Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Let's Talk About...

... pets. Dogs, specifically. Actually, let's narrow that down even more to this week's column's target. Let's talk about dog owners.

But before I start, a small disclaimer. If you're a responsible dog owner, who clean after your playful mutt when you take it out for a stroll, keep it on a lead, or at least next to you when walking in areas teeming with children, and attend to its regular grooming regime, then, good on you! Thanks. You're my kind of dog owner. The one I wave my hand at in the park and whose health I enquire after. The one whose pet becomes my daughter's object of affection for a few minutes.

If, on the other hand, you belong to that other category of dog owners, the ones who see every canine as a would-be David Haye, or those who leave a trail of their pooch's faeces behind them, or those who don't look after them properly, to the point where their pets could be the double for Charlie Chaplin's famous on-screen alter ego, 'The Tramp', without anyone spotting the difference; if you're in that group, then read on.

It's hard for me to write about dogs without including owners. Because at the end of the day, on many occasions our so-called best friends are nothing but a reflection of their proprietors.

I've lost count of how many times I've borne witness to the following scene: man or woman is walking dog around the park when his or her little pet feels the call of nature. Next, it stops, squats and leaves a beautiful and oh, (ever) so cute, massive brown gift behind it. On the ground. In the middle of a park. And man or woman, carries on, totally oblivious to what their poochie-pooch has just done. He/she knows - of course they do! - but they'd rather not face up to their beige/off-white/creamy reality. Is this what they're like at home? Crapping all over the gaffe? Walking around piles of excrement with soiled underwear on? Because, really, if that's not the way you behave in your own house, why comport yourself differently outdoors?

Another case I've come across quite often is the dog-and-owner-as-twins scenario. It never ceases to amaze me how remarkably alike some owners and dogs look. What I've never been able to find out (and not because of lack of curiosity, but mettle) is whether the act of finding an animal companion includes physical resemblance amongst the desired traits. There is a man who lives near my house whose dog's visage is almost a copycat of his face. Down to the canine's handlebar 'tache. I kid you not. I presume that he has fashioned his pet's whiskers to resemble his. Maybe they even share the same kennel. If that's the case, I won't be surprised when the RSPCA knock on his door. Already he is liable to end up at the Hague accused of crimes against humanity on account of his facial hair. Why torture his poor pet like that?

But jesting aside, I've left for the end the most dangerous species. They are characterised by aggresive behaviour, hostile attitude and reckless and immature personality. And that's just the owners. Because, who can fault the dogs? After all, they are what their masters want them to be. They are irrational animals, can't think beyond their onomatopoetic 'woof, woof' and are expected to roll around on the grass and chase sticks all day long. If I was Home Secretary, rather than handing dog asbos or canine control orders to abusive owners, I would lock these transgressors up in a 2x2 cell with a pack of hungry hounds that haven't been fed for a week. That would teach them. I'm sure that the National Union of Dogs (if such a body exists) would bark in agreement.

© 2011

Next Post: ‘Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music’, to be published on Sunday 23rd January at 10am (GMT)


  1. Well said, Cuban. I no longer have a dog; but I'm surrounded by dogs and their companions. Your comments should be written up and passed out everywhere.

  2. What amazes me about people is that they treat animals better than they do other human beings.

  3. Dogs are like children, Cuban. They need the help of their owners as children need parental guidance. In other words, I agree with you here. There are dog trainers, though parenting comes out of instinct and experience.

    Maybe if dogs came with a license owners might be better behaved.

  4. Why Cuban, i've never heard you sound so crotchety! But I'm with you on all of it.

  5. We don't own dogs but on our gate we have a sign that says "Cuidado con el perro"!(but no one around here understands it or even pays any attention to it, we are still waiting for a Spanish speaking person to walk by, or at the very least, someone to ask us what it means).

  6. What gets on my nerves are people who leave their dogs out in the back yard all day while they themselves go to work. That means that the rest of us on the street are treated to said dog's constant barking and ruckus making all day long. Even worse are people who let their dogs run wild in the streets everyday, making just walking down the street a hazard. Since I walk a lot it very irritating. The same dog goes after me every freaking day and I have to confront it everytime. I've talked to the owners and they just don't care.


  7. This could be a word-for-word description of far too many dog owners in SF. We've got a very aggressive and very entitled group of dog owners here who consider the city their dog's toilet and play ground. You don't dare ask them to clean up after their dog. You might be punched in the face (as happened to a friend of mine) or have their dog sicked on you. We've had multiple dog attacks on the the elderly and children and several people have died from these attacks. Yet dare suggest that they put Fido on a leash and they will show up at the next city meeting a scream their heads off. I do volunteer work for a local child care center. It took us SEVEN years to get a fence up around a small playground space because the dog owners objected to any body restricting THEIR use of the park. But it was necessary for SF has far too many aggressive and dangerous dogs whose owners are irresponsible in the extreme. The city tried to pass a law to prevent aggressive pit bulls and their owners from taking over the sidewalks, a real problem in parts of this town. It was completely sabotaged by clueless nitwits who wanted to pretend that their rights were in danger.

    But you are so right that it's the owners, not the dogs. I just give the whole lot of them a wide berth.

  8. We had two huge 100 lb yellow labs when the kids were growing up. We don't live in the city, so the doo-doo wasn't a problem.

  9. Many thanks for your kind comments.

    I swear that my post is entirely unconnected with the news this morning about the government trying to enforce the dog asbos I mentioned in my column. This is another post I wrote just before Christmas and the timing seems to be perfect. They had a very good feature on BBC News this morning on the various fighting breeds that exist in the UK and the efforts by the police to punish careless owners.

    Ta muchly for your feedback.

    Greetings from London.

  10. and a special hell for those who make the effort of collecting their canine gift but rather than stick it in one fo the many public bins provided for the purpose, tie it up in a tree.

    what is that all about? i've never seen anyone actually do it, just the end result!!!

  11. This subject hits close to home right now. The 4-year-old daughter of a blogger friend of mine got attacked by a German shepherd on Christmas Eve. She needed 51 staples in the back of her head and 120 stitches on her face and some on her ear. Simply horrific. Thank you for writing this post - yes it is the owners' responsibility.

  12. My experience with other dog owners has been mainly positive - but the Canadian city where I lived when I had dogs was known for its civility.
    The French are not inclined to pick up after their dogs, and roaming canines are a bit of an issue in my neighbourhood, never pick up after their dogs, although some municipalites have passed bylaw enforcing poop scooping.
    What gets me about some dog owners is their ignorance about the value of proper training. It doesn't have to be professional to be effective, but the bigger the dog, the more important it is.

    That, and the fluffy little farty dogs who are so badly behaved but 'soooo cute' in the eyes of their owners.

    (Word verification is....doggest)

  13. You know, I wrestle with this issue. I really do. I've had quite a few dogs, most of them strays. Its like I have this huge flashy light in the front of my yard "COME HERE". They come, hang out for awhile, then leave. Weirdest thing. Two dogs have stuck around. One lab I've named Hagsy. She is very ugly (thus the Hag). Would this make me hag ugly? ;p She has so much energy... dear lord! But she is happy and smiles at me. Always happy. I also had a little egyptian ridgeback only a week or two old show up over the summer. He is supposed to be an aggressive lion hunter, but he is as gentle as a rabbit and laid back. (The opposite of my lab). I think dogs have their own personalities. Hard to say.



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