We’d only been married two months when we decided that we needed to start a family. We wanted to open our lives and our hearts up to a little living creature. At the time, we didn’t know that creature would be you. We trawled the newspapers looking for babies, until one day, in the early hours of the morning, your Dad woke me up. He told me he thought he’d found the one and wanted me to come and look at the advert. It said:

“Can you give a home, when no one else will?”

We knew we had to have you. We started making calls, setting the wheels in motion. You weren’t what we’d planned for, but there was something in that advert that told us that you were meant for us. We were warned, he’s spirited, he may have some behavioural problems, if you want to bring him back, you can. But we knew we wouldn’t. We’d made a commitment.

We could see the scars, the places you’d been hurt in the past. We could see the hare lip, the broken tail, the reasons that others had passed you over, in search of something ‘perfect’. But although we could see these physical differences, all we really saw was you. The big eyes that begged for love, the wagging tail that belied your need to please.

You, the day you came to live with us.

The day we came to get you, we knew we’d made the right decision. You came tearing out of your room, dragging the poor carer behind you as you went. You were wearing a bright blue collar, your eyes were alive with excitement and happiness as you came bounding over, and promptly took a leak up your Dad’s leg!

We took you home and decided to take you straight out for a walk. You obviously weren’t used to being on a lead, you dragged your Dad and I along the road. We were worried at this point. What if you were uncontrollable? We decided to give it time, to honour our committment. That night, we were firm, you’d sleep in the spare room, we couldn’t have you in our bedroom. You cried all night. You’ve slept with us ever since.

Fast asleep, despite the camera flash!

When we found out we were having your sister, we had brief concerns. What will he be like with a baby? Will the cries alarm him? We decided, much to other people’s consternation, that when Sausage was born, we would bring her home, lay her on the sofa and let you have a good sniff. We needn’t have worried. You’ve been her protector ever since. Your ears would prick up at the slightest cry, you’ve made it your job to sit near her at nap times. She idolizes you. When she started to get mobile, we could see the wariness in your eyes, choosing to remove yourself when she wobbled her way around the room. Now she’s steady on her feet, you’re always there, following her around, sniffing her butt!

Always ready with a smile!

When Dad started working shifts, you were there, making me feel safe when he was out all night, taking your place on the bed, letting me know if anyone, or anything, got too close to the house. If it weren’t for you, I think I would have been a nervous wreck during those times, but having you there eased my mind, let me drift off, knowing that your ears were always open.

I know I don’t walk you enough. Dad usually takes care of the walkies, which

An early morning family walk to the beach.

is wrong, I know. The changes in you since that first day are amazing, and totally down to your Dad’s perseverance in getting you to walk properly on the lead. But now, I can hold you and push the pushchair at the same time, which is not something I ever thought I would be able to do. You’ve done us proud. You’re my best friend, a constant source of comfort, you deserve the best and I don’t always give it to you, and for that I am sorry.

If there was one thing I would change, it would be that we had got to you sooner. That we had found you when you were a puppy, so there wouldn’t be the long scars on your feet, the cigarette burns all over you. I want to erase all of that from your past. Do you remember how you cowered when I picked up a knife to chop an onion on the day be brought you home? My heart broke at the thought of what had given you that fear.

Modelling his muscle shirt.

I can only hope that these last four and a half years with us has gone a long way to making up for the first two years of your life.

We love you, Chuck. You’re our best friend.

So handsome.

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