I've been thinking about my first dog. Well, not really my first dog since he was here before me so I suppose I'm his baby. At least that's the way he looked at it.

At the time we lived in a tiny 'two up two down' with a small yard out the back. Darkie (the dog) and Ginger (the cat) were there to keep the vermin down. There were still undiscovered bodies in the rubble after the Second War so there was lots of vermin. You couldn't possibly find all the bodies so they were just bulldozing the rubble and dumping it on the tip. Nothing else you could do really.

One sunny afternoon when I was very small I crawled into Darkies' kennel and fell asleep. He came in after me and fell asleep too. My mum was going absolutely frantic when she couldn't find me. Apparently it was ten minutes before she thought to look in the kennel for me.

He wasn't a very big dog but, when I was really small I'd try to ride him like a horse and he'd just stand there and put up with it.

Probably the same sunny summer when I'd been in the kennel I was sitting on the kitchen doorstep watching these wonderful furry creatures dancing around at the bottom of the yard for my amusement. I thought they were marvellous as they capered and cavorted.

Then I heard my mum shouting "Jim, Jim, there's rats in the yard with the baby". Dad comes tearing out with Darkie. The first rat's gone in a moment. Darkie just picked it up, shook it to break its neck and went after the other one.

Second rat had tried to hide in the coal heap next to the outside toilet. Dad was banging the coal with a shovel and when the second rat came out he didn't last more than a second. Darkie was on it like a shot.

My dad worked hard and when he had the money he bought a second, larger house and rented the first one out. The renter used to give me cactus plants but rarely paid the rent. I don't know what that was about.

One Saturday my dad took me in to Liverpool for a day out. He had a rare day off work and my mum was up at my grans. We looked at model shops and he bought me a modelling magazine which I looked at on the bus on the way back.

When we got home I rushed into the courtyard to see Darkie. We had a courtyard now and one of those conservatory things which my dad insisted on calling 'the glass lean-to-shed'. Darkie was lying on his side and was quite dead. He'd passed away all alone.

I was devastated and completely inconsoleable. I remember my mum coming into my bedroom at two in the morning and trying to quiet my sobbing.

The thing was you see, it was my fault. If I'd been there (in my youthful mind) he might not have died. Or at least he wouldn't have died alone.

Luci says i spend a lot of time taking care of those who are dear to me. My kiddies, my cats. It's nice of her to say that. The thing is though, Darkie spent his entire life protecting me. Never so much as bared his teeth at some of my stupid stunts.

If I could be half the person Darkie was then I'd be doing well.