It's a dog's life for townie Towsers and rural mutts too
Anyone who lives in the countryside will certainly have come across the phenomenon that is the man, his car and a deafening dog.
The driver, invariably male, will look to be about a hundred years old and wear the sort of tweed hat and coat that went out of fashion some time between the wars. His vehicle, though not quite so ancient, will be equally venerable and both will give the impression that they are held together by an act of faith rather than any physical laws of engineering.
Through narrow lane or village square progress will be slow. After all, 20 mph is surely fast enough for anybody.
What really singles out the ensemble is, however, the small terrier that leaps from side to side, then from back to front of the car with a speed and agility that would make anything seen at Crufts last week seem positively arthritic. Trees, gateways, sheep in the field, all appear to warrant the brute's attention. Best of all, the perpetual motion is accompanied by a constant, ear-splitting barking and even though the windows are firmly shut even on the warmest of days the noise can be heard at half a mile.
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How on earth can the chap stand it? He must be deaf, daft or most likely both.
I say this is a feature of country living for while I have seen a dozen or more examples in years of plodding through the sticks I have yet to see the manifestation in town. My guess is that if it was to happen on a housing estate or busy high street the complaints would come thick and fast. In rural parts there are just too few people to annoy so little Towser can yap away to his heart's content.
Life for city dogs is a whole lot more controlled and, I should think, generally pretty miserable. Apart from there always be someone in earshot to complain when they let rip with a decent bark, all the other joys of dogdom must be curtailed too.
Places to run free are rare and the chance to do so on the street could well end up in a one-sided meeting with a double decker bus. Find something deliciously disgusting to have a good sniff at and someone at the other end of the lead will yank you away and even when you want to unburden yourself of last night's Winalot there is some fool following you about with a small plastic bag. Honestly, your life's not your own.
Even the owners seem to be very different. In the country, the shooter with his spaniel or farmer with his collie seem to share the same relaxed and assured functions in life but in the land of concrete and tyres canine companions are there to make a statement rather than fill a role.
There is the skinhead with a frothing-at-the-mouth pit bull cross who is there to make up for his owner's lack of prowess in every aspect of life bar getting drunk and tattooed. There is the old lady who wants to show the world how kind she is to dumb creatures but keeps her own examples locked up in a cramped flat for more than 23 hours a day. There is the young lady who wants to demonstrate high fashion by keeping some rat-like creature trembling in a handbag.
All in all, a life amongst the blood and feathers of a muddy drive or the muck and mayhem of a lambing shed seem far more attractive.
But even in a life of bucolic bliss a little rain must fall. Figures released this week by insurers NFU Mutual show that in the past year they have paid out £1.2 million for pet and working dogs in the South West. Some of the escapades cost as much as £4,000 to put right.
Bearing all this in mind, perhaps I've been a bit too hasty in condemning the dog's life of existence in the town. Maybe they are happier where the lampposts are many but I still reckon I'd be happier in a world in which sheep outnumber the discarded fried chicken cartons.
Mind you, there was one telling item in the report from NFU Mutual. One claim had been for an operation to remove "an item of underwear" which had been swallowed by one of our four legged friends. Swallowed? Or perhaps at long last that old man in the car had had enough and rammed the nearest item at hand down that noisy terrier's throat. Peace at last – but I bet he had some explaining to do when the vet's bill arrived.