I wish I’d known, when I was 26, how much I could love a dog. If I had, then I wouldn’t have waited 30 years to get my first one. I have a lovely partner, friends and relatives; but in all of these years, I have never experienced the non-judgemental, unconditional connection I have with my beautiful dog, River. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not all sweetness and light. Picking up poo, going out in bitterly cold weather when the wind is driving into my face and slipping through gloopy mud – well, just let’s say, I could do without all of those and not miss for a second. Far outweighing all of those, however, is the deep and soulful look I get from her if I am down or scratchy, the way she sticks by my side when someone approaches, whom she doesn’t trust for me, and the innocent joy and happiness she displays every day in play, when she is fed and on her walks. Thank goodness I ticked this box.