I have a serious question which I’m worried may upset many of you, but it’s a serious issue and I do think it’s time the situation was addressed: have we reached peak dog? Have we, as a nation, simply become too silly about dogs?
I have evidence to further this claim. First, a huge row on Mumsnet last week about the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s spaniels. “Am I being unreasonable,” asked one user, “to think Will and Kate calling their dog Orla is insensitive at best?” Choosing an Irish name, this user thundered, was insensitive “in light of Britain’s history with Ireland”.
The post clocked up more than 43,000 views and sparked 15 pages of debate. Though many of the comments underneath were amusing (“You’re being ridiculous, my dog’s called Paddy,” said one. “They’ve given two of their kids French names: tone deaf given England’s history with France?” joked another), the fact that this row rumbled on for days suggests, to me, that many of us need a little holiday.
Second, “Goodwoof”, the festival for dogs that the Duke of Richmond is holding at Goodwood at the end of the month. There will be performing stunt dogs, dog frisbee, dog “wellness events” (including “holistic sound therapy sessions” with a “world-class harpist”), as well as the chance to see “barkitectural masterpieces” – or posh kennels, in other words – in a design competition spearheaded by Kevin McCloud.
Kevin! There is a chronic housing shortage in this country for current people. Shall we think about that before mulling over whether Rocky needs underfloor heating?
Third, a restaurant in Edinburgh has launched a dog menu – beef spaghetti or biltong, sir? And will you be having anything to drink with that? – so that dogs can sit on a chair alongside their owners and eat at the table.
Last, I have recently been informed of a doggy daycare center in Chelsea which costs £230 a day and sends owners constant lavatory updates and photos of their dogs, as if they were children at nursery. You might as well send your dog to Eton.
Look, I love dogs – most of them, anyway (sometimes other people’s dogs are like other people’s children; you simply don’t take them and wish they would go to bed). I grew up with dogs, in a house covered with dog hair, and while my mother’s dog, Beano, is occasionally very naughty, he’s also a very charming sixth sibling. But dogs are dogs, not humans, and I fear that the vast increase in dog ownership over the past two years has sent people dotty. We infantilize them. We dress them up in comedy outfits. We set up social media profiles and assume the voice of the dog: “Lovely walkies with Mum today! I chased a squirrel! wow!”
If I was one of those dogs routinely photographed in semi-humiliating poses for Instagram, I’d watch Cujo and start planning my exit strategy. Increasingly, dog worship has fueled the rise in dog theft and dodgy breeding, and a report from Worcestershire last month said that growing numbers of dogs are being abandoned in the streets because owners can’t afford to feed them.
I humbly suggest that we have lost all sense of perspective when it comes to dogs and need to come to our senses. Don’t even get me started on those who allow their dogs to sleep under the duvet.
Shopping for a new bath turned out to be a splashing spectacle
I’ll tell you what’s an undignified activity: bed shopping by oneself. Off you pop to Peter Jones, where you test mattresses by writhing around in a manner that would get you arrested if you did it on the Tube. But I’ve discovered an even more unedifying activity and that’s bath shopping by oneself. At a Croydon superstore last Saturday I climbed in and out of several baths, stretching out, thrashing around and lying back as if I was trying to wash my hair. It was an embarrassing spectacle, but as a big bath fan I need to get this right – do I need cast iron or can I have acrylic? Freestanding or built-in? Single ended or double ended? I’d welcome all advice. I’m only sorry if you happened to be in the store last weekend and witnessed my public performance art.
You can count on menu calorie labeling to spoil all the fun
A law change last month means that hospitality businesses employing more than 250 people now have to state the calorific count of each dish. I had my first experience of this in a pub a few days ago. Having just delivered my new novel to the publisher, I was in a celebratory mood and fancied a steak, but the menu told me this amounted to 1,700 calories. All right, it came with a sauce, garlic butter, potato dauphinoise and a fried mushroom, but still, 1,700 calories isn’t far off a woman’s daily allowance. Glumly, I mulled over the spinach gnocchi instead (a mere 546). Isn’t it a nonsense to list the calorie counts of every item and not drinks, given that the average glass of wine is about 170 calories? I ignored it in the end and ordered the steak, but I did feel a lurking guilt waddling home. As Basil Fawlty would say, another avenue of pleasure closed off.