The last ten years of my teaching career were spent at Corpus Christi Junior High School in Leytonstone.
I was very happy there, and besides being Head of First Year and Social Secretary was Teacher Tutor, headed the Team teaching experiment and was Head of the Department for Special Needs.
When I retired I was presented at the Barn Dance with Baleek china, Irish linen and a cheque.
With the cheque I bought Guinness, my bull terrier puppy.
He was the best of the litter, sturdy and confident,loving and loyal.
He was black with a white chest.
We loved him!
I have always preferred big dogs.
Little yappy terriers with bows in their hair do not impress, they irritate.
English Bull terriers are built like a brick chicken-house.
They have no 'stop' to their faces, which are curved like a banana.
I put a deposit on Guinness before he was even born; I knew and petted his mother when she was pregnant,and her owners lived locally.
They telephoned me when the litter arrived,and I visited them a month later, when the puppies were active and already developing personalities.
Guinness was the obvious choice.
In a way, he chose me.
When I visited the pups at seven weeks he came straight to me, nuzzled my hand and when I picked him up licked my cheek.
I believe he thought he was a human; he joined in all our activities,and was pushy but never apologetic.
He spent most of his baby days asleep on my lap, and made good progress until he managed to chew off and swallow one of my Reebok laces.
He was not well for a week, and I was getting worried.
Luckily for us, (but not for the vicar!) after a delicious lamb lunch he relinquished lamb and laces all over the vicar's trousers.
From then on he flourished.
His ears in due time perked up, and by his first birthday they stood upright. Here he is, wearing his paper hat.
Guinness liked to share. He did not enjoy separation, and was for ever trying to get into the garden with me.
He spent a lot of his time standing up on his hind legs like a little old man,gazing into the forbidden area or pushing his face through the fencing.
In the park I kept him on a long lead, because although he was always friendly and did not bark (he was useless as a guard dog, great as a teddy-bear) people were frightened of him.
On the one time I tried letting him run, he took a large tree-branch in his jaws and ran away!
Within five minutes he had disappeared with his trophy.
He was still young, and I thought I had lost him.
I was terrified.
Where was he?
I called and called, but there was no sign of him.
Sadly, I made my way home.
I left the park, crossed the road, and when I reached the steps to the iron bridge over the railway, there he was!
Sitting at the foot of the steps!
The branch was so big he could not get it across the narrow bridge, so he was waiting for me to help him.
He had obviously wanted to take the branch home to show George.
It was a very long time before I let him off the lead again.
Guinness loved the hosepipe, and whatever the force of the water would try to drink directly from the jet.
He would get soaked with icy-cold water, and spend an hour afterwards lying in the sun, recuperating.
He also enjoyed a bone, as large as possible; he had really strong jaws.
When we went abroad on holiday, Guinness would stay with a very nice lady who lived in a big house next to a wood and with good grounds.
She liked big dogs, and was used to handling them.
Guinness always went with her happily, but after three or four days (always the same) he would get a rash on his nose and along the edges of his ears.
The vet said it was stress, and recommended evening primrose oil.
I tried it, and within a few days his ears would be back to normal.
I know he missed us.
George said that when I went shopping Guinness would stand with his face pressed against the door, waiting for me to come home.
I think bull terriers relate very closely to their owners.
Many years ago, when I was a child, one of my father's friends visited with his bull terrier. He went into the back garden,and his dog stood on his hind legs at the window, watching and whining until he came back in.
Boys and bull terriers go well together. Guinness was always keen to share in their activities. He would sit with them for company.
He enjoyed their bubble-blowing, and joined in their woodwork, and endlessly played tog o' war games with anyone who would join in.
He was always with one or the other of them.
Here he is keeping an eye on Jamie while he sleeps.
Once, I invited a few elderly ladies from a local retirement home to tea.
Guinness managed to get through the gate in the hallway, bounced into the room, and jumped into the lap of one of my visitors! He weighed several stones!
Luckily, she was not afraid, and before I took him out they all patted and praised him.
Guinness was not a dog for tricks. He would sit on command for a ginger biscuit, but that's about all.
He was not allowed upstairs, but did not always obey the rules.
If I left the gate at the bottom of the stairs unlatched, he knew when I was awake (I don't know how ) and would very,very quietly climb the stairs and enter my bedroom.
Bull terriers are not tall; I could just see the top of his pointed black ear, like a shark's black fin,sailing along the side of my bed,and then the end, before an icy-cold wet nose pushed under the duvet and poked my arm!
He would go downstairs when rebuked, but I'm sure he knew I liked it!
Certainly, Guinness was one of the very best.