Sunday, 17 January 2010

Who let the dogs out?

Apparently, back in the day, I used to quite like dogs. And so while my sister’s definitive scary childhood moment was being chased up the hill by the neighbourhood Rottweiler, I’ve been told that as a fearless 3/4/5-year-old (the age changes depending on who tells the story) I put my hand in the mouth of that brazen Rottweiler, much to my sister’s dismay and to my own childish glee. So maybe that 3/4/5-year-old would have been a bit more compassionate and understanding than the current 24-year-old. But these days I resent being around people who see no need to control their dogs.

The usual scene takes place at someone’s house – generally an acquaintance, elderly person or neighbour, basically anyone that you can’t really be honest with. So when their dog is clawing on your favourite jeans and gnawing at your new shoes, all you can do is politely cough, screaming expletives on the inside, but having to put up the usual awkward “oh, it’s fine!” bravado, hoping that said owner will react accordingly.

Most of the time it’s OK because they do, but for the extreme dog lovers it’s apparently all fun and games. Just because they love their dogs this way, it apparently means that it’s all gravy for the poor visitor, caught in the cross fire. I’m not a dog hater; I’m just irritated by those who tell me their dogs are harmless or “having a giggle” when they are staring me down and aggressively baring their teeth at me. Of course the dog’s going to be all sweetness and light to the owner, who whispers sweet nothings to it in its sleep and feeds it. I signify the bolshy intruder who is sitting in their favourite chair and eating food that would otherwise be theirs.

I don’t have any problem with the ordinary pet owner. It’s the extreme dog lovers I take issue with – those who try to humanise their dogs by putting them in an array of matching knitted jumpers, woollen slippers and a diamanté encrusted feeding bowl. Those who give their dog its own four-poster bed and who think that it’s appropriate to writhe around in its drool-soaked jowls until their face is wet. We are talking about animals that can actually lick their nether regions here; can we think about the germs if nothing else?!

If dog lovers want to be this way: fair dos. What ever gets you through the day; who am I to (openly) judge? However, if they do insist on balancing obsessive dog life with human interaction, there need to be few ground rules. I’ve taken the liberty of creating a little list. Follow me, if you will:

1. No talking about Rover’s new abscess over my shepherd’s pie.

2. No allowing him to eat off my plate especially when I’m not finished. Anyone close to me will know of my reluctance to share food off my plate (this could be a whole other rant) so what gives you the impression that I would want to share my glorious food with a panting four-footed fiend who smells of mud and damp?

3. No leaving me alone and trapped in the living room with the over-zealous puppy who won’t take no for an answer.

4. On that same note, when it charges at me and brings me down to the ground, do not give a hearty chortle, cooing “ooh you cheeky little mite” while I scrabble around on the floor looking for cover.

5. I don’t care if your dog is a “good lickle boy”. I will not join you and talk to your dog in baby language.

6. When you know Skippy’s bowel movements off by heart and talk about them in public, something has gone awry. Sense the ill-concealed disgust and move on to something conversationally safe like the weather.

7. If you insist on doing something like nose nuzzling or allowing him to lick food off your face, be prepared for my reaction.

8. Sorry, but it’s not a baby. It doesn’t eat Haribo, and it shouldn’t eat with a bib.

My guard feels defensively up because previous discussions on this topic have left me feeling like some kind of modern day Cruella de Vil just because I refuse to be that person who melts and coos at every doggy whimper. It’s precisely this brazen “he’s-so-cute-let-him-do-what-he-likes” attitude that allows these dogs to run wild and therefore isolate everyone else. I can exist in harmony with dogs. I just don’t want to live in a world where it is OK for them to hump my leg till the cows come home without so much as a glance and a tut from the owner. Is this too much to ask?! Read more by Selina.