Dog-walking Diaries: political ideology for dogs

Image of Che Guevara dog
Canines of the world, unite!
"Wilson fancies himself as top dog and cares not for the needs of others as he charges ahead pursuing profit in the shape of interesting sticks and appealing patches of grass"
  • | by Rachel England

People who aren’t ‘into’ dogs are often surprised to find that our canine chums are just as individually unique as people, with their own personalities and temperaments.

Two dogs of the same breed raised in the same environment can have polar opposite attitudes to bath time or walkies, for example, and while one may forlornly put its head on your lap if you’re visibly upset, the other may use your distraction as an opportunity to eat your shoes.

Sure, they’re all pretty slobbery and can sometimes be a bit dense, but you’ve only got to visit a kebab shop at 3am on a Saturday morning to realise that this behaviour isn’t exclusive to dogs.

So when I’m out with the dogs, it’s lovely to watch how one will playfully skip after a squirrel while another will stare at it menacingly until we pass, or how one will yap at another dog while the rest charge on ahead unperturbed.

It’s their personalities that keep the walks interesting – without them, I might as well be herding sheep. But as is the case with my many interesting human friends, there is one thing that’s guaranteed to tarnish my enjoyment of this rich tapestry of life.

Politics.

Just as conversation at a dinner party or in the pub can quickly turn to debate on political ideology, so too can my hour-long walks with the dogs.

And in this instance there’s no benefit of meaningful and balanced discussion (although to be fair that’s not always seen in human discourse, either), because as I’ve previously discussed, they’re dogs, incapable of analytical thought and speech, despite the perceptions of some owners. They’re driven by base needs, and while the concept of political motivation could never take hold in their brains, their time with me is dominated by it.

It’s no coincidence that the face of capitalism is often depicted as a bulldog in a top hat and monocle, for example. It’s clear that Wilson fancies himself as top dog and cares not for the needs of others as he charges ahead pursuing profit in the shape of interesting sticks and appealing patches of grass. When he does decide to sit down, the rest of the group – our little society – doesn’t know what to do with itself.

Then there’s Roger. Old, slow, geriatric Roger, whose need for a more egalitarian way of life causes Alfie the spaniel no end of concern. Because Alfie is a communist. He’s happy to do what’s expected of him but torn between opposing forces he looks to me for guidance, which I’m unable to give him as I’m preoccupied with Bo’s fascism towards long-haired dogs and Buster the pug’s relentless anarchy towards, well, everything.

The faster dogs are frustrated when I cater to the needs of the slow ones, and the slow ones are exasperated when I drag them along after the faster ones. Some of them hate grass, others hate concrete. They grumble when their needs are unfulfilled, and there’s infighting at the first sign of preferential treatment. Yet I’m expected to keep the peace while cleaning up after them and making sure they don’t amble in front of a car.

I’m no political apologist, but I am their government, and it’s hard work.

Getting four dogs to walk without incident is like putting John Locke, Karl Marx, Johnny Rotten and Donald Trump in the Crystal Maze and expecting them to work together as a team. But that does sound like one heck of a show, doesn’t it?

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