When dogs used to roam.

Even when I was a child in the 1970’s I used to recall a lot more supposedly stray dogs roaming around the neighbourhoods of my home town.  In fact, myself and a friend used to while away many a happy hour during the school holidays on the trail of ‘Paddy’, a most magnificent, but elusive Red Setter.  Paddy did in fact have a perfectly comfortable home nearby – and this is where we returned him to, (on the days we managed to catch him!), tethered with a defeated expression on his face, to the end of a colourful skipping rope.

Back in the 1950’s it was commonplace for pet dogs to be turned out of the home to roam the neighbourhood during the day, returning at night for table scraps.  One of our long standing, humorous family tales involved a cocker spaniel belonging to my grandparents who returned late one afternoon carrying a plate with almost a full roast dinner on it!  Nobody ever knew where on earth he had stolen it from or, indeed, how he managed to balance it all the way home!

Dog owning in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s was quite different to the way things are now.  Since there have been various control of dogs laws introduced, it is now a legal responsibility to prevent your dog from roaming.  Dogs must be kept on leads in designated areas and some UK local authorities are attempting to crack down on anyone walking their dog on a lead that is more than 4ft in length! Likewise, some councils are limiting the amount of dogs that can be walked at the same time and many others ban dogs altogether from beaches, parks and other public areas.

In times gone by, as I remember myself, there were often dogs to be seen running loose around the suburbs; some were strays, but others were allowed to roam freely by their owners and people seemed to accept it.  The word ‘mongrel’ or ‘Heinz 57’ was well known and it was commonplace to see ‘mutts’ trotting along the pavements all by themselves with no owner in sight.  These cross bred mongrels were often advertised for free in the local paper; nobody paid telephone numbers for half a poodle, half a golden retriever.  The market for pedigree dogs was generally confined to middle class well off people; but even they were allowed to roam free – I remember regularly seeing a floaty Afghan hound wandering around not far from my home.

Come to think of it, things were very different for children back in the 1970’s too!  Just like Paddy, me and my neighbourhood playmates weren’t allowed in the house during the day, so we roamed around during the daytime, (often covering quite long distances on our bicycles) until it was time for tea and we returned to our homes after a long summer day – dusty and grass stained and ravenous.

From a dog’s point of view perhaps things are much better for them now – they live in warm houses on cosy beds, lavished with quality food and treats, taken to the vet at the drop of a hat, have their teeth cleaned, their nails manicured and included in so much more of family life that some of them are almost kids in fur coats.

Children, however, perhaps fair less well – no longer allowed to roam freely with pals for hours on end for fear that something terrible might happen.  Instead, they must accept a virtual reality life on a computer, or be chaperoned by parents everywhere they go and always be monitored and tracked and, reluctantly perhaps, always be contactable on the end of colourful mobile phone.