I FIRST met Gus when his owner offered to give me and my then young family a lift to a friend's house.

It became obvious to me, what with me in front and my wife and two small children in the back, that I was occupying the seat that Gus would normally sit on.

This was clear because Gus kept trying to push me out the way and take his rightful position beside the driver. Normally this would not be a concern to me, given that I think I can assess dogs pretty well but, since Gus is a Great Dane-Labrador cross weighing around 50kg, you can understand my concern and consternation.

His lady owner was unfazed. 'Just push him into the back and I will put on his favourite music.'

Hoping fervently that Gus's 'favourite music' wasn't heavy metal, I did as instructed and Gus became the rest of my family's problem. Fearing some form of dangerous resistance, and with considerable trepidation, they collectively took a deep breath, harnessed their combined strength, and somehow managed to push the entire, great length of him onto their feet, where, astonishingly and thankfully, he lay completely benignly and quite unruffled for the remainder of the journey.

Later, as we spent more time in his company, it became obvious that, despite our initial disquiet, Gus was, apparently, completely bombproof. Nothing upset him. Nothing fazed him. Nothing would cause him anger, anxiety or vice. He would walk quietly and carefully at the side of a child, relinquish any position of comfort without a murmur and resolutely refuse to be guarding of food or toys, no matter their value. Gus was, indeed, the archetypal gentle giant.

Then one day his owner was asked to a house party and she enquired if the host had cats. The reply was affirmative, but she was assured they would be safely and securely locked away, lest the guests or the noise frighten them.

Further, the host confirmed wholeheartedly that she would be delighted if Gus came along, especially since she knew he and his owner were inseparable, amiable and reliable.

Pretty soon, the bash was in full swing and Gus was being repeatedly admired for his calmness, especially in the face of the heavy metal music that was being played and the raucous behaviour of the people round about him.

Then, just as yet another reveller complimented his owner on his behaviour, a cat unexpectedly strolled nonchalantly into the room. Instantly, Gus sprang across a sofa and killed it. One grip. One shake. Dead cat. No remorse.

There is no point in discussing the emotional carnage that ensued or all the 'ifs and buts'.

The situation, however, serves as a timely reminder that we all have a button that can be pushed, given the wrong circumstances.

And it should be remembered that Gus is a dog. He is not 'big boy', 'tough guy' or 'strong man', he is a dog. He does what dogs do. He has doggy thoughts, canine instincts and no sense of moral right or wrong. There should never be any room for anthropomorphism.