Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)


Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)


Article excerpt


AS Murphy and I push open the metal gates of the dog park, a black three-legged labrador nearly wags itself off balance in excitement.

Murphy waves his grey bushy tail in greeting and sets about his daily examination of the canine message boards.

Murphy is half cocker, half English shepherd. He's my brotherin-law's mutt and the reason we turned our world upside down by buying our own English shepherd.

We wanted a dog just like Murphy - friendly with a bushy tail. Unfortunately we miscalculated the relative contributions of spaniel and shepherd to the Murphy mix and ended up with a horse.

Even on four legs, Boots now stands taller than Izzy. At least he's stopped eating the chair legs. Now we fear for the ceiling.

I used to think Californian dog parks were horrendous.

Little patches of hard earth where owners and dogs commingle for collective defecation and ball-throwing.

They only exist because dogs are banned off-leash in public places. I think it's not so much for health reasons, more because the authorities don't want to be sued for assault by canine.

I believed this edict was unbelievably cruel. Dogs aren't designed for leads; they need to run about, not be brought up in air-conditioned prisons where their only excitement is walking on hot pavement or a bit of fenced scrubland once a day.

I probably thought Californians shouldn't be allowed to keep dogs at all.

But gradually I've mellowed. Because, while I'm over here working in LA, I'm getting used to this lifestyle.

I'm enjoying the sun, and I'm enjoying my daily dog park excursions with Murphy.

We have a set routine. I hang the lead alongside the others on the chain fence, then wait while Murphy sniffs and marks the first message boards. He chases a stray squirrel out of the park, then it's off to greet the Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

They were bred to keep lions at bay. With their ridge of hair growing the wrong way along their backs, these come in a fearsome pack of four. They surround Murphy as we approach, sniff, then disdainfully let him through. …

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