I put the word out among friends. I wanted a mongrel puppy, wasn’t too fussy about the parentage, though it had to be good with children. And one day I was invited to a coffee morning by my friend Denise. It was a charity thing – one person invited 8 people, each of them invited 4, they invited 2 and they invited 1, each host paying something, can’t remember what, to the designated charity. Bridget and I were the 2 – I simply paid my amount to the charity, I wasn’t going to invite a single friend round and ask her to pay for it. Anyway, I told them about my puppy-hunt and Bridget said that the delivery driver who brought their horse feed had said that their bitch had three week old puppies. She was a Bearded Collie, the father was an Irish (Red) Setter. It sounded ideal. Bridget and her husband were interested too, and I asked her to give the driver my number. And the next day, his wife Zoë phoned.
She invited us to see the puppies and we were off within minutes. On the way, I said to the Sage that, if there was a blond boy, that’s what I’d like best, but I thought we’d know the one. And he agreed. And Zoë took us in to her back room and there was the mother – crumbs, I can’t think of her name … Finty? No, but I’m not miles out, I’ll come back to you on that. Rusty was the father, that I do remember.
There were 8 puppies, 3 blond (all boys) and 5 black (some male, some female). They wanted to keep the biggest blond boy but we had the pick of the rest. I picked him instantly but didn’t say and the Sage said the same one. He and his brother were exactly the same except that ours had a faint almost heart-shaped white mark on his head.
Zoë was very welcoming and didn’t mind us bringing the children to visit the pups at the weekend. She and her husband had two sons, the elder Ro’s age and the other (who was, tragically, killed in a car accident three or four years ago) a couple of years younger. Have you ever handled young puppies? That puppy smell? Oh, it’s marvellous. Milk-fed puppies, warm and cuddly, with puppy-breath and soft paws, wriggling in your arms and squirming round to lick your hands.
I had to stop and go away for a few minutes then, too much longing. Pulled together again.
Anyway, they had been born on 17th October, so they’d be old enough to leave their mother in mid-December … a puppy is for life not just for Christmas? We wanted this puppy too much, we agreed with the children that we’d have a quiet Christmas and give plenty of time to the dog.
It was so tempting to go round every day, but we resisted and visited once a week. They were so adorable. Bridget had a black boy, by the way, who grew up looking like his mother, shaggy. They called him Harvey. Chester had long hair but it was straight and sleek, like a golden retriever or a red setter – in colour, as he grew up, it was mid-way between the two. Sort of orange, actually.