Why won’t the middle classes shout at their dogs any more? My suspicion is that the bleeding heart liberals, having succeeded in stopping right-minded people from shouting at their children, have moved on to stopping us from emotionally scarring animals.
The result, of course, is that our four-legged friends are becoming about as unpleasant as your average infant.
The spaniel and I take our lives in our hands every time we venture on to Tooting Common, running the gauntlet of ADHD dogs throwing their weight about as their owners cower in the distance calling politely at them to desist.
These are not dangerous dogs, in any official sense, you understand. I did once see a pit bull being walked by a hoodie. But I have to say, the everyday threat is not from conventional attack dogs, it’s from the pampered pooches owned by people called Larry and Fenella.
I have learned this from painful experience. An Alsatian cross called Max, for example, once jumped me from behind nearly breaking my back. As I screamed for someone to get him off me, the well-spoken owner sauntered over murmuring absent-mindedly: ‘Oh come on now, Max...’ And then he uttered the crowning insult: ‘He does like to play, you see.’
Oh, does he? Well, why on earth didn’t you say so before? Because if he likes to play then I’m happy for him to fracture my spine in three places while attempting to hump me. I mean, what’s not to like?
I had to shake Max off myself in the end and, bent double with pain, tried to make my escape. But Max was having none of it. He jumped on the spaniel and wrestled her to the ground. Cydney likes a good rough and tumble, but she was no match for the Alsatian. As she whimpered, I had to implore the owner again to do something. ‘Oh ha ha,’ he was chortling, ‘he does like to…’
‘Play. Yes, I know. But I’m afraid he’s breaking my spaniel into several pieces.’
In the end, Cydney extracted herself and limped away. She was limping for days afterwards, having pulled something in her leg in the struggle. That could easily have been a vet bill. So the next time we saw Max bounding towards us, we made a run for it. We still do. I’m sure we look hilarious. And he’s not the only one we run from either.
We also avoid the spoilt Labs after an incident when I was walking with a friend and, as she was midway into telling me about the death of her beloved father, a boisterous young Labrador hurled itself through the air and knocked her to the ground.
The owner made no effort to approach any faster, or to apologise. ‘Oh, he does love to play,’ she said. ‘I’m going to start training him next week.’ I shouted at the dog to get down. ‘There you are. I’ve started training him for you,’ I said. The Labrador sat down obediently. But she looked gloopily at me, as if I were a child abuser.
There’s really no point telling these people that dogs are pack animals, that unless you are pack leader and dominate them, they will become pack leader and dominate you. You’re wasting your breath. Very much like those lefty mums you see having long-winded conversations with their little toddler Tallulah as she screams her bratty head off because she can’t have a fifth ice cream, the liberal dog-owners like to think you can reason with a dog.
And so it was when I was walking through the park this week and a whippet suddenly ran at Cydney from behind. She had been pottering quietly with her ball, minding her own business, when the whippet pounced, and made a grab with its jaws for her neck. I sprang into outraged lioness mode, yelling at it to leave her alone.
I was about to grab its back legs — neat trick, I’ve seen it done and it works. Lift a dog half off the ground by its hind legs and by some reflex it has to open its jaws. But just as I was about to perform this manoeuvre, the owner made herself known. I wouldn’t say she rushed to help. She called casually at me, while continuing to place a poo bag in a bin, ‘You can’t shout at him or you’ll panic him.’
Actually, she was so posh she said: ‘You can’t shiite at him or you’ll pe-anic him.’
And she proceeded to call cheerfully: ‘Come on, Paddy.’ Or Pee-aaaddaaaay, as it came out.
I shouted again, even louder, and the dog dropped Cydney, who was thankfully unharmed. ‘Your dog’s in charge of you, that’s the problem,’ I told her.
I felt sorry for the dog. It had got its work cut out.