Some years ago Alexis Fleming was bedridden with a severe chronic illness and wanted to end her own life – but thanks to her beloved dog Maggie, she made it through.
Maggie died two years later of lung cancer on a vet’s operating table and Alexis founded the Maggie Fleming Animal Hospice so other animals would not die alone and in distress.
She also set up its sister project the Karass Sanctuary for Farmed Animals.
Alexis’ days are long and demanding – feeding, medicating, exercising and cleaning so that the dogs, cats, cockerels, sheep, cattle and even turkeys are comfortable, happy and (for the sick) pain free.
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The story is told in her book No Life Too Small which Alexis will be discussing at the Wigtown Book Festival on Tuesday.
But already a new chapter is unfolding, she said: “A lot of people are facing death alone and one of the things I’m interested in is doing for them the equivalent for what I do for animals.
"Just visiting people in their own homes, talking to them, perhaps helping them feel more comfortable and at ease.”
The idea is in its early stages, and something she is considering offering locally, but it comes from a conviction that a good death is possible.
Alexis said: “The more I have done this with animals, the more I realise I want to do this with other humans – it’s having a connection with someone and that’s the key.”
These are feelings closely related to Alexis’ own experiences of desperation and the battle she faced to make it through.
And in the meantime people are already benefiting from her work – turning up and enjoying time with the creatures on her 4.5 acres of land.
Alexis said: “There are a few folk who have just left their phone at the door and gone up on the hillside to sit in a field – for a bit of sheep therapy.”
Wigtown Book Festival takes place from September 24 to October 4.
For more information visit www.wigtownbookfestival.com.