Garth George writes that both man and beast bow to the rhythms of nature - except pampered pooches and genetic scientists.

I had begun to think the day would never come, but on Saturday morning I awoke to sunshine streaming through the windows from an almost cloudless sky. Almost instantly my spirit lifted and I found myself smiling as I noted our little dog stretched out on the back doormat soaking it up.

After nearly two months of lowering clouds, rain, cold and wind it was a huge relief to feel my grey, sullen mindset begin almost instantly to lift and to feel the wonderful warmth that only sunshine can bring and no artificial heating can duplicate.

And it occurred to me again what a shame it is that God didn't programme the weather with the same infinite precision he programmed the phases of the sun, moon and tides which we can predict for any day for thousands of years ahead.

Well, perhaps it isn't. Because you can guarantee that, like genetic engineers who want to alter the natural attributes of humans, animals and plants, scientists would by now be doing their damndest to change the weather - and that sort of interference, I suspect, would soon trigger a third world war.

We take it so much for granted that I guess we forget that from the day we are born to the day we die, not a day passes that we aren't in some way affected by the weather.

And sometimes, as in the past month or so, we suffer a dreadful toll from unseasonable weather - snowfalls killing hundreds of thousands of newborn lambs, gales ripping trees out of the ground and powerlines off their poles, rain bringing floods and landslips and cutting off roads.

All our lives the weather pretty much dictates what we do and when we do it, what we wear, what we eat, what and when we sow and what and when we reap. And there's plenty of evidence that for many of us - and I'm one of them - it even dictates how we feel and behave. It dictates the quality of our sporting fixtures, what we do with our leisure, how we deport ourselves on the roads.

It creates for us, day in a day out, the necessity of making choices. (Can't you guarantee that on the only day you choose to leave your umbrella at home it will rain?)

The weather, too, affects how we express ourselves.

We can be right as rain, under a cloud, bright and breezy, lightning fast or slow as a wet week. We might have a sunny smile, a thunderous brow or an icy stare.

Meanwhile, as spring shows its face about a month late, the gardens and parks here in Rotorua are a sight for winter-tired eyes. Thousands upon thousands of flowers are in full bloom down the main street's median strip and in the parks and gardens; rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and a myriad other varieties sag under the weight of masses of flowers along many a suburban street; and everywhere pink and white blossom trees proliferate.

Meanwhile that little dog of ours, whose pedigree goes back some 400 years, is out the front fossicking round on the lawn and in the garden, following scents, sniffing at new growth, chasing birds (and flies), barking at cats or watching the world go by from the front doorstep.

Sooner or later he'll come back inside, leaving a trail of twigs, leaves, petals and pine needles across the lounge carpet as they drop from his still-winter coat.

So he'll be plopped on to the outside table on the patio where he will sit quietly and patiently while he is brushed and combed and any knots in his fur scissored out.

Were he able to read he would marvel at the story in one of the Sunday newspaper magazines at the weekend about how some people treat their dogs.

He would snort with derision, for instance, at the thought of partaking in a five-hour, one-on-one "dog listening" session with his owners at a "pet hotel" in Mt Wellington, Auckland, at a cost of $450 - enough to feed a family for more than a week.

Yet, according to the article, this service is much in demand.

He would not for a moment envy a chihuahua called Harry, whose wardrobe contains eight jackets and sweaters and who spends his owner's holidays at an "animal resort" in Kumeu where he has his own suite, complete with private deck and radio, at a cost of $45 a night.

Harry's hard done by really. At Mt Wellington he could have an "executive" suite complete with a flat-screen TV, luxury bed and choice of views.

The article informs us - without evidence, incidentally - that 31 per cent of dog owners believe their pet is a better listener than their partner; and 14 per cent of men think their pet shows them more affection than their wife or girlfriend.

If that is true, it is infinitely, heartbreakingly sad.

garth.george@hotmail.com