Description
Description
Description
Description
Description
Description
Description
Find a new leash of life - DOG 1
Find a new leash of life - DOG 1


Published The Times November 20 2004


Cancel the gym, give up meditation, ditch dieting: for true wellbeing, get a dog.


 Look at the self-help sections of any bookshop and you can see that there’s a massive quest for meaning going on in the tide of meaninglessness that surrounds us. We are bombarded with confused answers to the simple question: “How shall I live?” In the gender wars, men and women fight each other for the moral high ground at the same time as battling for the hairspray. The mystery-that-is-woman still doesn’t know what she wants, and strong, silent men go through peroxide hoops to give it to them. Macho or milksop? Which is it to be today?


So I offer some advice: throw away your Deepak Chopras! The Kabbalah Centre? Don’t even go there! To be an effective person with a wide-awake giant within, just follow my one-step programme to enlightenment. You won’t need to find your hairy man at the bottom of your psychic pond and your inner demons will be alive and well and strutting the streets with you as if they were at some glorious Rio carnival. I have found an ancient wisdom which, in one swoop, solves many of life ‘s problems.


And once you’ve binned the self-help manuals, you can also cancel your gym membership, sack your personal trainer and burn your diet books. How is this spiritual transformation achieved? It’s simple. Get a dog.


In Japan, an agency now rents out dogs by the hour. Budding couples rehearse domestic bliss and lonely city types can have a furry friend for the day.


I live with my family in London. People say it is cruel to keep dogs in the city but we ignored them and bought a Newfoundland. Owning an oversized pooch has improved my world in unexpected ways. No more obese children. With a bouncing puppy to hand, children want to walk to school. And they would rather play with the dog than with PlayStation. No more obese parents. The larger breeds may take up a more floor space than an exercise bike but can a piece of equipment guilt-trip you with large brown eyes into taking it for a walk. No.


Your life-change continues once you reach the urban park. Simple pleasures like playing with a stick will give you hours of fun. The dog will, of course, be sniffing smells in the shrubbery as you throw and fetch by yourself, allowing you to note that you’d be forking out 40 quid an hour for your personal trainer to get you to run around like this and here you are doing it for the cost of a few uneaten doggy treats.


On walkies, you also realise that you no longer need to spend hours in internet chat rooms talking to weirdos. They’re all there in London’s parks and they’ll engage you in long conversations about your dog. The weirdest of this weirdo bunch turn out to be fellow dog owners. You quickly learn to spot the uniform: half-chewed fleece, muddy shoes and dog slobber stains on the trousers. Another saving! No need to care about fashion, unless grunge comes back, in which case you’ll already be trendy.


Incredibly, in spite of this unseemly attire, you learn the meaning of the phrase “babe magnet”. Without any coercion or bribery, attractive women will voluntarily come up and talk to you. Really. It happened to me. And these weren’t ladies of the night looking for business. This sudden attraction to the opposite sex is all down to the presence of a hairy hound at my side — but I’m comfortable with that. Park flirting does wonders for ageing egos. Plus, since I ‘m a nicer person on my return from the evening stroll, it has a positive effect on marital harmony. As does the fantastic news that wife wants me to go down to the pub for a pint as long as I take dog. Result! I live in the centre of town so the bars are full of gorgeous single women who want to pet my dog.


Alain de Botton recently published a book called Status Anxiety . I have no idea what it’s about. But I’m now pretty sure I don’t suffer from the title. So there’s another book that can be crossed off the “Must-read-one-day” list. You can also cross “list writing” off your list. You’re far too busy for that. There’s grooming, feeding, teaching the dog your carpet is not a toilet, stopping the dog chasing the cat . . .

Never mind. “Don’t blame it, train it!” That’s the motto of the formidable Alan Menzies, who runs the Islington dog training and behaviour centre. His catchment area encompasses both tough King’s Cross and poncey Islington so stolid bull mastiffs train side by side with nervy King Charles spaniels. Alan sees his role as a “person attitude adjuster”. It’s the people who need the lessons — not the dog. The dog will carry on being pretty much a dog. He teaches you how to incorporate dogness into your life.

As does Jan Fennell in her fascinating book The Dog Listener . Dogs, descended from wolves, are pack animals. Packs need leaders. You have to be that leader. This is not democracy, this is a real dog-eat-dog world. Master this and you can get rid of your assertiveness-training manual. “Sit”, “Leave it”, “Go to your basket” and a short sharp menacing growl are your mainstays. Try them out at work and you’ll be promoted to boardroom level in minutes.

Dogs put you in touch with chaos theory. Often misunderstood as a causal theory, it’s in fact about unpredictability. Having a mobile hairball in your home gives you direct experience of it. You have no way of knowing which bit of shoe, furniture, skirting board or carpet the dog is going to chew next. It’s liberating. Everything is unpredictable anyway, so why worry.

Dogs are an antidote to a neurotic, anxiety-laden, uptight view of the world. Of course, only fully qualified dog-lovers should try these stunts at home, a dog is for life not just for Christmas, always carry a pooper scooper, etc. But, caveats aside, the answer to life, the universe and everything: get a dog.

$SIGNUP$
$VALIDATION$
Working... Please wait