Tuesday, 2 November 2010

In which I contemplate the balance of the blog; or, a shaggy dog story.

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

The great danger of blogging is that one risks spending all day gazing up one's own fundament. (It is because my most excellent mother reads this that I said fundament rather than arse.) Numberless print journalists and other helpful people will tell you that this is not only an occupational hazard, but practically inevitable. Blogging is the official number one on the solipsism scale, unlike all other forms of writing, which are, of course, entirely selfless.

As a result, I am always a little wary about talking of the medium itself. You may have noticed, however, that this does not stop me. I do not fear the serpent eating its tail, that's how bold I am.

Anyway, I do think about how the blog works. I am conscious that it should not all be on one note. I attempt to balance the serious with the irrelevant, the earnest with the frivolous. I like using pictures, even if they are endless ones of leaves, to break up too much text. If I write an inordinately long post one day, I try to do a short, sharp one the next. (In this, I do not always succeed.) There is research to show that the brain actually processes words on a screen differently to words on a page. This makes intuitive sense to me. I will quite happily settle down to a six page print article, but if I see a blog post that goes on and on, I often shy away.

The point of all this throat-clearing, as my friend The Man of Letters would call it, is that I am conscious of having indulged in rather a lot of dense political posts lately. So today, as a special treat, and to keep the variety various, I am going to tell you a dog story.

(With deep apologies to the cat people.)

As the regular readers will know, my dogs have quite discrete characters, despite being from the same litter. There is the sweet, soft, needy, eager one, known on these pages as The Pigeon. And there is the grand, self-contained, aristocratic one, known, for obvious reasons as The Duchess.

The Pigeon makes faces like this:

2nd Nov 3

Please throw the ball; please, please, please.

2nd Nov 1

Thank you, thank you.

Whilst the Duchess makes faces like this:

2nd Nov 4

Do not disturb me; I am contemplating The Four Last Things.

2nd Nov 2

I am actually so elegant, I have to sit down.

And so on.

The thing of it is, they are old ladies now, and despite still acting like puppies if they see a rabbit or a snowfall, they mostly like lounging around and dozing. The Duchess in particular favours lying in the sun, and will no longer chase balls or sticks, as if the whole thing is quite beneath her dignity. She grows grander and more imperturbable with every passing day.

That is, I discovered this morning, until she sees a sexy fellow running up the beech avenue. (There is of course the distinct possibility that she read Stephen Fry's possibly misquoted contention yesterday that we ladies are not really up for the bedroom action, and decided that she would prove him wrong.)

So there we were, walking in our usual sedate manner, under the glorious trees:

Nov 2nd 5

The sky was blue and the sheep were grazing up on the hill:


All was calm. And then a rather butch black lab appeared, and the Duchess took one look and this happened:

2nd Nov

2nd Nov 7

And this and this and this:

2nd Nov collage

There was shameless wiggling of the bottom, yipping, skipping, sudden moments of hard to get, followed by blatant come hither staring. It was as if she had morphed from Maggie Smith to Katie Price. One minute she was dreaming of Chatsworth, the next it was all sexy sex.

Once she had tortured the poor fellow enough with her appalling flirting, she turned her back and stuck her nose in the air, as if knowing he would never look at another woman again:

2nd Nov 10-6

Meanwhile, the Pigeon, who, it turns out, no longer has any use for gentleman, was busying herself with more important matters, namely the chewing of excessively big sticks:

2nd Nov 11-6

After all that little moment of high theatre, we set off back to the house:


One final pause before we went in:

2nd Nov 12-6

Boys, pah. Take 'em or leave 'em.

2nd Nov 13-6

I can think of nothing else except my absolutely bloody enormous stick.


I don't know why all this made me laugh so much, but it did. It particularly tickles me because I used to be so snotty about the dog people, with their idiotic anthropomorphism and their cutesy sentimentality. It really serves me right for being so superior. Now it is all hoisting and petards. I am stranded in Dogland, my exit visa revoked.

It is quite easy to sneer at the love for animals. They are only animals, after all. (I keep reminding myself of this.) But the thing about the dog love is that it is so pure and uncontaminated. It is so wonderfully straightforward. Humans do things and say things and come out with unexpected opinions and run off with their secretaries; the love has to be constantly recalibrated and is often tested. The animals just go on being their Platonic selves. In a complicated world, there is something to be said for simplicity.

Also, I like having creatures in the house who do not think like me or act like me; they do not even speak English. I like the mysterious sense of otherness as I try to work out what is going on in their canine brains. If I can say this without sounding too absurd: sometimes it feels like a privilege that these descendents of the wild wolves consent to live with us in such harmony.

That really is quite enough of that. I had planned a Good News Day today, as antidote to the Democratic bloodbath which will probably unfold this evening. I was feeling a bit sad about the inevitable triumph of the Tea Party, whose representatives I cannot love. I was going to scout about the interwebs and find all the lovely things that were happening in the world, and bring them to you. It was going to be practically a public service. Then the silly dog thing happened, and I thought: sometimes good news does not have to be Good News. One can find small moments of delight closer to home.


  1. I love it.

    Why on earth should that destroy your (considerable) credibility?

    And I love the comment on one of those naff plaques, drinks mats or whatever, that says simply "Be the person your dog thinks you are."

    I suspect that you are already that person.

  2. My dog is always happy to see me when humans might not. That's enough for me.

    Lovely post.

  3. Cassie - how lovely you are. Such a kind comment to reassure me. Not at all certain why I think talking about the dogs will make everyone point and laugh. Think I have a lurking suspicion I should do the weighty subjects, to give the blog some heft. This may be quite irrational. Perhaps the whole point of blogging is that it should be about the small things that make us human rather than the battle of ideas. Anyway, big thanks to you.

  4. As a cat and a dog person, current owner of three felines and former owner of a gorgeous black lab/greyhound cross called Jess, I have to say that's quite the loveliest story I've read in a while. Although it's really a fotonovela in the finest tradition: When the Duchess met ... ?

  5. Well I'm very much a cat person* and I thoroughly enjoyed the dog story. The last photo in the series is v funny.

    ps - does the Pigeon have superpowers? That stick is huge! Did she carry it?

    *it's not so much that I hate dogs, I just hate bad dog owners who take no account of the fact that I'm uncomfortable around enormous dogs and somehow think that I enjoy being jumped on and slobbered all over by their dear pets. Seem to be surrounded by them :(

  6. Helena - SO agree about the happiness.

    Imogene - so very glad you liked the mad Duchess story. How kind you are.

    Alex - yes she DID carry that huge plank, very proudly, for really quite a long way. I think superpowers must be the answer.

  7. I just love, love this post. Love the pictures as well.

  8. The stick obsession always makes me laugh. I can never forget one of our dogs, Gill, who loved sticks, finding one as long as him (a flatcoat retriever) on a walk and his determination to get it over/under/through the stile - no matter what. We were there hours; eventually he broke it in half. Oh - and that makes me want to talk about the time he went picking up, but that might be contentious, so I'll just add another of my old dogs, Ranger, was obsessed with stones. Had to have one as soon as he left the kennel and used to snorkel after them in the paddling pool. Now I have a husband who, curiously, can't resist picking up a stick on a walk either. It's very comforting...


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