What’s that Buddy? Dogs can use phones now?

SMART pet stories are weird, aren't they?

The cute little puppy dog saves a busload of nuns and orphans from plunging over a cliff by pushing the unconscious driver out of his seat and steering the runaway vehicle over the timber bridge he single-handedly built with his bare teeth just in the nick of time.

Then he bandages their injuries, counsels the traumatised kiddies and has everyone home in time for dinner.

Seriously. I reckon pets are great but let's not give them more credit than they deserve.

Ever since I saw Skippy dial 000 to get help for Sonny (there may have been nuns and orphans involved there, too), I've been a bit of a cynic.

I was only young but I knew a fake when I saw one.

It wasn't really Skippy dialling the number, you know, just a fake kangaroo forearm. You can buy them as backscratchers in all the best souvenir shops.

So you can imagine my reaction to news of a German shepherd named Buddy who saved his owner's life by calling the emergency dispatcher in America when the man had a seizure.

Buddy dialled 911 all by himself, apparently.

On a recording of the call to the 911 emergency number, Buddy is heard whimpering and barking.

"Hello, this is 911. Hello ... can you hear me? Is there somebody there you can give the phone to?" says the dispatcher.

Police were sent to the home and after about three minutes, Buddy was heard barking loudly when the officers arrived.

I'm all for happy endings, but let me get this straight.

Buddy saw his owner in trouble, put down the crossword puzzle he was doing, stubbed out his cigar, drained the last of his cup of coffee, wandered over to the phone and dialled 911?

So, how did he dial it?

Did he hook his little toenail into the dialler or was it one of those push-button jobs, so he could thump it with his paw?

Just as well his owner didn't have a mobile phone - he would have had all sorts of trouble using those tiny little buttons.

Call me a cynic, but I know there's a lot of you out there, dog owners included, who are pausing with a spoonful of cereal halfway to your mouth and thinking: "Damian is right. I've never seen my dog do anything that smart. He doesn't even clean up his own mess when we're out walking."

Sure, I've met some dogs which weren't completely stupid, but I never saw any of them use the phone.

Except to order pizzas. But I had to teach them that.

Only Skippy would be smart enough to do that without any training.