When I was a child, I never appreciated the universal language that is created by ownership of a dog. Travelling overseas in the last couple of weeks, I have seen this borne out time and time again.
A dog has long been recognised as man’s best friend. Their companionship, their unquestioned loyalty and the warmth of their greeting has warmed many a lonely heart. Touching stories abound of a dog’s loyalty to their human master. Those who have experienced serious loss in their lives have often found solace in the love of a dog. Children with special needs may have had their lives transformed by the addition of a canine companion. Adults with a disabilty find a whole new freedom when their life is transformed by the companionship of an assistance dog.
But I’ve realised there is far more to this love story between man and his dog. Ownership of a dog creates an instant bond with another human being. Any regular dog walker knows by name all the dogs that they meet on their daily walk. Sometimes if you’re lucky you remember the owner’s name as well. More often you mention them as “Cooper’s Dad” or “Bundy’s Mum”! Why is it that we remember the dog’s name and forget the owners?
Away from home, missing my own canine companion, I find myself instantly drawn to larger dogs in my vicinity. I had a most engaging conversation with an older gentleman in the Orkney Isles, who, like me, was waiting outside a shop with his Golden Retriever dog. They were holidaying on the island with relatives. I was on a day trip ashore from my cruise around the British Isles. I was interested that their dog came with with them on all such holiday trips. It seems to be more common in the British Isles than in Australia. In fact dogs are welcomed in many more places in UK. Finding dog friendly accomodation is certainly less challenging than Australia.
My new friend had apparently only just been introduced to the pleasures of swimming in the sea. Clearly my own Cindie is most fortunate to live on an island where such opportunities abound on a daily basis. Whilst some breeds like Labradors love the water, it can take a time to develop their enjoyment if they do not experience this exercise early in their development.
Other dogs I encountered were less generous in their affections when faced with the general public every day. Each tender boat in the Isles of Scilly appeared to have its own resident dog but they were clearly disenchanted with the average cruise passenger. Most treated the passengers with complete disdain and did not even acknowledge our attempts to give them a pat as they passed by. One seemed so oblivious of the passengers that I felt sure he was about to take the legs out from under one elderly tourist who was climbing shakily into the tender boat on a rocking sea. A last minute dextrous twist from the errant pooch saved the poor gentleman from tumbling head first into the tender boat.
But there was no shortage of affection from a Spanish hunting dog that I encountered in the French port of Honfleur. Once again the universal language of dog prevailed despite the lack of common language. I smiled and gestured and his owner did likewise. Somewhere between French and English with a dash of Spanish, we established our common interest in dogs whilst my new friend licked me enthusiastically.
Viva the universal language of dog!