Why do we keep dogs as companions?
Gary Lawless and his pals have discussed this around the Fire of Enlightenment on Gary's Seahampton property. In the warmer months, it becomes the Table of Knowledge. It's a place where folks gather away from the fray to chat and imbibe the odd beverage.
Gary's story began a few months back when the air was colder and fire was needed to warm the cockles of hearts.
Over to you Gary: We were in discussion about the best way to stop a dogfight. This discussion was instigated by a very recent altercation between the canine companions that usually accompany us. We don't know what started it, as only the protagonists would know, but all was peaceful until the hair and blood was flying, accompanied by howls, yelps and growls.
One of our number tried to intervene, grabbing the obvious aggressor's collar in an attempt to pull it off the dog trapped underneath it. This led to a comical situation with our mate being pulled to the ground, breaking the plastic lawn chair he was sitting on, while the undeterred canine pugilists maintained their aggression.
Finally, with our mate rolling around on the ground amid the combatants and other canine observers - along with a lot of barking, growling, slavering jaws, swearing, abuse, laughter and encouragement - order was finally restored.
The main offender was sent home in disgrace, the other dogs were censured for their bad behaviour and we settled back down to finish our drinks.
We never did settle on the best way to stop a dogfight, deciding any serious attempt would be dangerous to our health.
After a refill and a couple of logs thrown on the fire, our discussion turned to why we keep dogs as companions when they can cause so much trouble at times.
Someone said it was because they are faithful companions. Another said they soon become part of the family and are generally treated like one. There was also the explanation "because he's me best mate".
These are all true I guess, but I think that there is more to it than that.
I have had a canine companion, of one breed or another, all my life. Mostly they were working breeds, but for the last 20 years or so, we've had staffordshire terriers in the family.
I remember every one of those dogs that were part of my life. I remember them with a fond smile whenever I think of those times past and of a particular dog. They obviously had an impact on me over the years, one that is not realised until they are gone.
Sadly, no matter how much you love your canine friend, eventually you have to come to terms with their short life span.
I don't mind admitting to a bout of child-like grief over the death of a much loved four-legged friend.
So what is it about a dog that elicits such emotion? I mean, we know that they are intelligent, gregarious creatures, deserving of our respect.
However, they can be a giant pain in the butt sometimes. They can be exasperating and frustrating. They can act like recalcitrant teenagers, with the same moods of rebellion, disrespect and downright ignorance.
Yet they can also lift our spirits with just a look or a paw lifted, asking for attention.
A canine head placed on your lap, with sorrowful eyes staring up at you and looking for a scratch behind the ear, can melt a strong man's heart.
We also willingly spend as much money on them as we would on ourselves, without complaint.
Psychologists say that having a dog around has a calming effect on humans. This is probably why they make such good companions. This is probably why dogs used as visiting companion animals in hospitals and nursing homes are such a success.
Apart from the personal side of owning a dog, we have to admire the working dog and the skill and intelligence they show while doing their job.
The amount of dog-related subjects on social media and the internet also reflect the popularity of our canine friends. If you check them out, you will be amazed.
Right now, my dogs are letting me know it's time for their dinner, so I better run and get them fed before they start a riot or chew the leg off a chair.
Don't you just love 'em?
If you're dreading trudging around shopping malls to get Christmas pressies, there are alternatives.
The Olive Tree Christmas Market will be held on Saturday at Civic Park in Newcastle. It'll give people a chance to shop local, buy unique gifts and ethically-created handmade goods. Each purchase means you are supporting local artists and creative talent.