• Sharing our Lives With Brodie

    My wife and I have had dogs for the whole of our 52 years of married life – and that has meant sharing our lives with our little furry friends. Because we usually spend a good part of our evenings watching television, it also means that our dogs have learned to become devotees of the screen as well – and our new puppy, our little West Highland White terrier, Brodie, is no exception.

    He seems to enjoy watching sport (which is fortunate for all concerned, since we watch a good deal of it), and rugby in particular, and he is a great fan of the All Blacks – he gets especially excited if his namesake scores a try!

    But what really spins his wheels is if he sees another animal, most of all another dog, on the screen. Despite the fact that we are convinced that he is unusually intelligent (what dog owners do not believe that about their pets?), he seems to think that what he has seen on the screen must be hiding behind the television set – or has somehow managed miraculously to escape on to the deck outside – and so what ensues is a good deal of barking and dashing around and jumping up on the screen in what is always a fruitless attempt to bring the interloper to account for itself.

    Brodie is very sociable and likes nothing better than to meet other dogs for real, so his reaction is not a hostile one, but rather, we think, an expression of excitement and pleasure – he is hoping to meet a playmate or to make a new acquaintance.

    His reaction is most marked when it is a dog that makes an appearance, but he reacts to any (apparently) living creature in a similar way – cats and horses are particular favourites, but even fish or insects or cartoon characters will do.

    It is only when one has spent some time watching television with someone like Brodie that one realises how often animals – and especially dogs – appear on the screen. Dramas, soaps and documentaries will often find a role for a dog. And advertisers have grasped that a dog can help to persuade viewers to engage with whatever it is they are trying to sell and it is amazing how many ads feature a dog – so even the commercial breaks can be the occasion for a Brodie explosion of excitement.

    We have got used to having our viewing (and listening) interrupted in this way and are reasonably tolerant of the fact that it is the critical moment of action or dialogue that is most often drowned out or obliterated by Brodie’s performance.

    But the whole experience leads me to reflect on the interaction we have with our pets, and on the value that it brings, especially to children, in teaching us that we share our lives with other living creatures. Small children are just like puppies – in both cases, their initial perception of the world is that they are at its centre and that it was made just for them. Whereas puppies grow up naturally to reach a different view, however, children need help to do so.

    The growing up process is essentially one in which the realisation gradually dawns on them that the world does not revolve around them, but is actually inhabited by a myriad of other people and creatures, all with similarly strong clams on its goodies. Good parents are the ones that aid this process, and having a pet in the family can help. Maturity is the state reached by those who grow up to understand the importance of the fact that we share the world with others and that our own interests do not and should not always take precedence.

    So, my wife and I accept that, in addition to all the pleasure that Brodie brings us, the love and affection, the companionship, the long walks together, he also teaches us about life – that it is worth putting up with having to clear away his mess, with having our socks and underwear chewed up, with having our television viewing disrupted. It is a price worth paying for sharing our lives with another – and delightful – little creature.

    Bryan Gould
    23 August 2019



1 Comment

  1. Jeremy Callaghan says: August 28, 2019 at 10:55 amReply

    Good luck with Brodie! Maybe intimations of longevity? Jeremy

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