Valley of the Dogs

I live in an area frequently described as “dog rough” and it’s as accurate a description as any. It’s a scary place, too, but that’s a whole other bag of frogs and wouldn’t even raise a grin here. So I’ll just tell you how I came to fully understand the meaning of “dog rough”. It’s because of the dogs, you see. A lot of them – most of them – are, in fact, dog rough. My poor pooch doesn’t cut the mustard around here at all, he has zero street cred. He’s small and spoilt and half-vegetarian and has a lifelong passion for Ben & Jerry’s vanilla, although he doesn’t like their cookie dough. He weighs about 8 kilos and is known among the local dogs as a right nancy-boy.

The other dogs around here are fightin’ dogs, with fightin’ owners full of fightin’ talk. They have muzzles – the dogs that is, not the owners – the size of footballs around their big, scary heads. A lot of them are of the born-to-kill breeds, although lately the trend has shifted somewhat towards the vicious-but-hardworking types, the Huskies and German Shepherds. There are no sleds to pull around here, neither is there snow. And there are definitely no sheep. Makes you wonder what these poor dogs do all day. Daydream quietly about savaging newborn babies, I suppose.

The thing that amuses me, and sometimes makes me sad, is the size of these big dogs’ homes. Big dogs need big landscapes to run in, big houses in which to chew their prey to death, big dog-beds the size of dance halls, big everything. But many of them are living in places like mine, with itsy-bitsy balconies out the back. Others live in the five-star residences of dog rough areas: two-up, two-down terraced ticky-tackys, teeny beyond belief. You know the kind of thing I’m talking about, these millennial constructions built in their thousands using faulty Weetabix boxes, where you can hear your neighbours’ every move in their toilet and where the plumbing and electrics are lethally entwined, forcing you to recite The Five Sorrowful Mysteries every morning in the shower, because you don’t know which shower will be your last. The back yards of these ticky-tackys have, I believe, already been certified by the ISPCA as being too small for a gerbil. So what the hell would possess a person to put a 12-stone hairy, sled-pulling, sheep-shagging dog-bear in one? Beats me.

They say that dogs and their owners eventually look alike. So I was toying with the idea of giving my dog the same tattoos and body-piercings as me, just so we could look like all the other dogs and their owners. Then I remembered I have no tats and only my ears are pierced. He’d look like a right eejit sporting a pair of pearl earrings. No, I’m not doing that. But I’m such a bloody misfit round here. I tend to say “what” instead of “wha” and, if I don’t believe something I’m told, I say “Would you go away outa that!” instead of “Would ya fuck off, ya bollix!” I just can’t blend in.

I did, however, decide that my dog needed a haircut, after I met someone who politely asked me if my dog did his own hair? I replied that since I do mine, maybe that’s not a bad idea. He couldn’t give himself a worse haircut than I give him. So I dragged him – kicking and screaming – to the grooming parlour, and asked that they go handy, I sort of like the faded 80s mullet kinda thing he has going on, you know what I mean – all business at the front and party party party at the back. But there’s no party now.

My dog looks like a Jack Russell. He looks like a canine impression of a bank official. He’s like a freshly-shaved greyhound who’s been given the wrong legs. He’s never looked more inappropriate. But to hell with the other dogs, laughing at him. At least he’s the right size for his home, which is more than can be said for them. What’s next in the “hood”, I wonder? A donkey sanctuary in the car park?

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