Joan Smith: Is this really how people should treat their pets?

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

Dr Johnson was famously sniffy about dogs walking on their hind legs. So I'm not sure he'd have been entranced by Pudsey, the mop-haired pooch whose owner swept up a £500,000 prize at the weekend. Ashleigh Butler, who's 17, has trained her collie-cross to dance on his hind legs, and their barn-storming performance took them to victory in the final of Britain's Got Talent.

It's not long, either, since a lovable Jack Russell called Uggie tugged the heart-strings of movie-goers who saw the Oscar-winning French film The Artist. Uggie has received almost as much attention as the movie's human stars, so I guess that I – and Dr Johnson, were he still alive – have no choice but to acknowledge the public's continuing love affair with performing animals.

I like animals myself. A cat is asleep on my desk as I write, and over several decades I've shared my home with a nervous ginger tom, a couple of rescue tabbies, and a series of talkative Burmese. I'm conscious of the temptation to anthropomorphise them but, luckily, cats are just about impossible to train. They do what they like – Freud developed his theory of narcissism after observing a cat – and that's one of the things I most enjoy about them.

Dogs are a different matter. The affection between Ashleigh and Pudsey is obvious but I can't help feeling unsettled by the reaction to what is basically a novelty animal act. What bothers me, I think, is that dogs trust their owners and want to please them. The relationship is akin to that between an adult and a human toddler, and as such it belongs in the private sphere.

I'm uncomfortable about animals as entertainment, and I wonder how many times people want to watch a dog prancing around on stage. I also wonder whether there's much of a difference between novelty dog acts and the circus animals I saw as a child: elephants balancing on stools and chimps mimicking human behaviour. Thankfully, a growing awareness of the need to treat animals with dignity has changed the public mood. Circus animals still exist – the RSPCA says there are between 150 and 200 performing animals in this country – but they feel like an anachronism.

In the past couple of days, I've seen interview after interview with Ashleigh and Pudsey, alongside speculation that they're "on their way to Hollywood". Simon Cowell, whose influence on public taste is a thing to behold – not in a good way, I hasten to add – says the pair are one of his "favourite ever acts". Maybe we're about to see a revival in movies starring animals, with Lassie and Rin Tin Tin coming to mind.

But I can't help remembering Juvenal's acerbic remark about the Roman populace's taste for panem et circenses – bread and circuses. In hard economic times, people tend to be cruel and sentimental by turns, and it seems that performing dogs have hit the spot. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you – canem et circenses.

When the bath is your office

Working from home can be a bit of a shock if you've never done it. So I have some timely advice for the thousands of civil servants who've been told they needn't go into the office for seven weeks during the Olympics.

It's absolutely fine to work in your pyjamas. I often spend two or three hours at the computer in my nightie before I even think about getting dressed, which is one of the reasons I'm not keen on camera phones. Oh, and people who call from offices can be surprised if you answer from the bath, so keep splashing noises at a minimum.

On occasion, I work in bed, which has its own pitfalls. I once spotted my iPhone bumping round in the washing machine, where I'd accidentally bundled it with a heap of dirty sheets. Even the smartest of smartphones is liable to emerge dumb from a 40C environmentally friendly wash cycle.

Yep – same dress, different parties

Another survey, another opportunity to wonder why I'm not like other women – the ones that take part in surveys, that is. The latest suggests that four-fifths of women think their wardrobe is incomplete without an LBD (or little black dress), but few wear it more than twice. They don't want their friends to see them wearing the same dress, apparently, so they leave it in the cupboard for up to 11 years. By which time, of course, it doesn't fit.

This may explain why I've found so many bargains, including a divine LBD by Gucci, in charity shops. But, then, I'm not afraid of wearing the same dress several times. I've even – gulp – worn the same outfit on consecutive evenings. Real women don't care about such things, or so I tell myself until I come across the next survey.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star