On The Buses: In Praise of Dogs

With the possible, but not guaranteed, exception of your mum, no one will ever love you as much as your dog. And chances are the feeling is mutual.

You may have read the story of Kuyu this week. Kuyu is a Kangal puppy, a breed native to Turkey, who was stuck down a well for ten days. The entire Turkish nation, more recently accustomed to wondering who their despotic leader would arrest en masse next, or just getting on with being at the epicentre of world chaos, was gripped by the story of the plucky pup.

Once the nation had bestowed a name on the ownerless canine – showing all the ingenuity of professional footballers when it comes to nicknames by choosing Kuyu (translation – well) – all the ingredients for a gripping drama were in place: a loveable but endangered innocent in a ticking-clock race against fate.

In many ways it was the story of the alien invasion film Independence Day with humanity being played by Kuyu and Jeff Goldblum replaced by a metal clamp. Once you give anything a name it matters ten times as much as it did before. Kuyu’s survival suddenly mattered in a way that the survival of a goldfish or a budgie never could, perfectly serviceable pets though they are. Because we all know that dogs are special in a way that goldfish aren’t. They’re also special, dare I whisper it, in a way that cats, with their frosty hauteur, could only aspire to. Dogs are the best of us.

Back to the tale of Kuyu. The dog named after the thing it was stuck down. Like naming me after my greatest nemesis – Frank Bad Eyesight Potato-Shaped Head. Anyway … the pup survived on scraps of food thrown down the hole, a system of rearing youngsters still used in some parts of South Leeds to this day. Meanwhile, more practical and intelligent members of human society grappled with the problem of how to extricate brave Kuyu from his subterranean nightmare. If they’d rung me, I’d have said straight away “Night vision, a metal clamp, wait till he goes to sleep before you try and grab him and in the meantime chuck sausages down the hole,” but they didn’t ring me, or if they did I thought it was something to do with mis-sold PPI and so didn’t answer, and thus it took them ten days to come up with these answers.

Obviously there are few, if any, things more popular than a “stuck-down-a-well” drama with a happy outcome. The fact that the “stickee” was a cute puppy as opposed to a human child, something most of us have occasionally felt the desire to kick, made the drama all the more engaging.

My own dog is now in her twilight years, or as I like to call them, her “potentially large vet’s bill versus cutting my losses” years. As I have aged so I have begun to measure my remaining lifetime in terms of dogs. I have maybe 3 dogs left. I know this but I worry about my dog and whether she knows it. Does she understand her mortality? Does she know that she will die? Knowing that being separated from me for only ten minutes leads to her giving me the sort of greeting that Nelson Mandela received upon his release from Robben Island, I desperately hope that she cannot contemplate the fact that someday there will be a separation that doesn’t end.

Dogs give us a human lifetime’s worth of love packed into a dog’s lifetime. I’ve often thought that the shortness of a dog’s life is one of the greatest tragedies. Imagine if our dogs could grow up and then grow old with us. Some of us would have little need for human companionship if that were the case. To be faced with that degree of love is daunting but wonderful. And it’s the unique quality of the love of dogs that is so special.

Dogs love us with 100% of their heart and it’s a big, goofy, falling-over, stupid, lob-sided grin, kind of love. Once they are part of our lives we become their pack and their only desire is to serve the pack and ensure its safety and happiness. Circumspect fellows though I’m sure gerbils are, they don’t strike me as unselfish givers in the love stakes. Dogs enrich our lives in countless ways and even when everyone else despises us they still treat us like A-list celebrities. Even when we don’t like ourselves that much, our dogs take up the slack. They should come on prescription for all ailments (barring allergies and gout).

There is really only one problem with dogs and that’s their owners. Not all of them are up to snuff and that’s a crying shame because this most noble of animals deserves the best because that is what they always give in return. I know that if you came up to me in the street and told me a guinea pig had fallen down a well I’d say “That’s a shame. Anyway, I’m off to buy some chips.” but if you said “Frank! There’s a dog stuck down a hole!” I would shout “Put everything on hold for ten days and bring me my robotic arm and metal clamp as well as my hole-throwing-sausages!”

Dogs. They’re better than me and you. Especially you.