Category Archives: A Dog’s Life

Olympic Games

Athleticism & The Olympic Games: A Privilege Or A Right?

George, the beagle with a penchant for the provocative, brings you his thoughts on Crufts, the Olympic Games and the elite.

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Olympic Games

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Like everyone else in my home turf of East London, I’ve been watching the Olympic Games obsessively over the last fortnight – and not just because my human leaves the TV on during the day.

The Olympic Games have a lot in common with their more prestigious canine equivalent, Crufts. Many of the similarities are obvious – running along tracks, jumping over things, time trials, relays. We enter Crufts through competitive qualification, and there’s even dog dressage. If that surprises you, remember: the most talented person in Britain, if Simon Cowell is to be believed, is a six-year-old bichon frise called Pudsey.

One less obvious similarity is this: the predominance of the well-off. Do you think the average Crufts dog had the same puppyhood as the majority of Britain’s staffies and rottweilers? No. The world of the Kennel Club, kind of like a Bullingdon for cocker spaniels, is a far cry from that of Battersea. Will any of those orphaned hounds get to chase a Crufts medal? Will any troubled young puppies get the chance to turn their lives around through canine freestyle or dog agility? Only a tiny fraction, who serve to demonstrate the imbalance by the contrast and notability of their presence.

It’s not such a marked difference in your human sports, but there is an injustice nonetheless. Many of Team GB’s new golden collars – which are rather dashing, I have to say – have risen from privilege. Time is one highly sought after commodity, and facilities are another.

With a whopping two hours of mandatory PE each week on the books, I am not sure where future Team GB will obtain their additional recommended two hours per day of training. Could it be that some children will have the good fortune to really test out their skills at local (pricey) athletics clubs, whilst other less fortunate youngsters head straight home from school to help out at home or go to work?

Many medallists hone their athletic skills whilst at university, in elite sports schemes. In the same way that unpaid internships enable the wealthy to gain experience, at the expense of the not-so-wealthy, the amount of time required to be a top university athlete restricts the opportunity only to those youngsters who do not need to work to support their education.

Yes, there are indeed sports scholarships. However who is likely to obtain such an award? The student who was able to spend their youth at the tennis or running club? Or the kid whose PE classes were delivered by an enthusiastic, but inexperienced Math teacher willing to volunteer their free time? Once again, the playing field is tipped in favour of those who have already had the luck.

Facilities are also a rather large divider between the classes. For example, the standard comprehensive school along the street may use their minimal PE time to run the kiddies up and down a room the size of my garden, whereas those pampered poodles over at Eton get to paddle around in Olympic sized swimming pools and row along Eton Dorney for their recreation.

British Cycling’s director David Brailsford famously chalked up Team GB’s cycling success to the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’. In that spirit, I blame the wealth imbalance on the ‘continued aggregation of marginal disadvantage’. No facilities in your local primary? Ten-second penalty. No money to go to the local track after school? Start ten meters back. Can’t compete at university since you have a shift in the bar? Five minutes in the sin bin.

Not lucky enough to be funded and supported from your first steps, through to the podium?

Disqualified.

But what do I know, I’m a dog.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades Of Grey

George, the beagle with a penchant for the provocative, brings you his thoughts on fifty shades of grey and his colour-blindness.

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Fifty Shades of Grey

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In the canine world we judge each other according to scent, size and sex (although only the latter really matters, I guess), and whilst humans also do these things, you seem to have a particular fondness for judging each other on what particular shade of grey you are. Yes, grey. That’s how you look to me, I’m colour-blind. Not in a ‘some of my best friends are black’ way, but more like the first ten minutes of Wizard of Oz without ever hitting the big reveal.

Judging a spaniel for her (apparently) brown or black shaggy mane or a rottweiler for his black and tan short coat has never affected my disdain for either breed. Both silly creations lack the finely-calibrated equipment – the nose – that differentiates a true hunting hound from the common domestic pet. I digress. My main point today is that one’s colour has absolutely no bearing on success or happiness in life, unless one decides that it does.

You bipeds spend a lot of time talking about how ‘integrated’ or ‘cohesive’ you are, whilst prattling on about statistics concerning faith and minorities. I live down the road from a bichon frise that firmly believes that she is the canis lupus messiah reborn. Keeps barking at her owners about some impending apocalypse. But I don’t think any less of the silly bitch.

To quote just a few of your oh-so-human statistics, the 2010/11 National Citizenship Survey revealed that only 7% of you consider racial and religious harassment to be a ‘very big’ issue and 61% ‘not a problem at all’. In the same survey, 86% of your lot believed their area to be a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together.

How reassuring.

On the other hand, I imagine it to be a rather painful experience being told by a shaven-headed lager lout just how unwelcome you are – I have had similar encounters being ‘moved on’ in my local park when having a sniff around a rather delightful staffie – but these prejudiced and small-minded pockets are not Britain. If Paula Radcliffe can piss in the street – nay – if she can stop for a full on Krakatoa of a #2 in the street, well then so can I without being judged for what I am.

Take a leaf out of my book: be colour-blind, even for a day. You’ll very soon discover the sheer pointlessness of judging each other according to hue. You might even find more worthwhile ways of judging each other such as intellect. Unfortunately that excludes all retrievers, throw them a tennis ball and they’re lost to you.

But what do I know, I’m a dog.

(I bet you thought this was going to be about smut.)

olympics

London Olympics: Every Dog Must Have His Day

George, the beagle with a penchant for the provocative, brings you his thoughts on the London 2012 Olympics ceremony.

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olympics

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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.

Higgs Boson

George On The Higgs: Can Politics Learn A Lesson From Science?

Introducing George, the opinionated beagle with a penchant for the provocative. He will be penning a weekly column on TRS bringing you a little light reading for your Sunday mornings.

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Higgs Boson

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[dropcap]P[/dropcap]olitics is overcrowded with problems of unimaginable scale – environmental degradation, the pensions timebomb, social care, corruption in Africa and revolution in the Middle East. In each case, timescales are measured in the decades and half-centuries – yet politicians rarely look beyond the next election.

Science, however, seems to work inexorably and cooperatively towards the solutions to the biggest questions of the age. The Higgs Boson was proposed before David Cameron was born, and proven to exist over two years after he became Prime Minister; yet he can’t even predict with confidence what his own legislative agenda will be in three short months.

Can politics learn from science about setting & achieving far-reaching goals, and ignoring the siren calls of short-termism?

The search for the Higgs boson is a saga surpassing that of a simple scientific discovery. It is a story of science, power, money, and politics. If even one of these was missing, we’d still be looking.

First, the science. No one tribe of scientists gave us the Higgs; it was instead a multitude of disciplines all converging with a common goal – a conductorless symphony of physicists, mathematicians, engineers, programmers, experimenters, theoreticians, and more. Even competing teams of scientists worked together to build a hoard of data which, when combined, proved the existence of the final particle to a near-bulletproof level of confidence.

Fundamental science seems to be lagging behind in the money game, and this is demonstrated in the Research Excellence Framework which puts a great deal of emphasis on “Impact” and “Applicability”. Considering that the last useful particle to be discovered was the neutron in 1920, fundamental science has taken quite a blow on the money front. But somehow, dedicated scientists pushed to ensure there was enough funding to last the whole journey.

The team was not based purely at CERN, but was a global collaboration, where scientists and engineers were required to plan 20 years into the future, even guessing at times, what new technology would exist. I am not sure about you, but I can hardly see past lunch time, so I am deeply impressed by the foresight demonstrated.

Next there’s the pure commitment and patience that has gone into the project. The search for the Higgs has literally outlived governments, unlike most government policies. Scientists planned into the future and were able to prepare for it, if only we could say the same for politics.

If there is indeed a lesson to be learned from the scientific method, and in particular the discovery of the Higgs, it is that only collaboration, foresight and planning will solve the world’s most pressing problems.

But what do I know, I’m a dog.