That was the question a workmate asked me just after W and I got Jock Dog. At the time I thought it was an incredibly stupid question**...even from someone working in financial services where empathy and imagination are downright discouraged.

Thinking about it, though, DJ who was asking, came from the West Coast, so all the dogs he knew were probably working animals, getting sheep and tourists down off Ben Lomond or some such.

Anyway at the time I gave him a completely wet answer such as... "well you walk it and play with it don't you..."

Let me now, with 15 years to dwell on the question, come back with a fuller answer.

You walk it. At least twice a day, you go out in all weathers and you walk the thing. And obviously whilst doing this you get exercise yourself; for free - which is even better if you are currently without a job and unable to justify gym membership.

Whilst walking it you meet other people. Obviously getting a dog to meet people would be beyond sad - but having got the critter meeting the people is a great bonus. There are great people I would never have met if I didn't have a dog.

You give it routine - because, bless, dogs love routine. And in return they make sure that your day has a structure. Even when the bottom's fallen out of your world, it's the dog who's going to make sure you don't crawl under the duvet for a week. Because, guess what, it's the morning and he needs fed, walked, talked, attention..Every Day.

You play with it. You play great games that have no rules, and no bad losers. And you do stuff together, and all the outdoor stuff like camping and beach combing is much better with a dog - because they are always so dammed happy about doing stuff. All stuff, any stuff, just as long as it's stuff with you....

And you can hug it and pet it. If things get really bad, you can bury your head just behind their ears, and breathe deeply and smell that lovely warm comforting doggy smell. Dog as Prozac.

No I don't know why they don't come on the NHS either.

**Yeah I know, it looks like W's asking the same question in the first picture...