The photo here has nothing to do with what follows. I just wanted to put something here to break up the text.
When my wife Tamara and I discuss breeds of dogs that appeal to us, one dog that I have said I am not so keen on are Labradors. There is nothing wrong with them, I want to make that clear. I don’t have the right to say there is anything wrong with them. But they don’t appeal to me, and the reason is that often they are – at least to my eyes – fat.
There is nothing wrong with a fat dog. Well perhaps there is if it affects the dog’s health but that’s a different story. But from my point of view there is nothing ‘wrong’ with a fat dog, they just don’t appeal to me.
I love watching spaniels run. Their bodies are so full of movement. Nothing rigid, nothing tied down – they move like fluid energy unbounded.
Which is not to say I am fixated on spaniels. I like all kinds of dogs. I have to say though that I was a ‘small dog ignoramus’ until my wife got me to actually look at them. She is a very observant person. She notices colours and articles of clothing, and just notices things that pass me by.
She pointed out the immense variety in the way small dogs walk. Some walk like they are just so happy to be there that they would burst if life got any better.
Some walk on tiptoes like they are the bee’s knees. Or like they are just not going to sully themselves getting any nearer to the ground.
Some are very intense, very purposeful. I mentioned that to a man with a dog as I was passing. He smiled and agreed and said that one day he hoped his dog would find out what he was being so intense about.
So, back to Labradors. My wife makes fun of me when we see a Labrador. She says: ‘Look, there’s an overweight dog.’
But, and this is a big but – today I was looking at a recent issue of The Week and noticed an article entitled ‘Why are so many Labradors fat?’
I started reading it and then noticed that my wife had marked the margin for me to read the article. So, to complete a pun, we were on the same page about it…
The article was a reference to a study by Conor O’Donovan and his colleagues at the University of Cambridge, who found that Labradors having the highest rate of canine obesity and that 23 per cent of the dogs carried at least one copy of a mutant form of a gene called POMC, which encodes proteins that help switch off hunger after a meal.
And the gene mutation was much higher in Labradors used by blind people – accounted for because the desire for a food reward makes the animals easier to train.
So there is science behind the impression I had that Labradors are overweight.