Fellow dog owners, it’s time to accept that people aren’t obligated to love our pets

Loving dogs is as British as cracking a joke. But not everyone is a dog lover – and that’s OK

Shaparak Khorsandi
Friday 26 April 2019 18:53 BST
Brits love animals, but not everyone may think your beloved pooch is a champ
Brits love animals, but not everyone may think your beloved pooch is a champ (Alamy)

One of the marvellous things about being from two countries, with two languages and two very different cultures, is that I can step out of each now and then, and peep in with the warm familiarity of an insider and the bafflement of a visitor. It’s like having one eye that’s English and another that’s Iranian, and I gain a little depth perception by looking through both at once.

In Iran, there is a saying: “An unexpected guest is a gift from god.” This beautiful expression sums up the incredible warmth and hospitality of the Iranians I know and love. Throughout my childhood, my mother could frequently be found dashing about in the kitchen, hurriedly preparing an impromptu banquet because my father had just met a nice couple washing their car outside and invited them in for lunch.

Lovely though these memories are, if you are washing your car outside my house, the best you can hope for from me is an awkward smile and suppressed irritation that you’ve nabbed my favourite parking spot.

When I was about ten, a woman from America turned up at our house unannounced with a large suitcase and stayed for a week. She spent the days sightseeing and the evenings with my parents and other guests who popped in. When she left, we all went to the airport with her and said our heartfelt goodbyes. To this day neither of my parents are sure exactly who she was.

But the social aspects of a culture work best when all involved understand the rules. In my student days, I took the Iranian style of hospitality to an almost pathological level when I met an older bloke in the pub who had just got out of prison. I immediately invited him to move in with me and my friends in my student house, which he did, the very next day.

Sadly, he was not fully on board with the house rule against drunkenly threatening to kill us all at 2am each night, so in this case, it was us who left and our guest who stayed. These days, if you need a place to stay, try my mum and dad.

Search for owners of dog found riding alone on Dublin train

There are also aspects of English and other British cultures which jump out the moment I cast my one Iranian eye over them. The first is the humour. It’s not about how funny Brits are, but rather how our humour is used.

The other thing is dogs. No one loves dogs like we do. Other cultures are fascinated, baffled and frequently revolted by just how much English people embrace dogs in their lives, their homes, and, in extreme cases, their mouths. In some countries, it’s perfectly normal to see a dog tied up outside all day and left to bark at traffic. In this country, I took my dog to the vet because she was a bit quiet one morning. Turns out she was meditating.

When we first brought her home, I was advised to train her to sleep in a crate. On the first night, she cried, so I brought my duvet down and slept with her on my kitchen floor for three weeks, like a Victorian scullery maid. Every night, she would wait until I was asleep, and then creep past me and up the stairs. Now, she sleeps in my bed with my boyfriend, and I am fully crate-trained.

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If you’re ambling about with a dog, London is not the unfriendly place that its reputation would suggest. Everyone talks to you. Mine is still a puppy, and if we have an appointment to keep (she is very busy) then we have to leave two hours early to give people time to coo. She’s a golden retriever so she’ll be a big dog, and it doesn’t exactly help with her training when strangers make a fuss of her as she jumps up at them, but 99 per cent of people do, because they love dogs.

But in the park last week, I met one of the 1 per cent. My puppy ran up to a woman on a bench and jumped up at her. She screamed, stood up and started shouting at me. Mortified, I put my dog on a leash, apologised about 57 times, saying, “you’re absolutely right, I’m so sorry, you’re right, you’re right”, which pacified her (although not my dog, who was still cheerfully bouncing off prams), and we parted on friendly terms.

It shook me up though. I had been spoiled by a community of dog lovers and forgot that, to some people, they are just filthy furry rags with sharp teeth and bad breath from eating their own poo. We dog owners have to accept that.

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