'Velvet and Daphne came as a pair. When they’d been discovered, locked up and abandoned in Cyprus, they’d tried to separate them, but Daphne - once known as Velma, but answering to Daphne immediately; from a previous life perhaps? - refused to leave her best friend’s side, so they were taken and rehomed as a duo. I say rehomed, but of course they’d never known a home, or seen grass, or bodies of water, woods, cities, warm radiators, television programs.
My partner and I already had Dudley, an elderly philosopher of a Jack Russell, and hadn’t been looking for two more, but there was something about their story, their bond, not to mention their cooky looks (Daphne a sturdy demi-basset, Velvet an elegant, inky, carry-on-size pointer) that was impossible to resist. It all happened very quickly, we reserved them, went through the checks with the incredibly helpful and compassionate staff at WAHF and three weeks later – in a scene that might have been from James Bond - we had a midnight rendezvous in a windswept car park outside London.
They were, like so many of the doggies that have left testimonials here, exhausted, disorientated and frightened. We live half in West Sussex and half in central London, as well as travelling a lot (always with dogs) so we thought, after a few bit-by-bit, paw-by-paw days settling in, we should get them used to the life adventurous, packed them into the back of the wagon and did a Christmas tour of the country to see family members and get them used to the excitingly never-ending versions of life outside of a dog pound. Yes there were setbacks, issues from time to time, but what was, and is, so amazing, so heartwarming and, frankly, so tear-inducing, is how brave they are, how keen to learn, how quick to be kind and sociable. Life: they just seem to get it.
In case you hadn’t guessed, I love dogs, Ali does too. Both of us always have and always will. They’ve been around us since childhood - my official christening photo featured baby-me swaddled between two bassets – but this experience, of adopting dogs, has been a new one and I have a feeling it will be the most fulfilling, and thrilling, chapter to date. I’ve just spent two years writing a new novel (Tomorrow, published by Penguin in May). The story spans centuries, seen through the eyes of a dog that is 217 years old, as he searches amidst the courts and battlefields of Europe for the master who granted him immortality. It is an emotional and epic story, but at its heart is a simple thing: the relationship between human and dog, that most ancient of bonds and most pure form of love. Not that I needed reminding, but Daphne and Velvet have brought it all back to me in the most startling way possible.'
- Damian Dibben