We had no dog when we moved to Greenock. Annabel and I gradually wore Mum down till she said yes, so I bought a copy of Kennel Club Magazine and found a breeder of Golden Retrievers who had a three-month old dog pup for sale. He sent us a copy of the pedigree and Annabel and I were impressed with the number of Champions in it. The breeder brought the pup from Lanark and he was ours. I can’t remember what he cost, probably not more than £5. We called him Golden Benjamin in the KC registration but he was Ben to us. He was the best ever, didn’t need any training, always behaved beautifully and was much loved. Mum was sure he always knew when I got off the bus from Kilmacolm. He would lie by the door, then whine when he heard me outside. I usually took him for a good walk accompanied now and again by a wee boy called Peter whose parents were neighbours. He would come to the door and say to Mum: Is Chrissie coming out? What he really meant was: Is Ben coming out! He liked to hold the lead and walk beside Ben, a nice wee lad he was.
After about nine years, we thought Ben seemed to be thinner although he still ate well. I noticed a slight swelling on his side when I was brushing him, which became more noticeable quite quickly. He didn’t seem to be in pain but I took him to the vet. He said it was a tumour, which he investigated. His opinion was that Ben should be put to sleep sooner rather than later, and after a week or two we knew he was right. I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t face it. Annabel was the brave one and her boyfriend Jim went along to support her. The house seemed strange without him. We still had Beech, a lovely wee ginger cat Annabel had been given by a class mate. The day she brought him home, she put him on the dresser and Ben put his head up to look at this funny wee creature – who immediately scratched his nose! He bore no ill-will, and before the day was over Beech was swinging on his tail and snuggled up with him in his bed, the greatest of friends.
We had another dogless spell, then one night when I was walking home from the bus I passed the Pet Shop. Or rather – I didn’t pass it! In the window was a tiny puppy, black with touches of tan, not unlike Heather. Naturally I went in to say hello to the owner of the shop, having become well acquainted over the years. The Pup was 10/- ( 10 shillings – 50p, but worth a lot more than now) and I couldn’t leave the poor wee thing all alone, so money changed hands and he was ours. Mum was horrified and said: Daddy will make you take it back! However Annabel and I were crafty. I found a box and we put an old towel in it and left it beside Dad’s chair, knowing well if he picked the pup up we were home and dry. He was as soft as butter and a dog-lover. So she became Copper to match Beech, and they got along nicely. I don’t know how this has become an advertisement for the glory of dogs which was not my intention when I began, but as Copper was our final one before we both left our parents’ home I shall stop here. Jock, Mac, Dandy, Heather, Ben, Copper and Beech the cat – these names remind us of countless happy days.