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I started writing this about five years ago a propros of nothing, and have finally worked out where to go with it. Not football related at all, but its always nice to finish something.

It was a rainy Tuesday morning when Rosie set off from home, walking to school for the first time. She was with her dad, but he was taller, and pointed out things she couldn’t see.

She couldn’t see Mrs Shepton next door waving at them out of the window, but her hat was down over her eyes because of the wind and rain so she might not have done even if she was taller.

By the time they got to the crossroads, the gusts had eased, and Rosie lifted up the front of her woolly hat and could see again. The first thing she saw was the newsagent’s, and the second a Dalmatian tied up outside.

Rosie’s dad was talking to a lady who was holding a lead, and bent down to stroke the Dalmatian, who leaned forward to nuzzle his hand. He beckoned Rosie to do the same and introduced the dog as Blotch.

Blotch seemed very friendly and, when the lady untied him, the four walked as group for a few minutes before they got to the park.

Seeing Blotch run into the wide open space, Rosie felt like she was missing out by having to go to school, but that sadness had worn off by the time she reached the playground and her dad saw her run away to her friends telling them excitedly about the spotty dog she had met.

The next day, Rosie’s dad’s car was fixed, but she nagged him all the way through breakfast and eventually he gave in, and they walked to school, met Blotch and watched him run away to the park.

The lady with the lead started to talk to Rosie a little bit about Blotch that morning. She learned that he was a Dalmatian, that he loved eating bacon and that he was old.

He didn’t look old the way he ran into the park, but dogs can be very excitable, however old they are, she was told.

On Thursday, Rosie’s dad had to go to the dentist, so her mum took her to school. She drove, and though she could see Blotch out of the window, and waved to him and the lady, it wasn’t the same.

Rosie waved at Blotch and the lady for a week until she could walk to school with her dad again, and spent the time before they got to the newsagent to try to persuade him to walk every day.

Like so many things, he agreed, but Rosie wasn’t sure he meant it. They soon met Blotch and all was forgotten as the spotted dog padded alongside happily before arrowing off into the park.

Days went by, and then weeks. Rosie walked to school with her dad most days and even when there was no school she could sometimes convince him to go out to buy a newspaper at the same time.

Every day followed the same pattern. Rosie would walk alongside Blotch with her hand on his back, stroking his as they walked. They would get to the gate of the park and Blotch would turn his head to her, as if asking her to join him, and then run away into the grass.

Rosie never followed him, but every day he looked back at her. Rosie had never been that far into the park, only as far as the swings, and Blotch would run past those in a couple of seconds.

She felt she had become friends with Blotch, and the lady with the lead, and sent them a Christmas card that year, which is how she learned that her name was Mrs Bulliwick.

On the last day of school, she gave the card to Mrs Bulliwick and made a special point of rubbing Blotch’s head a bit more, so he knew she was saying Merry Christmas.

Even though it was still fairly dark in the park, Blotch disappeared into the distance as usual, his happy bounding and occasional barks from near the trees echoing back to the roadside.

Rosie didn’t think about Blotch a lot during the holidays. When you’re young, people keep you entertained a lot.

She did draw a picture that was meant to be Blotch with a new set of pens that her mum’s friend Kate bought her, but Rosie was never much of an artist, and it looked more like a black and white giraffe.

So the next time she really thought about Blotch was the first day back at school. Rosie’s dad walked her in, but there was no Mrs Bulliwick at the shop, and no Blotch either.

It was early in the year, and Rosie’s dad suggested that they might both be away. As Mrs Bulliwick didn’t have to work, she might visit her family at that time of year. As Rosie’s Grandma was still living with them then, after a week, that seemed to be a good reason.

It seemed a good reason the next day, and the day after that, but by the next week, Rosie was wondering again where her friend had gone.

That week passed with no Blotch, and the days were getting lighter and lighter, so it would have been great to see him bounding off through the park.

January passed into February, and then into March. On Thursday, 15th March, Rosie saw Mrs Bulliwick stood outside the newsagent’s, but without a lead.

She looked sadly at Rosie and shook her head, before looking up to her dad and saying simply “He was an old dog.”

Rosie’s dad said he was sorry, and thanked her, and they went off towards school on their own.

After that day, Rosie’s dad stopped walking to school, and got her mum to drive her instead.

Rosie thought less and less about Blotch as she got older, but one day, when her own son Ashley encountered a Dalmatian while they were out shopping, her own story came back to her.

A few months later, Ashley shared his house with a Dalmatian called Blotch. He walked to school with the boy and his mother, and never looked happier than when she took his lead off and let him go bounding across the park.

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