Posts Tagged ‘dogs

09
Dec
09

Dog meat

It was going to happen eventually, I suppose. Today I was offered dog. Not a dog, you understand. I wasn’t being given a pet. Somebody thought that I might actually enjoy scoffing on flesh that had been pulled off the carcass of a dead dog.

I’ve been given a couple of days off as my fellow lecturers have to go to some conference. With nothing to do, the one lecturer who didn’t go to this thing offered to take me to lunch, and he suggested dog meat. I was previously aware of a penchant for dog meat in Korea, but I figured nobody would expect me to eat it. So this was a surprise. Thinking it best to immediately rule out the possibility, I calmly said, “I don’t think I’d like that, to be honest.” Unfortunately, I failed to appreciate this was beyond my companion’s level of English, and it seems he interpreted this as enthusiasm for the idea. Five minutes later we were parked beside a dog meat restaurant.

I honestly can’t say why I knew it was a dog meat restaurant – it wasn’t as if there were cartoon dogs on the sign – but somehow I knew it was not a place I wanted to be. And in that moment I thought it might be better just to do it. Was it worth the risk of offending a colleague by saying I didn’t want to eat here? Yesterday, this same guy congratulated me for assimilating into the Korean culture so well. It seems most Westerners have huge problems with food here, so the locals find it impressive that I horse it down without qualm. It’s not that impressive really, I genuinely love Korean food, but I have always prided myself on being able to assimilate well with foreign cultures. For instance, if I were teaching in Japan and someone offered me whale meat, I’d eat it. I wouldn’t feel good about it, but I’d suck it up and do it. And so, I rationalised that eating dog is pretty much the same deal.

Of course I didn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get the image of our Frank back home out of my head, looking up at me with his big sad face. I spluttered out, “Oh, dog meat. Sorry, I’ve had that before and I didn’t like it,” and so he took me to a Chinese place where I had battered pork and seafood noodles instead. I was embarrassed at my squeamishness. I mean, I’ve always had a problem with our national mores over meat, and how we find the foods of foreign cultures repulsive. If we have little problem with chewing on the flesh of cow or pig, then is eating dog or horse or whathaveyou really any different? The way I see it, the only people who can be legitimately repulsed by such customs are vegetarians (this should not be read as an endorsement of vegetarianism, as I downright dislike vegetarians). And so, I will try just about anything that’s offered to me.

Still, there are two animals I just can’t bring myself to eat: dogs and donkeys. Donkeys because they have it hard enough as it is, and dogs because, well, just because they’re dogs. What other creature in the animal kingdom strives to align with humankind the way dogs do? And we’re going to repay that by eating them? Fuck that shit.

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30
May
09

Is this why I went to college? No, it is not!

I’ve been working today, cooking chips and flipping burgers. I’m doing it as a favour for someone over the bank holiday weekend. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. It’s undeniably true that I could really do with the money. I know it’s wrong to be so picky about jobs in this age, but I can’t help but feel I should be doing more. Even the part-time job I had in college was better than this.

Anyway, in light of this recession, I’ve decided my dog should choose how I vote in the elections next week. I’ve come to believe Frank is an excellent judge of character. When strangers come to the door, he usually offers them one of two receptions: low short growls just to remind them they’re being watched, or all-out barking as if to say, “turn around and fuck off back where you came from.” On the other hand, when my brother brought his girlfriend over for the first time, he was happy to lie quietly at her feet, panting contently and letting her pat his forehead (the dog, that is, not the brother). Clearly a good sign. As for the politicians, so far, every one of them who has come to the door has gotten the “fuck off” treatment.

I don’t bother to engage with them. I ignore completely the local, national and European bullshit they’re peddling. I don’t even bother to complain that I’ve spent almost a decade in college to flip burgers. I just see how controllable Frank is around them. The ones who don’t get him agitated are the ones who’ll get my vote. So far I’ve been left wanting.

14
Mar
09

Marley & Me

I went to see Marley & Me last night. Having enjoyed the book recently (quite against my will), I felt obliged to see it. I was initially put off by the concept of a largely fictionalised adaptation of a memoir (particularly one as personal as Marley & Me), but I figured it’s no more abnormal than Frost/Nixon and the likes. Seemingly few others are bothered by this, as the cinema was packed. I guess there’s something in a story about a dog that really strikes a cord with people. Or maybe it was because it’s about a family that’s actually quite happy. Not many films like this are ever made. Either way, a packed screen meant that there were a lot of chitty-chatty people not used to common cinema manners. I really longed for that guy who shouted “shut up!” at Watchmen last week.

As for the film, I’m afraid to say it translates very, very poorly. It comes across as a formulaic tear-jerker, in that it’s cheap, manipulative and (worst of all) very, very cheesy, all of which the book avoided. Now I’m very much a dog-person, but Jennifer Aniston has a line towards the end that made me want to kick a puppy. The thing is, I knew beforehand it would be like this, and I was well up for it. I was genuinely in the mood for “ahhhs” and “cooos” and even the occasional tear. Now I don’t deny there was a lump in my throat when Marley’s story reached its inevitable conclusion, and there were a few moments when I found it quite charming, but as a whole it comes across as quite a cynical film. It’s the kind of thing optioned by Hollywood executives purely because they saw the source material making millions, and didn’t really understand, much less care, what it was that made it so popular.

For all its faults, Watchmen can at least be said to be a labour of love. This, however, is little more than a cash-in. If you’re thinking of seeing it, I recommend you save your self the bother. Rent Babe or something instead.

14
Feb
09

Pets

After arriving home last night from a highly successful surprise party for my mother’s 50th birthday, I got into an argument with my sister about our dog. “He would be a fantastic dog,” I drunkenly declared, “except he’s getting so many mixed messages about what he’s allowed and not allowed to do.”
“And who’s fault is that?” she responded.
“Not mine, anyway. I’m the only one who takes care of him.”
“You fucking spoil him,” she shot back, “he’s only trouble when you’re home.”

I had no response to this. I’m sure the dog is still a handful when I’m not around, but how can I prove it. As for the charge of spoiling him, perhaps I do, but in my opinion Labradors demand/deserve a high level of attention. I see it as my role to supply this attention.

Every time I’m home it seems that, with the occasional exception of my mother, I’m the only one who takes him for a walk every day. The siblings claim to do this when I’m not around, but I flat out don’t believe them. My suspicions were confirmed last night when talking with a neighbour (a fellow Lab owner) who told me he’s only ever seen me take the dog out. “I’ve seen him more in the last two weeks than I have in months,” he said.

As Labradors go, Frank is pretty dim and of limited use. And his position in the family has at least once been questioned. When he was leaving the puppy stage my mother wondered if we should give him away. “He’d make a good guard dog for a site or something,” she argued. It wasn’t an unreasonable proposition. After all, ours had always been a feline household, and we really couldn’t be sure we would be able to care for a small dog, never mind a Lab. However, the idea was quickly shot down and never broached again when I shot a quick, expressionless response: “You’re not getting rid of our dog.”

There are a few reasons why I’m so unwilling to let him go. For one, he is, indeed, an excellent guard dog. This is quite convenient for us as we live in a fairly industrialised area, occasionally frequented by individuals who might see an open shed door and help themselves to a few supplies. Of course the problem with this is that people who are perfectly authorised to be on our property have often been hounded. In his younger days, visitors would have to phone in advance to let us know they’re coming so we’d know not to let Frank bark them out the gate again. He’s a lot calmer now, but he has an incredible ability to remind strangers who come to our door, “I’m watching you, buddy.”

Frank is also remarkable for his gentle nature with weaker creatures. We did once have a cat that was forced to live in my father’s vegetable garden (out of bounds to Frank) until it unsurprisingly ran away. The two just couldn’t get on. This, however, is the one exception as Frank is very calm, even nurturing, with our cats. At one time one of the cats was having a litter, and sensing she was in trouble Frank worked himself into a tizzy trying to help her. Unfortunately helping to him meant pulling her around the back yard by her head, but at least he was trying (mother and kittens were fine, by the way). We currently two cats, one of whom displays bizarre behavioural characteristics for a cat. Unlike most cats, he’s friendly, affectionate, highly energetic and loyal (he has his favourites within the household). He’s playful in the way kittens are playful but usually grow out of. I can’t sit down without him jumping onto my lap. And when I take Frank for a walk he insists coming with us. He’s more of a dog than many dogs I know, and I suspect it was Frank who trained him to be like this.

All of this, however, is irrelevant, as I don’t need a reason to defend his presence. Frank is part of the family just because he’s Frank. I don’t expect him to proof his worth anymore than I expect him to decide for himself he doesn’t want to be part of the family anymore.

Anyway, I’d like to retract an earlier statement on the book Marley and Me, now that I’ve nearly finished it. I’m not saying it’s not light and easily marketable, because it is. But it’s also very well written, on occasionally brutally honest, and of course essential reading for anyone who’s ever loved a dog.

08
Feb
09

Frank and me

I’m currently reading Marley & Me, the non-fiction account of “life and love with the world’s worst dog”. I didn’t really want to, as it always seemed to me to be the light, easily marketable kind of book that everyone claims to love but forgets forever as soon as they’ve finished it (and so far my initial presumptions were correct). However, I’ve been forced to read it as a sort of homework assignment (someone else’s homework, but that’s another story).

I bring this up because it serves highlight my relationship with my own dog. Having returned to the family homestead, I’ve been reunited with Frank, the family dog. Like Marley, Frank is a Labrador retriever (though not a purebred. Apparently there’s some husky blood in there somewhere), and considering that Marley is the world’s worst dog I’m having a hard time realising why he’s any worse than Frank. Like Marley, Frank doesn’t recognise his own strength, and frequently knocks people over (literally) with his friendliness. He chews up whatever he can get his jaws on. He refuses to lets us wash him, yet zips for every last puddle when taken for a walk. His favourite game is a sort of wrestling which involves biting. He never bites through though. He just sort of holds arms and legs in his mouth. So I nervously tell myself that he will never actually attack anyone as biting to him is something to do as play.

Maybe he’s just particularly bad when I’m home, as my presence in the house is something of a novelty and it gets him excited. Of course this doesn’t explain why other dog owners can do things with ease that are impossible with Frank. For instance, I occasionally notice dogs outside supermarkets and places, tied to railings while patiently waiting for their owners. My brother tried this with Frank once. Refusing to be left alone, he pulled the metal railing he was tied to from its wall. I too tried something similar once, but the poor dog went into such a panic that he made it impossible (though he probably did me a favour, given that in a moment of hunger-driven weakness I was trying to enter a McDonalds).

Currently Frank is tormetted by the dreaded cone, preventing him from gnawing at a cut in his back leg. He looks like an after-shot of that HMV logo. He needn’t worry too much though as I don’t see it lasting long. He already broke a piece off yesterday by running it into the back of my legs.

Incidentally, reading Marley & Me got me thinking. If one attempted to use the Bart Simpson “the dog ate my homework” excuse for not having their report on this book, could they get some credit for creative interpretation of the assignment.