentleman to the last, he tried to let us down gently. Warning us that this day was coming.

So we visited the vet, made sure he was comfortable and in no pain, then set about making memories that would last us longer than the short time we had left with him. With pockets full of his favourite treats, we enjoyed early morning runs with his friends and the slow, meandering beach walks that he loved so much. We went for drives too. His head hanging out of the window. Feeling the breeze in his face, not caring where we were going. Just enjoying the journey — together.

Hugo’s happy place was the grounds of Blarney Castle, where his ashes now rest in their dogs’ graveyard. And now, when I walk through those fields and forests and the early morning mist lifts, I know he’s there. In the whisper of the wind and the rustle of the leaves, I hear the distant patter of his paws.

Running free.

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