Sunday, 19 February 2012

Cats and Dogs

Perhaps it's because my life is so specifically cat-shaped that acquaintances are often surprised when I state that I actually do like dogs. A lot.
When I'm out and about and encounter an especially cute specimen I inevitably call them over and then belatedly remember that I'm violently allergic and if I as much as pat their head, my hands and arms will erupt in itchy red bumps that look vaguely bubonic if scratched, while my eyes will turn red and make me look like an extra from Night of the Living Dead. So, until a truly hypoallergenic dog can be bred, I'm definitely off the market as far as pooches go.
Recently when I was quite surprised when a friend - who I have always considered something of a domestic pet no-go area - admitted that he would also have liked to be a dog owner, but his habit of taking off for the other side of the world at a moment's notice had made this impossible. Who could be trusted to look after the dog when he was away? It was impossible not to adnire this responsible attitude, but I was sorry that he hadn't taken the plunge.
There is something very endearing about the Latino dog owner; despite his outrageously macho attitude to life, this doesn't extend to his choice of dog. Drive through La Linea de la Frontera on the road to Gibraltar any morning of the week and you will be entertained by the sight of some of the world's tiniest dogs enjoying their morning walk with their almost exclusively male owners. The concept of a 'status dog' clearly does not exist in Spain. While British hoodies take great delight in terrifying the local populace with their Rottweilers and Pit Bull Terriers, your average Latino is far more likely to be strutting along the pavement with his chihuahua in tow and displaying absolutely no embarrassment about it either.
The topic that had ignited the whole debate with The Friend was his belief that Uggie - the real star of the French movie The Artist - should be honoured with an Oscar and I feel that here would be the perfect dog for him. If your average hoodie is determined that his canine companion should reflect his aggression, then a Jack Russell like Uggie would be the perfect choice for The Friend: fearless, always busy, excessively gobby and into absolutely everything. You'd have to team Julian Clary with a Saluki to find another match as perfect.
Coincidentally, were I to choose an actual breed (although I feel that a rescue mongrel with three legs and one eye would probably be more my style) it would either be a Jack Russell or a Labrador, both of which seem to embody the most appealing aspects of dogginess. The Labrador is a winning combination of devotion and co-operation while the Jack Russell is energetic, intelligent and perversely reminds me of my late cat, Augustus John, in its small stature and attitude of terminal bossiness.
The aspect of dog ownership that I find the least attractive, however, is the spectre of the unprovoked dog attack that seems to be a media staple these days, as more and more children and adults are maimed by the friendly family Fido who, until the moment of insanity occurred, had displayed no signs of aggression.
Say what you like about cats (and I have said plenty about my three's propensity to vomit on my duvet, hog three-quarters of the sette when I'm trying to relax in the evening and use my bedside mat as toilet paper), there's not much chance of them ripping half your face off.