Monday, 1 September 2008
Boxers, Yapping Dogs and the Floating Dog Lovers Vote in the American Presidential Election
Autumn feels as if it is starting to arrive with that particular smell of new pencil cases, vests and in the Fens a slight ‘je ne sais quoi’ on the breeze coming in from the Urals. Having spent nearly all of August with my head in front of a computer screen working on the novel (definite article) and the poetry collection (another very definite article) I am now attuned to the view from the window next to my computer desk and can spot all those minute changes, even the urban grass verges with their weekly tide of wheelie bins signal that summer has washed by. The rose bush in next door but one’s garden look like a lanky older woman trying to maintain a gesture towards youth by a slight smear of red lipstick.Nearly all the leaves have dropped, succombing to time and gravity but the odd bloom hangs on doggedly, much like myself.
I spent Saturday at an informal poetry workshop in a garden. Some exercises to get the juices flowing and much food. I managed to squeeze out a few drops of work I could perhaps use at some point from, what felt like, my desiccated brain. I was happy to be in the company of two dogs, resident in the house; a very solid black Labrador and a quietly content cocker spaniel. I miss dogs, being out at work all day I feel it is unfair to have a dog but in my childhood and teenage years I was never without a dog in the house. The first I recall was
a far from stupid boxer who took me from two years old to fourteen years old. She was the exception to the rule that boxers are basically friendly but very stupid. She was a smart dog; unfortunately she took her role of surrogate nanny to me very seriously, someone must have read her Peter Pan as a puppy and she took her template from the Darling’s dog. We would play together in a tiny garden but should I venture towards the gate to go out onto the road she would firmly stop me by either literally hanging onto any item of my clothing she could get her teeth into and pulling me back or sitting at the gateway and head butting me back into the garden. As I grew older and was allowed out of the gate on my own she found this very worrying and would fret at the gate until I returned. I could never take her for a walk on my own even as a teenager; we would get as far as the gate and she would sit down and refuse to budge giving me a very firm stare as if I was being caught in an act of unbelievably stupidity. She would sit at the door awaiting my return from school unerringly at the right time, even when we had half day holidays from school she would sense a change of timings and be at the door at the new return time. This was a dog of magnificent intelligence and empathy.
The Dalmatian that followed was barking mad, literally; she was also an escape artist of Houdini type ability. Whilst I was at school my mother spent hours wandering the neighbourhood rattling a tin of doggy chocs to try and locate her. She was returned to us from far and wide, kind people reading her address on the collar and delivering her back. This was her forte, escaping, running for miles, acquiring new and admiring friends who would feed her, pet her generally celebrate her adventure and return her back to the arms of her family who were, puzzlingly to her, a mixture of angry, relieved and joyous. The Dalmatian came into our lives at the same time as my mother’s menopause and the two did not mix. The daily stress of her escapes lead her to give the dog away to a family that had two rumbustuous young boys who were also always escaping and getting into trouble. This was a match made in heaven. The boys and the dog bonded so well that on her death many years later two grief stricken grown men insisted that she be placed in a very expensive doggy grave at the local pet cemetery.
After the Dalmatian my mother decided to downsize to two pugs. I had virtually left home by the pug era but I remember them as loud, yapping to a frenzy when anyone came to the door, true lap dogs and, I say this grudgingly, as I am not a fan of small dogs, full of character. They wheezed and snorted their way through life with heads that seemed to be permanently cocked on one side, like victims of severe whiplash. They were in a car accident once, my mother driving into a bread van or vice versa depending on which version you listened to. They refused to abandon their roll as guardians of the back seat of the car and had to be removed eventually very gingerly by a policeman who threw a coat over them. They didn’t stop yapping until placed in the ambulance with my slightly dazed mother where they promptly sat on her lap and refused to budge. They had to be given a ride to the hospital with her (very much against the rules) until my father arrived to collect them and my mother, whereupon both mother and dogs lapsed into acquiescent relieved silence in the presence of the alpha male of the pack.
I discovered a recent article that cited the results of a poll that 42% of pet owners favoured presidential McCain and only 37% favoured Obama. Amongst dog owners the margin is even bigger. McCain did release pictures of himself in hunting mode with gun and dog, thus targeting the gun lobby and the dog owners in one fell swoop. The fact that Obama is without any kind of pet, apart from his running mate, Joe Biden, who has been likened to an attack dog, may not help his cause. If McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin turns out to own cats, dogs goldfish and budgies there may be many a democratic vote lost to the animal lovers demographic. However her strong fight as Governor of Alaska to try and stop Polar bears being listed as an endangered species as this would effect gas and oil exploration may count against her. Cuddly endangered polar bear cub versus a family pet. This may be a green crusty eco warrior with small dogs on pieces of rope group versus owners of spoilt poodles, man hunting bloodhounds and property protecting Dobermans.It is unlikely that the former would have voted Republican anyway and the latter dog owners are probably already entrenched in the Republican camp. It's the floating dog-owning voters that need rounding up into the Democrat fold. Obama has stated he intends to get a dog at some point; this may be too little too late to grab that floating dog-owner voter.
Harry Truman a famous presidential dog owner once pointed out that the only way to have a friend in Washington was to have a dog. Of course Harry Truman agreed to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hitler also liked dogs, being deeply fond of his Alsatian dog Blondie; dog ownership is therefore no indication of a deep love of humanity in general or an ability to lead with compassion. Perhaps Barack is relying on Biden to be faithful unto death and also the American electorate to have some common sense. Hopefully both will prove to be true but I am not holding my breath. Maybe Sarah Palin will be revealed as having agreed to lost dogs in Alaskan dog pounds being put to sleep, cue for photo opportunity of dog with soulful eyes staring down the camera lens; then those floating voters may not be lost to the Democrats after all.