Our first dog was a black labrador, called Rex. I was very young at the time. I remember my mother on being told that it had been run over. She was the only one of us who wept, I can remember getting on with my fish and chips, quite unmoved. After that there was a boxer, that got run over eventually too. Those days dogs were not pampered, they were free to roam. The third one, when I got a bit older, was Sherry. She used to run up and down the Northumberland beaches so that when we came home she would sulk in the shower.
I didn't want any more dogs so many years later when my husband, who use to shoot, insisted on having a black labrador, I could not contain my mirth as it threw up all over our smart yellow sports car.
After that there was Jasper, half labrador, half springer spaniel and then Timmy, fully springer spaniel, and like many aristocrats, good pedigree but quite stupid.
I still suffer from being left with the damned dogs when my husband died. George collapsed of old age and had to be put down a year or so later, Jasper went into a decline, missing Richard and I sent him off to a Yorkshire estate so that he could work and I kept the last dog.
I shall never forget the day they came to take Jasper away. I remember him watching me from the back of the car. But he was not meant to be a lap dog. He was the dog who swam widths of the loch all week when we went to Scotland. We named him Wilkie Jasper. Everything good in my life seemed over when I had to give up that dog because he loved the shooting so much.
Dogless I remained, so my emotions when my daughter rang earlier to say she had bought a yellow labrador were so hard. In vain had I told her that it could not be left, that it would need walking ten miles a day, that it would throw up in the hall, crap in the bedrooms and leave hair all over the sofa. I told her that I would have nothing to do with it, that it could not be left for holidays with me when she went to top up her tan.
Like all children, she hasn't taken a blind bit of notice, so I'm sitting here crying now for all those days of my dogs, for the days when my husband used to try and cuddle them all together. He would say,
'My boys, my boys,' and laugh over them.
On the last day of his short life we took our little girl and our dogs to Fountains Abbey and walked through the woods where he named the trees for her and the dogs frolicked about and played.
The new labrador is called Izzie. Which presumably is short for Isabel which is another name for Elizabeth. Well, I don't suppose there's anything in that, other than the fact that my daughter has moved on, dog wise and that's lovely but I still can't wait for the first time that it throws up in her new Mercedes. I really can't.