Since moving to Lower Lonsdale last fall, I have been amazed by the number of dogs I see, and I thought, Dear Reader, that, tongue planted firmly in cheek, a discussion of Canis Domesticus was in order. Faithful friend and companion, the dog has been at man’s side for millennia. But what is it about dogs that makes them such marvellous company?

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As puppies, they are adorable to the point of irresistibility, all paws, licking tongue and an appendage at the rear whose function seems designed to remove anything not bolted down from the coffee table. And teeth… mustn’t forget the teeth. Some dogs go just a bit overboard in this department, gnawing everything in sight.

I recall when my sister and I were growing up, our parents, rather unwisely, bought a beagle pup, whom we named Patch. Patch distinguished himself in many ways, such as regularly escaping the leash and running amok, only to be coaxed back within mere inches before bounding merrily away, while I (it was always my job to “go and get that bloody animal”), stood stupidly, leash in hand, holding back tears of frustration. The end came for Patch after my father came home to find the “bloody animal” had devoured the entire arm of our living room sofa, rendering it to drifted piles of splinters and stringy bits of couch fabric. Soon after this Patch moved on to a farm, a locale much more suited to the beagle than subdivision domesticity.

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Looking back on it, although I love dogs, I must admit to having had spectacularly dismal luck with them. My ex and I lived in several farmhouses, and as such, had quite a lot of animals: goats, sheep, a pig, a number of calves, chickens and a turkey. (Perhaps I should clarify that we did not have these animals in the farmhouse.) Added to this, we also had a succession of dogs that were acquired from various sources that were offering the beasts free of charge. This, of course, should have raised large red warning flags, but that is the problem with dogs… generally, one look at them and you fall in love, and simply have to have them.

One of our first was Freeway, a Lhasa Apso (or as I called it, a half-an-asshole). Freeway was a nice dog, all things considered, gentle and loving, and seemed to consist of a plump roll of fly-away fur with a disreputable flag of a tail at one end, and a set of prominent underslung teeth and boot button eyes hidden deep in the fur at the other.

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In complete contrast to the half-an-asshole, was a Great Dane named Zeus, who was also free, and thus a bargain that could not be refused. Zeus was a striking dog, caramel-coloured with uncropped ears and tail. Despite the astonishing size difference, Freeway was the alpha, and I can still remember the scene of Zeus standing with a plaintive look as the half-an-asshole literally hung, clamped firmly to a jowl. Zeus developed a rather inconvenient habit of defecating in the house, and naturally it was always yours truly, Dear Reader, that discovered this in the middle of the night. Or more correctly, it was my bare foot that discovered this. The animal could produce astonishingly large piles of excrement, and so the experience was not in any way pleasant.

The death knell for Zeus sounded when he scarfed down a large and intricate gingerbread house that my wife and the kids had made for Christmas. It had been high up on the mantelpiece over the fireplace, but obviously, not too high for the “bloody animal”. Shortly thereafter, we paid Zeus forward to try his fortunes with another family.

Then there was Hamlet, a Dalmatian that I brought home and who proceeded to race around the house at warp nine and made it his ongoing mission to devour every shoe and stuffed animal in sight. This was a dog of enduring stamina and was reminiscent of a windup toy gone amok. He too, was re-gifted out in short order.

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Since my divorce, I have been dog-free, with only a cat as a pet. In some ways, this suits me fine as a cat is a far easier pet to care for, not requiring incessant walks and letting it out to pee etc. But on the other hand, as the saying goes “dogs have masters, and cats have staff”. There’s just not the same devoted attention that a dog gives. There’s not all those inane things that dogs do that make them such irresistible animals:

The way that when they walk, their back ends seem to want to outpace the front, giving them that curious sideways motion.

The comical look when an ear gets stuck inside itself.

The way they cock their heads from side to side.

The way they invariably, inconveniently and mortifyingly hump somebody’s leg when you have company; just the sheer, downright goofiness of dogs!

These are things with which a cat simply can’t compete.


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