kenny hodgart

On the question of dogs

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This article appeared in The Herald

In his memoir Fast and Louche, Confessions of a Flagrant Sinner, the writer Jeremy Scott, whose father was an Arctic explorer, begins: “On Easter Sunday Father shot and ate a dog.” The heroic age of Arctic exploration being over – many people now find paying for a gym membership and going once satisfies their thirst for adventure – it is probable that few dogs perish this way these days.

In the west sentimentality for dogs, cats and even inconsequential things like rabbits is one of life’s constant tyrannies, but the Koreans, apparently, have a taste for canine flesh. Indeed, considered from a Korean point of view, the resources put into rearing dogs in other nations must seem like an enormous waste given that the blighters don’t end up on the table.

If the charity the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) is to be believed, 35% of dogs in the UK are now obese, that figure rising to 37% in Scotland. In a mere three years, according to their calculations, it could be 50%. But what should be pointed out whenever a Korean person brings these statistics up is that even if a dog is too fat to pick itself off the floor and go for a walk, it can hardly be blamed for its condition and therefore shooting it seems a bit on the harsh side.

Presumably there is a link between the weight of a dog and the weight of its owner, but the PDSA does not provide this information. What can safely be concluded, however, is that if dogs whose forebears rollicked about all day can no longer lift a leg at a lamp post, the case for obesity having to do with one’s genes starts not to look so convincing.

Another recent study suggests that a great many dogs suffer from depression. This may or may not be because they are self-conscious about their weight; my guess is that they simply find their masters odious.

In America, where dogs are presumably fatter even than Scottish ones, many owners now take their pets to special church services to give them a better chance of making it into heaven.

Christianity does not traditionally apportion animals with souls, but now it seems the modern dog, bloated by sugary snacks, must grapple with such matters as to whether salvation is to be attained by good deeds or faith alone. Little wonder that sometimes the hand that feeds is bitten.

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