It’s a dog’s life, the first mention of this idiom dates back to the 1600’s and it is used every day all over the world since. The phrase was used all those four hundred years ago to depict an utterly miserable life. The associated sayings “dog tired”, “gone to the dogs” and “like a dog’s dinner” were all born from a time when dogs were used as watchdogs or hunting animals and not treated as pets. They worked hard, slept in kennels, were fed scraps and died young. Living in the Middle East where a large number of the expat community have a particular fondness for the canine breed I can vouch that this phrase is now redundant, or redundant at least for expat dogs living in Abu Dhabi.
Just before I get my tail in hot water I would like to point out that I have the utmost of respect for dogs, I just don’t hold them in the same esteem as children and humans in general. So I don’t for example, introduce myself and offer my hand for a “nice to meet you handshake”, I don’t invite the dog into the house and offer him a hot or cold drink and I don’t consider the dog when inviting friends over for lunch, more fool I, it would seem. My intolerance became patently clear when I invited a handful of friends along with their little ones to my house for my child’s birthday party. My interest piqued when one of the friends, knocks at the door with Ben and Sam.
Ben was a two legged, blonde haired, chubby little thing with a dirty t-shirt and a gorgeous smile and Sam was a four-legged well-breed, well-fed, well-kept, and badly-behaved, puppy. In an oblivious moment I wondered how she was going to tether Sam outside while the party was underway inside, the 36°c heat was surely a factor to be considered. Clarity soon ascended on me as she sniffed past the door and into my sitting room, the dog in tow. She says that she thought it would be nice for me and Sam to meet and get used to each other, she said they were a package deal. Not wanting to consult our friendship contract there and then, I cast my mind quickly back and yes, no, I had never included Sam into our friendship and had most definitely never invited him to my home. From the look of his vacant eyes and drooling mouth he had the same level of interest in meeting me, as I did him.
Eager to develop an open mind, I struck up conversation about the dog, maybe I would begin to see things differently and pretty soon, I did. Turns out Sam’s day starts with “Daddy “(not his own Daddy, the Daddy of the children in the house) getting up a five thirty to bring Sam for a run before work, (work for Daddy not Sam). Sam then gets this daily wash down from the housemaid, who although never said so exactly, “she LOVES him, just LOVES him”. Lunch is from the chilled pet food section from Spinney’s on the Corniche, he doesn’t like the tinned stuff. The afternoon is spent meandering around the house with the A/C on to a moderate 20°c. Sometimes Mom brings him in the car when collecting the kids from school (Sam’s mom doesn’t have a car yet so it’s the kids Mom). For the rest of the day Sam alternates between snoozing and supping Evian from his fancy dish, the only punctuation in the evening is when the housemaid brings him for a stroll last thing before bed. Then the piece de resistance is delivered, the housemaid stays for the summer to look after Sam while the rest of the family holiday in Thailand. When the family leaves the Middle East for good, Sam will not get a new home in Abu Dhabi but a Eu. 4,500 plane ride to Heathrow where his favourite food and blanket will be waiting.
After the speech and before I have the wherewithal to close my gaping mouth, she follows up with “He’s my best friend you know, he really is”. Oh my god, I think to myself, this is getting better! Suddenly an image came into my mind, of her in Thailand on the phone to Sam, who’s lying on the sofa in front of the TV, remote in one paw, phone in another, stretched out with his legs crossed casually, as they chat like only best friends do. I think the definition needs to change; it really is a dog’s life. Woof!