So we humans are at it again. In the biblical manner (as God gave use dominion over the animals, right?) we have selected dogs as the species of choice to be used for our own purposes. Needing something to cuddle and ‘love’ us when in enforced seclusion, purchasing ‘pandemic puppies’ has become all the rage. The price of such a puppy has soared in line with demand, as has puppy farming and puppy smuggling. Ignoring pleas from reputable organisations as well as individuals ‘to see a puppy with its mother’ and new legislation which makes third party sales illegal (Lucy’s Law), humans feeling sorry for themselves have decided that a dog will be the solution to all their problems. Small, fluffy, undeniably cute and preferably looking ‘needy’, what better way has there been than purchasing such a creature to make life in isolation worthwhile?
At least the current vogue includes demand for ‘designer cross-breeds’ such the Cockerpoo, a cross between a cocker spaniel and poodle (why was the alternative Pooycock not selected as a moniker I wonder?), which have a chance of growing into physically healthy adults. Not so the brachycephalic breeds, increasing hugely in popularity before the pandemic taxed human endurance. With stunted legs and bodies, foreshortened upper jaws and airways so deformed as to make simply breathing difficult, the appeal of large ‘puppy eyes’ seems to blind otherwise sensible people to the lifelong suffering these distorted animals endure. Although physically sound and spurred on by media ‘influencers’, long-haired dogs have coats clipped and coloured as amusement to match the owner’s own outfit and hairstyle. On a par with carrying the correct designer handbag and sporting the ubiquitous ‘bee-sting’ lips and slug-like eyebrows, the dog has become a commodity as any other.
And the result? Rehoming centres being full to bursting with adolescent dogs who have outgrown their cuddly usefulness. With owners completely unprepared for the canine ‘teenage years’ and seemingly unwilling to accept that dogs have physical and emotional needs too, such misbegotten animals are discarded, like the plastic milk carton, for recycling.
Nor is the media response to this situation blameless. Jumping eagerly onto the puppy boom bandwagon, the BBC proposed to launch ‘Will my puppies make me rich?’, a programme so apparently ill-conceived as to cause an immediate public backlash and to force a change of title to the marginally more responsible ‘Britain’s puppy boom: Counting the cost.’ It remains to be seen whether ‘cost’ is defined purely in financial terms.
I am well aware that humans have made use of dogs for their own purposes for centuries, if not millenia. Dogs and their forebears may have appeared willing participants for the evolutionary advantages such exploitation brought. But as with slavery and racism, history can no longer be held up as an excuse for current practice. We must tell it is it is. Dogs are not disposable. It is not funny when they snore when asleep or waddle as they walk. It is not normal for faces to be so wrinkled as to create permanent skin fold infection or for eyes to protrude so far that they risk continual damage. As for the dog that must stand for hours having its coat clipped and coloured for human amusement, this is simply a sickening aberration. These are all warped versions of what the dog-human relationship should be.