BY RALF HEED
At last, a campaign discerning pooches everywhere can get behind. These delightful Country Squire Magazine people have recommended a petition asking the Government to treat the theft of dogs – dognapping – as the shameful crime it is.
Before I met my human family, I spent some time in a home for hounds who had fallen on hard times. Of course, all of the staff there were lovely but it was a heartbreaking place. Some of the guests there had been dognapped themselves, torn away from their families. It was a difficult period. Thankfully, many went on to find new homes. They, however, were the lucky ones. Dognapping is a despicable crime that scars its victims, both canine and human, for life. On behalf of the tailwagging community, I would like to thank the Country Squires for highlighting the plight of stolen dogs everywhere, and urge all humans to please sign the petition here. Also, get your MP to attend Pet Theft Awareness Day on the 14th March 2017 in Westminster (there are events taking place elsewhere also).
Which brings me on to an appeal of my own.
The other day I decided to join my humans for a morning stroll around town. While they were getting newspapers and apples and other boring stuff, I had a good sniff around and kept an eye out for marauding squirrels. You never know…
I’ve always found humans have a low boredom threshold. I mean, it only takes twenty or thirty throws of the stick before they’re fed up. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before they wanted to do something else. So we all went and sat outside a cafe for them to spend some time playing with their phones.
I quite like cafes because I’m usually able to get some of my man human’s lunch (putting a paw on his knee and hungry look on my face never fails, especially when other people are passing by). They were just having coffee, though, so I sat down behind them to shelter while I waited.
Whenever we’re near a road they like me to wear a lead. Apparently cars are ‘dangerous’ (yet they’re happy enough to get in them and drive around. Humans, eh?). We hounds generally don’t mind wearing leads, but it does mean we aren’t able to defend ourselves or get out of the way of trouble (I think you call it ‘fight or flight’). This makes some of us a bit jumpy – you would be too.
Well there I was, sniffing a chair leg and minding my own business when all of a sudden a little boy ran up out of nowhere and grabbed at my head. Good grief, what a fright. I’d been in my own little world. Luckily, I quickly realised he wasn’t trying to hurt me. But it could have been very different. My man human was angry because the little boy’s parents let him approach me without asking.
Now I’m going to be honest here, don’t take offence, but I really don’t like being manhandled by people I don’t know. I’m never too sure of what they are going to do. I had what you might call a difficult start and have always found it hard to trust. I know most people mean well, but I still feel unsure around new ones.
My humans are lovely. We communicate really well, even though I don’t speak English and they only have a few words of woof. But it took us a lot of time and effort to build the relationship; we had to get to know each other slowly. I’ve never bitten anyone on purpose but I have caught my man human while we’ve been playing. He didn’t mind because he understood I didn’t mean to hurt him – it’s the same when they stand on my paws while we’re walking or if they’ve been at that wine stuff.
I’m lucky, I have a great life now, but not all dogs are as fortunate. Not all of us have good homes and plenty of walks and rubber bones and sofas and humans who we get along with. Some dogs have never been shown how to behave around people, or how to control their reactions when one approaches them the wrong way. We all have very sharp teeth though. And we are all capable of biting, whether we mean to do it or not.
By and large, we’re friendly creatures (unless you’re a squirrel) and we absolutely don’t want you to be frightened of us (unless you’re a squirrel). Not every dog is approachable though. Just like humans, there are some of us who should be avoided, and you shouldn’t make a judgement based on our size or our breed.
A different dog might have snapped at that little boy. The day might have ended very differently. Our world is your world too. We all have to share it together. It would be really helpful if parents of small humans could PLEASE explain to your children that they shouldn’t run up to us without asking first – and they should never raise their arms. It just might save a lot of heartache.
Our occasional columnist Ralf P Heed might be a Saluki/Greyhound cross. He enjoys running, food and the sofa but dislikes politicians, squirrels and riffraff. His Facebook page can be found here