Sunday, November 27, 2016

Its a Dog's Life

Customers are not disuaded from bringing their dogs into the Tavern.  We like dogs here.  I have  had several dog friends going back to the time I was about as big as my boots are now.  Leo was my first. (Named after Leofric, an Earl of my acquaintence). Back then in my younger, more medaeval days, the 'dog' was portrayed on the tombstone of a Knight's Lady. That is, if she had been a fine gal and not a rude, nasty one. Even in those distant days they came in all sorts. Dogs and ladies. The dog was a symbol of fidelity and loyalty, so its place on her tomb showed that she was appreciated.

Connection with the lady though is less well known than the connection that men have with dogs. 
A dog is a man's best friend, 
so the saying goes, and one could argue that a man is a dog's best friend too. I hasten to add that a good wife is more than a best friend. Whew. I could have been in strife there ! 

And we are told that all dogs came originally from wolves. Men and dogs have been together ever since the wolf adopted us.

And since then he  (all dogs are he, even when she. Cats are she) has been a constant, loyal companion.

Man is the one ubiquitous species on this planet. Man has gone everywhere: lives everywhere. No niche has been left unexplored. 
And the dog has gone with us. He has helped us to see places in more safety than we might otherwise have deserved. 

Most of the time the dog finds a reciprocated loyalty and Love. Well, I speak of the Anglophile nations generally. Many non-anglo do not appreciate dogs; some people in anglo countries can be wicked to dogs too. They have a heart that is faulted.

Toby chased his dog into the UK bar the other day which set off this train of thought and conversation. He had a right tale to tell. But we shall get to him later.

Just think how life would be without dogs.  They are not simply animals. They are companions. They are friends. They are comforters. They work with us. They share adventures, indeed they sometimes lead us into adventures. They ride on our cars, fly in our planes, pull our sledges, even go to war with us. They help the sick and the disabled. They play with us.

The cold does not put them off.

They visit the sick.

They will do very un-doggie things when we ask.

 They will go into danger, just to be with us.

They will be our eyes.

We make extraordinary demands upon them and they wag a tail.

I had a couple a while back. A gorgeous, golden Lab that I called Debbie, (After Debbie Harry, 'Blondie'). Got her as a pup. She loved the water, was playful and  funny. Almost as funny as 'Sam' a similar male dog I had when serving in the Military. He would play hide and seek in the long grass of the airfield, leaping out at me as I walked past and then disappearing again. But Debbie was a real water baby. 

I decided she needed a 'steadying influence'. An older male dog. So I went to the pound and found a perfect companion for her. Jet was a pure-bred Barb Kelpie. (That's an Oz sheepdog). A champion. 

His pedigree was longer than mine and he has sired champions too. The stud-owner had 'got rid' of him at four years old because that is about the 'end' of super-stud life. He didn't even know his name: could not come to the call; had been on a chain for most of his life. 

Jet had never seen water and when I took him to the beach he would leap up and down in the small waves yelping a Debbie as she swam out a hundred yards off shore. Excellent dogs both.

Toby Young has a fine, young chap too. I will let him tell us and then come back with some ale and mention what happens when we are not kind.

Looking after my dog Leo is a full-time job
Up to three walks a day, all full of stressful adventure
I’ve just spent a day looking after our one-year-old vizsla and, to be blunt, I have some sympathy with Michael Heseltine’s decision to strangle his mother’s alsatian.
 Not that Heseltine (ex-MP) did. It was a shaggy dog story, it seems.

Not that my wife is out of town. Caroline argued that because  (due to work) I’ll now be spending so much time away from home I am morally obliged to take on the lion’s share of dog duties before I start.
His Leo, not mine

My responsibilities began with a walk in Gunnersbury Park. Now, to be fair, this isn’t a monumental chore. Gunnersbury Park is one of Acton’s hidden gems. Indeed, it’s so glorious that the people who live within a thousand-yard radius of it deny that they live in Acton and claim to be proud residents of ‘Gunnersbury’. Of course, no such place exists outside the imagination of estate agents, but if I lived nearby I’d make the same boast. It’s a good size for a dog walk — about 200 acres. A brisk stride around the perimeter takes approximately an hour.
In other ways, though, it’s less than ideal. It contains 17 listed buildings, all in varying states of disrepair, and until last year the whole Gunnersbury estate had been largely neglected since it was sold to two neighbouring local councils by the Rothschild family in 1926. That ownership split meant neither side took responsibility for its upkeep. But last December a joint, £40 million restoration project was unveiled by the leaders of Hounslow and Ealing councils, and since then the park has been a hive of activity. 
Yeah, yeah. Get on with it man. 

Great news for local residents, but not so good for us dog owners since it’s now a giant building site, with plenty of opportunities for mischief.
For instance, there’s a fenced-off area containing a stagnant muddy pool and preventing Leo from squeezing through a gap in the fence and immersing himself in this disgusting primordial soup is next to impossible. It doesn’t help that the local dog walkers — the professionals, who walk half a dozen dogs at once — actually encourage their charges to jump in the pool, presumably because they don’t have to give them a bath afterwards to get rid of the foul stench. 

That job falls to the owners who have been foolish enough to hire them.
OK, so that wasn’t too bad, apart from Leo ending up smelling like a fishmonger’s underpants. 

It was the second walk that was the tricky one. Yes, that’s right, Leo is so high–maintenance that he requires at least two walks a day and preferably three. And the word ‘walk’ is misleading because he spends most of his time running at full pelt, usually as far away from his owners as possible. If he does less than three hours of exercise a day, he runs round the house instead, leaving a trail of broken glass in his wake. 

You think I’m exaggerating, but a couple of weeks ago he ran into the bunk room on the first floor where two of my sons sleep, saw a squirrel in the garden and tried to leap through the sash window. Unfortunately, it was closed at the time. The cost of getting it replaced was slightly under £200 — one of Leo’s less expensive weekends.
So the second walk was on Wormwood Scrubs — another beautiful green space not far from my house. Trouble with the Scrubs, though, is that horses are regularly ridden down its footpaths. For Leo, that means plenty of lovely horse poo for rolling in, and I mean proper, down-and-dirty rolling so that scarcely an inch of his fur remains uncontaminated. 

But that’s a mild irritation compared with what happens if he actually sees a horse. He launches himself at it like a missile fired from a tank and immediately tries to engage it in a species v. species death match. 

Invariably, the horse just ignores him, as it might some irksome little gnat, at which point he goes completely bananas. Anyway, on this day it ended as it usually does with Leo being launched several feet into the air by a sharp kick to the ribs. Unfortunately, the brute is completely indestructible. Even ‘Tarzan’ Heseltine might have difficulty putting him down.
On one level, I admire Leo’s indomitable spirit. 

The eagerness with which he hurls himself into every adventure, no matter how dangerous, is sort of admirable. But on the other hand, he takes up an unbelievable amount of time. It’s like having five-year-old triplets. Thank God it will be Caroline’s turn soon.
Yes, they are demanding. And that is why so often we find abandoned, ill-treated, downright abused dogs. 

Man can be more animal than animals.

Dogs are sentient. They are intelligent. They have personalities, and learn. That makes them as vulnerable as children. They get into mischief and annoy those who do not have the necessary Love in their hearts. People who themselves do not know loyalty and fidelity. 

Thank goodness for those that do and who go out of their way to rescue the dogs so afflicted by bad ex-owners. But even then, the care given takes some getting used to. The initial reaction is often fear.

Here are two dogs who have a life now. They previously did not even have a dog's life. 
If you are squeamish, don't look. 
The outcomes are fine enough but the initial parts are a shock to anyone who loves animals.

Jet was a great dog. Abandoned by a breeder. Taken on by me. I loved him.

If you want a dog, there are many about. Many deserving of a man (or woman) with a big heart.

The rescue of a dog is akin to a soul going to Purgatory. So much filth to be washed off. Fur cut away. Medical aid provided. Wounds tended. Time to heal. Time to learn to trust again. 

Painful. Frightening. The dog is confronted with 'other-worldly' creatures, far and away more powerful. He is suffering from neglect, just as we humans in our sins suffer from self-administered neglect. The dogs need that patient kindness.

So do we.

Time for a cool drink, I think.

Love your dog. Love all the creatures around. Lt Dunbar opened himself to a relationship with a wolf. Both could have easily inflicted devastating damage to the other. 

But they became best friends. 



  1. Comparisons have been made between dogs and women. The dog is more pathos producing when abused, the woman can hit back, both can be annoying, both induce love, the dog is far more loyal, the woman can produce your progeny.

    I'm not sure you can run both at the same time unless you were on a good wicket, jobwise. It takes too much time and energy to give each her/its due. You need to take the dog out twice a day, the woman every so often for a meal and then a holiday.

    If forced to decide, due to lack of resources, I still think I'd gravitate towards the woman first, always providing she was onside, though I'd expect to be alone within years, not a situation with the dog.

    1. A good woman and a good dog.... you can have both. Especially if the woman likes dogs.

  2. "I hasten to add that a good wife is more than a best friend." I think you just about got away with it ;-)

    There are some amazing people around who spend their time and patience helping neglected and abused dogs and other animals back to health and trust. Rewarding for both the carer and the animal involved.

    I am fond of dogs but have never had one because I am either working or out and about so much it wouldn't be fair. Your tales have reminded of a time in the early eighties when I was walking home after getting off the bus. I turned the corner into the close where I lived and the neighbours old English sheep dog came bounding towards me. He followed me for a few paces then very gently grabbed hold of my coat sleeve (a wide and baggy sleeve, a style of that era). The doggie equivalent of holding hands, he accompanied me all the way home. And even when we got there he did not want to let go :-)

    1. I heard someone ask if there were dogs in heaven. Perhaps 'citizenGo!' can raise a petition, just in case. I know that some dogs have grumpy personalities, but they seem to be outliers from the pack of 'em that are almost angelic.

    2. If the concept of heaven is understood, that question would not have been asked ;-)


Ne meias in stragulo aut pueros circummittam.

Our Bouncer is a gentleman of muscle and guile. His patience has limits. He will check you at the door.

The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..