Doggy Bonanza

Returning to Europe after a time in Asia and Africa is always a mixed experience for me. I’m looking forward to it, sometimes almost with a childish anticipation, and yet the harsh reality strikes me from the very first moment I land in Kastrup Airport in Copenhagen. Passport control: I show my passport, which the officer meticulously examines taking glances at me. ‘Why are you laughing?’ he asks. ‘Oh sorry,’ I hasten to say, ‘I’m not laughing, I was just smiling because I just came from a place where people smile to one another all the time.’ I had forgotten that in the West, you’re not allowed to smile to one another.

Ok, what the heck, I go and collect my booked rent-a–car to drive to the institute. No day-off, work right away. Three things always strike me right away upon my return to Northern Europe after a long absence. One, that we are so rich, we have so much, everything looks so orderly, so nice, almost artificial. Two, that everybody looks so grumpy, which I don’t understand because they seem not to lack anything. Three, that dogs belong to breeds again, they are no longer merely default dogs.

I get to the institute after a half an hour mainly highway drive, park my car, and meet the janitor on the way up. ‘Hi, hello, how are you, all OK?’ I greet him merrily. ‘Davs’, he replies (the Danish equivalent for ‘hi’) like he had seen me the day before and I hadn’t been long away. Ok, what the heck, I say to myself, people here in the rich north of Europe are not that jovial.

I enter my office, smiling. My staff acknowledges my presence, but they are all busy talking on their phones. I sit down, look around, taking my time. Yet a phone is ringing and nobody picks it up. Ok, I take it, I guess I still remember how to do it.

The caller is an unhappy lady dog owner with a dog problem. After short introductions she proceeds telling me all about her dog and her problem, and I listen. She has a lovely dog that unfortunately has developed an annoying behavior. The dog can’t really be home alone, well, he can but then he has this habit of attacking the couch more or less furiously depending on the weather, she tells me, but he’s a nice dog and OK, it’s not a big problem. He’s mainly OK with other dogs, but he doesn’t like big dogs so much, especially males, and big bully females he might attack as well when she goes with him for a walk in the local park. With puppies and young dogs he’s OK, but not if he has found a stick, or something that he insists in carrying around for the rest of the walk, but that’s also OK because she can control most of those situations. She just has to take care that he doesn’t get possession of anything and then he is good. Sometimes he urinates indoors, she doesn’t know why, but it’s no big deal. The real problem is that he’s very protective of her, especially after she got divorced, and he has bitten a couple of people on their walks, people that came too close to her—but he’s not an aggressive dog. He’s very good and loving to people he knows. He has also bitten guests in her home, not really seriously and only a few times, and all men with exception of her good old school friend and that she doesn’t understand why. Her vet doesn’t really like her dog. The other day she talked to him about the problem (I wondered which one) and between the lines she could feel that he meant that the best thing to do would be, well, to put an end to it. She could never do that because he’s really a good dog, and I haven’t seen him, but he’s really so sweet, he just has his bad moments. She hopes I can help her because she can’t even think of any other alternative.

I listen and I thought occurs to me: if we, in the western world, were as patient and understanding towards our spouses as we are towards our dogs, the rate of divorces would fall dramatically.

--from Dog Star Daily’s international roving reporter Roger Abrantes

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