I recently read a story on the internet about a dog that had become trapped under his owners’ car and had been subsequently driven 60 miles across Northern Ireland clinging to the underside of the vehicle. I don’t know if this is true or even physically possible, but it made me chuckle. However, aside from the mild humour, the underlying feeling I experienced was that, this person should not be allowed to own a dog, or a car for that matter. I like to imagine that dog was furious. I like to think that he let them swarm him with affection, buy him new toys and fresh bones, and then when they left for work, he curled one off right on their pillow.
I have always had an affinity for dogs, although like every child I started off wary of them. When I was very young I thought every dog wanted to eat me which, as I looked like an oversized meatball is wholly understandable. It also seemed that dogs had a rather amorous affinity towards me. On two separate occasions before I was ten years old, two separate dogs had tried to have intercourse with my leg. From what I can gather, my leg doesn’t look like another dog, so the only thing I can deduce is that in some weird and peculiar way, I was somehow inviting this unwanted attention. I can honestly say hand on heart to anyone who is concerned (mother, wife, employer) this was not the case. As both dogs were reaching their pensioning age, I concluded that rather than anything sinister these two occasions were in fact cries for help.
I was four or five when we got our first dog as a family. She was a black labrador and she had been given to my Dad as a present, which I always thought was a bizarre gift. It’s the equivalent of winning a sports car that you have absolutely no financial ability to run, insure or repair. Likewise, being given a pedigree dog, lovely as it is, comes with a heck of a lot of associated costs. Well it would have, but you must remember it was given to my dad, who though sometimes frivolous in his older age, was, as a necessity as tight as a drum when he was younger. He spared no expense in fashioning a “kennel” from an oil drum and a few bricks. It wasn’t luxury but it was practical…and cheap.
Bess, as we had called her, loved life with us. Of course there is no way of substantiating that at all. She could have been desperately unhappy and always looking for a way out but from the outside she seemed like a happy, bouncy and fun loving dog. A bonus point for me as well was that, as excited as she became, because of her lack of male genitalia she couldn’t try it on with me.
At the time of owning Bess, we lived in Sunderland, a city in the North East of England. A town once known for its coal exportation and its ship building it is now synonymous with car factories, the Labour Party and teenage pregnancy. There are however some nicer parts of Sunderland. Just east of the city is the North Sea which is accompanied with some blue flag beaches. Not being well researched on the quality of beaches, I think blue flag means it is virtually free of all drug paraphernalia and excrement. Bess used to love the beaches and the wide expansive cliffs situated just up the coast. For hours she would scamper around without a care in the world.
It is at this point that I must try and quash a commonly held belief. Dogs are not as intelligent as people believe them to be. If they possessed any sort of grey matter they wouldn’t run aimlessly after someone pretends to throw a stick. If they had basic perception skills they wouldn’t mistake a chubby thigh for an opportunity to repopulate the animal kingdom, and if Bess was remotely intelligent she wouldn’t have done what she did.
One spring afternoon we took Bess to the cliffs for a walk and as we always did, let her off the lead to chase the football my brother and I were kicking around. There was abundant space for us to have confidence that nothing would go awry. However, that confidence was built on the belief that our dog would succeed in a basic object perception activity.
I know and I’m sure you know that a seagull bears little or no resemblance to a football, apart from the fact it is white. But following the same logic, a jumbo jet would look like a seagull. Bess however, did not recognise the difference between the big ball of leather and a bird. This resulted in her galloping towards what she thought was a football perched delicately on the side of the cliff. As all sensible seagulls do when they see a larger animal bearing down on them, it flew away, at which point Bess, travelling with such gusto and acceleration realised that where there was once ground, there was now air, a feeling of weightlessness and an imminent and fast approaching impact with the North Sea.
An air of silence fell around the place as we collectively tried to grasp what had just happened. Being only young, I remember very little of what was said or done but to my lasting regret I do remember asking, “Where’s the football then?”
As the tide was in at the time we had little to no chance of finding her that day. I remember my dad returned a day later and having miraculously found her washed up on the beach, buried her in a pile of stones befitting a Viking or fallen warrior.
I miss Bess. She was a lovely dog, albeit a little bit stupid, however she never tried to impregnate me and for that I am eternally and completely grateful.
R.I.P Bess – faithful dog – rubbish bird catcher