This week’s ‘Stare of the Dog’ is a woeful tale of unsavoury skulduggery, for little did I realise the sheer mind blowing levels of social strata existing out there between our canine compadres as they rub shoulders together in public.
The older Dudley gets, the more I notice the patterns within his behaviour around other dogs, the way he shows deferential tendencies towards some, whilst ignoring others entirely. However, interesting though these may well be to your average animal behavioural therapist, I am afraid my fascinations in this area are piqued by something far more puerile – the good old dry hump.
For it appears that Dudley’s hind-quarters hold some mystical appeal to half the dogs we meet out and about in our neighbourhood. Often it is a great oaf of a thing that steps up to publicly humiliate the poor chap, one of those types I can only describe as ‘breed unidentifiable’ drooling masses of hair and saliva. They seem to be attracted to poor Dud, who always manages to catch me with a resigned and worried glance, just as his hairy nemesis is building up to a climax in his rear view mirror. Covered in ‘third party drool’ and feeling like a priest at a Hells Angel’s chapter, I do try my hardest to sympathise with him, but never feel quite concerned enough to intervene.
However, when it is a tiny wee fur ball of a fella that I see trying it on with him, I take a less paternal attitude to poor old Dud’s predicament. On one occasion, we were walking along the river when suddenly joined by a short, fluffy affair less than half of Dudley’s height. This over sized hamster was not at all put off by the seemingly mammoth task that lay ahead either, and proceeded to strike Dudley with more unwanted advances than a Hollywood A-lister on a casting couch. The height difference on this occasion between Dud and his plucky suitor was such that I didn’t know whether to offer the horny little hamster a leg up or drag him off. Yet all the while, I really wished Dud would just grow a pair and get rid of the little blighter himself, but then these are rich words indeed, coming from the man who had them removed.
Dogs, we are told, are driven by this restricted and hierarchical code of order and one-upmanship in a totally non-sexual way – despite my lazy reference to a ‘horny hamster’ above. This may help me feel better about abandoning Dudley to his fate, but it does rather expose canine life for what it is – an endless and wearisome cycle of testosterone and angst. Then on careful reflection, I may just have described any booze fuelled Friday night in an English market town or life on the creatine trail for all those top heavy and tottering “muscle mary’s” who frequent the nation’s Gyms.
Indeed, such a sordid and Neanderthal display of social structure was witnessed recently on a visit to the in-laws, and before you wonder, it wasn’t my wife’s father greeting me at the door, naked from the waist up and brandishing an automatic rifle Vladimir Putin style. No, this was social structure according to the canine, with young Dudley placed front and centre and poised to learn some grim lessons first hand.
First up, the ‘make like it ain’t happening’ response seemed to be a firm favourite with Dudley as the in-law’s un-neutered Clumber Spaniel Scout swarmed around his ass like a plague of blowfly. To be fair to Dud, the Spaniel in question is a strong dog in possession of a full nutsack and a home advantage, so it was only ever going to be that way. However, on the beach the next day with the Spaniel, our faithful friend fared no better, again being firmly put in his place for having the audacity to make a grab for the ‘kong’ we’d been throwing for them.
Things would deteriorate further still, though not in the way I had envisaged. As if by magic, an adorable black Labrador puppy appeared on the beach, put there by the canine God of serendipity no doubt for Dudley and Dexter (Scout’s neutered and equally long suffering yellow Labrador brother) to recover the last vestiges of their dignity and authority. Leaving Scout to salivate over his easily won prize, a brace of hapless Labradors galloped away to harass and abuse the poor puppy. What followed was not pretty, but then nor was it violent or aggressive so I left them to their debauchery. Dexter, the bigger and older of the two went for the most undignified of all manoeuvres – the front hump. This freed up Dudley to do what he does best, dance around the edges of this chaotic scene, barking in a faux aggressive way whilst his tail swooshed back and fourth like the sword of Zorro. As for the poor puppy, he stood sheepishly in the middle between them, the unwitting star of his own worst nightmare.
And what did I do? I took this blurry picture of course.