I am a middle-aged software developer. I have metabolic syndrome, which is essentially pre-diabetes and pre-heart disease, according to my doctor. I have a lovely wife and two beautiful young daughters, so I have a lot to look forward to in my remaining years. I got a dog to encourage me to get out and get some exercise. According to this search, there’s a lot of evidence and commentary suggesting that dog-walking can benefit your health, so I walk my dog religiously.

The other day I was walking my dog, Maxie around the block in the dark. We usually walk early in the morning, and late at night, which corresponds with Maxie’s (and mine, consequently) scheduled bathroom breaks. Anyway, we were walking at night, and I was listening to an audiobook for ‘Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman!’. I look up and there’s a dark, snarling wolf-like creature at the turn of the street, sizing us up. I pick up Maxie and hold him high in my arms and begin to speak to the threatening dog in a deep voice. ‘I will harm you if you continue.’ That dog stood his ground so we turned and went back the way we came.

On another day I noticed another similarly configured middle-class man walking a similarly configured little dog. He reacted in the same way I did - he stopped and picked up his dog as we passed by on the other side of the street.

Although these little dogs are supposed to help men like me alleviate the negative effects of stress, they seem to bring a special stress of their own.