Richie, 47, M&S Lincoln

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I want to do this My Pitch in tribute to my dog Stix, who died five months ago. He was old and poorly and he’d had a hard life spent outside with me aside from four months at the start of his life. It takes its toll on your body. It’s lonely without him but because I’ve got so many friends who cared for him like I did, it’s nice to talk about him and our experiences together.

Up until 2003 I’d never had genuine caring friends like I have now. That changed, once I met one little old lady up in John O’Groats. That was a big, big turning point in my life. I slept in a bus shelter in the same street for a few days and Doris, god bless her, lived opposite the bus shelter and saw me in the same state for a long time. She came over with a slice of toast and a cup of tea. I thought, if this little old lady who is absolutely petrified, shaking with fear, wants something to do with me at my worst, why wouldn’t I want to show her my best side?

After that, I went down south and made a friend in Exeter and suggested to her that she get herself a pet to care for. We went to a place outside of Exeter to get the puppy and that’s how I met Stix. But when I went around I realised that she couldn’t look after him. But in the 11-day period where I tried to find someone to care for him, I found out I loved him for that little mischievous puppy that he was. I couldn’t let him go because I was so attached to him.

We spent 14 years, eight months and six days together and they were the best years of my life. Because I had to put him first, he taught me so much and hopefully I taught him so much. I don’t know how to put it into words how they change your life for the better.

My customers found out that I’m going to have my leg amputated later this year because I only have seven per cent of my circulation left in it. So they raised more than £5,000 to tide me over in the six to eight weeks when I won’t be able to sell. It’s amazing.

I have some amazing friends and family in Lincoln and I care for them as much as they care for me. That’s why I come and sell the magazine every day no matter what the weather throws at me. The Big Issue gives me a reason to get up in the morning, to interact with people and build friendships. I’d like to say thank you to absolutely everybody who has supported me and is helping me. I can’t do this on my own. I cherish absolutely every one of my friends and customers. It’s overwhelming to know that our friendships go that deep.

If my leg wasn’t so bad I would get another dog straight away. As soon as I get my leg sorted and get used to the prosthetic, that’s the first thing on the agenda. I can give one such a good home and take care of them.

Image: Patrick Stubbs

Marks & Spencer Lincoln, High Street, Lincoln, UK