Category Archives: dogs

Dalrymple loved his dog this side of idolatry

忠犬ハチ公 — Hachikō the faithful hound (1923-35)

Of course Dalrymple anthropomorphised his late dog. His dog was Dalrymple’s companion, Dalrymple was never lonely or unhappy in his dog’s company, Dalrymple loved his dog and believed that his dog loved him.

Dalrymple’s dog

  • had his moods and he understood Dalrymple’s
  • went to sleep when Dalrymple slept
  • hated it when Dalrymple left him
  • was a dog of taste inasmuch as he far preferred human food to the slop normally served up to dogs
  • was playful but knew when to be serious


didn’t mind the vet’s fees in the least; on the contrary, I was pleased to pay them, I was pleased rather than angry or disdainful when I was recorded as his father in the vet’s records, and I certainly didn’t regard myself as his owner—our relationship was far too equal for that. In fact, our relationship was so perfect that I never considered what kind of relationship it was.

Dalrymple’s dog was

exceptional, not to say unprecedented: intelligent, expressive, gifted. I draw no general or universally valid conclusions from his existence, any more than I would from that of Leonardo da Vinci.

A satanic gynæcologist

Dalrymple points out that J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise (1975)

has several doctors as characters: a lecturer in physiology at a medical school, a psychiatrist, some neurosurgeons, and a gynæcologist.

The book

is typical of his dystopian genre. The high-rise of the title is one of four 40-storey blocks of flats built in the docklands area of London (as the novel was published in 1975, the location is an instance of Ballard’s prescience).

The residents of the new development, all of the professional classes,

start a war against each other of a class nature (the higher the floor you live on, the higher your social status).

Eventually there is anarchy.

Everything is vandalised, the services cease to work, rubbish accumulates everywhere, the walls are covered in graffiti, and the residents raid one another for food and eat each other’s pet dogs.

Dalrymple notes that almost every element of Ballard’s fictional horror is visible in less extreme form in the real world today.

Pangbourne, the gynæcologist,

is among the worst characters in the breakdown of order. Rich and successful, he lives on the highest floor, the 40th, and has led a raid with women acolytes to the lower floors, capturing an accountant and a meteorologist.

Dalrymple asks:

Which of us has never met a Pangbourne?

How we loved him!

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-21-44-30The relationship between man and dog, writes Dalrymple,

has interested me since the death of my own dog. How I (or rather we, my wife and I) loved him! We were never bored by, with or in his company. We had to control ourselves when people came to visit, in case they should see our extravagant love for him. ‘Remember,’ we would say to each other, ‘we have to pretend for a time that he is only a dog. We can make it up to him afterwards.’ We were ashamed, in case people thought we were psychological cases or emotional cripples, that we loved our dog so.

Dalrymple and his wife

were not alone in our shame, of course; speaking confidentially, almost all people with dogs will confess to it. They too have to behave sometimes as if their dogs were mere animals. And how many people have I met who have said, after the death of a dog, that they could never have another because they could not tolerate the grief again!

Tell me all about Fido

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 08.42.36An Indo-British friend of Dalrymple’s

says that he found two things necessary to integrate into English life in its more affable aspects, namely

  • to go to the pub
  • to speak to people out walking their dogs (about their dogs)

From these two activities all else follows; you are a stranger no longer.

Postcards from Switzerland

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.34.24Entering Switzerland at Geneva, writes Dalrymple,

one enters a bourgeois paradise. One feels one lowers the tone by entering. The streets are spotlessly clean, the wealth vast. Even the interiors of the lifts in public car parks are clad in marble and lit with crystal. In England, such luxury would invite, and call forth, immediate vandalism.

The Swiss, he notes, are

rigidly, almost morbidly, and intimidatingly law-abiding. If you break a traffic regulation, even in a harmless fashion, ordinary citizens are likely to stare at or gesture to you in a hostile way, or reproach you.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.37.18There is one thing, however, about which they are, he points out, highly flexible: tax.

Not only every canton, but every commune, sets its tax: and each commune is in competition to attract wealthy, or potentially wealthy, people. The beauty is that the taxes raised locally are kept locally. If you go to the tax authorities and tell them that an authority down the road has just offered you residence if you pay x francs a year, they are quite likely to offer you residence if you pay x − 1 francs. A virtuous competitive circle to lower taxes is set up. All the authorities are interested in is whether you will represent a net gain to the area; they have no interest in knowing the size of your income and then squeezing you until your pips squeak.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.32.16Moreover,

since the money raised locally is spent locally, the population has a genuine and abiding interest in making sure that it is spent wisely. In large centralised states or societies, the bureaucracy has a vested interest in spending money unwisely, for by doing so it creates the very population that allegedly needs its ministrations. Not so in Switzerland: the population is the master of the bureaucracy.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.35.13Dalrymple goes to a friend’s flat

a little way out of Geneva and up the mountainside. It overlooks the lake, and you can see Mont Blanc in the distance.

The cold air

is bracing, and gives a pleasantly scouring sensation in your lungs. I almost wish I had tuberculosis, to experience the relief such air would provide. I understand The Magic Mountain and the lure of sanatoria a little better.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.42.28The neighbour below

has a balcony so huge that it has a real garden in it, including a lawn and miniature palm trees. It is so perfect, so clean, that one could safely perform surgery in it.

Dalrymple takes his dog for a walk.

I am very nervous, in case he relieves himself in the wrong place and calls forth retribution.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.32.00When Dalrymple’s dog urinates against a garden wall,

I look around me as I used to look around me in the Communist bloc when meeting a dissident.

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Mad-dog bites driving you crazy? Help is at hand

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 16.23.57The following course of action, Dalrymple notes, is indicated in John Aubrey’s Miscellanies (1696):

To cure the biting of a Mad-Dog, write these words in paper, viz. Rebus Rubus Epitepscum, and give it to the party, or beast bit, to eat in bread, &c. A Gentleman of good quality, and a sober grave person, did affirm, that this receipt never fails.

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Le chien-professeur

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 08.38.38Pedagogic pooch

Strolling down the Avenue Gambetta, Dalrymple and his wife, both doctors, encounter a Jack Russell and its owner, both teachers.

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Man’s best friend

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 08.14.31In The Leper of Aosta (1811), Xavier de Maistre demonstrates, writes Dalrymple,

understanding of the intense and loving relationship that the lonely and disabled develop with their dogs.

In the story, presented largely in the form of a dialogue, the leper tells a sympathetic soldier (with whom he refuses all contact for the soldier’s sake):

Stranger, when sorrow or discouragement attack you, think of the hermit of Aosta. You will not then have visited in vain.

Dalrymple comments:

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 08.12.19Ah, if only the thought of those who are worse off than ourselves could truly console us as it should!

He notes the similarities between Maistre’s story and Turgenev’s Mumu (1854).

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The Hobsbawm of the RSPCA

John Bryant with the RSPCA's highest honour, the Queen Victoria Gold Medal for 'long and meritorious service in the cause of animal welfare'

John Bryant with the RSPCA’s highest honour, the Queen Victoria Gold Medal for ‘long and meritorious service in the cause of animal welfare’. Eric Hobsbawm got the Companion of Honour

Dalrymple reports that John Bryant, one of the candidates for the governing council of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, believes

the keeping of pets of any description is a contravention of animals’ rights, among which is that to freedom.

Bryant believes in

the right of every single fish to live out its life as nature intended.

All fish, Bryant believes, should be released into open waters forthwith. The fact, writes Dalrymple,

that most of the fish would not survive more than a few minutes would count for nothing. Freedom is freedom and not another thing. Did not Benjamin Franklin warn us that he who sacrificed his freedom for security would end up with neither? Why should it be any different for goldfish?

Bryant believes all dogs should be freed

from their leather nooses and chains.

All dogs

should be released from their leashes, collars, kennels, and baskets. Bryant compares their state to that of domestic slavery.

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 22.50.03Bryant

does not want dogs to be released into the exterior wherever they are. The condition of ownerless dogs in Africa and Asia is not encouraging, famished, flea-bitten, battle-scarred and plagued by sores as they are.


they should be allowed to die out by not being able to reproduce. Within 15 years they would cease to exist and would thus be released from their terrible servitude.

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 22.57.34Bryant is considered one of the more moderate candidates for the RSPCA’s governing council. Another candidate, the vegan Peta Watson-Smith, has likened the hardships experienced by farm animals to that of Jews in the Nazi Holocaust, while Dan Lyons and Angela Roberts, founders of the Centre for Animals and Social Justice think-tank, which been undertaking research into

democratic theory and practice in relation to the representation of animals’ interests,

believe that

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 22.59.59animals should be represented in Parliament by members dedicated to their interests and rights alone.

An admirable suggestion, though Dalrymple points to a potential snag:

The interests of owls and mice, rabbits and stoats, spiders and flies occasionally conflict.

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Dogs are born good, but everywhere they bark

(from The Canine Social Contract)

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