Every dog comes with an exclusive membership- you get to join the National Dogwalkers Union. You see, walking a dog is a very social occupation. You talk to the dog, of course, pointing out features of historical interest, and preventing it from going belly deep in mud – but you meet other dogs- and dogwalkers, as well.
Digby and I walk round the lake two or three times a day. It’s about a mile round, with trees and bushes – I’ll tell you all about it another time. And because we tend to go out at the same time every day, we meet the regulars who go out at the same time as us.
There is an etiquette about dog on dog meetings. If the other owner offers your dog a treat, then you have to reciprocate. Then you have a chat. It’s an opportunity to talk about the weather, how bad the bus service is, and the cricket ( I live in Yorkshire- you can always talk about the cricket). The dogs, meanwhile, are sniffing each other and exchanging views on dogfood, cats and how to deal with them, and that interesting smell on the gate post of Number 11.
And the odd thing is, you get to know the other dogs as well as the owners. You learn their names. Now our Digby is called Digby, partly after Dan Dare’s sidekick in the Eagle comic, and partly because he…well…he looks like a Digby. See below.
It’s a comforting, old fashioned name…and I thought it was a bit out of the ordinary. I imagined that people would call their dogs Spike, or Bruiser, or Caesar- maybe Satan. Not so.
Digby’s best mate is a terrier called Bill Smith. You can’t get more down to earth than that .
We know a tiny Yorkshire terrier called Ellie, who never ventures out unless she’s wearing a coat- sensible tweed in the winter and a sort of frilly red thing in the summer. Then there’s Bertie- originally a terrier and now a furry mobile coffee table. Dennis is a fluffy Bedlington terrier, while Trevor is a spaniel. Now you may notice a pattern developing here- these are all old fashioned names, Walter and Stanley, Big George the Staffie and Sam the labrador- these are names that go way back beyond the sixties. Their names sound characters from a Post war Ealing comedy about plucky Cockneys in the blitz.
There are two exceptions- Merlin the Collie is a walking tribute to the groomer’s art. He flows along in silky majesty, every hair in place. But that’s a good name for him. He looks like a Merlin. Or maybe a Stewart Grainger . And then there’s Darcy Bussell the little Jack Russell. Darcy is tiny and amazingly clean- box fresh is the phrase which springs to mind. She dashes up to everyone she meets and greets them with theatrical squeaks of delight – Mwah ! ! Mwah ! so good to see you darling !
I’ve been thinking about this- and maybe the naming of dogs hearkens back to an older, more predictable age. Maybe we name our dogs in remembrance of the old times, and the old virtues, and in the hope of keeping memories alive.
What’s your dog called ? And how did it come by its name ? I’f be interested to hear.