Short Story: ‘A Dog’s Life’

This man who had a dog was a working-class man and went out to work each day. He left home at seven o’clock in the morning and arrived back at seven in the evening. He was a responsible type. He didn’t think it right that his dog should run loose in the streets all day. He left it shut up in the house instead. Was this cruel?

He himself was all right. He wasn’t shut up —exactly — all day long. He got a lunch break from half-past twelve to half-past one. He could go where he liked and do what he liked then, for a whole hour. The poor dog was stuck in that same place day after day with nothing to do. Is it good enough? Those who work in offices, factories and shops can break the monotony by looking round, or thinking, or dreaming, or something. In a plant there is plenty of noise and activity; anyway we shouldn’t be bored because we have jobs to do. But alas, this dog . . . it could only walk round, sit down, lie down or go to sleep. It must have been murder. A day must have seemed like a year.

The man — I was going to say owner: he didn’t own much besides the dog — got to thinking. “If only I had a large lawn with a high wall or fence. I could make a flap in the bottom panel of the back door, then the poor brute could go in and out at will and have a romp round” … oh! mustn’t let the manager catch him daydreaming about such things: like the dog, he would be through the door.

Let’s be fair, it has nothing to do with the firm. If you are caught slacking and get the sack, it serves you right. Still, not to worry: humans can cope. Not like poor dumb creatures. They depend on having their biscuits, water and scraps provided for them; they can’t even open tins of Chunky Dog Food for themselves.

People should not keep animals if they cannot look after them properly. It is easy for us. If we work, get on with the job, do as we’re told, play the game, etc. Especially if we don’t spend all our wages foolishly, and make sure we use our brains to the fullest — there’s no saying where you could finish up. Putting all the bright possibilities of our lives against the poor, patient, loyal, devoted, begging lives of our pets should make us thankful we are alive and well and able to work for our employers.

When you think about it, dogs, cats, budgies and goldfish don’t even have the simple pleasure of knowing what class they belong to.

Joe McGuinness

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