By Huw Le Lytle
Am I spoilt?
Sometimes people say that that I am spoilt … with my endless supply of ribbies, my abundance of pillows, my haircuts in front of the tele, my own armchair … etc. Now I know they say it out of love, but I do wonder about the proximity of the word spoil to me in any sentence. Indeed, I really am quite confused by the notion of spoiling someone, especially spoiling them rotten.
I know that food can spoil and go rotten if it is left alone and unused. So I think lavishing us with attention and fulfilling all our wants and needs surely is the opposite of being spoilt.
And spoiling food seems to be quite different from spoiling me. It seems quite at odds with the idea of what it means to spoil someone; that is, that to spoil me is to be excessively kind, considerate, or generous. It seems to me that humans are confused. Quite clearly, in this context, spoiling someone is a synonym for caring for someone, and being cared for must be the same as being spoilt. So in that case, yes, I am spoilt. As I should be.
But this is still a bit unclear. And I think this is the source of everyone’s confusion, it is the complexity and nuance of language. So, with the tenacity of a terrier, I decided to investigate further. Am I really spoilt?
The word spoil is actually largely to do with taking something away … clothes, goods, valuables, by force or violence. So if you are “spoiling” someone it is actually about taking away good character, good qualities, etc. Now they say this is by being too indulgent, but I suspect the lexicographers haven’t necessarily kept up with dog behaviour. It seems to me that spoiling can occur by whatever actions. You can bully someone’s character away. And then, just like food, someone can become “unfit for use”, until kinder people come along again.
So, in my view, spoiling could come about just as easily by being excessively unkind, inconsiderate, or mean. Therefore, yes, you can spoil a dog, just with lack of sympathy.
But what about this theory of spoiling people through indulgence and leniency? I have my doubts about the idea of spoiling a dog through indulgence. And I also think that to suggest this is even possible is a terrible indictment upon a dog’s character. No doubt a something or a someone can be spoilt only if it is capable of decay or malice … food is capable of decay and sadly many humans are capable of malice. But a dog? I don’t think so. To spoil through indulgence suggests a battle, a clash between us and them, that someone wants the upper hand, and that someone else gives in and indulges them. To the victor go the spoils, but where is the victory? This is all quite simply so ridiculous in dog language that we laugh about it every day down the dog park, except for the poor dogs who suffer at the hands of this philosophy. We are not out to get you, we are not locked in a battle for dominion. This is not about conquering some mythic dog kingdom and its leaders. If this were the case, how and why on earth do people think we domesticated ourselves and then hung onto this friendship for thousands of years? We don’t want a seat in Parliament, we don’t care about keeping up with the Kardashians, and we certainly don’t view it as a personal victory if we sit on the sofa together. We view it as friendship.
Therefore, it is my humble opinion that you can never, ever, spoil a dog. So go ahead, move over on the sofa, or even sit on the floor and let us rest our heads on your shoulder. Take it from me, it’s all in the name of love. And one should never ever doubt the wisdom of Bedlington.
Categories: Behaviour, Domestication, Human-Dog Bond
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