The inscription on the memorial bench reads: “You brought us joy, laughter, loyalty and friendship.” But unlike so many similar seats dotted around Aberdeen, Lara’s bench is there to commemorate the life of a beloved pet.
Today A Place to Remember reveals the heartwarming tale of a blonde labrador whose capacity for love extended beyond the walls of her own family home, to touch the lives of those around her.
“We really had no plans to have another dog, but I think Lara was meant to be,” said Louise Robertson.
“She belonged to my sister-in-law whose teenager vowed to walk her but you’ll know how that turned out.
“With the family all out working it was becoming unfair to leave Lara on her own so they asked us if we would have her. We’d had dogs in the past, and Lara had stayed with us from time to time. She was a lovely dog so we happily embraced her.”
Bench marks the spot
Louise and husband Sandy live in Belvidere Crescent, Rosemount.
Close to Westburn and Victoria parks, Lara became a regular visitor to the well-tended green spaces. Of particular interest to her was one specific spot.
“Whenever she got to this one bench, near the Loanhead Place entrance to Victoria Park, she came to expect a treat. It was a bit of a ritual,” added Louise.
However, tending to a boisterous young labrador became a bit of a challenge for the Robertsons when Louise experienced mobility challenges.
“Thankfully,” she explained, “we had very good friends who loved Lara as much as we did.”
Shewan and Sheila Duthie also lived on Belvidere Crescent.
“My wife Sheila just had this affinity with dogs. She loved them and they loved her in return,” said Shewan. “She was also incredibly fit – being an ex-Olympic swimmer – and she loved to walk. It was a natural fit for us to help walk Lara.”
Speaking from his home where framed images of Lara have pride of place on the walls, Shewan explained how Sheila, a former journalist – penned stories about Lara’s adventures.
“Sheila loved to imagine what Lara’s life would have been like, as seen through her own eyes. So the stories included tales of a trip to the vet, and getting her nails cut, for example.”
The Duthies, like the Robertsons, fell in love with Lara – who was also known as Lara Bear. And as much as Lara would bound toward them when they knocked on the door to walk her, they equally enjoyed their time with her.
So much so that when Lara became ill – and later died following surgery for pancreatic cancer in 2013 – all four wanted to do something to remember their adored four-legged friend.
It was decided that the bench where she always stopped to receive a treat would be the perfect location for a memorial.
They collaborated on an inscription, which included paw prints. Then, after going through the correct local authority channels, the memorial bench was created.
‘We miss her’
“Sadly, over the years, we’ve noticed that Lara’s is the only plaque that has been repeatedly scraped. And there have been obvious attempts to prize it off,” said Louise.
“Perhaps people think ‘oh it’s only for a dog,’ but Lara was so much more than just an animal, to us. We miss her terribly. We still go there around the 11th of November, which was when she passed away, to leave flowers. And now that we have lost Sheila too, the bench is even more special for us.”
Now weathered by time, Sandy, Louise and Shewan are thinking of replacing the plaque on Lara’s bench.
“It’s lost its lustre somewhat, and the inscription isn’t so clear any more,” said Shewan. “But what it represents is just as poignant as ever: our lovely Lara Bear.”