Before everyone reads this post and is all like
“Ooooh, Hannah hates animals!”
*points at goldfish*
I don’t. I have a FISH. He is demanding on my time, expensive and a ticking time bomb for teaching the children about death. Colin is therefore the epitome of why I don’t hate animals. Remember this image. Burn it in to your brains.
And I like dogs. I even flirt with the idea of getting a dog. If we see a really cute dog in the street, the boys go
“AHHHH! I love that dog!”
And I go
“Ahh! Me too!” whilst yanking the boys back and hissing in their ears “Don’ttouchit!”
as the dog owner, firmly gripping the neck collar of the fluffy foot high puffball lest it do a sudden lurch and lick me, says
“They can stroke her if they want”
And with my hands firmly gripping the neck collars of the boys’ clothing, lest they make a sudden lurch to do just that, I always reply
“Ahhh. Isn’t she nice? (I genuinely mean this) And well behaved? (code for, keep her that way and away from us please because we don’t know her or you).
“Can we get one?” comes the inevitable cry from the kids
“Oh, I wish” I say “But daddy won’t let us have one”
And this is true. Cruel of me to highlight this, but I get the blame for so much other stuff in my house that this dog thing is the one thing the kids genuinely have beef with their dad about. Of course I will exploit it.
So yes, just getting it out there before someone reacts to this blog and posts a dog shit sandwich through my letter box, I don’t mind dogs and some I even really like.
And I like kids. I even have 2 of them. Kids are nice. And funny. They tell me I am the most beautiful person in the world and want to live with me forever. I like that stuff.
BUT, I follow 2 rules. I like children that don’t think they are adults and I like dogs that don’t think they are children. And the result of whether this happens or not is all down to their owners.
This morning I was sitting on the seafront with Alex, looking out at Smudge and Ed building a sandcastle. It was one of those beautiful moments in life when nothing else matters other than that very moment. It was the end of October, and we were wrapped in waterproofs and fleeces, but the sun was toasty warm on our faces. The beach was so quiet. The only sounds to be heard were the soporphic crash and sizzle of the waves on the sand as it vacuumed sound in and out, picking up the conversation and laughter between my son and husband like an intermittent radio signal. Sounds dipping, and rising over the sea. It was dreamlike.
“WHOOOOOA! What’s this? What’s going – who the hell are you?!”
as I was jarred awake from my hippy dippy slumber by a flash of fur and a waterfall of slobber. A giant wall of pointy teeth revealing itself to my squishy squashy faced 3 year old, before the wall of teeth ran around itself in a circle a few times. A whistle blew.
“STELLA! Come here pookey pie!” as a woman in her late 70’s, a plastic rain cap and a face that screamed “I have a Cliff Richard calendar!” bustled towards us.
The windy weather played a role here in emphasising my facial reaction to such sudden and uninvited company. As it whipped my ginger hair back off my face revealing my giant egg-shaped, massive moon face, void of make-up (pretty), I looked at The Whistler with eyes bigger than THE SUN bulging out of my face, eyeballs no doubt screaming
“WHAT THE EFF?!” at her
“Oh!” said The Whistler “Don’t mind Stella! She’s fine! She’s just a little baby!”
“She’s in my sons FACE” (the words just came out before I knew it)
“Oh. Well” said The Whistler, bristling, the Mary Poppins wind well and truly knocked out of her musty chintzy sail “Stella wouldn’t hurt a fly!”
And perhaps Stella wouldn’t. Unless that fly smacked her in the eyeball. I bet she’d struggle not to hurt it then. You see, I didn’t mind Stella. I just minded her irresponsible and unperturbed, disrespectful owner. I totally get how dogs for many people are an extension of their human family. Which is great. This lady obviously loved Stella. We did not. Because we didn’t know Stella. Was this going to end up as a Daily Mail article and petition to
“KILL ALL DOGS!”
with a facebook support group and the inevitable staunch opposition group full of people with placards, dressing up in canine outfits and phoning in to BBC2’s Jeremy Vine show?
No. Of course not. Stella here was a 1 ft square fluffball, with 100 square feet of enthusiasm and utter dedication to making sure we knew how much she loved the sand and the sea and the bugs and the flowers and the WORLD. She was on doggy day release from the lavender fog of an assisted living home she was forced to dwell in. This dog had a beach FULL of storm debris and the residual hurricance wind up it’s arse.
But I don’t care. I don’t care if just last week Stella rescued an orphaned Bush Baby from the deadly clutches of a Lion. I don’t care if she taught a lame micro pig to walk. Stella doesn’t know my kid. My kid doesn’t know Stella. I have a responsibility to my kid. Stella’s owner has a responsibility for Stella. I would not let my child wander up to a stranger and let him stare at that stranger in the face, shoving his chewed up, manky, stinking comfort teddy at said person, forcing that poor bastard into a “game” they were too polite to not engage in. And trust me, I have been victim to such foul play, from people who think it is “Sooooo cute” to see their child annoying a stranger who is trying to eat their over priced meal in a restaurant, by offering them its toys and childhood diseases, not reading the body language of said stranger who is squirming with unease and irritation in their seats.
“Oh look at little Lucy!” says socially dysfunctional parent number one to socially dysfunctional parent number two, “That strange man just LOVES her!”
A) alarm bells should be ringing if the strange man indeed was showing a great interest in Lucy
B) He isn’t. He wants Lucy to go away but is too polite and too nice to ignore her.
So, the problem I have, is not with Stella. Like I said, she seemed nice. I liked her enthiusiam for life! But in the same way Stella should have been under control (and she wasn’t), I appreciate that I need to ensure my kids don’t just go running up to people and putting themselves and others at risk. As I said before, Alex loves dogs, but this one was in his face. He could arguably have been entitled to react by lashing out at her and pushing her away. Stella, in response, may have been the Budda of all dogs and respectfully bowed, walked backwards and Jedi-mind conversed with him saying
“I am so sorry, young man. Respect”
you know, recognised a suppressed animalistic, inherent tendency within her and bitten him. Stella’s owner had an idealistic, safe view of life and a peachy, perfect Disney view of the world. Also, a very selfish one. Alex could have had a deep phobia of dogs. Or an allergy. Just because she loves her dogs, doesn’t necessarily mean everyone else does. But I think parents and owners of small, hairy, smelly and potentially aggressive beings (dogs and children – don’t get me wrong, my kids are animals sometimes) have a responsibility ultimately to those they look after.
So you see, I do like dogs. Ones I know and ones under control. And Smudge still refuses to let us have a one. Which is annoying. Because I have a name all ready for it.