......My third dog of all my dogs was a different proposition all together. Tim was a seven stone German Shepard, with a personality to match…this was a dog to be reckoned with. He could swing from being a genius one minute and to being an idiot the next. Travelling on busy trains with Tim was fantastic, he had a real physical presence which cleared passenger’s seats, which he did, by staring intensely at people until they snapped and moved away. He also took control when getting off the train. We would be ready as the doors opened and as impatient passengers lunged forward to board they would come nose to nose with a mean looking German Shepherd. I felt his head turn slowly left and right as he scanned the platform and very quietly the crowd parted like the Red Sea. “That’s ma boy!” He then guided me proudly off the train and on our way.
With German proficiency Tim took his work very seriously and was a master at weaving in and out of shoppers and Big Issue sellers. If anyone dared to get in the way they would be subjected to a cold sharp nose up the bottom. You can imagine the reactions; shrieks, swearing, shopping bags on the ground, pedestrians leaping into the air like rockets. Amidst all this chaos Tim changed up to third gear, and with me hanging on to the harness, overtook the pile up and accelerated into the outside lane. Brimming with confidence we zoomed on down the street, and turned down a quieter side road. This allowed me to catch my breath, but the empty pavement bored Tim until, he fixed his eye on a lone approaching pedestrian. There was plenty of room on the pavement, with the pedestrian walking along the building line giving us ample space to pass. Tim, however, had recalculated his angle of approach and had started to walk towards the oncoming pedestrian! Something like a game of chicken! By the time all three of us had met in the middle Tim had forced the poor pedestrian against the wall and actually leaned on him while passing by. Then Tim simply swished his tail happily and moved back into the centre of the quiet pavement again, as if nothing had happened.
This year, my friend Mark, got a new guide dog after his last one retired. I was so impressed when he told me that his dog had been trained to actually press the button at pedestrian crossings. On arriving at the crossing the dog heads for the pole and jumps on to her hind legs to press the button with her snout. Impressed or what!.. this is a dog for a modern age. I’ve spent hundreds of pounds on gadgets to do this very job!
My current dog Moss just loves to upstage me. He looks down TV camera lenses when I’m interviewing politicians, and one particular editor insists that Moss features in every TV Report! However, on one unforgettable occasion I was chairing a Social Work conference in Edinburgh, I was only half way through my opening speech, when I heard the dog groaning and yawning, loudly under the table. Undaunted I carried on, but I started to hear people sniggering and then laughter filled the hall. There was a whisper in my ear… Moss had crawled commando style from under the table and had started to empty the second speakers handbag! Very deliberately, one piece at a time, the contents of her life were displayed for all to see.
How can I correct a dog, when the audience is just putty in his paws!