Social Media For Dogs

Adults my age are sometimes asked about life before the internet. Admittedly, in my case, such questions tend to be asked by twenty something daughters who correctly assume that I will enjoy being treated like the grandfather in the Werther’s Original advert.

I have a stock answer that I roll out for such occasions involving Richard Foster, the greatest liar I’ve ever known. Growing up in Middlesbrough in the 1970’s we were somewhat off the beaten path for reliable information outside library hours and this allowed Richard to spew the most extraordinary, but unchallengeable ‘facts’. Note aside: having written ‘unchallengeable’ I felt a moment’s doubt as to whether it was actually a word and thanks to the internet, I instantly know that it is. But sitting in David Watson’s bedroom or Jonathan Tuck’s treehouse, I didn’t have such means of checking the uncertain or testing the unlikely. This gave Richard (who may have been born in Stockholm, Stirling or Middlesbrough General) the scope to tell us authoritatively that feeding pigeons rice will make them explode and that during a lifetime the shit we breathe in from farts accretes to our lungs and is enough to fill a matchbox.

Like all great liars, Richard was entirely untroubled by statements like, “But you said you were from Sweden” or “Here, I looked it up and bears can run downhill”. Such was his confidence that you somehow felt petty for challenging him or unable to counter his claims that he had never said such a thing. In a way, I think we’re poorer for being able to instantly check the implausible. Although I spent much of my time harbouring the suspicion that I was being misled, we rarely had a lull in conversation. Richard’s subsequent arrest for credit card fraud has probably lessened my annoyance too.

Anyway, I digress because most of us don’t actually use the internet to verify facts these days. Rather, we go to the platform we have learnt (or some AI has learnt) will best reinforce our opinion. All information, all news can be filtered through channels that make everyone of us like Richard Foster. Magnificent we stand in our certainty that we were right and look, it says so here. Aeroplanes are dropping chemicals on your head? Vaccines are turning you into a lizard person? The facts are all here and Facebook has a thousand friends that will agree with you.

But once again, I’m straying from my point, which came to me while walking Sid the Dog this morning. Quite simply, the information superhighway, the concept of social networking, trolling, spam – all were in existence long before we hairless apes picked up a pen, let alone started tapping a keyboard. The hours that I have spent trying to advertise myself appealingly on dating sites and then staring at suspiciously aged pictures to find a suitable partner seem ridiculous compared to Sid’s simple expedient of pissing on the corner of a wall. The dubious claim that single ladies from my locale were keen to meet would come as no news to Sid. With a considered sniff, he has learnt the health, threat level and sexual availability of a dozen visitors. With a brief moment of relief, he has given the same information to the dogosphere. And like dating site hopefuls applying filters to their profile pictures in the hope that their match will be legally blind or too mean to pass up a free meal, Sid can try to fool prospective matches by raising himself up on his front paws and spraying pee higher up the wall, thus giving the impression he is a Doberman, not a Jack Russell.  

Thanks to the internet, I can surrender my symptoms to an A.I doctor (mild constipation, dodgy knees) and then worry myself half to death with the news that there is a 0.3% chance I have a brain tumour. Sid just takes a quick sniff of another dog’s wee and immediately demonstrates his diagnosis. Healthy? Cover it with piss. Unwell? Pass on leaving the offending wet patch as a warning to others. Or perhaps the doggy chatroom conveys another message – a lairy spaniel moving into his patch? Sid can lay down a turd that expresses his opinion far more eloquently than any keyboard warrior. No wonder he seems disgruntled when I pick it up. In my civic minded haste to bag and bin it, I’m destroying a data dump surpassing the output of a thousand tech-savvy pensioners complaining about the council’s response to potholes.

Anyway, like Sid after a long drink, I’m spraying ideas around with inadequate care. It boils down to this; life before instant messaging, tinder, trolling and the like does lie within the memory for those of us with creaky knees (and mild constipation) but for dogs, it’s just the way it is.

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