Now Wait a Doggone Minute

Part II, see Part I here.

Beach Little Dog

Little Dog

My parents have learnt a lot about their dog since adopting her from the shelter. She couldn’t stand the smell of smoke, or any vehicle noisier than a two-stroke motorcycle. She feared the kitchen and kitchen-type noises. She feared a door that was neither open or shut. She feared feet. She didn’t understand water could be found in designated bowls. She thought a ball was a weapon rather than a toy. She didn’t know grass, sand or dirt. She didn’t know she could dig. She cowered at any hand that reached for her.

My parents have learnt she loves children and will wag her backend off and/or cross traffic at the sight of one. She’s also an optimist. Despite evidence she’s been abused by the adult man of her previous life, she continues to approach men, cowering with appeasing Bambi-eyes, sometimes dragging herself along on her stomach to reach them in the hope of their approval.

I marvel at how adaptive and forgiving dogs can be and for Little Dog, most of the fears and anxieties she exhibited in those early days have dissipated, or in some instances, disappeared altogether.

This brings me to the day she was attacked by another dog. She survived, and she walks through the park where the attack took place without hesitation and continues to ignore other dogs like they don’t exist. The only thing that has changed is Little Dog gets defensive when strange dogs race up to her, even if they intend to play. They can bark or do cartwheels for all she cares so long as they keep their distance, but a fast-paced introduction leads to growling and a brief scuffle. This is compounded by my mum’s own anxiety on the issue, who’s now fearful of any dog off-lead.

This would be manageable except for the surprising number of dog walkers who disrespect our wish to not engage with their dog.

They say, ‘it’s fine, she won’t hurt’ or, ‘he’s friendly’ but it’s incidental – we don’t want other dogs racing towards ours but we cannot convey this, or Little Dog’s back-story before the other dog gets to us. Even if we manage to say ‘Can you please put your dog on lead’ they offer the same answers. A man told my mum to take her ‘f*cking dog elsewhere’ among other profanities as he had no control over his own dog nor had he bothered to even bring a lead. In another instance a woman told me indignantly it was an off-lead area. I said, ‘that’s fine, but as you have no control over your dog, how can I protect yours from mine?’

[Okay, so I wasn’t quite that eloquent, but I conveyed that point and it gave her something to think about.]

Even though we put our dog on lead when another approaches, it’s rarely read as a sign by them to do the same. One lady once let her dog off to meet ours. She was lovely, and the dog was lovely but that’s beside the point. By the time Mum was able to explain her concerns, the dogs had been with each other long enough to settle. Mum said it makes her feel like a over-reactive fool when she cannot prevent the exchange and then all her concerns amount to nothing.

As Little Dog is calm and unreactive, I guess people assume she’s ‘okay’ and they can please themselves, but I’m certain they’d be more cautious if Mum owned a Rottweiler or a Doberman or a German Shepherd. And simply because your dog isn’t the ‘problem’ dog, doesn’t mean you should be inconsiderate of others. Here’s another perspective, in this blog post by Liz.

Our dog is great with other dogs, if given the time to adjust to their presence. Please think about the dog walkers you approach – they may be one of those wonderful people who’ve adopted a ‘broken’ dog or they have a dog with a complex history. Respect that.

You do not know their story.

Advertisements

The Curious Case of Little Dog

Part 1

My grandparents had a Corgi. She was ‘broken’ when they got her – she loved children for their flavour and she bit all the hands that fed her at one time or another. Their love could not help her. I was five when she died, so I only remember her snarling at me behind a wire-mesh gate. My grandparents adopted their second dog from the family across the road who’d moved away. It was a black Labrador crossed with something that shrank her into a smaller body. A loveable dog with velvet ears and a sweet disposition who’d do anything for food.

My own family’s first dog arrived the year I turned fourteen. She grew into a neurotic, protective dog who was completely useless at a game of fetch and difficult to take out because she choked herself on her lead and barked at other dogs and strangers. In spite of that, in her own home, she was a beautiful dog and we adored her.

I’ve always loved dogs, but loving dogs doesn’t guarantee you’ll be a good owner. We did the best we could for our dog at the time but I still feel responsible for her anxiety. She was probably wired to be somewhat neurotic, but if we’d socialised her more as a puppy her life would have been easier. I took it upon myself to know dogs better. While I absorbed every dog related book or video I could find, I also volunteered at our local dogs’ shelter – it was here I learnt about their diversity.

I’m not talking about particular breeds or crossbreeds (though, the Corgi X Rottweiler was an interesting combination), I’m talking about personalities. Like people, they are complex and as much products of their DNA as their upbringing. Even after my induction at the shelter and my extensive reading, I had this delusion that volunteering would be full of pleasant strolls, slow-motion runs through the long grass, wagging tails and tongue-slobbery happiness. No. The reality is far more sobering. These dogs have multiple and varied histories. Occasionally, they’re surrendered because their owner was ill or had passed away, or surrendered by responsible people who’ve recognised they’ve picked the wrong pet for their lifestyle. Sadly, and all too often, they are saved from the street, suffering from different levels of ‘broken’. Most dogs have no known history, most are nameless and don’t come to you when called. At best they’re confused and at worst they’re dysfunctional – and that’s after they’ve passed their temperament tests.

I took a Staffordshire X for a long and exciting walk with all the sniffing (that is, we walked, she sniffed). We went up The Hill and around the grounds of our facility and she had such a good time, I decided from then onwards I’d take every dog I walked up The Hill. The next dog was a Poodle X Powder-puff. He stalled at the foot of The Hill with a face that said, ‘You’re not seriously going to take me up that, are you?’.

It seemed some dogs weren’t adventurous walkers. Some dogs would walk in any weather while others would cower at rain like it were made of acid. Some dogs were interested in possum trails, some dogs were more interested in fellow dogs while others preferred people. One day I took a dog out for a walk and she suddenly became fearful of me. To ease her distress, I handed the lead to an employee who’d come to my aid. ‘I don’t understand why she’s so upset!’

‘There’s something in your pocket.’ she said.

It was my treats’ tin. As I pulled the container out it rattled against my car keys and the dog cowered.

This dog had been beaten with chain.

It breaks your heart.

But in that heart break, in the knowledge there are people is this world too cruel to speak of, there are people who save dogs. People who adopt these disassociated canines and give them a new and good life. People who make these dogs better in their own time and at their own expense . Kind people who give these dogs a chance at ‘happy’ instead of ‘broken’.

Which brings me to my parents, and the curious case of Little Dog

People on Pedestals

It makes sense we feel connections with people in the public eye. You observe them on television, in film, on stage or follow them through social media. You probably like their show, love their movie, own their art, listen to their music or read their writing. You probably feel, on some level, you know them.

I can understand all this, which makes it difficult for me to explain the ways I don’t understand.

Even as a teenager, at the alleged peak of celebrity obsessions, I was disinterested. I mean, I had ‘celebrity crushes’ but hanging pictures of these strangers on my bedroom wall (no matter how cute they were) seemed weird to me. What posters I did possess were stuck under the lid of my storage chest away from prying eyes – pictures of animals and ALF. Yes, ALF – who’s a puppet. While my pin-up choices made sense in my head, my friends were infatuated with television personalities, bands and film stars. When one friend tried to entice me to get an autograph from a local celebrity, I replied, ‘What for? He wouldn’t want mine’. I managed to confuse my friend, who couldn’t find an argument against it and nevertheless wandered off for the autograph without me.

That’s not to imply I wouldn’t want to meet the famous people I admire. Unfortunately, when those opportunities present themselves I imagine myself standing with a gazillion other people who may or may not be screaming for the off chance of a short conversation that may or may not be meaningless. Of course, this standard of mine means I’m unlikely to ever meet them in any capacity. Which perhaps makes me all the poorer.

Look. Can’t we just meet for a coffee?

I find myself feeling sorry for well-known people. Some are better at negotiating ‘celebrity’ than others but I often see the down side.

I follow Emma Watson on Twitter and some months ago now she tweeted this:

“I told my dad I am learning to touch type and he said he still uses the ‘hunt and peck’ technique. And now I’m crying laughing. #dads”

Charming, right? One of the responses to this comment was vile. Irrelevant and vile. At the time I saw it, it had thirteen RTs and several more tagged it as a favourite. I realise that’s a relatively small portion of her followers but I still got the heebie-jeebies on Emma’s behalf.

Then there was this photo that did the rounds on Twitter

 

Should this treatment be part of being famous? Really? Taking pictures of them doing things unrelated to their job? With their kids in the park? In the supermarket? But I guess it fills me with horror because I would hate it happening to me.

In my teens I witnessed a girl scream when she unexpectedly meet a actor from an Australian soapie. A short and shocked ‘argh!’ like she’d just uncovered a spider. I admit, it is odd seeing people from television/film in public (it’s a bit like when you’re a child and see your school teacher at the supermarket), but scream? Without meaning to sound like Spock, this response seemed illogical.

I once saw Miriam Margolyes at the airport (she notably played Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films) and I kept well away. She looked like she wanted to be swallowed by the world and avoided making eye contact with anyone.

But there is a market for it. People buy celebrity magazines. I have family and friends who buy them. Some ‘celebrities’ probably buy them. And I don’t understand it at all. So when The Daily Post asked the question, ‘Who did you idolise as a teenager? Did you go crazy for the Beatles? Ga-ga over Duran Duran? In love with Justin Bieber? Did you think Elvis was the livin’ end?’, I couldn’t relate to this either.

I know I’ve way over-thought this, but sometimes I feel we use the word ‘idolise’ too freely; we feel it more than we think about why. We give more weight to attractiveness than we do to identity. We mix up actors with the characters they play, we confuse popularity with talent and fame with worth. What am I idolising exactly?

I don’t like people on pedestals. I’m not saying you can’t look up to people, only that I prefer admiration over adoration and respect over worship. Some of the kindest, extraordinary, admirable, inspiring and talented people are not well-known at all.

 

Who are your non-famous idols? Do you have an autograph of someone you admire and if so what does it mean to you?

 

Horror Movie Right There On My TV

534e01c691d9be30b605d95d8b29bb2cTo be completely transparent, the focus of this post is death and how it is portrayed in the media. I’ve held it back for weeks because of the bleak theme and I’m dreading the prospect of this heading my blog until I write something more cheerful. This is a genuine content warning, I even made myself depressed writing it. If you are new to my blog, it is not normally this dire and I promise the next one will be about kittens, unicorns or rainbows. Please leave a comment, your feedback is always welcome.

I don’t possess much curiosity. I’m not tempted to open a door that forbids me to enter, if someone taunts me with ‘I know something you don’t’ I frustrate them with my indifference and if a news reader warns me of distressing footage, I leave the room. I’m not devoid of it, there’s that little bit of morbid curiosity within me that makes me crane my neck to glimpse a bingle on the motorway. And while it is founded in curiosity (‘what’s happening?’), there’s also worry (‘is it someone I know?’) and concern (‘are they OK?’) and empathy (‘I feel for them’). And I think it exists to offer us resilience and the bravery to run towards the fear and offer help.

Seeing and living tragedies is clearly different to watching them with a more detachment on television. I clocked a fair few childhood years before I noticed any news broadcast. I suppose my parents switched the TV off if they deemed the content too ‘adult’ but the first news event to register with me was the Challenger disaster. It had a huge affect on me – image after image on every channel of the shuttle disintegrating in mid air. We learn about the crew members – five men, two woman. One of those a teacher who had children my own age. In my pyjamas, from the comfort of the living room, I realised “we are watching these people die”.

This thought has never left me. From the Hindenburg disaster to more modern day events, whether accidental or intentional, whether captured on film or digitally recorded – we are watching people die. And sometimes I think we forget this basic truth, we become so mesmerised by the spectacle we lose sight of the tragedy. On TV you can watch those sensationalised documentary programs investigating serious traffic accidents, plane crashes and heinous crime. They break the incident down into such fine increments you are almost able to relive the terror. Some of these incidents are only a few years old. What about the families of those who died? Were they asked? Are public tragedies public property? If it’s not your country is it legit?

How do we decide what footage goes too far? Does it depend on who, or where? And if it’s worthy of the warning “some viewers may find the following images distressing” – why show it at all?

I receive chain emails from friends. They contain light hearted jokes or cat videos or cute animal pics or beautiful photography, but occasionally something upsetting seeps through under the guise of humour. Like a Porsche with its roof peeled back because it drove under a truck – real traffic accidents in which people have died. They were probably released into the public as lessons against speeding or drink driving – at what point does this deserve a funny caption?

The chain email that lead me to write this post had a video attachment, simply titled, ‘That’s not a handrail!’. The footage began innocently enough on a train platform in India. In the background your eye gravitates towards a man walking atop an electric train who then accidently takes hold of the live wire. He dies. I will not describe it. I thought I was going to be sick, it replayed in my brain for days as my brain tried to process its horror. I feel sick now making myself remember it. Perhaps more disturbingly, someone I knew emailed it to me and they didn’t feel revolted by it.

In this digital age, there’s an ever increasing likelihood of capturing disturbing events on film. I’m not saying we should remain trapped with these horrendous visions in our minds, or relive them as we first saw them. It is natural for us to heal and adjust, but I don’t want to lose sight of what I’m looking at. I don’t want to become immune to the horror, because if I become immune, then it’s not horror, and if it’s not horror, then what is it?

Then what are we?