I remember Sparky so well. He was a lovely little terrier. or some breed like it. Well, in any case he was small. Calling him Rusty or Rover didn’t appeal because us kids – myself, my sister Lorraine and brother John – adored him and we liked Sparky, a popular comic at the time. We could have named him Beezer or Dandy, but we resisted the temptation.

We hadn’t long moved to our new home in Glasheen and I’m not quite sure how we came to have him as our first pet. Perhaps we begged mum and dad for a dog. Anyway, there he was, a lovely, cuddly little pup, waiting to b picked up and petted.

We had an up-and-over garage where Sparky slept, and which we quickly realised needed regular maintenance as our new arrival peed and crapped all over every square inch of the floor. Dad made it clear it was our duty to care for Sparky, and that meant cleaning up after him, feeding him, and ensuring he had plenty to drink.

Of course we took him for regular walks and runs around the green which was directly outside our front gate. but we never trained him properly, and I guess that was our mistake. The trouble was whenever we wanted to play with our friends Sparky wanted to join in. That was fine in the estate, but we sometimes wanted our own space, to play soccer, go to town, or whatever. Which meant Sparky needed to stay either at home or be looked after by myself or one of my siblings.

I think it was a year or so afterwards that all three of us wanted to be elsewhere at the same time, and Sparky wanted to follow, so we shooed him back. “Go home,” we pleaded – and he did, head bowed in defeat.

A couple of hours later I returned home to find an unsettling silence. Sparky had been killed dashing out on the main road where he was hit by a bus. There were a lot of tears shed that day at Sparky’s tragic end. Dad tried to help us deal with it. At the time he worked in the Whitegate Oil Refinery and he took us down to a small pet cemetery where he said the cats and dogs of employees were buried.

I vaguely remember the scene – this was back in the 1960s – and my recollection is there were a few plots for other pets who could no longer bark, chase buses, or bite you.

I think it was less than a year later that Dad surprised us yet again when Princess arrived. Our new royal member of the family was just as adorable as Sparky and had a super temperament. We were instantly smitten and this time minded her much better. No running off and leaving her on her own.

What we hadn’t reckoned on was Princess losing her virginity and becoming an unmarried mother. As she fattened up, much to our surprise, it dawned on us she might be in the family way. And sure enough she delivered a bunch of gorgeous pups. Lucky us. NOT.

Princess wasn’t well after the births and the vet delivered the shocking news. Not only was Princess dying, so were the pups. I remember Dad driving myself and the dogs to the Cork Dogs Home for them to be put down, me in floods of tears and inconsolable. The drive home seemed to take forever, and after that we never had another dog. We simply didn’t want to tempt fate and suffer more heartache.