Mutt nuts

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The Independent Online
You cannot tell from the photograph, but my long lithe body is almost completely unscarred. There are no large moles, no ugly tattoos, no zipper-like appendix marks - nothing but the fading love-bites and scratches that bear testimony to the passions that I still arouse. In the physical sense I am perfect.

Or almost. Scarcely visible on the right cheek is a small scar - a reminder of the traumatic moment when our family's border collie bitch, Jo (named after Stalin), defended a hambone from the attentions of the 20-month- old author. My mother, after she had seen to the dog (who was understandably distressed by the experience), took me to hospital where I was stitched up and sent home.

Despite this early incident I bear dogs no ill-will. Nor have I become a child-biter myself. But I do sometimes wonder what I would have looked like if Jo, instead of being a rather puny mongrel, had been a pitbull terrier - like the one released from police custody this week. How much face would I have had left to see me through life's bourne?

The fact is that all dogs bite. And dogs with the strength of steam- hammers in their jaws bite badly. Best (you would have thought) not to have them around. Then children and adults won't suffer so much.

Such logic is, for some reason, beyond the dog-lobby. Sure, Dianne Folderol (or whatever her name is), owner of the reprieved Dempsey Devil-Dog has undoubtedly been badly treated by the courts. Dempsey was nabbed after a relative took her muzzle off to allow her to be sick on the pavement - the way dog-owners do. Dempsey did not deserve to die for that. Better wait until she actually kills someone.

But Ms Folderol does not accept that such a thing is possible, "Dempsey would never hurt anyone", she insists. Like smokers who deny the harm their habit does them ("my Uncle Bert smoked a thousand fags a day and lived till he was 103"), dog owners will not believe what dogs can do, until they come home one day to find their toddler's teeth and two romper- suit poppers on the doormat.

This may be the blindness of love. Writing yesterday in this paper Carla Lane (who has written more fine comedies than Dempsey has had hot children) spoke of the "grief-stricken owners" of condemned dogs. And Irene Saunders, the grateful mistress of Louise the shih tzu (an appropriate name for a breed of dog) rescued from the hold of a transatlantic jet this week, said that having lost her husband and parents Louise meant "everything" to her. And she is clearly telling the truth.

Is this true, however, for all dog-lovers? I ask for the obvious reason that many of the nation's dogless are fed up with wading knee-high through excrement and are beginning to go all Jack Straw about it. Forget winos, how does it come about that demure grannies and Kidderminster Colonels will stand by quite happily and allow their animals to crap just outside other people's front gates? Do we endure this in deference to their great love?

To answer this it is time for another of the Aaronovitch tests, designed to establish the truth of conventional propositions. All dog-owners should be asked the following question: are you prepared - in perpetuity - to follow behind your dog picking up all its faeces and mopping up all its urine? Or shall I shoot the animal right now in front of you? I am prepared to bet all my meagre earnings from this newspaper that the vast majority of "dog-lovers" faced with this choice would opt for death. (I am not an unreasonable man, so the elderly and infirm would be given the choice of having their dogs fitted with colostomy bags). If dog-owners disagree with me, they know how to prove it.

Otherwise, as the Yuletide season draws on, and children stop to look in petshop windows, we should ponder the words of a Korean friend of mine. "A dog is not just for Christmas", he said, "it can taste good at any time of the year."