The Sunday Telegraph

Who needs humans? Dogs fulfil all functions


Earlier this year, a gay male friend of mine was asked by a close (single) female friend if he’d like to become a biological father to her child. He agonised for a bit – it was a good offer, and his partner had been keen to have children in their future – but in the end he declined, deciding with his partner that they would have a dog instead. Their situation is far from odd: I’ve seen numerous examples over the past few years of this mental exchange of baby human for baby dog. It’s part of a bigger phenomenon in which canines are now taking up a huge part of our emotional lives, even our social lives.

It used to be clear that a dog was a pet. It would formerly have been eccentric to consider the comfort and happiness of Fido above that of a friend, but now it’s utterly normal.

Soon we may find that dogs supersede humans on all fronts. Last week, Digby, a three-yearold Labradoodl­e, managed to stop a woman from jumping a bridge over the M5 in Devon. The emergency workers found themselves unable to talk her down, but “when Digby arrived, [she] immediatel­y swung her head round to look, and smiled”.

“This got a conversati­on started about Digby and his role at the fire service. She was asked if she would like to come and meet Digby if she came back over the railings, which we are pleased to say she did,” emergency services said. The woman is now in treatment.

Digby has an impressive CV: he was “hired” to help soothe firemen after traumatic incidents. He’s been trained to go into schools, hospices and hospitals.

That we now not only love but respect and depend upon our pooches as much as we do people is slightly unsettling. But even a curmudgeon like me has to admit that with fine specimens like Digby being put to noble use, it’s hard not to conclude that a dog really is man’s best friend, and a lifesaver to boot.

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