In a week in which the obvious was shouted from ivory towers all over the country, one more little tale of the obvious has nearly slipped through the net. Among the shock news that Goldman Sachs bankers are morally bankrupt, that the Tory party contains a lot of posh, white, southern men, and that the Roman Catholic church can be a tiny bit homophobic, it was easy to overlook a headline which revealed that posties are often bitten by dogs. It appears so easily as a cartoonish scenario in which naughty Gnasher chases a hapless postman while Dennis the Menace peeps round a corner, giggling. But, since 2006, 24,000 postmen and -women have been attacked by dogs while delivering our post. That's actually bitten by real teeth. And in Britain, this is not regarded as shocking.
Dog lovers will be growling already, because every dog owner is certain that it is never his or her dog that does the biting. Even when it very clearly is. When my dad recently found a Jack Russell's teeth sunk into his knee, its owner said (altogether now): "He doesn't usually do that!" The implication was that the way my dad had walked down the other side of the street must have somehow provoked the animal. Even dog owners are often the victims of doggie logic. My friend's King Charles spaniel was attacked in the park last week by a vicious smaller dog. (It's always the little ones that you have to worry about.) The attacker's owner haughtily asked, "Is yours a girl? Well, that explains it: mine hates other girl dogs." (I know some humans like that – and they, too, ought to be kept on leads.)
And yet, when I surreptitiously move away from a dog in the street, it is the dog's owner who often takes great offence. "He doesn't bite," they usually sneer, as mortally offended as if I had just tried to muzzle their first-born child. I sometimes reply, "That's funny, the owner of the last dog that bit me said exactly the same thing," but usually I don't dare – in case they set their dog on me.
I hesitate to say that all dogs are potential biters, because that would understandably upset the majority of people who do behave well towards their fellow human beings. But I will just say: you don't catch 24,000 postal workers in six years being attacked by cats. Even if they were, they would seldom require a hospital visit, whereas 400 posties in the past year have had to take time off sick after dog attacks. I wonder how many owners said sorry, and how many blamed the victim for hurting the gummy-wummies of their poor little poochy-woochies.
Of course, it's not just the risk of mauling that makes me unkeen to be around dogs. It's not their fault, but much natural doggy behaviour is utterly antisocial in human company.
An otherwise lovely neighbour's dog once leapt the fence into my garden, slobbered all over a bowl of chicken satay (I have very posh barbecues), headbutted me hard in the groin and relieved itself in the middle of my lawn. My neighbour cooed at the cuteness of it all and then (when I screamed and burst into tears) complained: "But she's only being friendly!" Forgive me for once again stating the obvious, but real friends don't do that to each other.
I know that there's no such thing as a bad dog, and that bad owners are to blame, just as I know that guns don't kill people, people do. But if nobody had guns, or dogs, then people would be a lot less likely to get hurt. I'm with the postal workers' union on this: dogs should be kept away from decent people. And if the owners can't manage that, we should put them in kennels, too.Reuse content