Thursday, 25 November 2010

What use is a dog?

Now I'm a 'dog' person (I also like cats, but that's by-the-by), I grew up with a dog in the house, and feel that a dog is the best barometer of a household. I've also formed the opinion that a place where people live is less of a home without a dog. They are a symptom of life and useful gauge of happiness. Especially a crossbreed or 'Mutt'. Pedigrees are a bit more tricky, having been bred mostly to a specific function and generally speaking host to a temperament which can be best described as 'Mercurial'.

Notwithstanding, my own preference is for a 'Mutt', with all their eccentricities. If dogs can be used as a reflection of their owners nature, then mine is a friendly and sometimes over enthusiastic goofball. However, when it comes to being useful, that ball of fur slumped in the office doorway earns his home and comfort just by being who he is.

My dog more than earns his keep as guardian and friend. Apart from his predilection for silent but deadly farts when Mrs S and I decide to watch a little televisual entertainment, he makes a great footwarmer on cold evenings. His hearing is many times more sensitive than a humans, warning of visitors before they get halfway up the drive. His sense of smell has an acuity many times more than the most accurate human, and possibly way more discriminating than any man made device. Although what is Chanel No 5 to him (Bear and Deer droppings) are something he and I will have to disagree on. Yet his sense of smell has prevented household fires and several other potentially hazardous situations. Yes, a good mutt is hard to beat, and mine is a good 'un.

It matters not that his lifespan is much shorter than mine, and that I will grieve terribly when he dies at the age of 17 or so years. More so because it will be me who finally has to hold him in my arms as he draws his last doggy breath. We will have had the shared joy of life, and a new pooch will have been found before then both to give him company and for him to train in the ways of master and house in his declining years, and so our parting will not be such a yawning chasm of loss.

On a slightly connected topic, having watched the growing furore over the invasive and insensitive TSA body searches and scans wonder why the hell more dogs have not been employed in US airports. Yet for all their shortfalls, as a first line of defence they are the best tool in the box. Instead of the tiresome 'everyone has to be scanned' mentality, why aren't the Yanks using a more layered response? At Vancouver airport there's always a dog or two on patrol, and being walked past a trained animal who can detect explosives more readily than a human with a backscatter x-ray device should be more effective. One or two animals walked around the departure gates are not only a first line alert for filtering out the bad guys, but also get round the massive queuing issues that make air travel such a chore.

I'm sure there are people out there who are cynophobic, or have a cultural bias against dogs, but they are in a minority and would have to go through the body scanner regardless. I know dogs aren't infallible, but they're a good first line of defence. If everyone goes through the metal detectors anyway, the airport queues move faster and still filter out the nutters who think that blowing aircraft out of the sky with them on board is somehow very intelligent. This may be unfair to some, but far better a little unfairness to a few, than a great deal to many, as at present.

A well placed dog can help get round quite a number of security issues on a number of levels. Either as a detector or deterrent. So, dogs are useful. Even flop eared, goofy, and occasionally smelly pets like mine. We need more of them. Especially when the enemy doesn't like them much.

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