Sun | Jun 16, 2024

Tony Deyal | Much a dog about nothing

Published:Saturday | May 25, 2024 | 12:08 AM

Dedicated to our dog Mitsi, who left us at the age of 18 going on 19 (about 90 human years old)

In January 2021, I wrote an article about our dogs and called it ‘Much ‘adog’ about something’. Earlier this year, just about five months ago, I followed it up with ‘Dog day afternoon and night’. Now Mitsi is gone and we all truly miss her. If you think that ‘much ado’ or a big fuss over a trifle something is about nothing much, ‘a dog’ like Mitsi would have taught you what ‘something’ really is. Even worse is a three-dog night.

The British rock band, The Beatles, first drew our attention to A Hard Day’s Night which has you “working like a dog when you should be sleeping like a log”. The song refers to a practice among the Inuit of Greenland, or Aborigines in Australia, to refer to the coolness of a night by how many dogs you huddle with for warmth. A three-dog night is the coldest of all. But that is not even close to one which also includes a cat, especially if it is one which behaves like those in prison with nine tails, all ready to drop a licking on all the prisoners at the same time. When, like me, you have that foursome in the house and there is another dog under the car in the garage, you need to hide far away from your house but you end up with a hiding worse than what the prisoners get in most Caribbean countries. In Trinidad when that happens, we say with gusto, and even laughter, “Your dogs dead.” It means that all hope has evaporated like Carnation milk when your children get their hands on the biscuits.

This is different from ‘dog’s death’, which is a dishonourable and shameful death. A ‘dead dog’ is something that is no longer important. In slang, however, it is a way to emphasise the truthfulness of a previous statement, like “Yuh dogs dead”. However, if you call someone a “dog”, you are saying the person is ugly, despicable, boring or crude. If you ‘dog’ anyone, you are following that person closely. A ‘real dog’ is generally ‘a dull, unattractive girl or woman’ who in slang is ‘a real dog’, and a man who picks up the pretty ones is called ‘a lucky dog’. ‘Dogs’ have also become a word for ‘feet’, and has led to shoes known as ‘Hush Puppies’. Viciousness is ‘dog-eat-dog’ and a free-for-all is a ‘dogfight’. ‘Dogged’ determination is valued but ‘dogging’ someone’s heels is not. A servant is a ‘dogsbody’, strongly held beliefs are ‘dogmas’, and female dogs are called ‘bitches’, although the word is not restricted to canines.

NO CREATURE MORE GRATEFUL

We in the Caribbean tend to call people we consider ungrateful as ‘nasty dogs’, yet there is no creature on earth more grateful than a dog. This is why I eventually took care of four dogs and a cat. No animal in existence ever gets more mileage from a solitary act of kindness, love, affection, or even indifference, than a dog. This is why. when I hear someone refer to women as dogs, I feel that person should be spayed or neutered. Regardless of looks, every Jack has his Jill (and Jill her Jack), every Rover has a Land or Range with it and, more than every thing else, every dog has its day regardless. In many ancient cultures, dogs were revered as sacred and divine beings, symbolising loyalty, protection, and guidance. In Egyptian mythology, the god Anubis was depicted with the head of a jackal, representing the role of dogs as guardians of the afterlife and protectors of the deceased. However, if dogs go to heaven, where do cats go? Purrrgatory. Why? Because “curiosity killed the cat”.

This is also why I really had no problem with the three dogs in my living room. They are like the three named Oak, Palm and Marple. They’re all bark but no bite. Or the lady who, with her three dogs to protect her, opened the front door to a salesman. Trying to be friendly, the salesman asked, “How lovely and friendly your dogs are? What are their names? I’m sure their names are as good as the dogs I’m seeing here.” The lady replied, “Well, this one is Timex. This other one is Bolivia and the third one there is Rolex.” The salesman was surprised, “Wow! You’ve named all your dogs after timepieces. Is that because you want them to wake you up in the morning?” The lady replied, “No, they got those names because they’re watch dogs.” My favourite is about a dog that went into a bar in Tombstone in the Old West, strutted to the bar, and asked the bartender for a whisky. The angry bartender pulled out a gun and shot the dog on his right front leg, shouting loudly, “We don’t serve no dogs in here.” A few days later, the batwing doors of the saloon parted ominously, and framed in the entrance was the dog in full regalia – sombrero, holsters and six-guns – but with his right front leg in a sling. In the silence that greeted his dramatic entrance, he said menacingly, “I’m looking for the man who shot my paw!” Sometimes there is competition for whose dog is the better or brighter one. Like the owner who boasted to his neighbour, “My dog is so smart that every morning he waits for the newspaper delivery boy and, instead of biting him, he takes the paper from him and brings it straight into the kitchen for me to read.” The neighbour replied, “I know.” Mystified the man asked, “How?” To which the neighbour answered, “My dog told me.”

I learnt some more from my four dogs, and even the cat. The writer Mark Twain noted, “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” Lewis Grizzard goes beyond the three-dog night to the six-dog race, “Life is like a dogsled team. If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.” Another philosopher said about life, “Some days you’re the dog and some days, the hydrant.” Me, I like the jokes. There are the short ones, “How can you tell if you have a stupid dog?” It chases parked cars.

Because of all the cricket that is due to end in India tomorrow and start in the Caribbean and US immediately after, here’s one that is matchless. A man went into a bar in Trinidad and bet the patrons that his dog could talk. “What’s on top of a house?” he asked. “Roof! Roof!’, the dog answered. The people in the bar, sensing easy money, laughed. “What’s on the outside of a tree?” the man enquired. “Bark, Bark” the dog replied. The audience started demanding their money claiming the dog was a fraud. “Who’s the greatest batsman in West Indies history?” the worried man begged the dog. “Sobers, Sobers,” growled the dog. The bar patrons did not only take the man’s money but threw himself and the dog out of the bar. Disconsolately, the dog turned to the man and asked, “Lara?”

Tony Deyal was last seen complaining that he can’t find an acceptable name for the cross between a bull terrier and a shih tzu. This is why his favourite is the boy child of their cocker spaniel and a poodle. He is Cocapoo. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com