the border collie who was our dog when I was very little--so little, that he was put to work as a baby-sitter for my sister and myself. Somewhere there are black and white photos of myself, very small, lying on a tartan blanket in the pale Northumberland sunshine, and Hank, a big dog, alongside me, alert, protective, dutiful.
I remember when Hank died. Or rather, not when he died, but when I was told he had died. I could have been no more than six or seven years old. My father had come to fetch us, my sister and me, at the Bletchley train station on our return from our boarding schools. I was sitting in the back seat (no seat belts, in those days!) of the old Austin Ten he used to drive. He broke the news gently, I'm sure, but it was a terrible blow. We had loved Hank, and he loved us in return. He was smart. My parents would send him off, alone, to my grandmother's house at the other end of the village where we lived, and she would tie a bag of candy ("sweets") to his collar and he'd trot back through the village to bring them to the Rectory.
Another picture: a small boy, on a swing suspended from the lower limb of the pine tree that stood between the Rectory and my father's church, St. Botolph's, the big black dog sitting watchfully to one side...
So when we got home, there was a surprise awaiting us. This was Benjy, a feisty little cocker spaniel puppy, who lived with us for many years thereafter. He was a good dog, I'm sure. We probably loved him too. Still, he had a disadvantage from the start: he could never live up to Hank. Hank was the one that I remember.