Went to hospital to visit a lovely old fellow last night and was shocked at how weak he'd become.
In a hospital gown he looked anonymous enough, but they were calling him Robert. He was always Barney to us and everyone else he knew.
He looked so pale and vulnerable, so different from the first time I saw him - can it really be 16 or more years ago?
When I first met Barney he looked a bit like Giant Haystacks. He was a mountain of a man with a massive beard. I don't know where he sourced his blue bib and braces from but they were extra, extra, extra large in every way.
Despite looking like a wrestler, he was gentle as a lamb and terribly shy around women. He rarely spoke to me or my mainly female workforce. He pottered about in a shed at the farm where we were then based and over the months we gradually discovered he had been retired for years and would be very keen to clean our cars and the office.
When we moved office, we took Barney with us and over the years he's become a much-loved part of the Dogs Today extended family.
A few months ago he told me stoically he was fighting cancer, but he wanted to keep coming in to help us as it was his favourite thing. He was still shy with strangers and going to hospital and going to the doctors was excruciating for him, but he threw himself into the fight and despite the chemo he still kept coming to see us every week.
We gradually watched him fade to a shadow of his former size and his fantastic facial hair disappeared - but everything was pointing in the right direction tests wise. Then he got shingles and the chemo had to stop. It rocked him and he was so poorly he was stuck at home.
He is fiercely independent and has no children. I didn't know exactly where he lived, he'd always come to see us. I knew he had an elderly sister, but I did worry about him but he was sure he'd bounce back when he got over the shingles.
I got a phone call this week from one of our old neighbours at the farm to say they'd heard that Barney had been rushed into hospital. I was given two conflicting reports as to how poorly he was.
I'd naively believed the more optimistic and had happily trailed around Waitrose choosing lovely things to eat, drink and read to hopefully make hospital a bit less grim.
Then when my husband and I found his bed, the sign said he was nil by mouth. He couldn't swallow as he was just so very weak. He was obviously so thirsty. The nurse was amazed to see him responsive he became when we visited. I told her not to call him Robert he was always known as Barney and they made a note. Barney told me he was thirsty, it was hard to understand him, his speech was very slurred and he needed his oxygen mask but I knew he badly wanted a cup of tea and some normality - you could see it in his eyes. The nurse tried with water in sponges and he got some relief, but it was terrible seeing him in such an alien environment and so helpless.
Making me sad again thinking about him.
The lovely young Dr said if the blood transfusions work, he may still rally. Perhaps if we all send some white light? I'm not sure if that works, but let's try?
Just realised we don't even have a photo of Barney.
I only discovered his real name this week.
Barney - a proper English eccentric - such an honour to have got to know him.