|Hendon MP Matthew with his mentor Max|
Happy Fathers Day, to all you Dad's out there. In honour of you all, I'll share a little bit of a conversation we had last night. My girls went out with me to the Imperial China, a fantastic Chinese restaurant on the A41 near Watford (try the crispy pork belly). On the way up I told them about the dream I'd had on Friday night. I'd dreamed that I'd bought a device, resembling a bicycle helmet. It allowed my beautiful boxer dog, Tilly, to speak to us in English. In the dream, I unpacked the device, installed it on the dog and then said "have you anything to say". She replied "I want some food". I asked "anything else", she said "I want a walk". I suspect that should such a device ever appear on the market, that would probably account for 99% of conversations with your dog. With the advent of microprocessor technology and millions of pet owners, it can only be a matter of time.
There used to be a batty old lady, who lived up the road, who once told me that dogs were psychic. She claimed that they had predicted all of the major disasters which had befallen various civilisations. She also claimed that they could tell when you were ill. This was way back in the 1960's. I dismissed her tales as stories of a rather befuddled old lady. Recently I've read that dogs can be trained to detect cancerous tumours. It is believed that their sense of smell is so powerful that they can actually smell the chemical changes brought on by cancerous cells. Can you imagine that in parallel with my device. You'd be walking down the road and your neighbours great Dane would suddenly announce "Hey Rog, nip down to Barnet Hospital and get yourself a prostate bioposy". Actually knowing dogs, he'd say "He's got cancer, I want my treat".
And what about cats? What would your cat say to you if he could talk? A former lodger of mine claims he knows the answer. Back in the early 1990's I was managing a band and one of the members was lodging in my spare room. He was leading a fairly rock and roll lifestyle. One Saturday night, the band went off to a party. By the time I'd gone to bed, he'd not returned. At about five in the morning, he appeared in my bedroom, holding my beautiful, short haired British Blue cat called Norman. He announced "Norman has something to say to you". As I don't like being woken up, I told him, in no uncertain terms, where to go.
I completely forgot about the incident, as one does when one is woken up. A couple of weeks later, we were watching football on the TV and having a couple of beers. Norman jumped up and sat next to me on the couch. My lodger suddenly announced "Did you know that Norman can talk". I was rather surprised by this statement. He explained. At the party two weeks before, someone had persuaded him to try Acid (LSD). He wasn't really into drugs, being more a beer man. After about an hour, he started to feel highly uncomfortable. He decided to go home. By the time he arrived, he was feeling completely freaked out. He sat down on the sofa and was feeling very paranoid. At that, Norman jumped up and sat on his lap and started purring. He explained how this had a very calming effect. All of a sudden he felt safe. He said to the cat "Thanks Norman, I really appreciate this". Norman replied "That's alright, you seemed worried, it's Ok". In his state of altered consciousness, my lodger simply asked "you can speak English". Norman replied "of course I can, I'm not stupid". They then proceeded to have a long conversation about life and the Universe. My lodger then asked Norman if he liked living here. Norman replied "Roger is a nice guy, but he isn't a very good cat owner. He often comes home late leaving me hungry or goes out and forgets to feed me. All of the other cats have decent owners who get them their dinner bang on time". My Lodger retorted "but isn't it more fun here", Norman replied "I'm a cat, getting food at the right time is very important to us. All the other cats think I'm a bit stupid because of it, it's embarrassing". At this, my lodger decided to bring Norman upstairs, so he could tell me. Norman said "no, he'll go mad if you wake him up", the Lodger said "no, he'll be pleased to hear it". Sadly Norman was right and told my lodger that.
I asked if Norman had spoken to him when he wasn't on Acid? "Er no actually". At this, I asked Norman if he could speak English. He gave me one of those disdainful looks which tells you that your cat thinks you are a complete imbecile.
Of course animals don't need fancy electronics to communicate. There are many well documented and scientifically verified cases of primates learning sign language. We have horse whisperers and dog whisperers. Where we struggle is when we try and ascribe human values to animal behaviour. In the press recently, we had the story of how a Victorian gentleman struggled with the concept of the rampant sex life of penguins, which featured, rape, incest, homosexuality and necrophilia. Some evangelical types claim homosexuality is an abhorrance not found in nature. They are wrong. Perhaps the first sexual experience I had was when I was about six years old and a neighbours labrador knocked me off my pushbike and proceeded to hump me as I lay screaming on the ground. That was the first time I heard the word "randy", not knowing what it meant, but I certainly knew that I was none too keen on randy labradors. For his sins, the poor old pooch got a trip to the vet and was relieved of his knackers. After that he used to look at me with sad, doleful eyes as he grew fatter by the day.
Which brings us back to my dream device. I must say that to this day, I'm truly grateful that my neighbours labrador hadn't been fitted with it during his attack, now that would have been truly horrific.
Have a lovely fathers day.