This month, I had the pleasure of speaking with Mrs Joan Harris, a lovely lady who I see on a near daily basis as she walks her fabulously cute little dog. Joan is friendly and approachable, and happily invited me to sit down with her in her home one rain swept morning…

AF: Thank you for meeting today, I really appreciate it. Let’s start with you introducing yourself please.

JH: My name is Joan Harris. I am 88 years old and I live on my own now with my little dog.

AF: And what’s your dog’s name?

JH: Bailey.

AF: Hello Bailey, it’s nice to meet you. I love how he’s snuggled into you on your lap, that is absolutely precious! What kind of dog is he?

JH: He’s a chi-poo, a cross between the chihuahua and the miniature poodle.

AF: Oh, I’ve not heard of a chi-poo before. He’s adorable and seems so good natured.

JH: Everybody says to me they’d like one. Do you know the lovely woman who’s a paramedic? She’s got a little girl that goes to school here, and a little boy that goes too. She tried to get one the same as Bailey, because her little girl was petrified of dogs before she met him, and when she first met him, Bailey was a lot younger, but he went to the children and was so gentle. Now the little girl likes dogs!

AF: That’s lovely! How old is Bailey?

JH: He’s seven now.

AF: Ah, Bailey, you’re middle aged now! You’re not a puppy anymore. Although he’s obviously such a small size, he still looks like a puppy. And I really do love how he gives you cuddles.

JH: This is him completely. If I sit down he’s here. If he can’t get on my lap, he’ll squeeze in the chair beside me.

AF: So have you always been a dog person?

JH: Yes, oh yes! I love animals. When I was a kid we had a dog. How anybody could be cruel to animals, I do not know.

AF: I agree with you. I think it shows a lot about a person’s character, how they treat vulnerable creatures. So tell me Joan, how long have you lived in Fairfield?

JH: It’ll be 22 years almost – the next April, 22 years. All of these houses along here were just so broken down: busted windows, no front door… But we moved in! My husband took a cricket bat up to bed with us, because we didn’t know if anybody would just walk in in the night! But it was lovely. We worked to fix everything up. And it’s been lovely living here. I’ve loved it.

AF: I know what you mean, it’s a beautiful area, and I find the people so welcoming and warm.

JH: The people are so nice, aren’t they? You know I broke my hip a little while ago, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I mean, I was lying on the ground and I couldn’t move, and I had a crowd around me wanting to help and I thought, where did they all come from? And I found out that whoever saw me fall put it on Facebook. So everybody came out there from the Hall, but one man said let me help you up. I knew I’d done something drastic, so I said, “No, I can’t get off the ground!”

AF: Well I have to say you seem to have recovered really well. Did you have to have surgery?

JH: Yeah, they’ve mended my hip, okay, but at my age, they won’t give you a new one. I mean it would be really a waste when there’s a younger person who could use it. To be fair, it was painful to start with but I was in hospital for a week and then for six weeks I had physio. They came in every day and they were so lovely. Goodness, one chap – when he walked in that archway there, he filled the archway he was so big! He was having to help me dress and whatnot, and I looked at him and I thought, “Oh, my!” but he was a gentle giant. They were so lovely to me, and I was determined I was going to get better. So once I was on my feet, I used to go out for a walk every day with my walkie on my own for about an hour. And then one day, my son came to take me to town and I said leave my walkie behind – I don’t want it anymore. And I haven’t used it since!

AF: Having a good mental attitude makes all the difference in anything that you’re trying to accomplish.

JH: It does. I was determined I wasn’t sitting in this chair for the rest of my life, and I needed to be out for Bailey. I didn’t take him out for a little while after, but Steve helped me.

AF: I take it Steve is your son? How many children do you have?

JH: Yes, I had three boys. Now I have two. My husband was desperate for a little girl. Though we never got one, we had two granddaughters, so he was over the moon about that! We moved here and six years later he died of a heart attack in his sleep, never made a sound. One of my sons lived with us, and I said, “Come on, we’ll go down to let Dad have a lie in this morning.” So we were up for about an hour and that was a bit strange, because he hadn’t come down. I just had a funny feeling… I stood in the doorway of our bedroom and he was still snuggled up in bed. And I said to him, “Are you getting up today?” and there was no reply – and I just knew. But if he could have chosen the way to go, he would have wanted that way: not hospital or anything like that. And then six years later, I lost my son who lived with me. He had cancer.

AF: Oh, I’m so sorry!

JH: It’s alright. It took a while to get used to, but I’ve been fine on my own, you know, and I’ve got Bailey here!

AF: I can see what a constant and loving little companion he is. It’s always such a pleasure to see the two of you out and about, walking in all sorts of weather. I really can’t tell you how thankful I am that you took the time to chat with me today!

JH: It was my pleasure, Amber!

Amber Fortier moved to Fairfield Park in 2017 with her husband and three young children. She is originally from New York.