Thursday, October 08, 2009

Miranda Devine, Polish communism, NSW, doggies and the fun of anthropomorphism

(Above: Kommissar Rex. Now children step outside for a moment. To those few remaining, are you aware Rex has been played by two actors? Reginald von Ravenhorst from 1993 to 1999 and Rhett Butler - no, not that Rhett - from 1999 on. Is there nothing these clever canines can't do? Act, impersonate, inherit roles, and capture baddies? - here for more).

Now a heartfelt, slobbery, panting warning: this item features Miranda the Devine and dogs.

In which the ongoing uneasy, ambivalent, queasy relationship between Miranda the Devine and dogs is explored at tedious length.

No excuses or shirking. You have been warned. This site will not be responsible for any medical conditions arising from a feeling of ennui, tedium or boredom, or a desire to inflict self-harm. Razor blades should be stowed away, and perhaps a session with a therapist booked. For you and your dog.

Now to resume regular programming of a fey kind:

After switching on to Miranda the Devine's latest column, Shih tzu hits fan in latte land, I was reminded of the growing intrusiveness of forced advertising in online land.

If you happen to have your sound turned on, you immediately get a blast from a compulsory advertisement, part of the desperate desire of the Fairfax capitalists to wring some coin from their free offerings, in lieu of working out a way to charge for the Devine's musings.

Why brood this way? Well the Devine starts her column with this:

In Poland, where I am going soon, "complex" attitudes to rules and regulations are a hangover from communist times. Rules, especially petty ones, are bent or broken when there are no consequences, and everyone turns a blind eye, according to the Culture Smart guide to Poland. Sounds like my kind of place.

Although NSW is not communist, its web of bureaucracy rivals anything the Eastern Bloc could offer, and the attitude of its fed-up people is the same.

Well yes, living in the land run by Nathan Rees is odious and burdensome, you might think, but no worse than hapless consumers online being force fed advertisements like geese being made to swallow corn, on the way to producing foie gras.

But then proceedings get even more bizarre, because the Devine goes on to argue in favor of the complex of petty rules and regulations suffered in Polish, nee NSW style. The problem - no we're not dealing with climate change or Afghanistan - are the laws relating to dogs and cafes:

A labrador lying contentedly under an outdoor cafe table, while its owner drinks a low-fat cappuccino, is a familiar sight.

I'm glad the Devine is so happy amongst the latte set. When I see a low fat cappuccino, I'm inclined to reach for my gun, but no, it's not the coffee, it's the animal:

According to the NSW Companion Animal Act and Food Safety Act, this is not strictly legal, as dogs must be a good 10 metres away from areas where food is consumed or prepared at cafes.

However, like any law that doesn't accord with prevailing attitudes, it has been quietly ignored. Dogs and cafes have reached an amicable accommodation all over Sydney.

Oh valiant eastern suburbs revolutionaries, quiet Gandhis of civic disobedience, lying down in the face of communist socialist regimes and their petty bureaucracies. See how the owners and their dogs live peaceful lives together in cafe land:

In Woollahra, Zigolini's Cafe allows you to sit outside with the dog, as do cafes in Double Bay, Bondi Beach and Balmoral, which provide water bowls for pooches. And, of course, there is Leichhardt's famous Cafe Bones.

Tranquility and peace and harmony. But what's this? Some Napoleon has arrived in this wonderful garden of eden, this paradise of pooches and people:

... some people just have to push the envelope.

A growing sense of entitlement from a few dog owners in Mosman, including one dog reportedly sitting on top of a cafe table, led to a flurry of complaints to Mosman Council, which had no choice but to remind cafe owners of their licence obligations.

After a barrage from upset dog owners, the council hired lawyers and found that if it did not enforce the pooch ban it would be "exposed to a legal claim".

Consternation, shock and horror. Anarchy let loose by indulgent owners, making havoc for a council which just wants to be loved. What to do?

In an attempt to mollify dog-loving ratepayers, this week the council has been considering a plan to have cafe owners "identify appropriate tie-up areas for dogs in the vicinity of their business to mitigate any inconvenience to patrons".

Good luck with that.

In a country in which even the reserve powers of the Governor-General are not codified, there is merit to letting sleeping dogs lie.

Um that'd be the same land which at once turns a blind eye and yet is swamped with a web of bureaucracy courtesy of Labor socialists.

If dogs stay away from cafes for a few weeks, chances are that blind eyes will return when they do. Dog lovers could even establish a fighting fund, to pay fines for cafe owners should an overzealous ranger not understand the way things work. But next time, dog lovers should fiercely regulate each other's behaviour.

Ah yes, self-regulation. It works so well on Sydney roads, with road rage only observable 24/7 amongst ninety per cent of drivers, and personal selfishness behind the wheel kept to a lowly ninety nine per cent.

By golly I can see fierce self-regulation amongst dog lovers leading to punch ups in the cafes of the eastern suburbs, a bit like the dog brawls that make Camperdown park such a pleasant place to sit down in, if you can find a blade of grass untainted by doggie piss and doggie poo.

But why, oh why, are we reading about dogs and cafes, when after all screen culture is turning all our brains to plastic, and greenies need to be hung from lamp posts? Malcolm is in the middle of peril, and Afghanistan is turning into a mire.

Having recently become the owner of the mongrel Biggles, I am more forgiving of dog-related inconvenience than I used to be. But it is unspeakable to allow a dog to sit on a cafe table, or even to sit on your lap while you sit at the table.

It is unhygienic, not to mention detrimental to the dog's wellbeing.

It is part of the insidious and self-centred trend in pet owning - anthropomorphism, or humanising.

Oh poor, poor hapless Biggles, trapped with a stern martinet. I guess the chances of the dog being sent out to work - like any dog on the land, expected to earn their keep and kept strictly to the kennel - are somewhat limited in the eastern and northern suburbs, and whatever you do, you must never be anthropomorphic in your attitude to animals.

If you find yourself saying 'who's a pretty thing' to your budgie, or 'cockie want a biscuit' to a Major Mitchell, or 'feeling like a nice rat' to your python, or 'want a bit of fresh 'roo meat' to your piranha, then you're being naughty. Only Dr. Dolittle can talk to the animals.

Come to think of it, why on earth do you have a dog at all? Disgusting, dirty, horrid, muddy, slobbering, slouching, slumping flea-laden ungainly things, worse than teenagers.

As with the upbringing of children over a generation, the fashion for dogs has been laissez-faire, with pooches sleeping with owners on their beds, perching on couches, having the run of the house, plied with human food, weekly blow-dries and manicures, and all manner of designer trinkets to spice up their idle lives.

Well stop it, stop it at once. Not only will you go blind, but your dogs will develop neuroses, and require analysis and therapy and dog trainers:

... according to one dog trainer, John Vella, such pampering can lead to behavioural problems.

Dogs, being pack animals descended from wolves, need to feel there is an alpha dog taking care of them. They expect to be led by their owners, and if instead their owner lets the dog take charge they often become anxious about their duties of protection, with separation anxiety and such behavioural problems as digging, chewing or barking.

"It can't be a complete dictatorship but dogs need fair leadership," says Vella. He is run off his feet by dog owners desperate to part with $195 a session to get their animal under control.

Phew, nice work if you can get it. $195 bucks. Whoever can pay that for doggie discipline is being paid way too much.

Sub-text? Is Biggles creating problems for Miranda the Devine? Has the mongrel got a bit of an anarchist socialist streak?

Most of the time it's because the dog has been spoiled to the point it thinks it is top dog.

One woman he saw recently stays home from work because her dog gets so anxious when left alone. She even takes him into the shower because he hates being separated.

Another client has a big American staffordshire terrier which sleeps on his bed. If he gets into the bedroom after his dog and wife, the dog won't let him into bed and he has to sleep on the couch. Vella had to institute an urgent "de-ranking" program.

Like it or not, dogs are unreconstructed rankists. Anyone they consider below their status, human or otherwise, they will attempt to dominate.

Vella's recipe for Biggles was no unearned pats, no walks for two weeks, more time outside and, if inside, to be tethered until he understands he can't roam the house. Excessive cuddling had made Biggles feel he was top dog, as, in the wild, only the alpha is groomed by the others.

Ah yes, he had! Naughty Biggles. Time for your therapy:

And when it comes to meals, you prepare the dog's food and place the bowl in front of a window where he can see it from outside. The family sits down to eat ignoring the dog's baleful stares. Only when dinner is over is the dog allowed to eat. This is to mimic wolf eating habits and assert the dominance of the dog owner.

You know, there's a lesson in this for all of us. No, it's not to fork over $195 bucks to discover how to relate to a dog! Or a worry about being paid too much while millions starve around the world. It's a matter of who's the boss!

Instead of having their owners moan to the council, perhaps the over-entitled pooches of Mosman need a lesson in who's boss.

My lesson for the day? If you don't want a dog, don't get one. And if you do want a dog, examine the reasons you've got one and how they might fit with your preferred urban lifestyle ...

And then if you want to write about the dog you have, don't conflate issues of anthropomorphism and your relationship with the dog with council regulations, and former Polish communist regimes ... because now we've learned where self-regulation will get you in a relationship with a doggie.

Personally I blame screen culture for the way people have seen all these images of Inspector Rex and Lassie and think dogs are smart and human, and anthropomorphize the relationships. Raus herr Rex, schnell, beißen die Bösen! Oh he's so cute, and yes he really does eat human food, German burgers, and no matter what Miranda the Devine might say, he's a very clever pooch. (And how on earth did I forget Skippy the wonder kangaroo?)

No wonder our brains are irrevocably warped into plastic, and the dogs think they're the tops ...

And now let us never speak of canines and Biggles again. Unless of course you mean the Biggles that took it up to the Huns and the Japs over many books by the splendid chappie Captain W. E. Johns.

Hmm, calling a dog Biggles after such a splendid war hero, rather than say calling it Rover or Snookums or Spot or Patch? By their anthropomorphic name shall ye know them?

Such are the days of their lives in the eastern and northern suburbs ...

(Below: dammit, seems Biggles thinks he's a camel. Is there no end to this wretched anthropomorphism? More here).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments older than two days are moderated and there will be a delay in publishing them.