Why are human beings so anxious about some dangers and yet so oblivious to others? For example, there’s Man and his fear of weird illnesses. Every time his right knee hurts, he looks it up on Google and searches out the worst possible cause. “Oh, my God, I’m dying of cancer of the knee,” he tells Lady, after 10 seconds of research. He then goes straight to writing his will and debating which son will get the Elvis records.
If only he realised the truth: neither son wants the Elvis records.
“I’m too young to die,” he weeps to Lady, once the Elvis debate has spluttered to an end. “And this knee cancer is probably the worst cancer of them all.”
Now, I’m not a doctor – I never really bothered – but I find this diagnosis unlikely. A more probable cause is his 10 kilos of extra weight. More is being asked of that poor knee than can be reasonably expected. A couple of strenuous dog walks each day and a diet in which his faithful dog was fed half his dinner would lead to a medical miracle. “Hallelujah! The cancer is cured! The lame can walk!”
Cancer of the knee is not Man’s only anxiety. He’s also perpetually concerned that the house is about to be robbed. This despite THE VERY COMPETENT GUARD DOG who is on duty, virtually 24/7, protecting the place. Apparently, my efforts are not good enough. Instead, he has this complex system in which, whenever the two of them go out, he sets up a battery of radios and lights and fans, before – with great significance – placing a pair of his old working boots by the front door.
“Here’s the idea,” he tells Lady. “When the robber comes up, he’ll think this really big bloke has just come back from work, has kicked off his boots and is presently sitting just inside the front door, his large legs akimbo.”
Now, I’m a dog with a big vocabulary, but even I find his use of the word “akimbo” a trifle pretentious. Lady, though, humours him. “Great idea,” she says with no real conviction.
What’s annoying is when they come back from their social gathering a few hours later, he gives all the credit to that pair of old boots. “Everything is fine, the house is safe,” says Man. “It looks like my old boot trick worked again.”
No, mate. What worked was yours truly barking his guts out every time anyone came near the place. Your old boots had zero impact. It was your loyal dog that saved the day.
Humans worry about the wrong things. They worry about crime when all the statistics show that crime is becoming less common. They worry about money when all you need is a roof over your head and a good supply of chicken. And they worry about how other humans regard them, when the only review that counts is that of your own loving dog, since he or she knows you better than anyone.
Back in the bedroom, the thunderstorm passed. That’s the thing about thunderstorms — they always pass. Not so the anxieties of Man. I emerged from under the bed to find him in a total state.
By this stage, he was lying on top of the bed, whingeing to Lady about – variously – his knee, the state of the planet and the coronavirus. I could tell there was a bad night ahead, so it was a case of Clancy to the rescue.
I jumped up on the bed and waited for him to start patting me. The science, after all, is indisputable. As one peer-reviewed study put it: “There is a significant decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure when petting a dog with whom a companion bond has been established.”
An established “companion bond”? That’s me and Man, and sure enough, after he started patting me, his blood pressure, I could sense, was dropping by the minute.
Soon after, I heard a crash of distant thunder. I had an urge to scamper under the bed, but I was rather enjoying being patted.
Here’s a random thought. Maybe my own blood pressure was going down in a helpful way. Surely, it’s worthy of a scientific study: “The Effect of Human Patting on Both Systolic and Diastolic Blood Pressure in a Dog.”
Maybe you have some ideas about how I can apply for a grant. Until next time,
Love, Clancy: A dog’s letters home, edited and debated by Richard Glover is published by ABC Books.
Richard Glover is the author of 12 books, including the prize-winning memoir “Flesh Wounds”. He presents “Drive” on 702 ABC Sydney and the comedy program “Thank God It’s Friday” on ABC local radio. For more: www.richardglover.com.au