It was really just too hard.

"I want you all," Becky murmured, gazing at the wriggly knot of little creatures playing at the foot of the patio steps with a troubled frown. A few of the puppies stared back, with blank, simple eyes, that said very little, other than "Who are you?"

The choice was made harder by the fact they were all so similar. Ten puppies – six boys, four girls, all black, and all dappled with obscure little tufts and trimmings of white and grey.

They were all adorable, and she could only have one.

A mixture of clicks and scrapes coming up behind her announced Judith and Sofia's return.

"Are you still having trouble deciding, Rebecca?" Judith said.

Judith always used her full name, and the one time when Becky had tried to tell her not to, her Dad had told her to be quiet. Apparently, telling people like Judith what you did and didn't like to be called was rude, although Becky couldn't really see why.

Having a big house, a bigger garden, and a posh voice didn't mean you could call people what you liked, did it?

Well, Becky had to admit to herself, you probably can when you have all of that and are also giving away puppies.

"It's too hard," Becky moaned, looking up over her shoulder at Judith. "They're all so lovely."

As if understanding they were the subject of discussion, or possibly because their mum had just shown up, all ten of the puppies looked hopefully up at the woman, child and dog gracing the top of the patio.

Judith smiled, and stiffly lowered herself to take a seat next to Becky.

"It looks almost like an audition," she said, her smile stretching mischievously, and making the thinning skin around her eyes crease up into a network of thread-fine lines. "For many are called, but few are chosen."

Becky turned her frown to Judith.

Widening her naturally wide, blue eyes even further than usual, Judith blinked.

"Matthew," she prompted. "Twenty-four, fourteen."

Becky looked blank.

The patio door slid open, and Becky heard the heavier footfalls of her father on the flagstone.

"Come on, Becky," he said. "Which one is it going to be?"

"Your daughter doesn't know her bible, Andrew," Judith said, somewhere between teasing and accusing.

Becky noticed her dad wince a little. He hated being called Andrew almost as much as Becky hated 'Rebecca', yet he also never said anything to Judith about it.

"Well, of course she doesn't," he said, going to stand by Sofia, and patting her on her broad, black head. "Why would the child of atheists know anything about the bible?"

Judith's mouth and cheek's drew in, as she fixed Andrew with a look that managed to chastise, intimidate and disapprove all in one fell swoop. It made Becky feel a little unsettled, and it wasn't even aimed at her.

Her dad, however seemed unfazed, and just grinned back.

Pointedly, Judith turned back to Becky.

"Would you like Sofia and I to help you choose?" she said, graciously.

Becky gave it a little thought, and then nodded.

"Alright," Judith said, and then called to Sofia. Grudgingly, the barrel wide black Labrador got to her feet, and waddled over to take a seat by her mistress with a long-suffering huff.

"Now, two of the boys have already been chosen," Judith started.

"That's okay," Becky's dad interjected. "We want a girl dog, don't we Becky?"

Judith merely raised her voice and carried on speaking.

"But all of the others are free for you to choose from. Now, do you want a boy or a girl dog?"

"I just said we want a bitch. Dogs are too much trouble, humping everything unless you take they're nadgers off, and that just makes me feel guilty..."

Judith cleared her throat noisily, and made a dismissive gesture with one hand in Becky's dad's direction.

"I'm not asking him, I'm asking you, Rebecca."

Becky considered the options.

"I think I want a girl dog," she said.

"Okay," Judith said, turning her attention to the puppy pile at the bottom of the steps. "That means your choice is between..." she paused, and then reached down towards a puppy, plucking it up and dropping it into Becky's lap. "Kim, Ingrid, Tippi..."

With each puppy she lifted and passed over to Becky, she stated its name, although how she was able to tell them apart so easily was a mystery.

However, she did make a mistake with the last one.

"And last, but not least, Grace – oh one is Bergman. Off you go Bergman."

She reached down for a near identical puppy, and hoisted it up.

"And here's the real Grace," she said fondly, handing the squirming bundle to Becky.

Kim and Ingrid had scrambled off of Becky's lap almost as quickly as they had been put on, and they had begun to scrap playfully on the patio. Only Tippi had remained, shifting so that she lay comfortably along the dip where Becky's legs were pressed together, head hanging neatly over her knees. Becky kept a hold of Grace so that she wouldn't end up on top of Tippi, and Grace began to wriggle in protest.

"Now, Grace doesn't really live up to her name," Judith said, "she's really the clumsiest little thing, but she's ever so happy."

Grace yapped, and Becky carefully placed her down next to her sisters, where Grace promptly lost her footing, and slipped down off of the step.

"Kim is a real wild card," Judith said, picking up the biggest of the girls, who wasn't too pleased to be picked up at all. "She's a devil to catch if she decides she's going to be outside past bedtime, and she's a dreadful influence on all her brothers."

Judith turned the little puppy around to face her and pouted at it, "Aren't you?" she said, like one would talk to a baby. The little dog tried to nip Judith on the nose, but missed.

"Alright," Judith sighed. "You can go down now."

Once more free, Kim charged away towards her mother.

"Now Ingrid loves the sound of her own voice, don't you, Ingrid?"

Ingrid proved that she did. Repeatedly.

"You see?" Judith said proudly. "Shush now Ingrid. Shush! It's easy to start her off, but it can be a bit tricky to get her to stop."

"We're not having her," Becky's dad said firmly.

"It's alright, Dad," Becky said, her fingers tickling the back of Tippi's ears. "I like this one."

"Ah yes," said Judith. "Tippi's the perfect little lady. Between you and me, she's my favourite."

Becky grinned, and lifted Tippi up, off of her lap, so that she could get a good look at her. Tippi looked dubiously back.

"Tippi's a very silly name," she said. Judith pulled a face of mock outrage.

"You're daughter also doesn't know her Hitchcock," she called to Becky's dad.

"For that, I have no excuse," Becky's dad admitted sheepishly.

Becky looked between the two of them with her brow knitted into a quizzical frown.

"Huh?" she said, non-plussed. Judith grinned at her, and ruffled her hair.

"It's alright, kiddo," she said, getting back to her feet. "I'm sure you'll get it when you're a bit older."

Becky also got to her feet, her chosen puppy, who was definitely not going to be keeping the name Tippi, cradled in her arms.

Her dad came over to investigate, and offered his hand to Tippi. She licked it.

"Well," he said to his daughter "let's hope this choice of yours was a good one."

Becky smiled, and gently put Tippi down, her smile only growing wider as she watched the little thing sniff at her ankles, and give the rim of her sock an exploratory nip.

"It is," she said.