Being a dog and/or dog owner in the UK should be easy, right? At least that’s what you might be led to believe. As a Londoner and relatively new owner of a young pupper of around 11 months, I’ve come to understand a few things. Things that don’t align with my romanticised fantasies of strolling through London with hound by my side, sharing plates of pasta whilst playing cat and mouse with the pound. Many a time have I caught myself regurgitating phrases like ‘it’s a dog’s life’ and ‘man’s best friend’ - and whereas this may be true in most parts of the UK, I’ve come to the slow realisation that things may not be quite what they seem in doggy haven HQ. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re a country canine then you’re probably riding the easy train to comfort town but when it comes to London living, life may not be quite so simple.
Let me set the scene for you… it’s a wintery Sunday morning and my wife and I have woken up later than planned due to ‘an alarm clock malfunction’. With fingers pointed firmly at the floor, we hastily begin preparations for the long and arduous journey ahead of us, with the added complication of having to think about our four-legged compadre’s requirements. Given the possibility of missing our train, I hail an Uber thinking it would be a neat solution to the self-imposed urgency of the situation.
Lo and behold, a five by five pixel chariot jumps onto the screen of my iPhone and starts heading toward our humble abode post-haste. Belongings carted to the landing bay, we await our charioteer with eager anticipation. Yet to our dismay, upon the arrival of one of our rapidly reducing number of transport options - we are swiftly told that there is a strict no dog policy due to shedding concerns. In a panic, I begin to scramble…
‘But sir, our dog does not shed a single hair. I guarantee that not one strand from this fluffy mane you will find on your immaculately kept Toyota Prius’ upholstery.’
‘I’m sorry, but I’m allergic to dogs.’
I got the sense that nothing I said would sway the views of our would-be conductor but I refused to relent. ‘Ah well, today is your lucky day then! Meet Maltese, a hypoallergenic breed that will cause you no suffering as you deliver us to our required destination. Not a single tear shall fall from your eye nor runlet from your nose holes.’
‘I’m allergic to animals’, was the gruff reply.
‘Umm…’. I’d lost all sense of where this conversation was going. What was clear; however, was that we were not wanted. The not-so-Uber made a speedy escape and we were forced to scramble for two buses and a tube before making a train with barely seconds to spare.
It may seem like a small thing but this was a culmination of lots of small ‘sorry, no dogs allowed’ type moments that make me wonder if we truly are the forward-thinking, all-embracing capital of the doggy world. London is a difficult place to live with or without an autonomous fur-ball thrown into the mix. There are idiosyncratic rules that govern our everyday life, from standing on a particular side of an escalator to ensuring you never, ever make eye-contact with anyone. Have you ever seen ‘How to train your Dragon’? How about, ‘How to teach your dog not to make eye-contact’? Impossible!
Take all this and throw in a few irresponsible dog owners and it’s only natural that London’s already defensive inhabitants build additional walls to further prevent co-habitation (please, anything but more walls).
It is way too hard, for example, to find rental accommodation that allows dogs… yet, man has lived with dog for many millennia. They are more a part of our world than perhaps any other animal on earth - a feature of our co-evolution over the past 32,000 years - which make them the perfect flatmate.
I would be doing a disservice not to mention all the fantastic places London has to offer that are truly welcoming of mutts - and there are plenty, from the Rosewood Hotel to Fink’s Salt & Sweet near Clissold Park. There are; however, undertones of intolerance which the non-dog owner version of me had never ever expected to experience. It boils down to one simple truth - I really really love dogs. So it always surprises me when I realise that the same sentiment, or even a basic level of tolerance, may not be shared by everyone around me! Oh, and don’t get me started on actually trying to train a pupperino in London…