Usually on a Saturday I buy the Daily Mail. To be honest this has more to do with them having a good television listing magazine, and fun puzzles than it does with any political affiliation. If you want to know my political stance here it is : they're all roughly as bad as each other. Anyway, this weekend we fancied a change so we bought the Times. Shan't be doing it again.
I was reading the Times yesterday morning when the following headline caught my eye: Enough whining. Ban all stinking dogs. Now. Obviously, I read the article, and frankly I was amazed that a "quality" newspaper would print such badly thought out rubbish. The writer is Giles Coren. The main thrust of his argument is that because some dog breeds (according to him) are dangerous, all dogs should be banned as it's too difficult to stop owners cross breeding to keep the illegal breed alive. Actually, it seems to me that the real main thrust of his argument is that he doesn't like dogs because of the amount of dog poo on his road. Because of that, Giles Coren wants to ban all dogs.
Mr Coren has my sympathies about the amount od excrement on his street. I too hate encountering dog dirt out on a walk. I'm afraid though, that the actual answer to the problem - dogs attacking or dogs pooing - is a boring one, and one that won't sell newspapers. In one word, it's education. Whatever the breed of dog we're talking about, the fundamentals remain the same; careful breeding, a puppyhood that allows the pup yo learn how to be a dog, thorough socialisation, and then sustained training. As far as dog poo on the road, owners must scoop. Apart from being a good ambassador for dog ownership, picking up your dog's mess is a legal requirement on most roads.
What Coren actually has a problem with is irresponsible people. Maybe in his next column he will argue for the abolishment of all humans?
I realise that Coren's job as a columnist is to be provocative in order to sell more newspapers. However, it's a very dodgy climate out there at the moment regarding dogs. The British Kennel Club and their main dog show Crufts, have come for a severe mauling in the media, and consequently public confidence is shaken in them. This illogical rant of Coren's may be nonsense, but it's too dangerous a piece of writing to be left unchecked. If it makes one person more in favour of breed specific legislation, or more anti-dogs, then it's a very, very bad thing.
Let's face it, cars kill - should we ban them? Knife crime is rife - sould we return to eating with our fingers? Teenage pregnancy is a huge problem - would Mr Coren like to ban all adolescents? Who would suggest we ban all columnists because one moron spouts nonsense? (although maybe.....)
Coren dismisses the relevance of dogs in modern society. He won't even acceot that they have value as companions. Well try a goldfish mate, it just won't love you back like good old Fido will. A cat will adore you as long as you've got food in your hands, and most small rodents view you as a threat. No other pet loves you like a dog does. No other pet wants to be with you day and night, tries its best to please you, and centres his whole world on you. Don't knock it till you've tired it. If company isn't enought to justifiy dogs, what about all the hearing, guide and assistance dogs working tireslessly? What about sniffer dogs often risking their lives to protect people? What of police dogs, search and rescue dogs, therapy dogs and so on? Are they all to be tossed aside so readily?
It's debatable whether early man "tamed" wolves, or whether wolves latched on to humans, but whatever happend both species were advanced. What would have become of us without our hunting partner, our guardian, our warmth at night and our faithful friend? We may have less need of some of those functions now, but the dog is far from obsolete.
I have a theory. It's not one I air too often as it may upset some people, but I think it applies to Giles Coren. The bond between us and dogs stretches back beyond record, and is unbreakable. Our lives are intertwined, and I suggest that those who cannot (or will not) understand and experience that relationship are abnormal in some way, or at least have something important missing. Dogs are part of us; if we had rejected dogs thousands of years ago, goodness knows how far back we would have set ourselves. Dogs and humans, humans and dogs, it's a natural partnership. That makes hatred of dogs unnatural.
I love my dogs, as most dog onwers do. Just a word of warning to Mr Coren and others who fancy a rant at the expense of dogs; you can place heavy taxes on our houses and cars, you can let our health system fall into disrepair, our schools fail, our road systems become choked, and we will complain, we will find ways around it, and we will basically put up with it. BUT - threaten our dogs, and we will rise up en masse in their defence.
As I said a columnists's role is to be provocative, but I suggest they stick to trivial subjects such as politics or the environment, and leave our dogs alone. And to be absolutely sure of avoiding trouble, they should never, ever antagonise the "middle classes with their wellies and labs" - we can be formidable opponents when necessary.
If, like me, you find Mr Coren's article shocking, do write and let the Times know that they might perhaps want to choose their columnists more carefully, or at least vet their weekely bleatings more thoroughly.