They don’t criticise and are always ready for a snuggle

BAE Systems engineers

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Whilst sorting the cupboards in my flat in preparation for my big move back to Fareham early in the new year, I came across an old silver necklace.

It was tucked away in all the clutter and inside the locket was a strand of mane from one of my old ponies.

I just stood there and wept. Perillo was a two-year-old miniature Shetland I raised from a tiny foal when his mother rejected him.

One day the farmer decided to plough and reseed our paddock and unfortunately my pony stepped on something nasty sticking up in the ground.

He later got blood poisoning and sadly could not be saved.

Out of all my ponies, he’d been one of my favourite equine chums. A real character.

It still feels raw now, even though it was quite some years ago.

Some people sneer at those who mourn when their pets die, saying that the grief cannot possibly be as bad as it is when a human family member or friend passes away.

I beg to differ. Hand on heart, I’ve had better relationships with animals than I’ve ever had with some people.

Since the moment I was born my world was filled with a Noah’s ark of furry critters. In our house they didn’t come in two by two, it was more like six by six!

I had everything from a goldfish to a chinchilla. I think that the only animal I’ve never owned is a dog.

Cats and horses have always been my main passions though. The loss of a pet may be a child’s first experience of death and it is the most permanent loss we ever face.

When you lose a human loved one, it can make it a little easier to accept if you’ve already experienced the loss of a beloved pet as a youngster.

I lost one of my parents at nine and having the presence of pets around was a great comfort to me.

They give you so much unconditional love. The lovely thing about the animal kingdom is they are never grumpy, don’t criticise you and are always ready for a snuggle.

Each of us who’s been loved by an animal cannot fail to feel blessed. So it’s small wonder we grieve when they die.