It’s a dogs life

There are lots of little phrases throughout this great language of ours that are in popular usage. Some quite late entrants and others that have been around for years. In many cases the origins are shrouded in mystery and many pundits argue where the truth really lies. “Swinging the lead”, “Let the cat out of the bag” and “It’s a dogs life” being just a small selection.

Somebody tweeted a couple of days ago about a police dog in the West Midlands being stabbed with a pair of scissors.

Read it here

The dog fortunately made a full recovery and was back on patrol quickly. This got me thinking about the police dog section. I always fancied doing this job but was always in the wrong place at the wrong time when the vacancies came up.

In the first year of police service you get one thing drilled into you. “If the dog is loose, STAND STILL”. I unofficially dog/house sat for a friends police dog many years ago. I had done a lot of additional training with him and the dog knew me well. I got up in the morning, walked him and got ready for work. He knew the minute I pulled on black trousers and white shirt that it was work time. He looked rather upset to go in his kennel. My friend had been out overnight and would be back mid morning. The fact the dog recognised the uniform though does not mean they respect it on the scent of a criminal. Many a police officer has come unstuck with a dog because he didn’t stand still.

We also had a demo at the kennels when I first joined. The willing volunteer (later to become a handler) ran across the field wearing a sleeve. After the requisite warnings the dog was released. So far so good. Sadly, on the arrival of the dog our trusty volunteer left the script. He turned to face the dog, held out his arms and aggressively shouted “Come on then!” The dog promptly took hold of his unprotected arm and dragged him to the floor. Ouch!

My handler friend also worked in a time when handlers took the vans home and worked a complicated handover routine with their colleagues. I called to see him one day at home and the van was parked in the street. He was washing his car. He threw me the van keys and asked me to put it on the drive when he moved his car off. I jumped into the drivers seat. I then got the closest I have ever been to soiling myself when my “pal” the dog (whom I’d given no thought to) put his nose in my ear and licked me!

I’ve also gave foot chase to a lad once who went to ground in an overgrown garden. I shouted that if he didn’t come out the dog would come in. He promptly stood, held his hands up and walked back to me. He seemed most put out when I put the cuffs on and there wasn’t a dog in sight.

The final anecdote comes whilst on foot patrol at 3 in the morning. A burglar had been disturbed and we were pretty sure we had him boxed in. The dog was called. I was in a small park on the opposite side of a disused railway line to where the burglar was believed to be. I could hear the dog taken from the van and the call on the radio that the dog was loose. It was deathly quiet and I could hear as the dog got a track. Next was a growl followed by a pitiful wailing and moaning as our dog took a good chew of this villain. The handler was right there and began shouting at the dog to release. He had other ideas though and would not let go. The handler was bawling at the dog to no avail and all the time our burglar continued to moan and wail “Get your dog off mister”. The burglar had been moaning for what seemed like an age. In a comical moment, never repeated, the dog stopped growling, the burglar stopped moaning and the handler stopped bawling. After about two seconds of utter silence the handler was heard to say to our miscreant “Will you shut the f&@k up.” The preceding cacophony then resumed! Suffice to say the dog did let go and he was later charged.

I have diverted a little here but I thought you may like the tales. It’s a dogs life. The general consensus of the meaning of this phrase is something that we say to show that life is hard and unpleasant. I don’t know about you but my experience of dogs is that they have a good life. Before any PETA supporters jump on me. I know that dogs are abused and maltreated in this and other countries. So lets base this on my dogs, those in a loving home and police dogs. They have a good life. They are cared for, groomed, fed and given medical treatment. There was a time when the only occupants of our house on private healthcare were the dogs!! They sleep, snooze, go for walks and shower you with affection and company. You can leave them at home for hours on end and they will always be pleased to see you. Man’s best friend?

I think there is a lot we can learn from dogs. They are pack animals. They believe in strong family ties. There is a hierarchy of course but they stick together. So many families these days simply dissolve when the going gets tough. They love unconditionally. So many of our relationships fall apart because we cannot. We place our own expectations (conditions) on each other causing friction and anger.

I could go on. My dog loves me. How do I know? He’s arthritic and can barely walk but no matter where I’ve been, how long I’ve been gone or forgotten his dinner he still wags his tail like a windmill when I come home. His love is unconditional and his life is complete with some simple pleasures. A tickled tum, a scratch behind the ears or just snoozing in the sun on the front step.

A dogs life? Yep, I think I’m aspiring to that.


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