‘Dog of the Day’, as the phrase suggests, is a competition which aims to decide which of the dogs encountered during a given day (whether they be few or many) is most deserving of praise (and of course, the coveted title). It is certainly not an opportunity to engage in mawkish dribbling over pictures of cute pooches:
‘Dog of the Day’, by contrast, is a far more rigorous endeavor, one bound by codes evolved through generations of practice (my father, and his father, and his father before that). Whilst some of these are matters of taste (and conscience), others can be more clearly expressed:
- the assessor should have ‘met’ (i.e. interacted with, and preferably touched) the nominated dog. This, however, is not a mandatory requirement. Most experienced dog-assessors can recall occassions when it was, if you like, ‘Dog of the Day’-at-first-sight. A Mr B. Morris of Cambridgeshire (one of the most promising young assessors in a region long known for its keen eyes) has written to remind me of a fine morning in April when he and I, and several chums, whilst en route to the continent, spotted a dog with an inordinately long pole in its mouth, at least the length of a well-nourished man. The animal brandished this item with such gusto and skill that it immediately called to mind the villainous character in the much-loved motion picture Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Though nominations were nominally kept open for the rest of the day, no one who had witnessed this remarkable dog ventured to suggest any other candidate.
- the assessor should be able to provide a full description of the nominated dog (preferably written and corroborated by at least 2 witnesses between the ages of 16 and 65- experience suggests that many of those outside this age range are prone to non-useful assessments like “He was so cute!” and “Just like a baby!”) including, but not limited to information such as: breed; age; disposition; presence of distinguishing coat, leash, or collar; whether the nominated dog had a stick, ball, plastic bottle or other such ‘toy’ in its possession; what the dog was doing when encountered; what it did after it had been encountered, including how it reacted to the departure of the assessor; any comments (for example, regarding the dog’s name) made by the dog’s human (aka, but not equivalent to ‘owner’) regarding the dog.
- When assessing a dog, be aware of your own biases, whether they be for short hair or long, smooth hair or fluffy, big dogs, little dogs, dogs that jump up or roll over, dogs that bark, whine or make grunting sounds that more closely approximate a pig.
- On days when either no dogs are ‘met’, or when the dog or dogs that have been ‘met’ are not deemed sufficiently meritorious (though they be sufficient in many other ways (friendly, non-biting etc.)), the accolade ‘Dog of the Day’ need not (and should not) be awarded.
- When trying to reach a decision on which of the nominated dogs should be ‘Dog of the Day’, particular consideration should be given to unique and charming features. For example, yesterday I ‘met’ an Alsatian whose back legs were strapped into a supporting frame with wheels, enabling it to run at still impressive speeds using its front paws. The dog seemed perfectly happy, as did its companion, a mongrel who looked to have a fair bit of wolfhound in him. There was no suggestion that the mongrel looked down on, or felt sorry for, the somewhat disabled dog (or vice versa). What I suppose I am trying to convey is that the clearest candidates for ‘Dog of the Day’ have the sense of a larger story around them.
But ultimately the process of choosing is more an art than a skill. One learns, through sucessive encounters, to hone one’s perception so that even the briefest interaction- a stroke of the head outside a shop; being approached while in the park -is sufficient to allow the assessor to perceive the signs of character that mark a dog as being, indisputably, a true ‘Dog of the Day.’