Sal on a Norfolk beach 2008, aged 12. handsome sandy boy.

2005, being very patient with baby Tilda, who is biting his ear.

“In the big sheep meadow Sal plays in the snow, shoving his nose into it, eating it and leaping about, you wouldn’t think he is fourteen this year.”

I wrote this two years ago, and this winter was optimistic about having another year, but it was not to be, Sal suffered a stroke on the last day of February, and did not recover. he was helped out of this world two days later. only two days before his stroke he was cavorting about and happily walking out for an hour.

we first met in a park in Newcastle when I was looking after a dog called Raider whose family had taken Lucy to Umbria. a shaggy dishevelled creature appeared to have no owner, and I lured him back to the house with kind words. unfortunately Raider didn’t share my attitude, so I took him to the police the next day. when Lucy returned we went to the pound and reclaimed him. he was only six months old, and cried when the pound handler abandoned him to strangers.

he was very thin and very nervous, barking at strangers in the house and out in the park. in fact he was a bit of a menace with people, jumping up at them and barking.

his german shepherd heritage was very obvious, but what about the rest? his neat paws and light bones, and speed made me think whippet.

the new bed, his own bed, his own bone, his collar, his house, his people were all very important to him. he would not be left out, and virtually screamed if his pack was split up. we took him to obedience class and he was angelic, apart from being too vocal, as long as some other dog didn’t have a squeaky toy. in more advanced classes he learnt so quickly; I really should have done some agility with him, he would have been amazing.

after some setbacks with kennel cough, and then his “op”  he started to grow up into a very handsome dog, and being walked with a group by the dog-walker helped him calm down.

he was very serious about food, and about the tennis balls which we kicked all over the park for him. but he was always car sick, especially after the beach trips when he would bring up buckets of sand, picked up with the tennis ball …..

we tried children’s cough mixture. that just made him drool, poor chap. eventually a really long trip cured him.

but the beach was such fun, it was always worth it. the back of my car got a little stinky …

and there was always someone who would throw the ball into the sea just to see poor Sal get wet.

he filled out, and got his confidence. the poor postman had his bag bitten but he was friends with the parcel force guy.

then we moved to the country, back to Norfolk. he seemed a bit bored without his dog walking friends so we got Sooz from whippet rescue.

then a very lively and cheeky Tilda

she loved him, but she bossed him completely, specialising in ambush, and when she was grown never allowing him a bone or a toy unless she was kept away by force.

but on the whole, putting up with a puppy at the age of nine gave him a new lease of life.

now we remember him on our  walks, an invisible presence. when I get up in the morning there’s no Sal desperate to get out to the garden, then to come in and get his hug, and his morning warm drink … but he had a very good life, and will always be with me, in my head.