Public domain image source: Unbearably Cute Puppy by Douglas Gray
“The more I see of man, the more I like dogs”, said Madame de Staël (1766 – 1817) and although she lived 200 years ago, I think most of us will still agree that man has a special relationship with the canine species. A dog is a (wo)man’s best friend.
This is reflected in popular culture; there are so many books about dogs out there. Marley and Me by John Grogan is one of the modern bestsellers but this trend extends back to the past, with John Steinbeck’s classic Travels with Charley and My Dog Tulip by J.R. Ackerley.
Most of these books take a look at life as well as living with a four-legged creature: Steinbeck travels round the States with his dog and Grogan’s book charts his marriage, career and family life as well as providing an amusing picture of “the world’s worst dog”, to quote the book’s cover tagline. The “worst dog” in question is a Labrador Retriever and judging by their position in the most popular dogs league table (http://www.dailypuppy.com/articles/top-10-most-popular-dog-breeds/253b2d86-c112-9854-d5b4-233120ca0ff9), they are our most-loved breed of dog.
I can see why. I grew up with Labradors and my current Lab is an adorable, amiable and abiding dog. I’m not the first to say that the enduring appeal of Labradors, and dogs in general, lies in their capacity for unconditional love. Dogs don’t care what you look like, whether you’re wearing makeup today, or whether you’ve brushed your teeth. They are not bothered by social etiquette and have no concept whatsoever of personal space: my dog still tries to sit on my lap and barges past me when it’s time for her dinner. She bears little resemblance to Marley, however. Her only flaw is her tendency to run away with anything she can find on the floor, usually shoes, and invite you to have a game of chase which will usually end in her outrunning you!
I recently saw the movie adaptation of Marley and Me; it’s a three-star movie in my opinion because although all those shots of Marley playfully and cutely being “the world’s worst dog” are entertaining, the movie is slightly over-long. Also, I didn’t find the two lead actors (Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson) particularly engaging. But it is a great, entertaining Sunday afternoon type of movie and if you like Labs, it’s worth a watch sometime.
I can see why dogs have a prominent place in literature, stories and in many of our lives; “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole” (Roger Caras)