Magazine article The Spectator

Status Anxiety: Toby Young

Magazine article The Spectator

Status Anxiety: Toby Young

Article excerpt

Leo, the Hungarian Vizsla my wife brought home unexpectedly last year, is approaching his first birthday and not getting any easier to manage. Caroline decided to buy him on the spur of the moment because she 'liked the way he looked', by which she means he looks like her. Not the face, obviously, but his figure -- thin, athletic, muscular, big ears, big feet. Indeed, she was walking Leo in Gunnersbury Park a few days ago when another dog -walker, spotting them together, burst out laughing. 'I don't think I've ever seen an owner who looks more like her dog,' he said. This may have been his attempt at flirting -- always hard to tell with dog owners. She noticed he had a pug, but managed to avoid the obvious -rejoinder.

To describe Leo as a handful would be an understatement. I was walking him in Acton Park the other day when he bounded up to a small child and his mum. 'Oh no,' I thought. 'Not again.' On a previous outing, he'd wrestled a toddler to the ground and then started licking the residue of a Flake 99 off his face, which didn't go over particularly well with the mum. But this was worse -- far worse. The child was eating a sandwich and Leo had it out of his hand in an instant, whereupon he devoured it like a shark eating a raw steak.

'How dare you?' screamed the mother. 'How bloody dare you?' I instinctively threw up my hands, as if to say, 'Nothing to do with me, Guv', which did nothing to placate her. 'That's a dangerous dog you've got there and you should have him put down,' she said, shaking her head.

I mumbled something about being sorry and offered to pay for the sandwich, at which point she demanded £5, which seemed a bit steep. I was tempted to say, 'Branch of Ottolenghi opened in Acton, has it?' but forked over the cash instead. As I dragged Leo away, she told me I should be 'ashamed' of myself.

I've got dozens of these stories. My 11-year-old son Ludo was walking Leo in the same park a couple of weeks ago when he decided to mount an Entebbe-style raid on the newly opened café for Acton yummy mummies. (Yes, we do have some.) The first Ludo knew about it was when Leo came screaming out of the café with a leg of Iberico ham in his mouth, followed by the café's owner in hot pursuit. …

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