I have a mixed relationship with dogs – some are delightful, and so are many owners – but yesterday a dog put my wife in hospital, it may have caused long-term pain and injury, and it ruined a beautiful family time. What other owners assumed when I got angry about it is where my pen is aimed.
Normally we divide dog owners into three camps:-
The good (responsible, poo picker, rule obeying, training oriented),
the bad (lazy, rule ignoring, arrogant)
and the ugly (those who train dogs as weapons, leave them to maul babies etc.)
When you are having a lovely picnic in a tiny sculpted sheltered sunny spot on a common, famously grazed by cattle and horses, you might expect to have to avoid the cowpats, and keep a watchful eye out for cattle deciding they want to poo on your patch.
What you don’t expect is for a dog to come flying over the raised edge like a bullet and knock you unconscious.
But that is exactly what happened to my wife.
One can argue the details of right and wrong, and play on the rule that dogs should always be on a lead where cattle are roaming free. I can explain why I did the WRONG thing (I was angry) and confronted the owner, or that she had no understanding of what her dog had done and, if she had, she would have been more sympathetic. (Sympathetic wouldn’t have cut it for me – I would have wanted to see her offering £1000 compensation and to have the dog put down at that point).
All that… I could rant on about, or rationalise, but what got my goat immediately after this was the interference of another (unleaded) dog owner. Her interjection was probably out of embarrassment – feeling I had no right to yell angrily at a woman and fellow dog owner – but if she had actually seen what had happened, would she have immediately put her dog on a lead?
– I sincerely doubt it, she was in the union.
The dog owners union is a comfortable and wonderful thing. Walking dogs makes you seem solid, and approachable (at least to other dog lovers) and there is a tree on the adjacent Rodborough common where dogs (owners) hang Christmas cards to each other each year, such is the strength of their “love”. But the fact remains that there is no “dangerous breed”, in the way the insanely stupid Dangerous Dogs Act has tried to create. And further still, just as human beings can go off the rails, even when well trained, so can the best-trained dogs.
This particular dog was a collie cross – and I made eye contact with it two paces before it launched itself past me at 30 mph. straight at my wife’s head. She lay on the ground unconscious for nearly a minute before stirring, the dog ran back to its owner to “play some more”.
Would you have got angry if you were me? – and yes, I know in retrospect I should have called an ambulance, possibly the police too, calmly taken the owners details and contacted a lawyer. The pervading atmosphere, the one the passing dog walker portrayed, is however, “How can you make such a fuss over a playing dog, when we all know that dogs are a man’s best friend and it’s never their fault if anything bad happens?”
If we had in this country, my compulsory dog insurance scheme – this incident could now be resolved, legally and with no lasting bad feelings.
Thatcher did away with the dog licence just when it should have been upped to match the cost of a TV licence, and introduced chipping twinned with compulsory third party insurance (but with massive no claims bonuses), that would then be the prime funding source for a nationwide dog warden/enforcement service.
We are where we are because the unacknowledged dog lobby is like the “let’s not talk about alcohol as a drug” lobby. Politicians run scared from introducing laws they may know to be right but know they do wrong, the irony is that every dog owner I know and have suggested this scheme to says they think its a great idea that they would happily buy into – so responsible dog owners are not tarred with the brush of the bad ones. Government and the RSPCA are fumbling about over rights and potential objections – without thinking through that this is KILLING people.
Thus we have a free range of fake libertarian, self-satisfied, and small-minded arguments against doing anything that could properly control bad breeders, bad owners, increase responsible behaviour and punish the ugly.
It is a disgrace.