A young teenager of a border collie, leaping into the middle of my Sunday walk with my father. There was a name tag; we located the address which was a caretaker's bungalow in a local school's grounds, and we returned Whiskey to his grateful owner.
This was a regular occurrence. Find a stray dog...take the dog on a walk, even a bus ride, to return it home or to a police station.
We never thought any more of it really. Until, this six-year-old started pestering night after night, to see Whiskey again!
And thus began ten years of the most treasured, cherished memories any child could have.
My mother was very sceptical about my father's letter to ask if his little girl and he could go walk someone else's dog every Sunday!! She said it was "a cheek to ask"!!
But the Sunday walks became more often; and Whiskey became as much my dog as anyone else's; especially as I got older and was allowed to go round on my own and walk him any time I wanted to in my school holidays.
I had access to the most amazing "playground" that no other children had: Acres and acres of extensive playing fields, woods, places where we could play hide and seek and chase and hill-roll, to our heart's content!!
Other dogs came along in that family. Toby, the "mistake" - the Yorkie who never grew any fur! Lucky, the Yorkie who became very ill whilst still young, and died suddenly. Gina, whose name I couldn't understand as a child! and so was always called Cheena by me!! and who survived both Whiskey and Toby and lived with diabetes for many years.
But none of them was as close with me as Whiskey.
Whiskey loved the groundsmen's hose!!
If they were irrigating the playing fields, you had lost him for the morning!! Short of going in under the spray to drag him out, or walking round the back of the sheds to turn off the water, you couldn't get him out!!!
Quite early on, he used to go missing. Often on a Sunday too. This was in fact how we had first found him.
And many Sundays, we would get to the bungalow and his mum would tell us that the police had called to say that he was at such-and-such an address!! so our walk would include a long detour to go pick him up first!!
Later, he used to go missing in the week too. The police knew him well! and were always calling to say "This is Croydon Police here. We have your Whiskey again. Would you like us to drop him back, or do you want to come and collect him?"
In the week, he used to go and wait at the gates of a local school and if he spotted a little girl walking home on her own, he would accompany her and make sure she crossed the roads safely. Upon reaching home of course, the child's mother would assume he was a stray dog and would call the police, hence the regularity of his attendance at the police station!!
People always said that maybe Whiskey was thinking, or hoping, that the little girl each time was me! and that he was missing me in the week so was always searching to help me, or someone like me!
The day he didn't come home, was when I was away on a trip abroad as a teenager.
We suspected what had happened to him. His mum had seen suspicious activity at the time he went missing.
My Whiskey, who trusted everyone implicitly, had been betrayed by a human.
I will never find another Whiskey.
Recently, I saw a Whiskey look-alike; but the dog was bigger, bulkier.
Taffy was the same colour but so very different.
I sometimes call Lucky, "my little Whiskey". She has his fidelity and his gentleness. Even his coat type. Maybe she has a little of his spirit - the free-roaming independant spirit that brought a lonely little child so much love and joy for many years.
Whiskey, you were my first and I think you will be at the head of the Greeting Party when I finally reach the Bridge.
A companion, a friend and a brother.
Way back in the past, yet so recent for you,
You taught me of love, of gentleness and grace,
And before you, there was none other.
That day that we met, you were young and yet wise,
You chose carefully when you went free.
Two souls who would cherish you, care for you too,
Who would help you find joy and meaning in life,
And whose devoted spirit you'd be.
The joy that you gave to a very young child
Was extended to all whom you met.
From the walks and the playtimes, romps in the woods,
Climbing on tree trunks or rolling down banks,
Together we shared what I'll never forget.
The day that I knew you had not come back home
Was the day that my youth lost its joy.
All my lifetime I yearn for you; missed you so much.
Our joy was too brief, yet your pawprints remain
In my heart, for all time, darling boy.
- JannaMutti (2007)