Tag Archives: dogs

Paws to smile

Paws to smileThings felt grim this morning when I got up.

But, as on most mornings for the past 15 years, I started the day with a dog walk.

We met up with another dog walker and his dogs, who asked how I felt and I said: “Grim.” However, as we walked and our dogs played, we talked and joked.

After going our separate ways, our dog and I met up with another dog walker and stopped to chat. We discussed grief and family loss and the problems they create: not just losing a loved one, but the change in the dynamics of families, the different ways people react and the big hole that opens up as the ground seems to fall away underneath your feet.

And we ended up laughing about the craziness of it all: a problem shared but not solved.

For once, our dog was nagging me to come home. Usually, he wants to stay out and play, but we had been out for 1 3/4 hours.

I came home laughing.

I’m certain dogs plan these meetings deliberately, but I’m happy to let them carry on.

They brighten life more than anything else and make me smile again.

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What’s your social style?

I’ve never been a frequent party-goer or a seeker of casual chit-chat. Even as a student attending Latin seminars in the beautiful surroundings of St John’s Lodge in Regent’s Park in London, I used to enjoy solitary walks around the Inner Circle on winter days, listening to the wind in the trees and watching the water spouting from the fountain.

I’m not anti-social. I just like to socialise differently.

Much of my socialising happens when out walking with our dog. Since we brought home our first dog in 2000, I have got to know more people than ever before. People who I knew by sight suddenly started talking to me. Bizarrely, being with an animal seems to make us appear more human, more approachable.

What's your social style? The path we tread

This morning I felt quite glum. It looked a bit dull and the atmosphere seemed damper than yesterday’s crisp cold. Still, dogs need exercise and I need exercise, so out we went.

As ever, my mood lightened as we walked, exchanged greetings with other walkers and their dogs, climbed a hill, looked out to sea and played ball.

Almost back to the car, we met a chap and his dog we had never met before. Our dogs said hello and so did we, engaging in conversation for 10 minutes that drilled down deep to the core of our lives, our families and our feelings. We talked about ageing relatives and the bittersweet feelings as we watch their health decline while cheered by the joy they have brought us.

How did we get there from two dogs rubbing noses to say hello?

We shook hands and wished each other ‘Happy New Year’.

I came home in a much more buoyant mood, having found once again, by chance, more of the milk of human kindness.

I’ve found the social style that works best for me is not to try to hard, which inevitably brings me into contact with people. What works for you?

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Spending time well

The past two weeks have reminded me how important it is to spend time with those we love.

First, spending time with an elderly relative and another who is their carer rekindled the delight of leisurely conversation, shared memories and simple pleasures.

On my return, our oldest dog was taken ill with vestibular syndrome: flickering eyes, loss of balance and nausea. We thought we were going to lose him, but now he is stable and slowly recovering. It’s reminded us of how we cared for him when he was a puppy 13 years ago. We’ve had to carry him up and down stairs as he falls over. I’ve had to escort him round the garden on his lead to support him. And we’ve been having lots of cuddles. He has been very loving, which has been wonderful as we were worried that he would be frightened. Even though he cannot do some of the things he wants to, his tail is wagging happily.

While age and illness are often viewed as a curse, they do give us the opportunity to get closer to loved ones, to give them the time they deserve and to help them however we can.

This has rather disrupted my plans and left us exhausted, but we don’t regret it. I don’t want time to race away and see my relatives and dogs age and become infirm, but it is inevitable for us all. I feel the time with them has been spent more usefully than some other activities I get involved in, especially meetings, which can drive me crazy.

It is making me evaluate how I want to use my time.

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Will the government unleash another pitbull?

So the UK government is proposing more legislation and regulations affecting dog owners. This time to stop irresponsible owners and those who keep dogs ‘as a weapon’ or for fighting.

I don’t argue with the intentions, but once again we see government aiming to introduce poorly drafted, heavy handed measures that will impact on all dog owners. I have no concerns with micro-chipping: both our dogs are micro-chipped. I have no concerns with the concept of insurance, as both our dogs are insured, although it presents another opportunity for the insurance industry to raise premiums for existing policyholders.

What does concern me is that the people most likely to keep dogs as weapons or for fighting are unlikely to micro-chip their dogs or pay for insurance. If the dogs are kept for illegal purposes, do they ever get taken to a vet unless seriously ill? And who will police this, checking dogs are micro-chipped and insured? There are not enough services provided for dogs at the moment: most dog warden provision is purely an exercise in collecting revenue for councils from dog fouling with no real concern for the state of dog poo bin collection or anything else.

Presumably, using a dog as a weapon involves intimidating people or committing other crimes. Are there not existing laws to prevent this? Why aren’t the police taking action?

Unless human beings want to eradicate every form of life that creates any inconvenience, which includes every living thing that’s not human, we should recognise that dogs are living creatures needing exercise, stimulation and the chance to lead a life free from cruelty. At the moment, government and councils are anti-dog, seeing them as a source of cash from fines.

Most problems with dogs are caused by people: people who let their dogs foul pavements, who probably also drop litter which can harm both wildlife and young children who pick it up. I am sick of picking up dangerous litter dropped by humans. Last week a dog walker told me he had extracted a blunt Stanley knife blade from his puppy’s mouth dropped by kids. Problems are also caused by people who use dogs as weapons to back-up their own aggressive, malicious or illegal activities. They are a bigger problem than the their dogs.

These proposals seem to be yet another excuse to push the bigger, more fundamental problems aside, and appease the tabloids by doing something which sounds tough. If the people concerned knew they couldn’t get away with it, they wouldn’t keep aggressive dogs or use them the way they do. But they do know that they can get away with it. They know the police won’t stop them. They know that they can do anything they want.

So instead of dealing with the real problems, police and council officials will be fining ordinary dog owners for any reason they can think of.

My recommendation: focus on people and apply existing measures so that the perpetrators know they cannot break the law, ignore police and, what’s more, cannot abuse the dogs, which suffer most.

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