Aside from the utterly terrifying fireworks, I thought the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games was a complete triumph. It had everything… almost. There was one element of British history and culture missing: dogs.
Yes, there were some corgis yapping about when the Queen ran off into Heir Force One with my old drinking buddy James. But they were treated like women were for the first few decades of the Games: a pretty distraction alongside the real event. This was a missed opportunity, Mr Soon-to-be-Sir Boyle. This is what you could have had.
Dogs are Britain. We make symbolism easy and adorable. What’s more patriotic than a bulldog called Winston chewing a cigar? More noble than a drill-sergeant collie straightening out his bovine troops? More middle-class than televising Crufts?
If it wasn’t for us, you’d be struggling to cram your national self-image into a single animal. Foxes are, counterintuitively, too dumb (take my word for it, I have some in the family tree). Cocks are too French, sheep too Welsh, cats too Pharaonic.
You rely on us for emotional exposition in your films, too. Rudyard Kipling couldn’t get enough of us. Sherlock Holmes experimented on poor old Gladstone, when he wasn’t solving mysteries about hounds. Tolkien – a massive omission in the opening ceremony – turned Rover into a toy, and dispatched him to the moon and sea. More recently, Cruella de Vil was responsible for the introduction of dog licenses, there were more curious night-time incidents, and even the Doctor had a metal-plated canine sidekick. The less said about Fenton, the better.
We’re not immune to the cuts to the public services that keep us fed & watered, either. A retired beagle on a pension like me is protected – all I need is two walks a day and a bath a month. (Weekly? If you insist. Oh. You do insist. Right now?)
Anyway. There’s no union for working police, army or guide dogs – even those who have played a massive role in sniffing out risks to Olympic security. They just have to hope for a good home after their tours in Iraq, Afghanistan or Northern Ireland, and it’s been that way since the trench dogs of Ypres, the battle dogs of the Pacific Front, and the canine shoulder to cry on in Dambusters. These pooches have never dared to think of carrying the torch, and they would have done it with grace (though they then might have buried it on Glastonbury Tor and pissed on Kenneth Branagh).
In all seriousness, man’s best friend has made an undeniable contribution to the making of this country – its history, defense and culture. A nod to this would have made the day of the 10.5m four-legged Britons who were watching on Friday.
But what do I know, I’m a dog.