Saturday, March 4, 2017

Louis MacNeice on English Dog Shows

Canine Portrait © Roy R. Behrens
Louis MacNeice, The Strings Are False: An Unfinished Autobiography. London: Faber and Faber, 1965, pp. 138-139—

An English dog show is very very English; you meet all the people you never would have thought of inventing. Dog-fanciers can be divided into two classes—those who look very like their dogs and those who look exactly unlike them. While there are old ladies showing Pekinese who look like Pekinese themselves, there are also gigolos with bulldogs or bruisers with Yorkshire terriers. The show is a wonderland of non-utilitarian growths. Through the smell and the noise and the clouds of chalk you can distinguish dogs that have been passed through the mangle and dogs with permanent waves, Bond Street ladies in veils and Amazons all boots. The human beings talk to each other roughly and curtly but twitter and coo to their dogs. There sportsmen and sportswomen who work their dogs in the field, and there are hermits from caves of melancholia who might have been artists or had lovers. You feel his nose to be sure that he is not ill, you chop up his meat so neatly, you put in his cod liver oil and a spoonful of lime for his bones, you brush him and comb him and pluck him and every so often you worm him—you are proud if he passes worms and proud if he doesn’t.

It’s not fair, that’s what it’s not, judge don’t know a dog from a carthorse, I tell you straight been showing for forty years and never in my life I mean when I say, see the dog he put up well would you believe it, no it’s not fair, that’s what it is, it’s not.