Hilary Fannin: Camille? Julie? Amber? Whatever happened to plain old Spot the dog?

How did we become a nation of oddly named dogs with wardrobes full of rainwear? 

Over the course of this pandemic, I’ve seen an awful lot of dog life. Photograph: iStock/Getty

Over the course of this pandemic, I’ve seen an awful lot of dog life. Photograph: iStock/Getty

 

The dog depositing its doggy waste at the entrance to the beach was called Julie. 

“Come on, Julie,” her owner called, blithely striding ahead of the wheezy, pug-nosed, evacuating pooch and embracing the sea air with gusto. Julie looked a bit discombobulated to be hurried along by her owner’s command to embrace the waves. What’s a girl to do? She finished up quickly and ran panting to the shore, as fast as her chunky little Queen Anne legs could carry her. 

I resisted legging it after her owner, a man with a sunburnt pate, to tell him that he needed to do a volte-face and deposit Julie’s doggie doo-doo in the dogs**t bin provided. I just can’t rouse myself to that class of civic interference, and certainly not on such a bracing, rain-threatening morning, with the sea snapping at the overcast sky and the loose sand blowing along the beach in long gusting vents.  

I’m so very tired of going for a walk. I want to go for a sit. I want to go for a damn good slouch, followed by a perch on the side of a chintzy barstool. I want to slip into some non-waterproof footwear, go indoors and sprawl and lounge and recline and drape and lean and crouch and even droop. God, I can’t wait for a good droop. I’ve the legs walked off myself, as my granny would say. 

“Camille! Camille! You forgot your ball. Go get your ball, Camille!”

Camille bounded towards me to collect her tennis ball, her four elegant legs dancing over the running sand. Reaching the ball, she stopped momentarily to look at me with her big fawn-like eyes, to see if I wanted to play. 

“Not today, Camille,” I whispered.

She picked up her toy and flew back to her owner. 

Over the course of this pandemic – which seems to have reshaped time into a not entirely unpleasant pattern of walk-work-food-sleep-walk-work-food-sleep but is sorely missing out on a bar-mates-menu-bar-mates-menu variation – I’ve seen an awful lot of dog life. I’ve witnessed a plethora of bustling owners marching up and down the beach waving their ball launchers around and calling enthusiastically for their hounds to run and catch various well-chewed missiles. “Come on Zoe, Zara, Maddie, Max, Phoebe, Pixie, Jasper, Jemima.” 

What’s wrong with calling your dog Rover, one is tempted to ask. Or Rex? Or Spot? 

There were as many Spot-the-dogs in those days as china Virgins, brimful of holy water, waiting anxiously by the front door when you took the dog for a walk

Speaking of dog owners anthropomorphising their pets, apparently the queen kicked off her whole Corgi shtick by acquiring a frisky little bitch named, with startling ordinariness, Susan. The story goes that Susan, the queen’s first fur baby, who later developed a taste for biting palace workmen, went with Lilibet and the late Prince Philip on their 1947 honeymoon (a modest staycation in various British stately homes and palaces). On their return, the queen’s object of affection was treated each evening to a home-cooked meal, over which her soon-to-be majesty liked to pour gravy from a silver gravy boat. (The non-furry Philip, meanwhile, presumably just knocked up a plate of egg and chips before switching on the rugger.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. Where have all the Spot-the-dog dogs gone? That’s what I want to know. 

I used to know loads of Spots. There were as many of them hanging around the suburban homes of my childhood friends as there were antimacassars on the chair-backs, Valium-stocked bathroom cupboards, books of Green Shield stamps on the hall table, and angry middle-aged men stomping around long back gardens chain-smoking untipped cigarettes. 

There were as many Spot-the-dogs in those days as china Virgins, brimful of holy water, waiting anxiously by the front door when you took the dog for a walk. They were strategically placed there, next to the dog lead, lest you should forget to bless yourself on the way out and then get dragged under a double-decker bus by the bowler while wearing your not-best knickers. 

The Spot-the-dogs of my youth were usually wiry old mutts with indeterminate antecedents. They chewed knuckly old bones from the butcher for a week, and slept on a bit of smelly blanket in a cardboard box in the garage. 

I’m certainly not hankering after those monochrome eat-up-your-breakfast-there’s-children-starving-in-Africa days; not a bit of it. How, though, did we go from being a nation of Spot and his simple needs to one of over-dressed dogs called Amber with wardrobes full of rainwear? 

“Here Julie, Julie, Julie, Julie. I’ve got a fabulous little twin-set and pearls for you.”

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