ROD Stewart may have barked out a couple of tunes at the opening ceremony last week.

But we all know who the real stars of the show were .... of course it was the cute, bearded Scottie Dogs.

When they shuffled out on to the stage looking proud as a punch, our hearts melted.

Yes, all 41 of them. Including the one that got stage fright, and the other that barked at the athletes.

Luckily it wasn't just the one poor overworked terrier on stage as my friend initially thought.

The idea to include pets in the welcoming party was a master stroke by the organisers, because unlike the mass demolition of buildings, everyone with any sense loves animals.

I'd go so far as to say that anyone who does not like the animal kingdom - I've never come across someone of this description thus far - should be viewed with suspicion and not trusted.

Our love affair with pets has never been so strong: families love dogs, cats, ferrets, goldfish and everything in between.

My auntie's household even has a lizard and, you know, Ross Geller from Friends had a monkey, so owning pets is as much about expressing ourselves and our interests as caring for another species.

I've never been a dog owner because my family has always had cats - that's including the strays who used to break into our flat, desperate for food.

But I'll also never forget Malky the hamster - named after the notorious Tongs gang leader from the film, Small Faces, who I had when I was nine. To be clear, the cats and hamster never crossed paths. But Malky was so tough he would have held his own if they did.

Every situation is greatly improved in the company of animals. My favourite pubs are the ones that allow dogs, even the gigantic types like Newfoundlands that cause tripping hazards.

Imagine how much more calm you'd be at work if you could take a dog for a walk at lunchtime or pet a cat?

AN office pet would take the heat out of the most stressful meetings.

Earlier in the summer Pope Francis caused controversy by saying couples should have children instead of pets. He said: "Maybe it is better, more comfortable, to have a little dog, two cats and the love goes to the two cats and the little dog."

But, he said, the problem was that "eventually this marriage gets to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness".

What was he thinking? Clearly the Pope does not understand how stressful it is bringing up babies. And he didn't realise what a nation of animal lovers we are.

It's even the case further afield. In Barcelona and other European cities you see couples walking dogs on every street you turn on to.

The lesson is: when in doubt, bring out the animals. I look forward to seeing furry friends in the closing ceremony.