Several years ago I purchased a walking stick at the Harbour Festival, and unlike the rest of my impulse purchases, I actually get quite a lot of use out of that stick. It quickly became a useful travelling aid on my evening strolls with our dogs, and I wish I had a dollar for every time it’s saved me from falling over like a drunken acrobat on loose gravel, wet cement, uneven footpaths, or when my idiot dogs tangle their leads around my ankles.
Your average walking stick user is either someone who is aged, or physically frail, and apparently it’s quite rare to see a hearty and hale looking bloke, strolling around with a walking stick. So when acquaintances first spied me trundling along behind my dogs wielding my new stick, they immediately thought I was suffering from an injury, a bad back, or trying to pull some sort of compo scam. When I eventually convinced them that I perfectly fit and healthy they would give me a puzzled look before wandering off muttering under their breath. Others though, boldly stated that I looked like a prize goose.
“Well sir,” I replied on one memorable occasion, “I personally prefer the term eccentric, and it is a sorry state of affairs indeed when a gent can’t stride forth from his house, with a stout cane in hand, and a gleam in his eye, without being accosted by ill mannered yokels such as yourself!” You may be not be surprised to learn that my comment only served to upset the kids’ father, and he fired off a few choice adjectives in my direction as well.
But it was an unexpected feature that cemented the stick as my constant walking companion; it’s almost magical ability to stop aggressive dogs in their tracks. I’ve encountered a variety of large and irritated mutts over the years, and most of them have taken an instant dislike to me. This is nothing new, as all my life nearly every big dog I’ve met has wanted to rip me to shreds, including the one I dragged home as a boy. My parents weren’t swayed by my pleas to keep it, as it was trying to gnaw my arm off at the time. Added to this, is my unerring ability to locate streets where big dogs roam with gay abandon, attacking anyone, or anything, at will.
As the part owner and Chief Walker of two small dogs, I’m often on the receiving end of some extreme canine bullying. So, you can imagine my delight at discovering that one tap of my stick transforms even the most aggressive dog into a four pawed pacifist. If only their masters were as easy to deal with.
For some reason, the owners of these hounds won’t bat an eyelid while their snarling beasts race at me like huge, furry missiles, but the moment I prod their precious pooch with my stick they get a tad upset, which inevitably leads to some intense footpath discussions. I have tried pointing out that allowing a large and savage dog to roam free is akin to letting a child loose on the street with a loaded handgun. But they usually argue that their adorable doggie has never attacked anyone until now, and I must have upset it somehow. Obviously it’s my fault! Possibly my raucous breathing has pushed their allegedly meek and mild mutt right over the edge, turning it into a deranged assailant?
When things degenerate to the point where earnest threats are made to insert my walking stick where the sun doesn’t shine, I stroll off, merrily swinging my battered cane and silently wondering if I’m actually hitting the wrong mongrels.