BEFORE hitting 50 next year, former SNJ news editor Sandra Ashenford has compiled a bucket list of 50 goals to achieve before her birthday.

The aim is to do one every week.

List item no. 10 – teach Robbie and Fergus to do a dog agility course.

I believe very strongly that people should be prepared to take responsibility for the outcomes of their own actions, and I loathe the “compensation culture” that insists someone else should take the blame when we ought to have employed some common sense.

It has always been my parenting philosophy that children and young people should be given the opportunity of making their own decisions, once they are in full possession of the facts and have considered potential repercussions. So, as a family, we’ve got through body piercings, college course changes and dubious fashion choices and the daughters have emerged as capable, creative and inspiring individuals.

I think I did a great job but the daughters sometimes feel I should have put my foot down more. They tell me that if I had refused to let them give up the piano / saxophone / violin or any other musical instrument that passed briefly through our household, they might be virtuoso musicians by now. I’m not so sure.

But their biggest criticism of my parenting skills is my tendency to treat the dogs in the same way as my children.

Dogs, they insist, need to be told what to do. Dogs, apparently, cannot be left to work out the right choices for themselves.

We have shared our home with six dogs during our 30 years of married life, usually two or three at a time.

There was Jojo, a blue roan cocker spaniel puppy we acquired within weeks of getting married, then Maverick, a slightly loopy Doberman, followed by Hector, a wiry and very cheeky border terrier.

All three are now buried at the bottom of the garden, under the blossom tree.

Then came Mason, a very loopy greyhound/lurcher cross, now 13 but hanging on in there.

And then, four years ago, my beloved Robbie was born, the offspring of Daughter Number Two’s dubious Jack Russell, Ruby, and her in-laws’ high class pedigree Dachshund (that’s the daughter’s in-laws, not the dog’s).

Robbie and I have a serious mutual adoration thing going on.

I have loved all my dogs but Robbie was in danger of being very spoiled until the arrival, a year ago, of daughter number four’s westie, Fergus.

Fergus reminded Robbie that he is, indeed, a dog and not a four-legged small person. The realisation, however, hasn’t made him any more obedient.

Daughter number four and I set up a dog agility course in the garden and had a small bet as to whose dog would be the best.

Fergus was doing well until he came through the tunnel, at which point he grabbed his own lead and started to run in big circles around the garden.

While daughter number four and I were trying to catch him, Robbie scoffed all the dog biscuits we had brought as training aids.

This is a challenge that might need a little more work.