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Ron Bendell: Love me, love my dog – unless it's an orange poodle

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 31, 2012

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A serious assault on my street cred came on the day a woman friend accompanied me down to the pub insisting that we took with us a toy poodle she was looking after. It was tiny, orange, had those horrible runny eyes, quivered incessantly and was likely to let off an ear-splitting yelp at any moment. It was to the canine world what John Inman was to cage fighting.

Rather cruelly, I thought, my friend insisted on visiting the loo far more times than was necessary, leaving me to cradle the thing on my lap. Fellow drinkers edged nervously away muttering dark comments about my real nature.

And that's the way it is with dogs. They say an awful lot about the owner – or can be used to deliberately emphasise some trait you want to encourage.

Had I been a little old lady, for example, the presence of the shaking rat would have passed without comment. As it was, the only result of its presence was embarrassment all round.

Some dogs have to be there. The shepherd with his collie, say, or the chap in airport security with a sniffer. But the great majority of them exist merely to say something about the owner. The chap wanting to impress his pals at the shoot will have an expensive spaniel in tow and the roughie-toughie Ed Grundy type will want a scruffy terrier to secure his bucolic standing. Don't forget the aspiring Reggie Krays with their Rottweilers either, or the rather odd women you sometimes come across who carry a chihuahua about in their handbags. The canine world is all about fashion.

Fascinating to hear, then, from the Kennel Club about what's hot or not in 2012.

Top of the list for registrations so far this year comes the reliable yet rather boring Labrador retriever with more than 28,000. The pug – that biscuit-coloured breed that looks as if its eyes are going to shoot out any second – was also doing well, as was, worryingly, the Siberian husky, hardly the ideal companion in a typical British home.

Falling down the list are breeds like the old English sheepdog and that favourite of HM, the Pembroke Welsh corgi, both of which are on a watch list for breeds that could face extinction. Pity too the cesky terrier – no, I've never heard of them either – with just 25 finding their way on to the records.

At the very bottom comes the foxhound with not a single registration so far and even though there seemed to be plenty of them about as the hunting season got underway at the weekend there's a strong chance that that's where they will stay. The lolloping great brutes are just not fashionable.

Coinciding with the release of the Kennel Club figures comes a campaign from the Countryside Alliance encouraging schools to adopt a hound. About 200 hunts across England and Wales have been given advice packs showing how they can twin with schools, involving visits and the swapping of photographs and the like.

On the face of it this sounds a great idea. The Alliance boosts its efforts to get the Hunting Act reversed and for the children involved it's a much needed way – in a world of computer screens and mobile phones – to re-establish links with the great outdoors. But they have reckoned without the vetoing power of governors, heads and teachers generally.

Swift apologies to anyone out there in the educational world with a huntin', shootin' and fishin' bent but I have a strong suspicion that you are in the minority. For every one of you leafing through Horse and Hound at break time there will be a dozen scanning The Guardian.

In the same way that subjects such as history and geography have been downgraded in favour of traumatising the young with tales of climate change, any thoughts of introducing innocent minds to the barbarism of hunting must be stopped. It is not green and, like the poor old Dulux dog, it is not fashionable.

Good luck to the adoption scheme but it appears doomed. As the League Against Cruel Sports said, it is wrong to drag children into politics – and if you want to know why, one of their members will be happy to pop along at any time to address the pupils.

I'll be in the pub with a poodle.

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