‘Urghh! Get off!’
‘He’s only being friendly. He likes you! Don’t you, Louie?’
‘Madam! Your dog is rubbing himself to delirium on my ankle,’ I say, lashing out my right leg to shake it off. ‘If I did that to you because I liked you, I’d be on the front page of the Daily Mail tomorrow morning.’
With that, the little Shih Tzu, losing his ecstatic grip, goes hurtling into the Municipal Garden shrubbery, whence a young couple, engaged in something similar, flee for their bare-bottomed lives – as if a dog had hit them.
The ultimate humiliation – being shagged by a Shih Tzu.
We’re known as a land of dog lovers, and I imagine for those who like dogs they must be great company. The vast majority of owners train their dogs responsibly. The epitome of this would of course be the wonderful Guide Dogs for the Blind, and the temperament-tested ones used by the Pets as Therapy (PAT) charity for visits to hospitals and care homes.
But spare a thought for those of us who are less keen. I do enjoy seeing people’s canine companions rushing about excitedly in open spaces and socialising with other four-legged friends. But a dog will do what a dog will do if its parents don’t tell it otherwise, and I’d rather that didn’t include me.
I don’t hate dogs, but I do resent the small minority of inconsiderate owners who assume we all love their little cuties as much as they do. For you thoughtless few, here are 13 doggy doings I don’t love:
- Large dogs taking a fifty yard run-up in a muddy park and jumping up at me. Worse, large ones that bite. My friend was bitten, unprovoked, by a Rottweiler on a local lane – and the dog was on a lead. The owner wandered off. The friend, who was too maimed to go after her, had ten stitches in her thigh.
- Little ones, like a Jack Russell called Sheldon that tracks me down on the riverside walk, yapping aggressively round my legs to find a good nipping angle.
- Any size ones that sniff and snuffle round my shoes and trousers like a foraging pig.
- Staring ones a foot away, with hanging tongues and dripping gums, that ruin the enjoyment of my chicken and Branston baguette.
- Drooling ones plonking their sodden jowls on my freshly-laundered Chinos.
- Over-familiar ones trying to get up close and personal, depositing hair and goo and undigested-Pedigree Chum-breath over me.
- Peeing ones who choose my offside rear tyre, or worse, my rucksack on a beach or park bench.
- Poohing ones where the owner doesn’t clear up. Most owners are good about this in public, though I avoid their back gardens. The few who flout the rules often have the Pit Bull-owner look about them – not to be challenged.
- Digging ones that wreck gardens. As former gardener with English Heritage, I once spent the day planting a long border with perennials and bulbs. Dogs weren’t allowed on site, but that day the manager let her Collie-cross out “for a run” after the site closed, and Spot dug up the whole border. The manager’s flat-toned response was: ‘Oh, you are a naughty boy!’
- Sex-mad ones rubbing themselves to a frenzy on my lower leg (small dogs) or upper leg (large). The Shih Tzu story is true; well perhaps not the shrubbery bit – the assault took place on a friend’s sofa.
- Sex-mad ones trying to kiss me on the lips.
- Sex-mad ones licking themselves to a frenzy.
- Sex-mad ones licking themselves to a frenzy then trying to kiss me on the lips.
For many years I’ve found myself frozen to the spot when a dog rushes up. Freezing may not be the best thing to do, yet it’s my predictable response after years of being approached by unpredictable creatures. But I’m better off than my niece, who has genuine Cynophobia – abnormal fear of dogs. Once, a party of four of us was strolling on Brighton promenade when she suddenly shifted behind the group and froze after spotting a tiny, seemingly well-behaved dog on a lead, fully two hundred yards ahead. We rolled along like a rugby maul, shielding her until the dog had gone past.
I feel safer with muzzled dogs, which can’t bark, slaver or eat me up, especially since they’re often the ones on leads. Yet I see them as the tip of the iceberg. There must be hundreds of other psychiatrically disturbed dogs on the loose, unmuzzled – a nation of canine maulers and murderers in waiting.
Many local dog walkers whose “children” rush up to me, do have that Pit Bull-owner, not-to-be-messed-with look. They think nothing of it when their animal forces me off the track into squelchy mud and takes a juicy chunk from my anatomy after freezing me into terrified submission.
‘Sir,’ I mumble, ‘your Doberman Pinscher is lunging at me with its double set of teeth, designed like a shark’s to shred the bottom half of my leg into digestible pieces. But I do understand, and it’s all right. Let him take me. Thanks for listening, anyway.’
I’d say about one in ten owners offers an apology when their hound attacks me. Even then they imply it’s me who’s wrong:
‘He won’t hurt you. He’s very friendly really.’
‘Oh, silly me! It’s only the unfriendly dogs I need worry about. Okay, must try and spot the “very friendly” ones as they maul me – make allowances.’
The other nine owners don’t address me directly, or look at me, or apologise for letting their slavering, over-excited offspring lead me one step closer to a heart attack. Instead they mutter to themselves like an old person at a bus stop:
‘Here, Fuddles. Good boy,’ in a way that the charging, black Labrador will never take as an instruction, let alone heed.
Do dogs understand English anyway, or do they perhaps get fed up with such dull commentary and hunger for more dynamic parenting?
‘If only you were more decisive!’ says Casey the Cocker. ‘How can I enjoy rushing up and down these brambly banks, through tangled foliage and eight inches of muddy ditch water, with you droning on? By the way, I left some you-know-what back there to collect.’
So listen up, you few unthinking doggy mummies and daddies. Yes, that might be you! The worm has turned. My world does not revolve around your gorgeous darlings as much as you think. Starting next week, I shall be:
– Staring through your window like a boggle-eyed weirdo while you eat your Sunday roast.
– Circling you on the High Street like a Collie rounding up sheep.
– Cocking my leg on your Lidl bags.
– Using your front path for number twos.
– Laying my head on your thighs as I dribble and gaze at you adoringly.
– And dragging my butt-end along your velour carpets while you try to watch East Enders.
Sadly, I fear you’re beyond redemption. But please – don’t just ignore my behaviour. Promise you’ll at least look me in the eyes and, in your insipid way, say:
‘Come on, Paul. Don’t be a silly boy.’
Paul Costello © March 2013
Other doggy tales will be told in:
Utterly Undiscovered – comic Bed & Breakfast Memoir by Paul Costello.
Illustrated by Emma Hames. Dog sketch from chapter: A Dog Called Bite
Publication: spring 2013. Fineleaf Editions http://www.fineleaf.co.uk