I think I’m ready to talk about the traumatic dog-woman experience.
Firstly, a word about dogs. I don’t hate dogs. I don’t hate them, to the extent that I wrote a song entitled “I Don’t Hate Dogs.”
I didn’t think it could get much clearer than that, although it seems some people remained suspicious, possibly owing to the double negative. Whilst it’s true that I have some personal issues with canine intimacy – namely an intolerance of slobber on the face, certain timbres of bark and the smell of wet fur reminiscent of mouldy washing – I love animals. Dogs included.
However. Dog-owners are another matter. Owning a dog is a responsibility. It is not kind to let your dog run riot and maul people’s picnics, just like it’s not kind to let your toddler masturbate in public – they don’t know any better.
On a nice hot afternoon, I was sun-bathing on the common, obsessively photographing trees (see below) when my tranquility was interrupted by a mad dog chase which seemed to centre around my blanket.
A lady nearby with a pushchair was strolling alongside, proudly absorbed in telling her dog what a good girl it was as it chased and fought another dog leaving me caught in the crossfire. As I sat up, slightly bewildered at the prospect of being thunked by colliding dogs, she looked at me accusingly and asked “is that your dog?”
I responded that it was not my dog, but that if I were to have a dog I would learn how to control it. This did not go down well. And I admit I did sound rather pompous at this point. What I probably meant was “the reason I don’t have a dog is precisely because, like you, I probably wouldn’t be able to control it.”
“How rude!” squawked the lady, “This is a dog-walking area! If you don’t like it go to the dog-free zone!”
I remained polite but firm. This was a public park, and those with dogs have a responsibility to keep control of them or to have them on a lead. I believe this is actually the law, although I didn’t bring that up, for fear she might hyper-ventilate.
“Besides, it’s dog-walking time!!!”
I am sensitive to the need for dogs to be exercised, but must it be at the expense of other park users?
She appealed to my sympahetic side: “He’s only a puppy, give him a chance!” I relented somewhat. I was being a tad harsh perhaps. But will she still think it’s cute when the dog is ripping a child’s face off?
“You need to learn some manners!” she spat, incredulously, appalled at my audacity in telling the truth.
As she huffed off, I considered my response. I was shaken and felt concerned – had I been aggressive? No, self-righteous maybe. But when there is an important point to be made I always feel a responsibility to make it.
Besides there was something alarming in her outlook on the situation. The attitude that I’ll do what I like, and if other people have a problem they can fuck off. I am afraid that I do relate to this – it’s something I felt a lot as a teenager, and even now on my grumpiest days – but I try and keep myself separate from members of the public at these moments.
I’m not averse to a bit of a provocative behaviour. But the motivation is important. The motivation in fact is usually quite blatantly evident. If it’s about me and preserving my little kingdom, it tends to look ridiculous. I cringe inwardly when recollecting moments in which I have acted upon this very impulse. If, on the other hand, it’s about shaking people out of their comfort zones and making them think, it can be exhilarating, sometimes terrifying – possibly even helpful.