Our nation of dog lovers

August 1, 2010

So, a happy new month to you all. July was pretty busy, so busy that I have no entry here, but finally, on the last day, I decided I’d missed blogging enough.

It happened about 10 AM as I crossed a road, about a minute from home. I was dressed for summer, in a pair of slippers, then … I’d put my foot in it, a pile of dog mess, dog dirt, … it’s called by different names, but you know what it is.

Fortunately, a woman who was walking towards me (coincidentally with her dog, but I’m sure it wasn’t her) took me to some grass, ensured that my slippers and feet were again fit for the road and showed me past the mess. All the time, we both complained about irresponsible dog owners and their total disregard.

I remember a few years back, watching telly with my cousin in Manchester. This story came up on the local news about a man who had been investigated by the RSPCA and convicted for maltreating some dogs in his care. His neighbour spoke on television, saying that if she ever laid hands on him she’d happily kill him. I bet this woman would be one of the first in the queue to support a continuation of the ban on capital punishment.

Maybe it’s just me and my lack of emotion, but I think sometimes, there’s a kind of irrationality when it comes to animals. The UK is often proudly described as a nation of animal lovers, sometimes, a nation of dog lovers. Although I have a lot of friends now, I’ve been told I’d make even more if I had a dog. But sometimes, when I watch people and their dogs, or even people with other people’s dogs, I wonder. I hear people describing their dogs as members of their family … “mummy loves you beautiful dog” coming from a daughter of the family. And I once heard that the Guide Dogs Association for the Blind is one of the richest charities in the country.

I know I’d meet a few random people if I have a guide dog. People walk up to my friends with dogs and go “oh you’ve got a lovely dog! can I stroke him/her?” To tell the truth, it’s a distraction if you’re walking through a busy street, but it’s never stopped anyone. Some even try to feed the dog, constituting an even bigger problem. I’ve watched blind people accept this calmly or fly off the handle, but so far, I’ve never seen any longlasting relationships formed because someone had a guide dog. And if you’re reading this, it’s against all guide dog ethics to stroke one who is working. If the other blind people don’t tell you, it’s because they’re in a polite mood, the manuals told them so, their guide dog trainers told them, but it’s just too difficult to tell everyone who asks.

It’s not that I don’t love dogs. I’ve always grown up with them and may even have one soon, though never as a guide dog. I wonder how many dogs could cope with my travel. But back in Nigeria, even if I knew that a dog is man’s best friend, I also knew the difference between a pet and a son/daughter. And my dogs were strictly pets, to be loved as such.

I’m sure I’ve told everyone who cares that I’d prefer a dog to a cat or a rabbit. A cat once sneaked up to my plate of food and started eating. Cats and rabbits just jump on me when I visit my friends. I’d be sitting calmly discussing the weather or the new price of a tin of beans, when … land! I’d jump, startled, frighten the poor animal, and if it was a cat, get scratched for my efforts. At least, with a dog, you know where they are all the time. Mind you, you know where your pet fish are too, but what could I do with fish? Just watch them swim in a tank? How?

But if a dog is a member of the family, then I have to ask, would you let your child do what that dog did yesterday? I once read that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. So, if you were indifferent to your dog’s personal habits, do you love the dog? Or perhaps do you love the dog so much and care so little for humans? Remember the lady who would shoot a man for maltreating dogs.

It would have just been a rant, if this was the first time it ever happened to me. But I’m really sad to say, it’s not. I live near a river, a good walk for dogs. The road is quiet because, although it’s near a busy road, it’s blocked off. So, right outside my door, many dogs have decided that their toilet time is due, and the owners haven’t bothered to go to the grass verge near the river.

When I hear about people who cannot control their dogs, or that a third of dogs in the UK are obese, or that dog owners don’t understand the first rules of dog toilet training, I wonder how much we are a nation of dog lovers. One day, two dogs started barking loudly and coming towards me. I stood perfectly still and talked calmly for a while and they barked around me. Then someone came and called them off remarking that I handled the situation well. I wondered what he was doing allowing them to menace me in the first place. If I’d run, if I’d been attacked, would it not have been the person’s fault? Why did he not stop the dogs.

Back to my situation. I got back home yesterday, but fortunately found a friend to walk me through the situation. I’m just about to head for church and the dog dirt might still be there. Happy new month. If you have a dog, please look after it and remember, humans are more important.