SO COMFORT dogs have been sent out to Orlando to help grieving relatives, wounded victims and first responders involved in the nightclub shooting.

I think it’s great that dogs have been given a good press for once. Normally, they only make the papers when someone dies trying to save one or a child has been bitten.

Jane Marsh-Johnson, “top dog handler” for the Lutheran Church Charity’s nationwide comfort dog network, said she believes dogs have a quality that humans cannot get from one another.  Research has shown that it only takes 15 to 30 minutes with a pet to relax and calm down.

Playing with dogs raises the brain’s levels of dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters that are associated with pleasure and tranquillity.  The interaction with and love received from a dog can help people stay positive.

Even the mere act of looking at a dog increases the amount of oxytocin, the “feel good” chemical, in the brain (if you like dogs I guess).

Heather Ahern, of Hearing Dog Trainers, says now dogs’ primary function is as a companion and it’s a role which dogs have perfected.

They’ve learned how to read our faces and body language and react accordingly, usually to appease us when we are angry, upset or just in need of some loving.  They bring our heart rate down, they look into our eyes with their equally forward facing eyes (a rarity in nature) and seem to be able to say “it’s OK, I understand”.  They have a way of communicating that does not require words, plus they are super intelligent and have excellent problem-solving abilities.   Dogs can be trained to interrupt a tic attack in a Tourette’s sufferer, fetch medication on cue and assist with daily tasks such as opening doors.  I must say, my labrador Buddy doesn’t do any of these helpful things, although he comes from a line of “working dogs”.

I bought him when my rheumatoid arthritis (RA) started to go into remission. I had hoped he was going to hang out the washing for me, run the bath and bring in the post. He does none of these things.

He’s a big dog who thinks he is small and a master at getting in the way and thus being tripped over (then tutted at by the kids). They are Bud’s gang; he grew up with them and as far as he is concerned, whatever they are allowed to do, he is allowed to do too. This involves dressing up and wading in the pond. He barks at people wearing hats, never drops the ball and regularly runs into the patio door.

Ah, but I could not cope without him.

In a world where people are always falling out and changing their minds or letting one another down, my dog is my constant.  When I walk downstairs in the morning, he will thump his tail. When I open the lid of his food, he will yawn loudly.

When we drive past the Roedean Café, which gives him sausages, he starts singing, hoping we will be pulling in. If we do eat there, he knows to stay in his basket, rather than sit with us, because of his “windy-pops”.  He is so strong and yet so gentle. Once he bought me a baby rabbit, utterly unharmed in his soft mouth and laid it in my palm.  He ain’t no hound dog.

In fact he’s a wimp pussy when it comes to thunderstorms and when we call the cat for dinner, he appears instead, like “I can be a cat, look at me, I am a cat!”.  He does this until the actual cat appears and then he scarpers. He is 10 times the size of the cat but she is the boss (of all of us).

The Argus:

I loved the article ‘manners maketh the nan’ about May Ashworth typing “Please can you translate these Roman numerals mcmxcviii thank you” into her Google search.  

Google personally thanked May, saying: “In a world of billions of searches, you have made us smile. Oh and mcmxcviii is 1991. THANK YOU.”  Ben asked his Nan why she used “please” and “thank you” and apparently she thought that someone – a physical person – at Google’s headquarters looked after the searches.

“She thought that by being polite and using her manners, the search would be quicker,” he said.  I remember writing to Mr Pops, c/o Top of the Pops and asking him to please pick a new number one as Bryan Adams had the top spot for 16 weeks in a row and it did not seem fair.

I had no idea it was decided by record sales. I even suggested other songs that he might want to pick instead. I think Kenny Thomas Thinking about your love was my top choice.