A dog is not just for Christmas.

The slogan ‘ A dog is not just for Christmas’ comes at us every year as a reminder that the cute puppy wearing the red Santa hat or red ribbon not only comes with a doggy bag full of responsibilities and obligations but he also needs oodles of patience and TLC.
I know many people who have kindly rescued forlorn pooches and moggies from the various animal shelters. Two of my sisters seem to be magnets for strays, I don’t know how they find them but they do.
One Christmas memory is when one of the said sisters and I at the respective ages of 10 and 11, found a stray dog and smuggled him into our house. We set up a den for him in the bottom of our bedroom wardrobe and called him Oliver. We loved the Dickens story Oliver Twist, we had seen the musical film version and knew all the songs. Family legend has it that we kept him there for a week before my Mother uncovered the four legged orphan. In reality it was only a day and a night but these shaggy dog stories tend to grow legs and gather greyhound pace and run and run and run. Poor Oliver wasn’t kept as we already had a dog and a house full of people but we were allowed to keep him over Christmas. A few days following the festivities my father had the unpleasant and upsetting task of taking him to a dog shelter. As children we learnt the valuable lesson that we can’t take on everything that comes our way without consequences, someone has to pick up the pieces, that we cant do everything but we can always do something to help. As adults we still struggle with this dilemma.
This memory put me in mind of one very famous stray dog called Floppy who has now become part of the folklore of Finglas and Glasnevin. The following is my version of his story.
Floppy was a big black/brown dog and he definitely had Labrador in him. His distinguishing feature was his floppy ears which earned him the name ‘Floppy’.

No one knows for sure how Floppy came to live on the grassy hill where the Finglas Road meets the Tolka Valley Road. The story I heard was that he was abandoned at the side of the road by his owner who was driving a car with a trailer on his way to the Dunsink Dump. Some people said that Floppy only chased after cars with trailers, trying to find his elusive owner.
When Floppy first appeared at the busy junction he was seen standing on the grass verge staring out with searching eyes at the passing traffic. He was a real outlaw and rumours and stories started to spread about him. How he managed to evade the dog wardens, when some dog lovers tried to adopt him and they took him home, how he always managed to escape and return to his grassy verge. Eventually people gave him his ‘space’ his own dog run so to speak.
The locals fed him and looked out for him, a little home started to appear for him by way of some cardboard boxes. At one point I remember a sofa appearing, obviously an opportunistic fly dumper taking advantage of the situation. Finally some kind canine benefactor put up a kennel on the grass verge. Perhaps this ‘home’ helped Floppy find a mate as it was big news when another dog joined him in his doggy domain. Of course this didn’t go unnoticed by the authorities. This definitely had to be stopped. What if they had pups or other stray dogs joined and a whole pack took over the corner chasing after cars with trailers? Anyhow, after years of evading the law he was eventually captured by the wardens and the story was reported in the local press. Feelings on the ground were very mixed. People missed seeing him and the unfolding drama of his life. Floppy’s hopeless search for his owner and his yearning for a ‘home’, his independence of mind, his being an outlaw all captured the imagination of a whole community. Yet everyone knew it was for the best as he was still a vulnerable animal. So It was with sadness that we said goodbye to a living legend.
As the cold dark days of winter envelope us I thought I’d share this story about a lost dog who found love and care from a whole neighbourhood. For me, how we treat our animals, whether they are our pets, on our farms or in the wild , is one of the barometers our society can measure itself by. We’re all too aware of the cruelties that are out there and I don’t need to spell them out. This Christmas will not be any different and January will see the animal shelters bursting at the seams. Yet against all the bad and sad stories, this one true story of a stray dog called Floppy helps shine a light to remind us that kindness and compassion does exist in our very real world.
The following is an excerpt by Aidan Kelly, editor of the Dublin People in May 2012 on his leaving the paper. That paper had reported on the many sociological problems and events and the environmental and physical changes that had taken place in Finglas, Glasnevin and Ballymun and yet it was the very human response to an abandoned dog that featured in his goodbye editorial.
‘What else do I remember most as editor? It’s hard to forget Floppy the dog, who lived on the hill at Tolka Valley Road in Finglas for six years, captivating locals and passers-by.
When the droopy-eared, chocolate-coated canine went missing, the office would be inundated with calls from concerned residents.
His final foray from the hill resulted in him having to be taken in by the dog wardens. But thankfully, a new home — complete with girlfriend — was found for him at the Kildare Animal Foundation.’
Happy Christmas to all the Floppy’s out there and to all the wonderful people who work in the animal rescue centres.

Allison Claffy
Dublin Unitarian Church