Just like these pets, I knew what it was like to be overlooked
In September 2002 Kerri (my partner), Megan (our daughter) and I went to Dogs Trust Ballymena in search of a pet. I spent part of my life in an orphanage, so the Dogs Trust was the obvious choice for me. And being one of those clumsy, slightly weird kids who were always the last to be picked for school teams, I know what it's like to be the overlooked, left behind one.
We only wanted one dog. We came home with two. Scruff, a cross between a cairn terrier and a haystack, was about a year old and had to be rehomed after a child in the house developed an allergy. He was gorgeous - the sort of bouncy, Tigger-like ball of hair who just wants to have fun and who regarded jumping into your lap as the normal thing for a dog to do.
Bo - a Labrador cross - had had a much more troubled background and had clearly been bullied and abused. He was nervous - one of those dogs who keeps his tail between his legs, quivers as you approach and cowers when you raise a hand to pet him. But he was also one of the most beautiful dogs I had ever seen. We eyeballed each other for a few minutes and something clicked. A slight wag of the tail. A nose nudged against my knee. A look that said, "I just want to love and be loved back".
Scruff settled in immediately. He was small enough to nuzzle into any available space close to us or between us. Bo took a while longer. We had to earn his trust. He had to know that he was safe.
It meant hours of just talking to him and petting him. Not shouting if he pooed or peed inside the house. Not raising a voice if his tail knocked anything over. But once he realised he was safe he became the sweetest-natured dog I have ever had the pleasure of sharing my life with. More important, he and Scruff became very close.
Scruff died two years ago. As ever, it was a heartbreaking moment. Bo is still with us. Older, slower, greyer, deafer and almost blind in one eye. Yet still as beautiful and loving as ever. Dogs are hard work and they demand as much attention as children. But Bo and Scruff became our friends.