Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Lead me not into ...

One of the joyous consequences of balmy weather is the evening constitutional. Today it took me on a fine ramble for over an hour, including a trip around Newington Green. Newington Green is undergoing something of a revival involving the wholesale reconstruction of the green itself to include generous lawns for picnics, children's playground and an outdoor theatre area. One of the roads feeding onto the green has been closed to provide a large al fresco dining and drinking area for the bars abutting it and the more sensible restaurants and cafes have made outdoor spaces and offer snacks and ice creams to attract passing trade. There's something of a throb about the general atmosphere on nice summer evenings.

And then there are the dogs.

In the space of ten minutes in and around the green I witnessed at least half a dozen unleashed dogs, some on pavements following cycling or walking owners, others running around on the green itself. Perhaps I hold an extreme view because I was bitten by a dog when a small boy and still bear the long scar on my flabby right thigh; although I doubt I am the only one who finds the sight of a roaming hound with slobbering chops more than a little uncomfortable.

Dog owners just don't seem to get it. Of course some consider their creatures to be akin to a handgun and use them to intimidate the meek, most do not. It is the "most" that trouble me more. Let me take you back about two years to a bright summer morning when I was having a cup of tea with a neighbour while sitting on the front steps of FatBigot Towers. Someone who lives a few doors south came along with her dog and joined us for a chat. I didn't know her from a bowl of soup but my neighbour did. Her hound jumped up at me a number of times and I asked her to restrain it. It might or might not be relevant that we were all on my property and she entered uninvited, although it might say something about her general attitude. The exact words I used were "would you mind keeping your animal away from me please?" Said, I think, without malice and phrased very much as a request rather than a command. Her response was exactly what I had encountered from dog owners before: "He's only playing, he won't hurt you."

What she meant was: (i) if it did the same to her she would consider it playful and (ii) she would not expect her dog to do her harm. She had no idea that the very act of having an animal jumping at me was harmful to me, it scared me as dogs always scare me. That she felt I should not be scared made no difference. That the dog did not, on that occasion, sink its fangs into my fleshy body made no difference to the fear because the fear lay in the risk.

A few months later her dog did bite someone. I did not witness the event but heard about it from the very same neighbour I was chatting to when it attacked me. He was an eye witness and informed me that her reaction was to blame the victim, a child of ten, for scaring the dog and she used that well-worn half-truth so beloved of animal owners "he's never done that before", as though it excuses her irresponsibility in allowing an animal to run free in public.

All dogs have the innate capacity to bite strangers, some are more inclined to do so than others but they can all do it and an awful lot achieve the feat despite the feigned astonishment of their owners when it happens.

My return from tonight's constitutional required me to cross the road twice to avoid oncoming untethered dogs; one a scrofulous collie and the other a well presented but dribbling Staffordshire bull terrier. I shouldn't have had to cross the road because the owners should have had their pets on leads but they decided to promote their opinions of their dogs above the opinions others might have. One day the law will come to its senses and allow roaming dogs to be shot on sight.


Mark Wadsworth said...

Excellent, but the law would have to allow people to carry handguns first.

Mr said...

Whilst we're dreaming, I'd like to be able to shoot unmuzzled lawyers on sight.

Anonymous said...

Mr FB, I'm left wondering how many times in your life you've actually been the victim of a dog attack, as it seems to me that, if it was just once throughout your many decades of life, your fear of dogs could fairly be descibed as a phobia.
Now, there are lots of phobias out there, and while I can appreciate the difficulty of living with such a condition, the people who who suffer from such irrational fears generally have to accept that it's they who need to adjust to society, rather than expecting society to adjust to them.

Andrew W

Neil said...

Dear Bat Bigot,

A barrister, out for a jog,
Was set upon by a big dog.
He said, "Change the law!
Stop misuse of the paw!"
And he published it all on his blog.


TheFatBigot said...

Hello again Mr Andrew. I've been attacked by dogs many times but once would have been enough for my fear to qualify as being entirely rational. You only need to be shot once to have a perfectly rational fear of someone holding a gun.

Indeed evidence-based fear is, I would suggest, always rational.

TheFatBigot said...

Very good Mr Neil !

Anonymous said...

You seem to have had an extraordinarily unlucky time in your encounters with dogs then Mr FatBigot, I've been around dogs all my life and have never been the victim of a dog attack, mind you, the "attack" you describe in your post doesn't really qualify as such in my eyes.

I've just had a quick google on the dog attack and violent crime rates in the UK. From what I've found it would seem that human on human violence in the UK is about 500-1000 times as common as dog on human violence.
I pray that you're never a victim of a mugging, as the subsequent rational fear of humans would leave you permanently house-bound.

Kind Regards
Andrew W.

J Bonington Jagworth said...

"her reaction was to blame the victim"

Don't they always? My grandmother used to own a bad-tempered Pug, which regularly bit me as a child. Her reaction was always to enquire what I had been doing to annoy the dog, which I have to admit became a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, as my only redress was to do just that (including putting a small stick in his curly tail, which he was too fat to remove).

The only person he didn't bite was my grandmother, of course.