On the eve of my fifth birthday, my Mum took me to a toy shop to choose my present. I was told to pick out whatever I wanted and I was let loose. Trawling through the aisles I settled at the cuddly toys and fell in love.
This is one of my earliest memories and it’s an important one. This was the day I met Spot the dog. My first love.
This small, stuffed, Dalmatian dog has been with me at every important milestone in my life and is now the grand old age of 25. His nose is tattered, his fur is grey (despite how many times he’s put through the washing machine), he was a patch of pink paint on his bum from when I unwisely painted my room a god-awful neon pink shade and he’s wise beyond his years. As soon as this dog was put in my arms at the till, we were inseparable.
There’s 11 years between my sister and I so I didn’t have the sibling camaraderie that others did. Although our house was always full of cousins or friends there were times, when everyone had gone home, that I was lonely. When that happened, he was the friend and confidante that I needed and the comfort of his ‘company’ has never left me.
When the time came to put aside my toys, Spot still had pride of place on my bed. When I was sad and things weren’t going my way he was there with a hug, when I was angry or frustrated with life he was there to vent to, when I packed up my stuff to leave home he was the last thing to be packed away and first to be taken out and when I’m at my worst I often wake up to find that Conor has tucked him in beside me.
Over the years I have fended off the advances of my nephew and two nieces who have taken a shine to him (I’m not proud of that…) and had no intention of ever being parted from my very best friend until about six months ago.
It started innocently enough: taking him to bed at nap time, chatting his gibberish to him and giving him hugs. It wasn’t until one morning I came into Oliver’s room and found him giving him kisses in between whispers that I knew I was fighting a losing battle and there was no way I could take him back again.
Since then, he’s added another to his entourage – Atticus, the bear. I was told under no circumstances would I be allowed to call any future children this name so I’m christening a lot of Oliver’s teddies strange names…
There will be no sleep in this house unless he has them both with him by bedtime – hence a late night dash to granny’s house when I forgot to take them back with us after a sleepover in order to stop a distraught toddler. The three of them lie in a row and when we go in to turn off his night light we move them to the bottom of the bed. Without fail, he will wake up and squeal with delight to find that his friends have magically moved.
I can’t blame Oliver for loving Spot as much as he does. He was a great friend to me and I know he’ll be just as great to Oliver; I just hope my son doesn’t judge me too severely when I eventually crack and steal him back when he sleeps.