Tag Archives: dogs

Not all dogs

Not all dogs outside are free to just run at a cat. Not all dogs would, on getting to a cat, savage it. But some do. I’ve heard awful stories of cats killed outright by dogs, and cats left with lifelong injuries after dog attacks. I’ve been there for times when loose dogs ran at my cat. It isn’t friendly, it’s frightening.

We’re used to dogs dominating in public spaces. So many people treat dogs chasing cats as normal, natural behaviour that they clearly feel they should make no effort to deal with it. Not so long ago I watched a loose dog in a park hurtle off after a cat and chase it out onto a road. Luckily no one was hurt.

Not all dogs bite people. Most don’t. But the dog that runs at you may be big enough to knock you down if you are small, or your balance isn’t good. You don’t know, as it runs at you, whether it will bite you, or your cat, or if it might gouge your flesh when it jumps up. A large dog scrabbling at your body can tear clothing and draw blood.

Loose dogs in public spaces are normal. Dogs that seem aggressive to people who do not know the dog, are among us. Dogs whose behaviour is problematic for people, and cats who also want to use the space. But the aggressive dog paired with the indifferent owner can and will dominate the space and as a worried person, or a cat, you can run away or try to protect yourself, but what you can’t do is demand that the space be made safer for you.

The gender parallels are pronounced. To be in a public space with a female body is a lot like being a cat. To be gender non-conforming, to stand out in some way, to be unusual, is to be a cat. Not all dogs will go after you, but you can’t always tell by looking. 

I think the majority of people reading this blog would find it easy to understand why dogs need to be kept under careful control. I don’t think anyone would imagine that being a cat somehow makes it ok to be chased, frightened, bitten or maybe killed. But we still talk about female safety in terms of clothing choices, and not going out at night. Having a female body is not so very different from having a cat body – neither body is a justification for violence. Neither body is asking for it, ever.


Dog Wisdom

Walking regularly for both leisure and transport, I see a lot of other people who are walking dogs. The mood of the people often appears to be defined by the weather and temperature. In the rain and cold, people hunch their way dutifully through the dog walking.

With the dogs themselves, it’s invariably a different story. Rain or shine, hot or cold, dogs go out into the world in a state of excitement and enthusiasm. They’re poised to be delighted, curious, playful and happy. They are easy to please – a smell, a stick, a squirrel – you can watch them engage with the world and find things to enjoy at every turn.

Dogs are far better than people when it comes to being happy. They forgive quickly, too, and forget, and move on. A dog has to endure considerable mistreatment before it becomes wary, anxious and unhappy. I run into those dogs, too. They’re a lot more like most people, keeping a safe distance, watching for signs of threat, trying to second guess gestures, tones of voice, actions. It makes me wonder about people.

Children are more like dogs, more willing to bounce out into the world each morning to embrace the day and delight in whatever it gives them. If we don’t lose that as we grow up, we’re encouraged to voluntarily give it up. Too much enthusiasm, I have been told, suggests emotional immaturity. It troubles me that jaded cynicism, dispassion, disinterest, are considered good adult states of being, and playful delight is treated as a bit suspect.

I’ve been watching dogs for some time now, trying to learn from them. I often find when I’m out and about that dogs want to interact with me, far more than ever their humans do. I find solace and comfort in a sniffing nose and wagging tail. Tactile comfort too, with those who rock up demanding ears be scratched behind. Dogs are more sociable than people, not least because they’re so willing to enjoy being sociable, to enjoy other dogs, other people and anything else that comes along.

On the whole, I wish I could be more like a dog. Unfortunately, I don’t have the grace of a dog – the grace of feeling entitled to follow your own nose and acceptable and just being able to rock up, tail wagging, to do your thing. I can quietly practice the delight, but the more tactile forms of engagement remain beyond me.