Barking Mad

After watching A Different Breed on ABC2 on Friday night, I felt reassured that – contrary to what some of my friends may think – I don’t spoil or pamper my dog. He eats dog food, he sleeps in his own bed, doesn’t wear clothes or bejewelled accessories, and I’m not training him to dance, ghost-hunt or skateboard.

Other dog owners think and do things quite differently as I discovered from this hugely entertaining British documentary. It really made me laugh. Talk about projecting human qualities, emotions and needs onto dogs!

One woman left her micro-managed and ultra-pampered dachshund in the care of a male couple, who had two dogs of their own. She left strict instructions that the dog was to have chicken for breakfast, scrambled eggs for lunch and bread and butter for dinner, and that meals were to be served up at specific times. Oh, the rumpus when she discovered that her dog had eaten a few grains of dog biscuit from one of the other dog’s bowls. His palate would be forever tainted.

Then there was Vinnie Jones, a clairvoyant dachsie with a sparkling diamante collar, who, his owners claimed, could sniff out ghosts. His owners took him out with seasoned spectre sleuth and dog communicator John Pope-de-Locksley. “He says he saw a disembodied head floating around,” said Locksley translating for Vinnie. And, get this, they went looking for a ghost called Scratching Fanny who is believed to reside in Cock Lane in London’s East End.

Airedale Ted belongs to a single woman called Lucy, who confessed she considers him as an ersatz boyfriend. So much so that Ted notices when she puts on a sexy nightdress and licks her legs. Oh dear… Lucy goes the extra mile and has tasted all Ted’s food (dog chocolate, she says, tastes like sugary congealed fat) and gives him acupuncture from a home kit to ease his bad leg. His health care routine also involves regular faecal analysis. Surely it’s only a matter of time before she carts him off for canine colonics?

Narrated by Sue MacGregor, a former BBC Radio 4 presenter, all these truth-is-stranger-than-fiction stories were delivered in a marvellously deadpan voice with just the right measure of irony. What made it even funnier is that some of the dogs ‘spoke’ their thoughts in gruff Welsh-sounding accents. Lucy’s Ted was heard to grumble as he was dragged upstairs for his acupuncture.

Over at BBC London, radio presenters Joanne and Anna present a weekly show, Barking at the Moon with the help of their dogs Matilda, an English bulldog and Molly, a miniature Bull Terrier. Theirs are the only dogs allowed in the BBC. With a mix of doggy tunes, snoring and barking from Molly and Matilda and interviews with dog enthusiasts and chat about ‘dogabilia’, the show is a runaway success and attracts over half a million listeners every week. The documentary caught up with Joanne and Anna as they tried to teach their ‘furkids’ how to skateboard. Thanks to the peanut butter smeared on the board, Matilda did seem to be getting the hang of it.

Also featured were a mother and daughter team who run an upmarket pet boutique in Chelmsford. Here you can find bespoke leads and collars, tailored clothes and more! They cater for all kinds of pets and were recently asked to create a bandana for a giant snail.

The programme ended with footage from the ‘Heelwork to Music’ competition finals at Crufts held at the Kennel Club in Coventry. The winner was dressed as a country farmer, and he and his dog danced to the Wurzels’ 1976 rendition of The Combine Harvester. If you’ve never heard of the Wurzels or their catchy ditty click on the link below. And if you do know it, happy reminiscing!

A Different Breed was just 45 minutes long and I enjoyed every minute of it with my dog Bertie snoring gently – almost purring – beside me on my sofa. As I said, I don’t spoil my dog. Apart from sometimes letting him up on the sofa…

Toodles, Poodles!

I just heard a dog bark on that big screen thing with moving images...

I just heard a dog bark on that big screen thing with moving images…

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