(James writes a monthly column for The Gudgeon. Each month, the previous month’s article is archived.)
You know that moment at night when you look up into a clear sky, and it just looks dark and empty, and then suddenly you see one star and then another, and soon the entire upper region is full of the things? Well, I’ve had the same experience with dogs recently. Not up in the sky – that would be worrying – but pretty much everywhere else.
I’m a dog-friendly person. When I was young and the continents were forming I had a dog called Scamp. I learned to walk by dragging myself up on his ears. We went everywhere together, Scamp, me and his ears. Unfortunately, Scamp was training-challenged. His idea of going for a walk was to run as fast as he could until he was a tiny dot in the distance, and then hurtle back until he was a tiny dot in another distance. It was pointless throwing a stick or a ball, he would just eat it. He had two states of being: asleep and massively excited.
Scamp would have been massively excited to live in Bradford on Avon. He would have made so many friends; eaten so many balls. Every evening Sally and I walk beside the river and double back along the canal. We chat about the day, watch the wildlife, admire the narrowboats, think about which beermonger to stop in – but recently, all I can see are dogs. And every time I see one I shout, “Hey, Sally, we’ve got to get a dog,” and then I bore her with the same old tale about how Scamp was once so massively excited to see my granddad sitting in a chair that he ran down the hallway, skidded on the floor, jumped onto my granddad’s lap and urinated all over him.
I love that story.
Anyway, I have a theory – the dogs are running Bradford on Avon. There, I’ve said it. They’re busted. We’re onto them. They’ve organised themselves, formed committees, possibly issue newsletters, and they are in control. They own us. Seriously, next time you see a dog and a human attached to a lead, ask yourself, who is walking whom?
Look at the evidence: pretty much every pub in Bradford on Avon is dog-friendly, and most of the cafés and restaurants too. There are dog clubs, dog walking services, dog boarding establishments, doggy day care, poop-scoop areas (although I have to ask: what is going on with those black bags hanging in trees?) and places to attach leads. I searched online for “bradford on avon” “dog sitting” and it returned 3,980 results in 0.62 seconds – and our broadband is really slow. There’s no doubt, this place is dog heaven.
And surely the centre of dog operations is the wonderfully impressive Doghouse in the middle of town. This is obviously Dog Council HQ, the hub, the nerve-centre. Those clever canines distract their owners with coffee, cake and a shop full of useful accessories, and make their dog decisions and issue their dog orders while they are being professionally washed, groomed and nail-clipped. I wonder if, now that I’ve gone public, my name will appear on their agenda?
So it’s out there: the dogs are in charge and I can only be thankful that Scamp isn’t here because he definitely wasn’t cut out for high office. Who knows what decisions he would have made – he would have unleashed (pun intended) dog anarchy onto the streets of Bradford on Avon.
It is strange the things that Sally and I talk about, now that the nights are light we can’t see the stars on our evening walks.