It is only in the second half of my life that I have grown to like dogs. There were two things which persuaded me in the end: first, the invention of "pooh bags" and the bins for them introduced by local Councils in their parks (full marks to the work done by the local authorities and doggie organisations on this), which mean that dogs do not have to create an unpleasant and unhygienic mess, and secondly my younger son who wrote me an essay setting out 20 reasons why we should get a dog.
Our family dog Midge died 6 weeks ago, after a lengthy illness with Cushings Syndrome (she was an Affenpinscher, and you will see why she was called Midge from the picture). We have all felt immense grief: despite her small size she packed a big punch in character, playfulness and affection. For the nearly 9 years she was with us, she was one of the family, doing what we did and accompanying us on our outings. A picnic on a nice summer's day will never be quite the same without her.
The good memories remain, but happily as time moves on the grief diminishes. We have just taken on another dog Clarrie, seen in the picture on her first trip to the pub. She was a rescue dog from the RSPCA, mostly Staffie with a whiff of something else (she is a bit too small to be a full-blood Staffie). She is about one year old, and despite her difficult early life she is equable, friendly and definitely likes people and their companionship. We have her booked into the dog therapist next week, but there don't seem to be many snags to be addressed. She is also fast - on our nearby cycleway (a disused railway line) she can run as fast as I can cycle.
I was impressed by the business-like approach of the RSPCA to their work. I have been one of those who have sometimes felt a bit uncomfortable in the past about the attention and resources some devote to animals, given the awfulness that life offers to some of our fellow human beings around the world. On the other hand dogs can be real friends, both to families and to those living alone, and family pets can help children develop their skills in receiving and giving affection. I strongly suspect also that the people who would be cruel to animals are probably the same people who would be cruel to their fellow human beings, including children. The decent treatment of animals seems to be part of what being civilised is about. I suppose what is needed is a balance in all things.