30/07/2004
 

:claudia's column:

get a big dog and be a better person...

 

   
       

Be careful my pretty readers for age creeps up on one, bringing with it rigidness, boundaries, fear and confinement. Before you know it you may have constructed a little fortress for yourself that nobody can penetrate, except perhaps an imaginary friend. Just imagine how sad a world it would be without penetration. I presume since you are all old enough to read you may have already come across this tragic predicament.

It is possible to practise every day doing something out of the ordinary, but we are all very busy or terribly lazy adults, and it can be hard to give time to so vital a cause. In Gamine’s continuous quest for eternal youth, spontaneity and pleasure, there has been one cure found that I believe is most effective; the solution is to get a dog – a big dog.

 

   
       

When living with a large canine, one endures a daily diet of amusement, surprise, humiliation, horror and reluctant affection, all of which takes place in the beauty of tree-lined parks or rolling countryside.

Being out and about with your dog is unpredictable at every turn. He may stampede a picnic, shag the leg of a well-heeled lady, chase swans or cyclists, bark at horses, or someone in a hat, or someone carrying a large object, or wearing brightly coloured clothing or a beard, knock over a small child, or a religious person, puncture a football, steal a chicken or a teddy, defecate at the entrance to Kensington Palace, or attack a traffic warden. Some of these are perks, obviously, but they are all situations which must be detonated with a deftness and cool charm that Mr. Bond would find challenging. Yes, dogs are a breath of fresh air.

   
       

 

Of course, there are drawbacks. Many people disapprove of large dogs. One can find oneself somewhat outside society, but, personally, this is something I aspire to. It is rather like wearing an obscene T-shirt but without the pretension; instead, you have the natural elegance that a healthy hound offers.

A big dog does need exercising daily, but so do we! And nothing could be more boring then a gym. There is the problem of what to do when nature calls - which I cannot admit to dealing with personally, as I have not yet found the right outfit for the occasion - so I have given Nelson his own trowel to honour his exceptional intelligence.

 

   
 

 

   

What does one do with one’s pet when on holiday? Well, Nelson has a passport filled with stamps from Mediterranean ports, mountainous border crossings and European cities; he loves travelling and even has his own matching faux-poodle luggage.

Perhaps I should start a group where people from deprived homes can borrow dogs from more fortunate Gamine fans when they are away on holiday or on business.

Some people are allergic to dog hair, or cannot abide it on their Italian furniture; for those unlucky people, I can recommend the poodle, whose hair does not come out no matter how hard you pull. I envisage an enchanted happy world where everybody walks with a beautiful poodle on the end of a lead.

   
       
 

Dog walking is, however, a sociable business; you are instantly immersed in the light and breezy subculture of dog enthusiasts and park life. As for shops, bars, restaurants and theatres, I am embarking on extensive research into which places are hospitable towards our canine friends.

So far, Nelson and I are greeted with open arms when shopping at Asprey’s or any of the more traditional places in St. James’s. A thoughtful shop assistant took Nelson for a stroll down Bond street while I tried on shoes in Chanel yesterday; one of the doormen at the Lanesburgh entertains Nelson in the foyer when I pop in for an early breakfast, which is awfully decent considering Nelson is now the size of a young giraffe; and any real British pub will leave a place for dogs by the hearth, although these are becoming harder to find.

 

   
       

It is only the lesser places that object to dogs.

Nelson regularly accompanies me to the Serpentine Gallery where they usually think he is Art, and tonight I have reserved a box at the ENO to see how Nelson will fit in.

The other place one can always go is Europe, where dogs are welcome absolutely everywhere.

So you see, having a dog can only enhance your life; no longer will you spend any time in the plasticated, drudgenous stench of chain bars, conglomerate cafes, gyms, aeroplanes or supermarkets (not that you ever would have, my darlings). Only the best for my Gamine fans, my beautiful darlinghearts.

I am off now to taste the waters in Simpson’s on the Strand with Nelson. Let me know if there are any other houses of culinary delights or artistic excellence that you wish us to visit so that you can walk with confidence while following your huge hound.


With affection


C. Labadie X