Tight security

It was sad to see the old year ending with the massacre of thirty-nine people. So ended a turbulent year with terrorist activity in Berlin, Paris, Brussels,and in various locations in Syria. It calls for even stronger security this year and following years.

Security needs to be exercised not only by professionals but by the general public. Some people object to being searched. When I was singled out for an 'extra thorough' strip search once at Sydney airport, the guard apologised. I commended him for his work to keep us safe and the work of his German Shepherd.

We should not underestimate or take for granted the work which dogs do in keeping us secure. They protect property and people, sniff out explosives and drugs. Viewers will have seen dogs on television mingling with their handlers in the New Year celebrations, alert for any trouble. Not only do they have an extraordinary sense of hearing and smell but they have a sixth sense that something is wrong or someone is acting in a suspicious manner.

I discussed this with someone who has a vast experience of security work with dogs and now runs dog training classes for the public here in Spain. Jeff Fullstone, of the Met's Dog Training Class, told me: "Certainly there is something in that sixth sense, but no one has pinpointed it. No one knows what goes on in a dog's head. Dogs have a sense of danger which we do not have."

I have had personal experience of this sense of danger. When my car broke down in Egypt, I was near a ramshackled garage where a mechanic fixed the electrical fault in under an hour. I went to pay him but he pointed to an outside ladder type staircase which led to the 'office'. There I had to pay. As I walked to the staircase my German Shepherd leaped before me, showed her teeth and no way would she let me pass. In my limited Arabic I told the mechanic to fetch me the bill. I will never know why Betsy did this blocking action but I did have a wallet of cash and maybe trouble lurked in that office.

On another occasion, I spent the weekend with friends in New England who owned two Dobermans. Due to heavy snow, the dogs had not been walked so I took them. On the approach of a woodland area with steep banks, the dogs stopped and refused to move and pulled me back. I took them home then learned on the evening news that two people had been killed in an avalanche in exactly the spot I had planned to take the dogs.

We should listen to our dogs and watch their reaction to people as well as conditions. If our dog shows an unfriendly attitude to someone, I give that person careful consideration. Dogs do have that sixth sense.

As General Urquhart said to commanders before the airborne drop on Arnhem in World War Two: "Always expect the unexpected."

Dogs do.