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Always the dog

Andy Barker might be barking up the wrong tree with his latest take on pet populations.
Andy Barker might be barking up the wrong tree with his latest take on pet populations. - Stock Image

Tomorrow the sky over Asia will be bursting with bomb-like explosions and North Korea's communist dictator Kim Jong-un won't be the villain, as it will be fireworks to mark the Chinese New Year.

And it's the Year of the Dog.

It's 4716 on the Chinese calendar and being lunar based, it means New Year's (like our Easter) has variable dates.

The calendar runs on a 60-year cycle, has 12 animal symbols, five elements, and four colours making this the Year of the Brown Earth Dog.

New Year's foods tend to be festive and in China the doggie bag has a whole new meaning as some there consume dog meat. For dog lovers that cuisine choice is revolting, if not barbaric.

Eating dog meat (estimates of 25 million dogs worldwide) reaps scorn and ridicule. It's banned in some countries with the pressure to ban it everywhere. No news there, as we are barbarians in the eyes of the riders of the white horse of indignation who have been for decades trying to stop our seal hunt.

Dog meat consumption is really a distraction from the real issue of the alarming number of dogs (and cats). Worldatlas estimates that dogs alone number around 900 million, globally.

Kynetec Canada estimates we have 7.6 million dogs and 8.8 million cats, which makes that combo about 4 million more than all the people living in the four western provinces.

The Worldwatch Institute warns pet numbers, “is having a serious impact on the environment.” It sees the need to shrink the pet population, as doing so would have “the same benefit of stabilizing the human population...restoring the Earth's system.”

Fewer pets will not be welcomed by the pet industry. Worldwatch estimates the pet food bill alone at $42 billion (US) a year with billions more spent on various goods and services.

As for dogs, the very personal dog-human relationship now has us hearing such human terms as adopted and rescued applied to dogs. That bonding relationship was noted in a recent survey in the USA by Link AKA as people revealed they speak to their dogs and tell them things they don't tell people.

The survey also noted, “more than half of Americans decline social invitations to hang out with their dogs.” Dogs rather than people is probably not just an American phenomenon.

Dogs were once mainly used for hunting and work tasks such as hauling sleds. Nowadays, they tend to have more prestigious jobs in a variety of situations including: disease detection; search and rescue; search for drugs, bombs and explosives; criminal apprehension; crowd control; and as guide dogs for those with various medical needs.

Dogs phraseology is commonly used in our language. Who hasn't used or heard: work like a dog, let sleeping dogs lie, dog eat dog, bark worse than the bite, and the tail wagging the dog? In my boyhood my mother was wont to say, “lazy as a cut dog,” which I fully understood in later years.

In those younger years we loved playing a game in the school yard called red rover. At the theatre we were joyous to see Lassie and Rin Tin Tin in movies; and Goofy in cartoons.

However, a no-no for librarians and book lovers is the bad habit of people who make dog ears in books by turning down the corners of pages to indicate a bookmark.

And at a town hall like meeting with the language czar (peoplekind instead of mankind) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a person asking him a question might very well be reprimanded if he or she should say, “a dog is man's best friend.”

Irrespective of all their numerous benefits, dogs have a dark side as they cannot be totally trusted and can be quite vicious. Every year we hear of people of all ages, but particularly children, being bitten, mauled and killed by dogs. Recently, a 22-year-old woman in Virginia was killed by her two pit bulls she had out for a walk.

It's perplexing that to own a handgun, I have to jump through a load of legal hoops. However, I could own powerful dogs, known to be biters and killers, no questions asked. Doesn't make sense!

My grandfather, Louie John, made his last trip to the Gaff Topsails in 1948 at age 80. A photo shows him sitting on a rock with his left hand resting on his double-barrelled shotgun and his right hand on the back of his cherished hunting dog, an Irish Red and White Setter; fittingly named Chum.

I have less than eight years to match pop's age and perhaps one day I will walk on the Gaff Topsails to honour his memory. However, having a dog at my side is highly unlikely, as having had a dog once was enough for a lifetime.
A dog is a job. No thanks.

For those who own dogs, the rotation of the 12 animal symbols on the Chinese calendar doesn't really matter, as for them every year is always the dog. And for dog lovers that's just fine.

Thus, for them a column suggesting the control of dog numbers and placing restrictions on particular breeds is totally barking up the wrong tree.

Andy Barker at abdp9@hotmail.com

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