October 18, 2013 7:13 pm

A dog’s best friend

The urn containing Hot’s ashes will always evoke for me one of the most beautiful things on earth

David Tang, entrepreneur and founder of ICorrect, offers advice on questions about property, interiors – and modern manners for globetrotters

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David Tang

Are dogs man’s best friends? I cannot imagine a home without a dog and am always suspicious about those who don’t have dogs or dislike them. Do you love dogs? What makes them special?

One of the most beautiful things in human experience is a sense of poignancy, and I never fail to find it in the companionship of a dog. In this animal which, rightly or wrongly, we have come to domesticate, we have created a very special kind of camaraderie. It is special because the dog gives us love unconditionally. We might speak harshly or show our annoyance at our dogs, but they are forever forgiving. Even at the most unexpected moments, they will sidle up to you and push their moist nostrils at your face as if to say they are forever sorry, and you are their loving master whom they will always love.

This forgiving instinct is not only one of the most endearing gestures that we humans encounter, as it is so rarely found among our fellow men, but its disarming nature makes us realise that our dog is really a secret weapon in our lives.

During periods of our own depression and anger and curses, we only have to turn to look at our dog, tilting their head slightly to the side and looking up with their tongue half-hanging out – as if to offer us a balancing sense of solace and everlasting generosity. We who love dogs begin to realise and never forget that their admiration for us, their masters, brings us a great deal of happiness. I cannot really imagine how anyone could dispense with this precious sentiment.

That is why I hate people who don’t like or relate to dogs. They are, I know, never going to be as happy as we are. They will miss out on the totality of happiness which all the dogs in the world bring to our homes and in our hearts. We love seeing their wagging tails; we love seeing their requests for a hug; we love their wishing to jump up into our armchairs and beds; and we love seeing them run wild with excitement and freedom, which they regard as being given to them by us, across the fields and into the forests, or plunge into a cooling stream. They tell us that they are grateful for what we let them do. With their eyes, they dilate gratitude. No wonder we are constantly in love with them. And when they grow old, we fear for their lives more than our own deaths.

Last winter when my West Highland terrier called Hot, who was nearly 15 years old, began to limp and cough and look sorry for herself, I became morose and fearful of the loss of that special friendship, which in their age has lasted the equivalent of 70 human years.

Yet, Hot seemed to be saying to me, “Don’t worry, Master, I have had a good life, and you have given me a good life, and I am sorry for all the little faults I have had. But you have been my master and I am glad that I have been able to make you happy at times. When I am in heaven, I will remain faithful to you in your dreams – and in the never-fading memories with which I know you will always share with me.”

So when Hot finally went, peacefully in my bed, I held up, as gently as I could, her little white body, astonished with what was so small in my hands that could have made such a difference to those distinct moments in my life when only Hot could have provided true comfort and encouragement and kindnesses to me.

I could seldom have found such unconditional love in man. And so I was thankful to discover that treasure, for it was a treasure, of canine affection. Hot shall always remain a member of my family. And the urn in which her white ashes are being preserved will always evoke for me one of the most beautiful things on earth – unanswering, unswerving, submissive and magically silent, but absolutely the most beautiful – more beautiful than a spectacular mountain range or a fading amber sunset, or a snowdrift valley. Not even all of them in nature could touch the beauty of my little Hot.

Email questions to david.tang@ft.com. Thank you all for the hundreds of comments about this column. If there any further comments, please write them online rather than emailing me

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Letters in response to this column:

All misty-eyed over man’s best friend / From Mr Michael de Villiers

Don’t blame dogs, it’s their owners / From Ms Josephine Bersee

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