Rescue pooch Bo has been the best-natured animal I've ever known
We rescued Bo about 13 years ago. He was a mess: a year-old nervous wreck who had been bullied. He cowered when I first approached him.
In my case it was love at first sight, because I recognised the pain, fears and need for security of a fellow orphan.
Like all dogs should, he became - along with Scruff, whom we took at the same time - a much-loved member of the family. He bonded with Meg (four at the time, now 17) immediately.
He welcomed two kittens into the house a few years later (they tended to use him as a mixture of cushion and playground) and still treats Lilah-Liberty (now six) like a puppy who needs nudged in the right direction.
As soon as he settled he became the most good-natured dog I have ever had the pleasure of sharing a house with.
From the tip of his tail to the tip of his nose, he took up a lot of space in the house and made his presence felt in the garden, too. Some dogs leave little 'stools' on the lawn: he tended to leave sofas. But he was fun to have around. So much fun. In human years he's now about 90. Half-blind, half-deaf and prone to excruciatingly stinky farts. He tends to spend most of his time in the house these days, sleeping, snoring, dreaming (all four enormous paws making running motions) and thumping his tail up and down when any of us come near him. Watching them get older, weaker and increasingly inactive is part of sharing your life with a dog, so I can understand why people who may be older and weaker themselves can find it increasingly difficult to look after their old 'friends.'
So it's worth remembering that it's not just puppies and young dogs who need help and rescuing. Old, ill dogs can take a lot of love and a lot of care, particularly if they have mobility or dietary problems. And that's why I'm so pleased that there is a new charity to help in those particular cases.
I adore dogs. They enrich lives and homes and provide wonderful learning and responsibility experiences for all of us - as well as much-needed friendship for people on their own. But owning them brings challenges and heartbreak along the way, as it does with all relationships. But do you know something? I've never regretted bringing any dog into my life.