Brits loves their pets. And for many Big Issue vendors up and down the UK, it’s no different – they rely on a pet for companionship and a reason to see to their responsibilities. Their pet is their family, and plenty have reported the transformational effects of bonding with an animal.
Truro’s Nick Cuthbert is one such vendor. He got his dog Bryony when she was seven weeks old. The chocolate Labrador-collie mix turned 10 in July. She is the “love of [his] life,” he tells The Big Issue.
Cuthbert struggled with issues for much of his life, and credits Bryony with keeping him on the straight and narrow. “She keeps me going every day now,” he explains. “I know that I have to keep it together, that I need to work and keep a roof over our heads.”
Even when X-Factor host Dermot O’Leary visited him on his pitch last year, the vendor reported mostly talking to him about their shared love of dogs. “I told him how much dogs mean to Big Issue vendors like me – dogs are our life,” he said.
“I’ve always had a dog, all my life,” the 55-year-old adds. “My last dog, Taz, died. Deciding to get another was hard. But eventually two of my customers put a third in each, and I put in a third, to buy Bryony.” Veteran vendor Cuthbert has been selling The Big Issue for 16 years.
Bryony gives the vendor a reason to go for long walks in the country, which he says has been hugely beneficial to his health. And she joins him on his pitch at the city’s Lemon Quay piazza six days a week where she is a huge hit with the public.
“Wherever we are, she’s always being spoken to,” he says. “If I leave her outside Tesco in the morning there’s usually people chatting to her. It helps people get chatting to me, too – Bryony has probably helped sell quite a few Big Issues.
“I have to put a sign up saying ‘do not feed’. She was getting treats from 10-15 people a day. It was out of control.” Cuthbert says he hasn’t yet had to go to the Dogs’ Trust for support – partly because of his earnings from selling The Big Issue, and partly because the community around him in Truro always chips in when his dog is in need of anything. When Bryony was a puppy, she had elbow dysplasia which required expensive X-rays and an operation, generously paid for by one of the vendor’s customers.
Life without them would be horrible
There are complications that come with being so familiar to the local community. Cuthbert had a sign made up letting customers know Bryony is not there for the day, because otherwise people will “stand at a distance looking worried about coming near to ask where she is”, worrying the worst has happened.
As we approach Christmas, the vendor knows Bryony will be spoiled. The public hands over bags of toys and treats, so much that Cuthbert has donated most of it to local dog shelter K9 Crusaders in the past. “Hopefully we helped a few other dogs too in our way,” he said.
“Having someone else to be responsible for makes a big difference especially when you’re going through a tough time,” he says. “I have to be well and I have to get up and earn money for all three of us.” When Cuthbert’s father passed away, he adopted his cat and expanded his family.
“It’s been great,” he says of having two furry companions instead of one. “I was in two minds but I love every minute of it – she cuddles up next to me. Bryony’s on one side of the caravan we live in, and I’m on the other side with the cat. Plus they can sense when you need cheering up or pulled out of a low mood. Life without them would be horrible.”
Now we want to hear from you.
We’re on the hunt for the most inspirational and heartwarming stories from our vendors and their hero pets. Is your local vendor never seen apart from their dog? Do you know of a vendor near you who turned their life around with the help of their beloved moggy? Let us know.
You can get in touch by contacting email@example.com and putting ‘Pet Heroes’ in the subject line of your email. Let’s hear it for the power of pets this Christmas.