I want to comment on one of those memorable things people say, one of those things that eventually make it into quote books for public speakers to "borrow" at engagements.
I'm talking about those pithy sayings which capture the essence of something, sayings often made by the likes of Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde and Anonymous.
But the statement I wish to discuss was not uttered by one so famous. It was spoken by a pupil who was billeted with one of our boys for a school sports exchange over a decade ago.
When this boy came into our house and sat down he was, within minutes, visited by our dog, and it was this canine encounter that prompted him to say his words. They won't seem remarkable to you when you first read them and I know I'm not making matters any better by this build-up of tension.
But I've had more than a decade to consider these words and I think of them and see the truth of them so often that I now want to share them. They sum up a universal truth.
This lad came into our house and, after only a few minutes of engaging with our dog, uttered the remarkably astute, extremely pithy and undeniably truthful words: "All dogs are the same."
Not impressed? Well, I am. I know there are exceptions but they are generally a result of bad owners. Let's work on the assumption that "all dogs" in his statement means all dogs that are properly cared for.
Let me list some bullet points in support of this boy's claim:
- All dogs will come and sniff visitors so they can lock them into their library of scents for future reference.
- All dogs are not modest or ashamed of the region they choose for this important business of scent-gathering.
- Nor are they modest about public performances of other acts humans consider to be private. Very private.
- All dogs are pack animals. It makes things easier if you, the owner, can establish yourself as the pack leader early in the relationship.
- All dogs share a common (though limited) vocabulary. Most of what humans speak is gobbledygook to a dog but every now and then words pop up like sparkling gems to be recognised and admired: walk, dinner, car, bone. They can even recognise these words if they are S-P-E-L-L-E-D O-U-T.
- On recognising any of those words, all dogs will spin into a circle of frenzy, a veritable whirlpool of delight, unable to contain their joy and often unable to avoid issuing small traces of the weewee of joy.
- Dogs will try to protect you when you are in the car and moving. Dogs are aware of the peril that can be posed by a small pooch pooping on the pavement. As you speed past (not illegally, of course) in your motor vehicle, your dog will bark to frighten away this danger. And it will bark and bark and bark and bark and bark AND BARK AND BARK, often until you are in a different province. As far as a dog is concerned, you can never be too careful, never let your guard down.
- All dogs snork stuff up off the floor: dropped pork, carrot, fridge magnets, a single hundred and thousand, a pair of pantyhose.
- All dogs cost a lot of money. To remove a pair of pantyhose will easily run into four figures as it involves having a qualified veterinary surgeon cut open your dog's digestive tract to withdraw the hosiery. Other costs include food, vaccinations, kennel accommodation and paying to replace a friend's dress after the dog threw up on it.
- All dogs produce slobber to some degree.
- All dogs can look guilty - their face and posture can positively scream that they have just done something wrong.
- All dogs will be loyal and devoted and, if necessary, they will protect you. They will love you unconditionally. Even if you have just told them off severely.
- All dogs can live without Facebook.
See, all dogs ARE the same. That was one perceptive schoolboy.
Wyn Drabble is a teacher of English, a writer, public speaker and musician.