Don’t get ratty about donations

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I loved the story that broke this week about the dog supposedly trapped in a sewer in Sudbury.

Firefighters and engineers rushed to the rescue but eventually realised the frantic barking was the sound of cars driving over a drain cover.

This was not only hilarious, it proved once again the lengths to which we Brits will go to help an animal in distress.

Not quite all, of course. Cases of animal cruelty are rising so there is another, very nasty side to that coin.

But on the whole, we are besotted with our pets.

We do our utmost to keep them safe. We shrug off chewed shoes and clawed sofas. And we weep buckets when they finally depart for that great kennel or cattery in the sky.

If an animal – wild or domesticated – is in trouble most of us would do our best to help.

We lap up stories of firefighters plucking a cat from the top of a tree, or disentangling a seagull trapped in wires.

And how we love it when a terrier – thin, filthy but alive – is dug out by an army of volunteers after being lost for days in an underground maze of rabbit holes.

I know not everyone shares this view. Some would say sending the emergency services to save an animal is a waste of time and money.

They are probably the same people who get ratty about donations to animal charities.

Look at the reaction to the million-plus pounds that poured in after the recent fire at Manchester Dogs’ Home.

Yes, it was an awful lot of cash. Yes, it could have been used to ease a certain amount of human misery instead.

And predictably, it has been criticised.

But I don’t believe those who gave that money did it because they don’t care about people.

I think they did it because they are warm-hearted and generous, and are moved by suffering.

They are very likely the same people who dig deep into their pockets when confronted by human tragedy.

Being touched by the plight of homeless dogs does not mean you feel nothing for the victims of disease, famine or disasters.

The impulse to help and give what you can is something you either have, or you don’t.

Maybe some of those whose reaction to the dogs’ home donors was to snap about wasted money always rush to support appeals for people in need.

But I wouldn’t mind betting most do not.

Yippee! Downton Abbey is back. The jewel in the crown of the autumn schedules is glittering once more on our screens.

Forget Strictly (though I quite like that, too) and the X Factor. Give me a mega-dose of period escapism any day.

Snooty aristocrats, fab frocks, tension simmering below stairs like a pot of Mrs Patmore’s beef consommé, the brilliant one-liners of the dowager countess delivered to perfection by Dame Maggie Smith ... Sunday evening TV bliss.

But the number one priceless line from this weekend’s first episode had to be Lady Mary’s imperious declaration: “I’m going upstairs to take off my hat.”

Only in Downton. My favourite retreat.