Dogs are our faithful and true companions who never let us down in a crisis
The American political columnist Mary McGrory nailed it: "Dogs, bless them, operate on the premise that human beings are fragile and require incessant applications of affection and reassurance.
"The random lick of a hand and the furry chin draped over the instep are calculated to let the shaky owner know that a friend is nearby."
Deborah Wells confirms what almost everyone who has shared their lives with a dog has always known: dogs understand us.
They are on the same emotional wavelength.
They want to please us; not out of fear, nor in return for food and board, but for the sheer pleasure and joy of pleasing us.
They want to have fun with us. They want our children to roll over with them.
They want to run a hundred yards away from us and then hurtle back like an unguided missile.
For our pleasure and their own they will chase and recover a golf ball from a river, or leap at a frisbee 20ft in the air.
And yes, they will stand quietly beside you and nudge their muzzle into your palm when they think you need gentle support, or just a silent "I'm here beside you" moment of companionship.
They will shadow your small children if they sense danger.
A pat of the knee and they will cuddle in and let you stroke their head and play with their ears for as long as you need to.
A dog never turns away in a crisis.
It never hides if it thinks it can help.
It never needs to be asked twice.
Are dogs capable of love, in the sense that we understand it?
Do they form genuinely emotional attachments with us?
Do they become family members? Do we turn to them when we need consolation?
Can we read each other's moods and body language and communicate without sound? The answer to all of those questions is an unambiguous yes. And that's why dogs are so special and so important to so many of us.
My gorgeous Bo - 14 and completely bonkers -died a month ago, on New Year's Day. I knew something was wrong when he wasn't stretched on his usual place on the decking.
And something was wrong. He had had a stroke and crawled to the kennel he never used.
We both knew it was the end. It was almost as if he was too embarrassed to let me see him weak and helpless: as if he thought that he was somehow letting me down.
I crawled in as far as I could, cradled his head and lay with him, nose to nose, until he died. I'm now crying as I write this. He and I both understood the bond between us: we both understood the loss that was descending upon us at that moment. He was my friend. I miss him.
I've never been able to track down the source of this quote, but it sums up the true relation between dogs and us: "He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader.
"He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion."