Taking the woof with the smooth.

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Another long hiatus from this blog, for which I can only apologise. I now realise that I haven't even made reference on here to my most recent Guardian piece: On the language of politics.

Anyone who has had a conversation with me will know that I am not overly sensitive about the language that I use. Indeed, I often revel in the more 'colourful' means of expression that English can offer.

But there is a clear distinction between face-to-face conversation and political speech. The parameters of conversation are defined by the individuals engaged in it, and misunderstandings can usually be noted and addressed. We all do this all of the time, whether we are fully aware of it or not, as facial expression and body language will often draw attention to any misunderstanding or confusion. We have all applied some kind of adjustment to the way we speak according to our audience, be they elderly relatives, plumbers, financial advisers or neighbours at a football match.

But when people in elected office (or indeed campaigning for election) deliberately choose confrontational language intended to shock some and belittle others, the impact is more profound and dangerous. We have seen how the rise of Trump and the Brexit vote have led to a newly emboldened far-right (there's really nothing 'alt' about it. It's fascism, whether it be with a big or a small f), and an increase in attacks on minorities.

From a disability perspective, there is much at stake. In recent years there has been a greater acceptance of the principal that people with disabilities should be able to participate fully in all aspects of society, but the same time, there has been something of a hardening of attitudes toward those in receipt of state support. This has been fed by columnists in print and broadcast who have made their reputations by 'telling it like it is'. This usually involves telling it like it isn't and throwing in a few choice phrases intended to fire up the 'left wing liberal elite' (a phrase that suggests some kind of sinister cabal who gather to plot new ways to crush the dreams of their helpless victims, such as billionaire racist-misogynist hoteliers, financial traders-turned-political-rabble-rousers and Jeremy Clarkson. I am yet to find out how to join).

The reality is that said columnists and broadcasters are living in just as much of a bubble as those they claim to be fighting. The more they claim to be the voice of 'the man on the street', the more likely they are to have come from a position of privilege far-removed from said man, and the real cost of all this socially divisive vitriol will be borne by those on the margins of society who rarely have a voice.

We should of course celebrate language in all it's most colourful, sharp and even insulting forms. But there is a time and a place. Conversation is fine, and the arts offer opportunities to push the envelope, but those elected to public office really should behave like adults and leave the language of the playground behind.

All of which is NOT what I wanted to write about, as you may have gathered by the title of this post. We now have a dog. I am a dog owner. I'm sure I will come to terms with this over time, but it's a huge adjustment. The unthinkable occasionally happens and we have to find ways to adapt to our new situation.

In my case, I have spent the last twelve years railing against selfish dog owners who let their animal shit anywhere (believe me when I say this is right up there as one of the most frustrating aspects of getting around in a wheelchair), or those with staffy/mastiff/pitbull/hyena/cerberus cross-breeds. ("He won't 'urt cha!" Yeah, as long as I don't move a muscle or 'show my fear'. If the dog decides to bite, there's nothing anyone can do about it, short of sticking your finger up the dog's anus, apparently. If the reset button on a computer was located in a similarly enticing location, we'd all still be using typewriters).

Of course, our dog is different. He's called Mack, he's a rescue dog, and the way he shies away from sticks makes it quite obvious that he's had some rough times in his first 18 months of life. His poo smells of roses and floats just off the ground as it makes its own way to the bin. Okay, it doesn't. It's poo, it's horrible and it has to be picked up. And if you are in a wheelchair, then this also involves wheeling around with a bag of poo on your lap. He also farts. Quite a lot. The first day we had him, he managed to let one go just as I was bending down to pick something up off the floor so I ducked right into it. It was so bad that couldn't see for about ten minutes afterwards.

I had hopes of training him to help get me up the hills of this small town, but we would have had to get a team of huskies for that, and they're really not suited to the Australian climate, and our requirements for a dog were already complicated enough. We needed to find an animal that was okay with children and chickens, and not afraid of the wheelchair. This is one of the best things about getting a rescue dog. You can approach the charities with a details list of requirements, whereas a puppy is a lottery.  Although the top of the list of reasons for getting a rescue dog is that they need loving homes, and if more people opted to do so, then the puppy industry would be less supported. There are many unscrupulous breeders who keep puppy farms that operate in appalling conditions, and with sought after cross-breeds (labradoodles, etc. bred because poodles don't molt) fetching huge sums of money, the rewards are high.

So, we are now a family unit of five, and probably only a second car shy of 'living the dream'. Woof.


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