Don’t trust somebody who hasn’t got a dog. Discuss

Ben Fogle has said that he doesn't like David Cameron because he doesn't have a dog, but I'm not sold

Simon Kelner
Tuesday 13 October 2015 18:29
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I’ve always believed that I couldn’t fall in love with anyone who voted Conservative, or who didn’t find Larry David funny, or who supported Manchester United.

This may be a simplistic and probably unworkable way to go through life, but I would argue that it’s not stupid to attach something profound to a person’s attitudes or interests. I thought of this approach to one’s fellow humans at the weekend when reading an interview with the author, adventurer and reality TV star Ben Fogle, in which he said that the reason he disliked David Cameron was because he didn’t have a dog.

Fogle, privately educated, a former Royal Naval officer, and a good friend of Prince William, is, you would think, a natural Conservative supporter. But his dog-love clearly supersedes his innate political leanings. “I did vote Tory,” he said, “but I’m kind of apolitical now.”

The reason for the switch? He no longer believes in the Prime Minister. “Cameron spends half his life in the Cotswolds and he has lots of kids, for God’s sake,” he explained. “What do you do there if you don’t have a dog? Everyone he knows has a dog. I don’t know anyone in his circumstances who doesn’t. I genuinely find it odd.”

What he’s saying, in effect, is that he can’t trust the judgement of a man who doesn’t have a dog. Fogle was brought up with dogs, specifically Labradors. His father, Bruce, is one of Britain’s most eminent vets (who, incidentally, provided wonderful pastoral care for my dog in his latter days), and he has grown up to become the embodiment of the aphorism credited to the comedian Bill Murray: “I’m suspicious of people who don’t like dogs, but I trust a dog when it doesn’t like a person.”

Of Cameron, Fogle says he lacks substance, and the absence of a canine presence is telling in this respect. “Maybe that’s the reason no one really likes him,” he added. Something of an overstatement, of course, but it’s worth examining Fogle’s thesis. Is it possible to dislike, or distrust, someone who doesn’t like dogs? Up to a point, I’d say.

There’s no doubt that owning a dog is beneficial in all sorts of ways relating to one’s psychic health, and, as part of a family, it can teach children responsibility, patience, compassion, trust, and unconditional friendship.

But we should be wary of investing too much importance in the human-canine relationship. People who are kind to dogs may also be kind to people, but it’s not axiomatic. They may simply be kind to dogs. And not very nice to people.

I think Fogle may not like Cameron for other reasons. What we know of the Prime Minister’s home life shows him to be a good husband and a devoted father, and I can’t see why the addition of a black Labrador – just to conform to the Cotswold stereotype – would necessarily improve the family unit, and make him either more likeable or trustworthy as a politician. I’d prefer it if he rethought his policy on tax credits.

Nevertheless, I don’t blame Ben Fogle, a Labrador fanatic, for his partisan opinion. If the Prime Minister was revealed to be a closet Manchester United fan, I might feel the same myself.

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