Next she'll be getting stress counselling for the trauma of forgetting where she hid her chew-bone

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The Independent Online
I appear to have acquired a puppy. Don't ask me how. For years I've been ignoring the children's tearful demands for kittens, bunnies, hamsters, goldfish, velociraptors etc, explaining to them that the keeping of pets is a debased form of Victorian anthropomorphism and had no place in a post-Freudian society. They were impressed by this searching analysis, although the five-year-old stamped very hard on my foot shortly afterwards. Then, out of the blue, a friend rang and said, I've got this four-week- old labrador cross, would you ... ? And we said Yes, and that was that.

A terrible mistake. As dogs go, it is a complete non-starter. Now eight weeks old - therefore, in dog-years, an early teenager - she (it's a bitch) (believe me) cannot beg, sit up, roll over, fetch sticks, bite postmen or sniff out cocaine stashes. This dog does only three things. 1) It lies on the kitchen floor, as if sapped with a cosh. If you pick it up and put it down again, it subsides onto the floor completely flat, like a sandbag. 2) It bounces in a demented and uncontrollable fashion, landing its soggy paws on one's immaculate Commes Des Garcons strides and chasing the baby - the last fortnight has been one constant re-run of that old Coppertone advert with the puppy and the little girl's knickers. And 3) it eats shudderingly revolting things, including bits of the Financial Times, the Thompson Local Directory (Lambeth area) and spilt granules of dishwasher powder. And every so often, one visits the site of her newspaper lavatory, armed with a redundant fish-slice and bottle of Dettox, to find that the pile of ordure which was there two minutes before, has vanished ...

I went to the local library for guidance, but all I could find was Your First Dog by Lady Kitty Ritson (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1938). Thunderous- browed, I perused this helpful volume with a stiff single malt and an ounce of Navy shag, and read the words: "I like to think in this little book that I am really talking to you, whether you are a curly-headed little girl as I was or one with short, straight hair, or perhaps a boy who has to leave his dog when he goes back to school ..." Abandoning this Mitfordesque bollocks, I turned to Dr Bruce Fogle, the TV vet, whose book Games Pets Play gives it to you straight about the nutritious and enzyme-enriched marvellousness of doggy coprophagia. It also fills you in on the far frontiers of owner hysteria, like the "Mrs Jones" he once knew who could not bear to be parted from her Chihuahua, even while it was having its rotting teeth removed and rang the recovery room, saying, "I'd like to speak to Susie. I want her to know I haven't abandoned her ... "

But the desire for order in one's life is strong. So I rang the vet and asked how do we make her do this and stop her doing that? And now the animal has her own trainer, whose idea of rigorous canine discipline is to sit around flooring pints of Cap Colombie and saying "Use your right hand more" to the children. I mean - I, who has some need of a personal trainer, do not have a personal trainer; but the puppy, who has neither a single social acquaintance nor a single interesting feature apart from being black and pretty, she has a personal trainer. Next thing you know, she'll be getting stress counselling for the trauma of forgetting where she hid her Sainsbury's chew-bone. And now, I learn, there's such a thing as a Puppy Socialisation Course I'm supposed to take her on, to meet other puppies and acquire inter-dogular skills in a controlled environment. "You'll end up," warns a friend, "writhing on the ground uttering feeble cries and trying to make your own dog notice you." Oh yeah? If I do, you'll be the first to know.

While on doggy matters, I note that Glenn Close, the gimlet-eyed actress, has annoyed the American National Centre for Lesbian Rights by portraying the nasty Cruella De Vil, in 101 Dalmatians, as a predatory dyke. An NCLR person called Kate Kendall deplores the stereotypical lesbian cliches in Ms Close's portrayal, but goes further: "When Disney does portray a villain, there is the tendency to portray that character as other than heterosexual."

And do you know, she's absolutely right? Scar, the villain in The Lion King, is played by Jeremy Irons with an effete and preening languor straight from Genet. Madame Medusa, the pawn-shop kidnapper in The Rescuers, is a theatrical, child-molesting androgyne. Ursula, the sea-witch in The Little Mermaid, is a vaudevillian hag who twines corrupting tentacles around the virginal Ariel and resembles no one so much as Divine, the bloated drag queen in the movies of John Waters. The bad guy in Pocahontas is a similarly corpulent Brit, a pomaded and Pomeranian-clutching old sweetie. The Wicked Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a de-sexed Lady Macbeth. Frollo, the ghastly cleric who consigns The Hunchback of Notre Dame to the bell-tower, may pretend to fancy Esmerelda, but is plainly as queer as Dick's hatband. I could go on, but the theory starts to run out of steam when it gets to Captain Hook ...

Nice to have the Eurostar back with us, is it not? Good to feel that passengers anxious to brave the Channel Tunnel, even after its small spot of bother two weeks ago, can book their not-perilous-at-all journeys through the northern tunnel, safe in the knowledge that it's only the completely dissimilar southern tunnel that was damaged by the freight-train fire and that obviously it could never happen again. I have every confidence in the Anglo-French safety authority's "satisfaction" with the new evacuation arrangements in the event of fire or flood, and note that, although their most recent "practice evacuation" took half an hour longer than the time recommended by themselves, it was deemed to be perfectly OK anyway. If you detect a note of concern in my voice, it's because, for the past two weeks, I have watched the Eurostar hurtling along the railway track at the end of my garden, morning and evening, empty of passengers but clearly on its way to something. Finally I rang them. What were the trains being used for? "Oh, crew training, maintenance work, that kind of thing," said an airy voice. "We've been running a few in regional services, but without passengers." But look, I said, until the safety review is complete, aren't the crews of the trains in danger? "From what?" he asked. From whatever is being investigated by the Safety Authority, I said. "Look," he said, "as long as we're not carrying passengers, it's perfectly legal." And that's that. The attitude of the safety people throughout this inquiry seems to have been, "Oh, it'll do". I'll stick to Townsend Thoresen for the present, thanks.