For a Colombian diplomat, one would imagine that being appointed Ambassador to Brazil is a real prize. Therefore, when Señor Angelino Garzon turned down the job citing “personal and family reasons”, it raised a few eyebrows. While one is inclined to be sympathetic in these situations, surprise quickly turned to indignation, at least for Colombian officialdom, when the real reasons emerged. Apparently, Angelino has a dog that according to him “is very hairy and the hot climate of Brasilia could harm its health”. Foreign Affairs Minister Maria Holguin seemed rather hot under the collar at this revelation; in fact, she thought the man was barking mad. “When he mentioned personal problems, you would expect something deeper than that”, she said. To which the intrepid Angelino responded as follows. “The dog is not government property. Wherever Angelino goes, it goes.” Fin de la historia.
Bemused, the story triggered a chain of reflections on my own experiences with canophiles. Take the French for example, who I suspect would would have awarded Angelino a Legion d’Honneur for such magnificent defiance. According to the New York Times, there are twice as many pet dogs as there are children in France, and they consume as much meat as all Spaniards put together. Which means absolutely nothing unless you’ve had the delightful experience of being hosted at the Château Hôtel de la Messardière, overlooking the stunning Bay of Pampelonne in St. Tropez. The Messardière is the type of establishment one associates with betches of an altogether different variety, the type that grace P. Diddy’s yacht or the very risqué La Voile Rouge on the beach. Angelino’s hairy dog, however, would be very welcome here, and particularly enjoy the Service en Chambre Pour les Chiens. Lamb Chops for €40, cooked to order of course, with a side order of Basmati Rice for €10. (Wtf, do dogs eat basmati rice?).
As we meandered through the lobby, we noticed a loud commotion around the Assistant Manager’s desk. A very tanned middle-aged American, cheered on by that most essential of St Tropez male accessories, the blonde trophy wife, was berating the establishment for its “mindless” policy of allowing no children – theirs had been checked in to the hostelry next door – while welcoming smelly canines of all variety. The ranting continued as we chatted on the shuttle on our way down from the hills, like Brutus and Cassius, to do nightly battle at the infamous Les Cave du Roy. What was the deal with the French? They’d be speaking fucking German if it weren’t for us. And how about those ridiculous French accents? I nodded sympathetically, but pointed out that they did make nice wine, the food wasn’t bad either, and as far as tokens of appreciation go the Statue of Liberty was as good as it gets. Besides, this was the nation of the Hermès €500 dog collar and Brigitte Bardot, who once kept a cow in her living room. Calm prevailed at the mention of the wonderfully eccentric Ms Bardot, and the anticipation of the delectably bubbly Cristal to come. Vive la difference, as they say.
My own attitude toward dogs has been through a transformation over the last few years, thanks mainly to a lovely leggy blonde named Ellie, who has this (mostly) endearing habit of snuggling up in bed with me, and whining insistently until I stroke her neck and face. Ellie is our golden retriever, named after that ultimate blonde goddess, Elle “The Body” Macpherson. Ellie is watched over with a devotion Señor Garzon, or Brigitte Bardot for that matter, would approve of, and in return gives us the types of magical, occasionally comical, moments only a dog owner can relate to. The etymology of the name always makes me smile when she (I mean Ellie, not Elle) graces my bed. But what really cracks me up is the time Ellie ran loose chasing after Elle, who just happens to live in the neighbourhood. Elle was jogging in the direction of the Serpentine while our Ellie tracked her leggy namesake heading straight for the water with my wife screaming after her. Apologies, explanations, and a mutual display of unrestrained blonde affection followed; harmony was restored in Hyde Park.
This weekend our Ellie had an adventure of a different variety: walking alongside master and mistress on the Queenwood golf course, an experience she qualified for after a screening almost as rigorous as the one the very rarefied membership is subjected to. She ate a divot, protested loudly every time I attempted to “pop a second shot”, and cheered equally loudly when I whacked one into the woods, where she would threaten to run off with every intention of looking for anything other than my ball. As we followed her down the lush fairways in this idyllic Surrey springtime setting, I was reminded of a favourite quote from Charles Schulz’s “It’s a Dog’s Life”, wherein Snoopy poses the following conundrum: “My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I’m happy. I can’t figure it out. What am I doing right?”
We could all learn something from our dogs, and thank you Señor Garzon for reminding us. And hang in there with your hirsute friend. If there’s any justice in this world, your next assignment may well be Paris.