Claire Black: Crufts - dogs without the downside

A French Bulldog scored a victory over its owner in the park. Picture: Getty
A French Bulldog scored a victory over its owner in the park. Picture: Getty
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THE other morning as I walked into the park with my dog, I could see a man ahead bent over his French Bulldog. My view was not perfect. All I could see, of both man and dog, was two sets of chunky haunches and it was plain there was a struggle going on.

A second later, the man gave up wrestling with his “best friend”, stood up and started to walk towards me. He was red in the face and harassed; he didn’t speak, just shook his head in silent defeat. The dog, on the other hand, looked jaunty. He was practically swaggering. And the stick in his gob – presumably the focus of the tussle – was manoeuvred by a pink tongue that poked out of his mouth like a cheroot. A victory puff. Dog 1, man nil.

And this, my friends, is pretty much how it is with dogs.

People are full of advice when you tell them you’re getting a dog. The first unsolicited offering is usually: they are a tie, a deadening weight of responsibility on your life. Yip, thanks for that. Then comes all the gubbins learned from repeat viewings of The Dog Whisperer – “I hope you’re the pack leader? You must never let them dominate you. I hope you’re not thinking of letting it on the sofa or the bed. Or to look at you while you’re eating.” Tell that to the cheroot-smoking French Bully bully.

I know some people have impeccably well-behaved dogs. You know, the ones that don’t move without being told to. But for most of us, it’s not really like that. It’s more like one experience of public humiliation after another. And cuddles. The humiliations are usually misdemeanours against other dogs – nicking balls, being a bit bossy. Getting on the nerves of other dog owners – nicking balls (often the human companion of the canine takes it worse than the dog), jumping up with muddy paws (it happens). And then there are the, hopefully, rare occurrences that make you walk away as though you’ve never seen your beloved pet before in your life. A dog of mine once nicked a bucket of KFC, the centre piece of a picnic, and then ran with it on his head as the screaming began and I feared for my life. And I’m not even going to subject you to stories of the utterly disgusting stuff they eat, or how they sometimes smell or how much knowledge you inevitably have of their stools, more than you could ever have imagined possible.

And that’s why Crufts is unmissable. It is dogs, the loveliness, the cuteness, without any of the hassle. Or poo. Or poo bags. As it happens, I’m not one for pedigree dogs – I think everyone who wants a dog should give a home to a rescue pup until the overflowing pounds are empty. But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the competition that whittles 21,500 dogs down to one winner. Not that I really care about that. For me, as the best of breeds trot around the show ring, spotlit, coats gleaming, tails wagging, perfect specimens, it helps me to forget the havoc so often caused by the one sprawled out on the sofa next to me, snoring. Not that I’d swap her.

Don’t be a drip about coffee

I DON’T know if you ever have the experience of suddenly feeling like you’re Keanu Reeves in The Matrix after he’s taken the red pill. (Or was it the blue?) Anyway, my question is: do you ever look at something that is regarded as perfectly normal and suddenly see it for all its complete and utter lunacy? It happened to me last week. I was walking down a street in London and I passed a Nespresso shop. That’s right, an enormous shop, right next to Piccadilly Circus, devoted to selling Nespresso machines and the pods that fill them. There was probably a huge picture of George Clooney impersonating Cary Grant whilst supping a cup somewhere but I didn’t see it. What I did see was a man leaving the madness emporium carrying a large bag which was presumably filled with Nespresso pods. I had to stop myself from grabbing him by the shoulders and giving him a good shake. “What has your life come to that you are spending money on tiny aluminium pods of coffee when you can buy a bloody great bag of the stuff?” Even John Sylvan, the inventor of American coffee pods, K-Cups, the same as Nespresso but American, has seen the error of his ways. Asked if he used a pod machine, he said he didn’t. “They’re kind of expensive to use… plus it’s not like drip coffee is tough to make.” Quite.

Stay grounded, Harrison

SO I know that last week I expressed my none-too-impressed views about the making of a sequel to Bladerunner. No, I’m not about to recant. But for the record I would just like to state that although I never want to see him as Rick Deckard again, I don’t wish Harrison Ford any actual harm. So I’d like him to desist from jumping in one of his apparently extensive collection of small planes in order to get “a cheeseburger”. I feel this is especially worth saying after his experience last Thursday when he crash-landed his single-engine plane on to a golf course in Venice, California after its engine failed just a couple of minutes after he took off.

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