Debbie Coll – Dog Walker
I was 3 years old when my neighbour, Katie sat me on her horse, Patsy. That’s when it started. I was destined from a very young age to run away to Newmarket and become a Jockey, even though, by the age of 9, I was already too tall.
We weren’t well off, so riding lessons were out of the question…. So I learned out of books. I never had my nose out of one.
As soon as I was old enough, I started looking for ways to be around the animals I loved.
I got a job working with some beach ponies in Largs. For £10 a day, I walked up and down the beach with Rabbi, Candy and Jodey with kids sitting on them on weekends and school holidays. I hated the way their owner treated them. They were a wage packet to him and he didn’t care much for their happiness.
In the winter he would dissapear to Cyprus and I would visit and care for them.
Then, I met George Gold down at Skelmorlie Castle. I was troubled because of family circumstances and would go sit with the horses most days. He found me one day and welcomed me into their world properly. He treated them the way a horse ought to be treated and I would go watch him train them on the beach. I learned so much from him.
When most teenagers were lying to their parents about sleeping at a friends house and doing god knows what instead, I was sleeping in a stable waiting for a Shetland pony to give birth (Sorry, Dad)
When I was 14, we got to do 2 weeks of work experience. Nothing that the school had to offer appealled to me, so I called around and managed to land a place at Kelburn Country Park as a stable hand looking after the trekking ponies and private boarders. After the 2 weeks, they asked me to stay on.
Then, when I was 15, everything changed. We sold up and my dad and I moved to the Netherlands. I started school straight away. I met some great friends but the classes bored me. I skipped 80% of them and spent my day in the canteen writing music and lyrics… I must be the only kid in the world who skipped class and stayed on campus. The teachers didn’t care, they let me away with it. I was fluent in Dutch within a few months just from mingling.
So with all my horsey contacts back in Scotland, I’d now set my heart on being a musician…. Then dad found out about ‘the school thing’, I heard those dreaded words ‘”If you’re not going to class, Get a job!”
So I took the first job I was offered… In a cheese factory. I worked there for a few months, then one day, I got called into my managers office unexpectedly. What he said changed my life.
“I read your cv…. How good are you with horses? I have a horse that I’m struggling with. Come meet him”.
I went to meet Mistral. From the next day, my boss put me on sick pay and promised I would never have to see a work doctor and my new job was Mistral. Duh!
So that’s what I did for the next 2 years. He nearly killed me in the beginning but we got him to where we wanted him to be and eventually bought my own horse, Madison, too.
So fast forward a few years, when I was 22 I got a puppy… who would become the love of my life. A boxer called Shantih. (I named her the star of my favourite horse book by Patricia Leitch). We were inseperable. What an amazing little creature she was!
I was also very lucky to volunteer at a donkey sanctuary for a while.
So as you can probably by now imagine, I kind of like animals a bit ……
I made the mistake of staying in a very abusive relationship for far too long. By this time I had a son, Shantih and 2 cats, Jesse and Harvey and I didn’t want to lose any of them. I am a very firm believer that when you get an animal, they stay for life.
I finally got brave one day when he had hurt me again and called my dad for help. He lived an hour away but called the po;ice and was there within 40 minutes. He made us all safe and a friend took my pets in and within 24 hours, I was on a flight home to Scotland with my wee boy.
I sorted out a proper house and 2 months later, our dog and 2 cats where shipped over on a ferry to live out their lives here. Jesse and Shantih were quite old and they both died a few years ago. Harvey the ginger cat is 10 and still with us to this day.
It took me 5 years to be able to let another dog in. Bria the Dogue du Bordeaux. Sometimes there are weird and wonderful coincidences that happen in life and she is the product of one of these magical moments.
In between, I fostered some boxer dogs for a charity and walked some neighbours dogs. I was in a Dutch speaking job in Edinburgh that cost me 12 hours a day and not enough time with my son and at breaking point from stress…..
Then one day, June from Wee Molly’s Pals came along and changed my life …..