When I was a kid, my first ever dog, Rupert, had the softest ears in all creation. He was a jet black Labrador x German Shepherd (I learnt, just today, that this kind of dog is now called – a Sheprador – *delicious eye roll*) and my parents picked him up from Battersea Dogs’ Home when I was six months old, and he was something similar.

On the journey back to our place in Croydon, my Dad was driving, my mother was tutting at other drivers in the passenger seat, and I was in the back seat in my carry-cot.

Rupert had managed to get through from the boot, and when my mother turned around, she saw him settling down on top of me.

Even with my mother shrieking, and my Dad doing an emergency brake, Rupert and I quickly became the best of friends.

Any time the last of the margarine was scraped from the tub, the empty box was given to Rupert to clean out. He loved it. I imagine it was deeply unhealthy, but the eighties were a time of terrible dog food – it was largely off-cuts and nostrils that came in a can, for several years.

In my smallness and lack of thought, I didn’t realise that the margarine had to be basically finished before Rupert got the tub. I scooped up a little handful from a new tub, and smushed it on top of his head. He was so astonishingly patient with me. I understood he liked it and I must have seen small smudges of margarine on top of his head before. In any case, I’m surprised he didn’t strain himself trying to reach the gobbet of gold gunk on the crown of his head. My mother was only perturbed for a relatively brief spell and my Dad had a good laugh.

Rupert had such soft ears. Pointed, like an Alsatian, but soft and velvety like a Labrador’s. They were amazing. And I think dogs’ ears go some way to explaining how man and dog are best friends. Most dogs like having their ears rubbed, and those of us who have dogs, find it quite relaxing to do.

(I suspect they’ve trained us into it.)