Diary of a Dog-walker

Diary of a Dog-walker by Edward Stourton Read Free Book Online

Book: Diary of a Dog-walker by Edward Stourton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Edward Stourton
a tale of an Arizona man whose religious confidence is restored when Temujin, his Mastiff, leads him to an abandoned baseball cap carrying the legend ‘No Fear’. I have lived in America and am a diehard Yankophile, but really!
    The commonest evidence of dog sixth sense is finding an eager animal waiting in the hall when we turn the door key. Kudu does this act terribly well, thumping his tail and, like the gun-dog he was bred to be, bringing a shoe as a welcome (he has a good soft mouth and, an incident involving a pair of Jimmy Choos belonging to a son’s girlfriend notwithstanding, the footwear usually survives).
    Here I definitely favour the rationalist explanation. I work at home, and often see the build-up to this performance behind the scenes: Kudu is just as excited when the postman approaches the front steps as he is in the moments before one of the family walks in. There is some science around about this, and it suggests that dogs have extremely sensitive hearing – a faculty that may also explain the well-attestedcases (the first was recorded in Greece in the fourth century BC ) of dogs becoming agitated before earthquakes.
    And then, as I mulled on the evidence for this column, my eighty-seven-year-old father-in-law came to stay, recovering from an infection. He was still weak, and had a couple of bad shivering bouts – Kudu immediately went into a severe fit of sympathetic whimpering. When the invalid retired to bed, the Dog accompanied him and spent hours keeping a watchful eye on his condition until he felt well.
    A sixth sense or acute sensitivity? It does not really matter what you call it, does it?
    This column provoked one of the most intriguing and amusing reader responses I have had. Checking the
Opinion website after the piece was published, I found the following story from someone called Craig:
    Some years ago, my friend had a black Labrador. He lived in a downstairs maisonette in London. It was an ordinary dog – friendly, well behaved and not particularly remarkable although obviously intelligent. My friend was divorced and lonely and the dog and I were his only real friends.
    On this particular occasion, we were sitting in his lounge and discussing women. He said that he had given up on dating agencies and lonely hearts adsand couldn’t meet anyone. The dog was in the room and I suppose ‘listening’. I remember the dog was there because he always sat at my feet when I came around. After a while, my friend said to the dog: ‘Merlin, find me a perfect woman, will you?’ and we both laughed. Minutes later we were in his kitchenette making a coffee when he heard Merlin barking really loudly in the front garden which he had accessed from the backyard. ‘Probably someone at the door,’ I said.
    We went to the front door and opened it and Merlin was standing next to a truly stunning-looking woman and barking. She said, ‘Hallo, is this your dog? He just jumped into my car as I opened the door to go … I have been visiting someone a few doors along!’ We stood there staring and dumbfounded.
    My friend Chris married Stunning-Sarah eighteen months later.
    I would love to know whether Chris and Stunning-Sarah lived happily ever after, and whether the magician-dog Merlin cast any more such happy spells on his master’s life. Craig (or Chris or Stunning-Sarah), if by some extraordinary piece of serendipity, you chance to read this, do please get in touch.
    Marshall McLuhan, the high-priest of modern media theory, famously described television as a ‘cool medium’ and radio as a ‘hot’ one. When I worked on television I found thatthe screen put a certain distance between me and the audience: people sometimes treated me as if I was not quite real. Radio is very different: listeners feel a much more intimate connection with the voices that come into their bedrooms and bathrooms, and they are often surprisingly uninhibited

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