One morning when I was about six I went downstairs to find a liver and white English Springer Spaniel at the foot of the stairs. Punch had arrived by train the previous evening. My sister and brother-in-law had been told of a dog needing a good home and thought of my parents.
Punch was a gentle, friendly dog and became a great favourite with our regular customers. He lay on the doorstep all day, front paws dangling over the edge, and most people stopped to pat him and have a word. At night he settled at the bottom of the stairs and we all learnt to step over him carefully.
Then one day he started to wander. He would begin the day at the shop door in his accustomed manner and then slip away unobtrusively to trot about the neighbourhood with his doggy pals. He stayed away for hours on end, coming home for his evening meal. My parents worried about him having an accident or even causing one. Eventually, one of our customers, knowing of their concern, offered to give him a home. He had a large house and garden in the Kent countryside and Punch would be safe there. My parents liked and trusted this man and knew he had always been very fond of Punch so reluctantly but with some guilty relief they said goodbye to the boy.
It felt strange not to have him around and for many months after Punch had left us we continued to step carefully over – nothing – at the foot of the stairs.
It would be a few years before I lived with a dog again, of which more anon.