'I'm really not sure about this,' says my brother, looking nervous. 'But just so you know, the number for the emergency services is 911.'
We are at his beach house an hour from New York [where I went last week to see my new niece Natalie] and are about to go for a bike ride by the ocean. I have suggested that we bring along Juggy, the dog that he and my sister-in-law rescued from a home in Hoboken a few years ago. The plan is that Juggy [short for Jughead - the name he was given in the home] can run along next to our bikes, his leash over the handle bars.
The potential problem, and the reason my brother is hesitant, is that Juggy, a 60lb cross breed, has an intense dislike - and I almost admire him for this - of small fluffy dogs. This dates back to an incident a few years ago, when a small Maltese terrier tried to mount him in the dog park. As a result Juggy goes bananas, performing mid-air back flips whenever he sees one. And since he visibly contains some pit bull in his DNA make-up, this can be very alarming for onlookers [despite the fact that he is a hugely lovable and good-natured dog].
Getting him to run alongside our bikes, I suggest, could just be the thing to a) wear him out and b) distract him. And so we set off. I cycle slightly ahead to keep a look out for the fluffy white enemy. Juggy meanwhile, thunders along beside my brother's bike, his disproportionately big head bobbing up and down, his large white paws pounding the pavement. Rather than scanning the horizon for his nemesis, he is entirely focused on the act of running, loving every minute of it.
On the way home we have to stop several times while Juggy lies down for a rest. He is far too exhausted to notice the Yorkshire terrier mincing towards us. My brother is thrilled, declaring himself far more delighted with the results of this experiment, than anything he has done with cell cultures. 'But the thing about experiments,' he says, 'is that you've got to get the same result three times, to be absolutely sure.'