ORCA's everywhere. The day after his life-saving exploits hit the Evening Press, he appeared in the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Sun. When I tried to secure an interview with the golden retriever, his agent brusquely informed me Orca's only looking at television offers at the moment, notably the next series of I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!

Orca's heroics have clearly touched a nation. Demonstrating intelligence and persistence, the York superdog assembled a rescue party for his owner Cheryl Smith when she became trapped under her wheelchair in a ditch.

Astonishing stuff. But all in a day's work for this canny canine.

The more you read about Orca, the more he seems to knock his TV star counterpart Lassie into a cocked leg.

Yes, Lassie was able to summon help for various daft children stuck down disused mineshafts - although she did rely on the ability of Americans to speak collie (woof! woof! "What's that? They're trapped 2.7 miles north-by-north west of old Joe's farmstead?")

But Lassie was no Orca. She could not obey 105 commands, and I cannot recall an episode in which she unloaded the washing machine.

More than that, this York dog's a health fanatic too. After saving Cheryl, Orca was rewarded with his favourite snack. Unlike 99 per cent of his species, Orca did not opt for a bag of pork scratchings or a sofa cushion, but dined instead on raw carrot.

You can imagine other dogs becoming jealous. Untrained mongrels whose greatest achievement is to have mastered silent flatulence will have been forced to listen as their owners read out Orca's story as a lesson to them.

It is not only other animals he puts to shame, however. When I read about Orca's understanding of 105 commands, I started to count up how many I have mastered. The total? A pitiful four: Home! Sit! Beer? Bed! (which adds up to a perfect day). That reminds me, I still haven't hung out Sunday's washing.

Orca's story was redolent of those occasions when a three year old dials 999 to report a health emergency. While many adults would become tongue-tied wrecks in the face of impending catastrophe, little Johnny calmly rings the operator and tells them: "Auntie Mary is poorly. She's fallen asleep.

"It might be a cardiovascular problem owing to her hypertension, or it could be anaphylactic shock brought on by exposure to my cheesy Quavers."

We shouldn't be shamed by such occasions, rather inspired by them. When called upon to act in a crisis, I can only hope to strive for the standards set by a carrot-munching labrador or a telephonic toddler.

And if Orca wishes to run for office or head a multi-national corporation, he'd have my backing. Better a quick dog than all those fat cats.

IF you are keen not to be outsmarted by your pet, buy a cockroach. They are the latest craze in Australia, I read, especially among residents who live in conditions so cramped they haven't room to swing a gerbil.

Pet shops rename them litter bugs and rain beetles. But what pleasure can be gained from keeping a cock-roach escapes me. There's no point teaching them to play dead, as everyone knows a roach can survive nuclear holocaust.

But the trend will be a boon to anyone behind with their housework. Next time you are having a dinner party and a cockroach scuttles along the kitchen floor, just say: "There you are, Fifi," scoop it up, give it a big kiss, and serve the coffee.

Updated: 11:04 Wednesday, May 21, 2003