Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Man's Best Friend.

Growing up I had one very loyal companion. With me from the moment of my birth, I considered him to be both a play-mate and an important member of the family. His name was Badger and he was a Staffordshire bull terrier. Gentle, lovable and fun, he was the best “older sibling” an only child could ever have. In fact, “Bah” was my first word! Our relationship was cemented from the beginning – I would hang on his neck, play nurse and wrap him in bandages, sit in his bed and read Beatrix Potter to him, and share his dog chocolates (so much better than chocolate buttons!) He was part and parcel of the family unit. Going anywhere without him was unthinkable. Many well-loved tales relate similar pairings – Lassie, My Dog Skip, Dorothy and Toto, Tin-Tin and Snowy, Wallace and Gromit, and not forgetting the adventures of the Famous Five. Where would man be without this best friend by his side? It would be a lonely existence I imagine...

The bond we share with dogs is unique. They are our protectors providing unconditional love and companionship, whom we confide in and share in our everyday triumphs and misfortunes, including presents and the Christmas Turkey! My grandparents' golden Labrador's favourite treat was a large milky bowl of tea with sugar at the end of a long day. No, it probably wasn't very healthy for his heart or his waistline, but it demonstrates how far we consider dogs for the most part as human, each with their own individual character and preferences. Yet it still saddens me that today we do not always offer the same unconditional affections in return. In some cases, even those living on the streets could be said to care for their faithful hounds better than other people who are undeniably better off. Dogs are known for their steadfastness to their Master's side, an attribute which at present is tested to the nth degree. Certain breeds are now purchased not only for their faithfulness, but also for the image of danger they portray. It has become less about the dog and more about promoting fear in others. Unfortunately the dogs chosen to represent this are the very ones who wouldn't ordinarily hurt a fly, let alone a human. Tarnished by the media and street gangs, these family friendly dogs have been ruined. The resolution lies not in a classified dangerous dogs list, but in an act calling for the abolition of dangerous owners.

As an owner of any pet, you have a responsibility to that animal in caring for and providing for its needs. It's not indebted to you for that provision and treated as you see fit. For a dog's nature to unexpectedly change something has to be amiss in its environment. I'm told by my parents that even before I was born, our pooch was being prepared for my arrival. They would carry and fuss over toy dolls at home and involve Bah as much as possible – like siblings dogs get jealous too! Extreme maybe, or perhaps my Mum's sly attempt to train my Dad. The shocked expression hasn't quite left his face since the wailing began! It may not be an advocate for fatherhood, but dog and baby became inseparable. Like a new baby, you sign up to the challenge, so lead by example and be a responsible dog owner. Don't abandon the best friend at your side when the novelty of a new “plaything” wears off, or abuse them as a honoured badge of coolness.