3 hours ago
Saturday, 22 March 2014
A walk in the park
Dolly yesterday with her Christmas bone - there is something vaguely obscene about the two opposing knuckles, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Dolly the Collie often wanders off into the agricultural countryside around our workshops, and returns with brightly coloured squeaky toys which relate directly to Christmas, much more than this brown bone does.
So far, she has come back with a squeaky rubber snowman, a squeaky Christmas pudding, a squeaky Santa Claus and a lot more festive-season allusions than I can remember right now.
We have wondered how so many dog toys with a Christmas theme have ended up in the fields around the workshops, but our best guess is that these things were given to dogs on Christmas day, then the dogs discarded them on the post-prandial walk with the family, for the sake of something smellier - fox shit, for instance.
Dogs are like children - you spend a lot of time and money selecting something that you think would really appeal to them, then they end up playing with the box it came wrapped in.
Many people think it is wrong to anthropomorphise animals in general and dogs in particular, but I am all for it. The dog, of course, cannot recognise a Father Christmas depiction moulded in rubber - they cannot even know that a vaguely bone-shaped object relates to a stylised bone - but we can, and that's all that matters.
I have a friend who thinks it is also wrong to name animals after humans, using human names. 'Rover' would be fine in his eyes, but 'Roger' would not. Dolly - whose name is short for 'Delores' - has a male Collie friend called Steve. I have heard of budgerigars called things like 'Brenda'.
I saw a great set of photos of smiling dogs yesterday, and they all looked like they were really posing for the camera and showing their best side. Dolly's sister, Poppy, only smiles just before she bites you and her facial expression is often mistaken for friendship by strangers in the pub. They don't notice the eyes narrowing with the smile.
In general, dogs don't seem to mind being laughed at and often join in the fun - just because it is fun. I think that the animals who do mind being laughed at are probably just confused by a load of humans making a lot of noise whilst bearing their teeth, and have misunderstood what the commotion is about.
In the main, dogs are much better at reading human body-language than us humans are at reading theirs. There are two things you shouldn't do to a potentially dangerous dog in a situation of conflict - stare at it, and look away from it. When a Rottweiler stares directly away from you at 90 degrees, this is often just before an attack. If it stares right into your eyes, that is when you look away.
I met a really lovely little Staffordshire Bull Terrier last night, and that doggie genuinely smiled.
Staffies are usually wonderful with children and adults, but you wouldn't want to be nipped by one.
In Queen Square here in Bath, the council have put wire netting around the bases of trees where the bark has been torn off so badly that the trees might die as a result. It took them a while to understand what was causing the damage.
Some really unpleasant yobbos have been taking their Pit-Bulls and Staffies into the park, and strengthening their jaws by getting the dogs to rip away bark and wood from healthy trees of a large size. They are then used as weapons against other yobbos, or - quite often - accidentally and out of control against harmless men, women and children just going for a walk in the park.
I would much rather these dog-owners put silly hats on the beasts than abuse them into aggressiveness.
Dolly and Poppy's father died the week before last, but I am not sure they have really noticed his absence. They are certainly not rending their garments with grief over him.
Posted by Tom Stephenson at 04:39