Me and My Pet - Isabel Marshall and Ronnie

Isabel Marshall and the devilishly handsome Ronnie

Isabel Marshall and the devilishly handsome Ronnie - Credit: Archant

Golf club secretary Isabel Marshall on why Ronnie the red devil always putts her in a good mood

The story of how Ronnie came to be in our lives isn’t that dissimilar to the old ‘I’m going to see a man about a dog’ pub tale. It was a wet and windy day and my defences were low when my now fiancé messaged me to say, ‘Can we get a Ronnie?’, alongside the most adorable picture of a small, ginger pup. Twenty-four hours later it was a done deal.

Growing up a farmer’s daughter, I was used to a collie-shaped shadow accompanied by the gentle whiff of cow. Their loyalty amazed me and their intelligence was second to none. Tom, however, made it clear that we wouldn’t be having a ‘stinky collie’ in the house, so I offered my compromise of a spaniel bitch. His counter offer was a black lab dog, and nothing else (he hadn’t yet grasped the rudimentaries of compromise). But just two weeks later, following that well-timed, adorable first photo, we collected our own canine compromise and the loving, fox-red Labrador Ronnie entered our lives for good.

He lured us into a false sense of security on that first night. We had 10 minutes of playing fetch in the garden, which he executed perfectly. He swiftly grasped ‘sit’, having arrived at five months old with no training, and he curled up beside me on the sofa while I ate my tea without seeming to notice the plate of food on my lap. Oh, how things have changed.

He’s a clever chap, I’ll give him that. As a result, the early days of training were a test; a battle of will and intelligence. Ronnie very quickly developed selective hearing. So much so, my mother suggested we take him to the vet in case he was deaf. This theory was allayed as soon as edible bribery entered the equation.

There were tears in the early days; ‘Why won’t he just listen to me?’, I’d cry down the phone to Tom. I tried him with Dales Dog Walking to socialise him. However, after pinning Crumble down in a puddle, our disgraced beloved was swiftly demoted to individual, lead-only walks. So much for socialising! And I won’t even mention his Fentonesque episode.

Ronnie has now worked out the optimum places to position himself for the day in the professional shop at Bentham Golf Club, where I work, to ensure maximum tummy tickles. As a result, an endless stream of people give him a stroke or two while uttering, ‘Aren’t you handsome?’; something Ronnie is well aware of, and boy, does he milk it.

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All jokes aside, our little red devil has enriched our lives beyond measure. He’s taught me levels of patience and understanding I didn’t realise I had (or, on particularly trying days, don’t have). His life is completely in my control and he trusts me to accompany him on his journey.

When he curls up on my lap at the end of the day (Tom always gets the bum end!) and snores gently away, a peace and happiness descends like I’ve never experienced. He really has a dog’s life!

Isabel is secretary at Bentham Golf club, overlooked by the Three Peaks in High Bentham, North Yorkshire. For details, visit

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