Dogged resistance

Why on earth does every Cotswold Man have to land himself with this lumpen quadraped? Adam Edwards can't see the point of the Black Labrador

If there is a single object that personifies Cotswold Man it is the four-legged, wet-nosed, tail-wagging buffoon that is the black Labrador.

It is mostly as useless as a Sinclair C5 and generally as thick as vichyssoise, yet it seems to be more important to life in our particular shire than life itself. The AGA, the 4x4 and certainly the spouse pale by comparison. It is the rustic embodiment of the metropolitan pizza delivery boy who in return for a small reward is the inarticulate provider of solace to the inner man.

This local link between the coloured-corduroy population and the inky beast will doubtless be highlighted if, as expected, the Black Lab becomes the next internationally famous screen dog. According to recent reports, director Peter Jackson, of Lord of the Rings fame, is re-making the 1955 Dambusters film, for release either later this year or sometime in 2011. The movie tells the story of World War 11 flyer Guy Gibson and his beloved Black Lab that bore the politically incorrect name of Nigger.

The day of the famous Dambuster raid the dog died and was buried at midnight as Gibson led the bombers towards Germany’s Ruhr Valley. When the Mohne Dam was breached the squadron leader used the codeword Nigger to confirm it. Now it seems more than likely that when the new film is released the Black Lab will become the new Toto.

In recent weeks a trio of my Cotswolds chums have either got a new black Labrador puppy or are planning to get one. Quite why this should be so is a mystery. It has nothing to do with the new movie but maybe, like buses, Labrador puppies arrive in threes. However while I am not a Black Lab man myself – my preference is for a fey Jack Russell of dubious parentage – I feel that as a trained observer there may be some knowledge that I can shed on the subject of the lumpen quadruped.

Ever since the late 18th century, when the dog was first imported from Canada, Englishmen have moulded it, refined it and trained it into a four-legged soppy date which nowadays, in this neck of the woods at least, comes, to borrow Henry Ford’s famous quotation, `in any colour so long as it’s black’. 

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Immediately it arrives in its future household a suitably dusky name for it must be decided upon. The Guy Gibson tale is evoked and it is a big hint that the name ought not to be racist. (Interestingly the dog’s name is now bleeped from the original Dambusters film when it is shown on television over here and dubbed `Trigger’ in the version that is shown on American television. In the new film it is to be called `Nigsy’.) Cotswold Man tends to give his dog a jolly moniker that verges on the insensitive but avoids anything as crass as Tyson, Mugabe or Bolt.

Pretty much from then on, the Black Lab has certain distinguishing traits. It greets all visitors by either jumping up on them or bumping and barging into them. It sniffs at any stationary crotch and continues to do so despite any measures taken to avoid the intrusive nose (owners find this amusing). And like Dawn French or the Great White Shark it is a non-stop eating machine.

Furthermore it has bad breath, farts like a vuvezula and considers the human leg a sex aid. It owns the square yard in front of any open fire that it protects by lying doggo there for as long as it possibly can and when it does move it tends to swagger through the downstairs of the house like a madam in an African brothel.

When taken outside it chases anything in fur or feather and believes it has proprietary rights over all pheasants, possibly because the game bird is the only creature on God’s earth generally acknowledged as dimmer than the Lab. It takes an uncommon interest in all animal droppings paying special attention to those of a fox, which it enjoys rolling in, and it enjoys jumping in fetid water and shaking itself dry within wetting distance of a human.

But perhaps most irritating of all is the fact that despite every owner telling you his dog is the animal kingdom’s equivalent of a well-oiled Aston Martin engine, he will spend his life shouting at the beast. The phrase `bloody dog’ is as integral to his vocabulary as `F- Off’ is to the millionaire footballer.

However, one can be quite certain that none of the above will feature in the new movie. Guy Gibson’s mutt will be as consummate as any digitally-enhanced Rin Tin Tin. But, just as those that live in Hollywood know the pedestrian secrets behind the glamour and glitz of its stars, so too will we in the Cotswolds know the real story behind the indolent Black Lab and his complacent master.

Is Adam Edwards talking tosh? Email Mike Lowe at 

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