His love of his pooch could see him sent to the dog house
As a teacher’s kid I grew up on a school campus. This was idyllic for children but, for dogs, it was utopia. Hounds roamed free. Leashes did not exist. And the dog community participated in every aspect of the school’s life.
One maths teacher had a beautiful Labrador who dutifully followed him around school wherever he went, including the classroom. As classes were taught, the Labrador would happily sleep up the front, content in the knowledge that he was on top of his subject having heard this lesson many times before.
An Afghan who lived near the oval loved athletics. During the season he would regularly join the final lap of the 800m and was responsible for many a school record as nervous kids found extra pace with a large dog literally nipping at their heels.
Here, dogs knew their place and it was definitely at the table.
Having been conditioned by the hounds of my childhood, my adult attitudes about the place of dogs in our society sided on the laissez-faire. Gary, my miniature poodle, used to sit on the couch, travel in the car, and nestle in the bed.
As a loved and cherished member of the family, nothing seemed more natural.
With my teachers in mind, there was a brief time (pre-parliament) when Gary came to work with me. Then, one Christmas, he left an unwanted present under the office Christmas tree and was subsequently declared persona non grata.
This unfortunate incident represented a crisis of sensibilities for me. I wondered whether the absence of other dogs in the workplace was possibly more a reflection on me than it was on a society which didn’t appreciate that dogs really were human.
When my wife, Rachel, entered my life she was under no illusion about the rightful place of dogs. She ran a ruthless campaign which saw Gary first ousted from the bed, then the couch, and, finally, the house as he was introduced to a newly purchased kennel. I pleaded with her, saying if she didn’t care about Gary at least think of how this was going to affect me. She assured me my attitude would lead to my own banishment to the dog house wherein Gary and I could resume our relationship.
Recently, I have experienced a world in which dog rights have swung the opposite way. In some parts of the Pacific dogs appear to have outgrown any sense of human ownership and have established their own society living in tandem with their human subjects.
Humans are useful in so far as they are a source of food but it is important they don’t get ahead of themselves. Thus, dogs have established their own preserves where they roam in packs, making menacing growls and in the process have created human no-go zones.
Maybe Rachel is right. Does the road of dog familiarity lead to a bad place?
Last week, I visited Italy: a country which celebrates the hound and where dog liberation is an article of faith. Either at heel, on a leash, or being carried in a bag with head peeping out, the Italians take their dogs everywhere: to restaurants, on the bus, in shops.
At Bologna airport, having passed through security, I spotted a beautifully groomed Pekinese in the terminal. At first I wondered whether the Italians had a more liberal attitude about what kind of breed could work as sniffer or police dog.
But, observing the owner wandering to the gate, it became clear that the Pekinese, like us, had simply come to the airport in order to get on a plane. Placed in an exquisitely tailored dog bag, with material of the latest fashion and a roll up flap in order to view the world, I was transfixed as the Pekinese was carried on as hand luggage and then placed in the overhead compartment.
Fifty minutes later, in Rome, without so much as an intervening squeak, the Pekinese – no doubt an experienced aviator – emerged with self confidence and every bit as much Italian chic as any of his human counterparts.
I have returned to Australia with a renewed sense of curiosity about the rightful place of dogs. Gary and I have had a chat. On my first night back he spent the evening on a cushion in the corner of the lounge, even if he was kicked out before we all went to bed.
So, now our house is set for some readjustments; as I test my assertiveness, as Rachel looks upon the whole endeavour with contempt, and as Gary walks with a new spring in his step as the promise of hope fills the air.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…