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Folk, fables and foibles the guidebook forgot to mention
  • Fergus Manor

8. It’s a dog’s life ...

As I mentioned in the last Blog, I enjoy a good, exhilarating walk. If I did those emoji-thingys, there would be a smiling face in there somewhere. But I don’t, so there isn’t. But sometimes, if I were to describe my walk in the woods without words, then I would have to find an emoji-thingy that said ‘sad, angry and really fed up’ or, more likely, something a bit stronger. The reason? Some dog owners. Now I realise I’m about to launch into dangerous territory, like hopping across a minefield, wearing a blindfold and with a grenade in my mouth. But it needs to be said ... but only after setting out a proviso or two, caveats that might stop that grenade exploding. First, what follows does not apply to ALL dog owners ... just those who detect a blush of recognition when they read this. I accept there are hundreds, thousands of responsible and considerate dog-owners roaming our streets and enjoying the countryside. Second, what I have to say does not relate to Ennis or County Clare specifically; indeed, arguably, the dog-owners of Ennis are better than many at respecting their fellow citizens and their guests. I know that my observations and comments probably apply to many towns, parks and woodland walks in Ireland and beyond. Time to head into that minefield ... wish me well ... Part of the pleasure of walking in the countryside—or anywhere, for that matter—is being able to look around and marvel at the sights and sounds you may not experience in everyday life. But there is little pleasure in taking advantage of a well-constructed park or a signposted walk in the woods if you have to watch every step you take, just in case some other inconsiderate adult has allowed his or her dog to desecrate the very spot where you want to plonk your feet. ‘Inconsiderate’ is the least offensive adjective that springs to mind: there were others that I seriously contemplated before they were blocked by uncharacteristic self-censorship. But it isn’t only the lack of consideration, often it is also ignoring the rules which are frequently on display at access points to parks and recognised walks. Bearing in mind that many dog-owners understandably head for open spaces and the countryside to exercise their pooches, they surely can’t be oblivious to the sort of directives often displayed at such places? You know the sort of thing ... Your dog’s faeces should be deposited in one of the bins provided or taken home. Dogs should be kept on a lead. Dogs should be kept under control. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in a hefty fine. Sounds reasonable enough ... but sadly the threat of a fine and/or the disapproval of others does not always act as a deterrent. Is that because some dog-owners can’t read, don’t care, couldn’t be bothered or see it as a personal freedom issue? Today I did one of my favourite walks; these are the statistics. Apart from the ‘up close and personal’ encounter, they were pretty much par for the course: At least two-thirds of the individuals, couples and families I encountered were out with their dogs. Of these, 50% were not on a lead— the dogs, not the adults. Of these, one family (two adults and a four-year old) had three large dogs, none of which was on a lead. One of these thought I was fair game to rush up to and push; I couldn’t tell whether it was being friendly, unfriendly or saw me as a potential mate, but could tell that it ignored its owners’ entreaties to leave me alone. Had I been the same height as their own child, I would almost certainly have been knocked over and probably pretty scared. We had to walk round two fresh dog faeces deposits and later noted a full, purple poo-bag that had been discarded by the path. ‘Clean up the poo but chuck the bag’ is not on any advise board I’ve seen. Apart from which it was an uneventful stroll in the countryside. Like me, many dog owners will be as annoyed and disturbed by all the above; others will redden as they are enveloped by that flush of embarrassed recognition. Hopefully this Blog will remind the blushers that all of us, dog-owners and pet-less walkers alike, should be able to enjoy the sights and sounds of the countryside without having to constantly watch where we’re stepping. One final thought ... Many years ago I watched in amazement as a cat sprang up onto a toilet seat and used the facilities like any human ... except for the flushing part, that is. Its owner, a mill-owner, needed the cat to keep his mill clear of vermin and had trained it to use the toilet. It was while writing this blog that that image of the cat on the loo flashed across my mind and caused me to check the internet to see whether dogs can be similarly trained. They can ... and there are many sites that explain the process; some well-trained dogs even include flushing in their repertoire.

Is there an Emoji-thingy for the happy owner of a loo-using dog? If not, why not?

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