Dear Edinburgh Dog-Lovers, I’m writing to ask a favour. I can tell how much you love your pets from the videos you post on Facebook.
I watched one clip of dogs trying on Christmas bootees for the first time. Hilarious. The poor creatures couldn’t figure out how to walk. Some kicked their legs out to the side like Cossack dancers doing the Kalinka Song. Others waddled on their front paws with their hind legs in the air. Terriers, Jack Russells, labradoodles – they all looked equally undignified. But their owners hadn’t forced them into fancy footwear just to humiliate them. Winter can be tough on dogs. Bootees stop the salt and de-icing chemicals on our Capital’s streets from cracking the skin paws. There’s no doubting your dedication.
So here’s the favour I’m asking. Our beautiful city has a small minority of people who care just as deeply about their pets but with one big difference. They don’t give a flying Fokker about their fellow human beings. If they did, why would they get up at the crack of dawn, stop outside my front door, smoke a roll-up while big Tyson does his business, then walk away leaving the muck steaming gently in the crisp morning air? If you catch them at it, please challenge them.
I live in Leith and wherever I go, even in our parks and along our riverside walkways, I’m constantly side-stepping dog-eggs. Now I’m the kind of person, if I see litter I’ll pick it up. Dog mess is a different proposition.
I understand the reluctance to lift it. You need to bring a plastic bag with you, turn it inside out like a glove and take it home with you or drop it in a bin. Most of you have no problem with this and I feel like applauding every time I see you doing your civic duty.
Strangely, I never see the dog-foulers. Either they all have invisibility cloaks or they creep about in the shadows at five in the morning. I’m big and ugly enough not to be scared of telling a dog-fouler to clean up their pet’s poop. Trouble is, I never catch them in the act.
Instead, I go out with a can of red paint and spray every smelly pile I see. This has three benefits: it shames the culprits; alerts passers-by to the mess so they can step round it; and dries up the poo. Last Christmas I went further, with a sticker campaign on Leith’s lampposts: “Crappy S***mas from all the a********* round here who don’t clean up after their dogs.” I saw some folk stop, read them and chuckle. Others went to great lengths to scratch the stickers off.
This newspaper launched its own Dish The Dirt hotline a few months ago where you could report dog-foulers to the council. Smashing idea but couldn’t the council do more? In Budapest, they have special doggy toilets with sandboxes and bins screened off from the pavement and free plastic bags.
You good citizens who pick up after your pets are our best chance. Here’s hoping Edinburgh’s dog-foulers follow your lead.
Wishing you all a Happy Christmas, not a Crappy S***mas.
Don’t boob over breastfeeding
Remember the stooshie in Claridge’s where a young mum was forced to wear what looked like a small tablecloth to hide the fact she was breastfeeding? I asked my own 84-year-old mum if she breastfed me in public in Edinburgh in the late Fifties.
“Of course I did,” she said. “I was arrested in Venice once for wearing shorts in the main square but nobody ever stopped me breastfeeding.”
Inspired by her, I decided to see if Edinburgh’s posh hotels were any more enlightened than London’s.
Posing as an American tourist, I asked The Balmoral’s receptionist if I could bring my wife in to have a coffee and breastfeed our six-month-old daughter.
“No problem, sir,” she beamed. At the West End it was a slightly different story. The girl behind the desk at The Caledonian looked terrified and hurried off to ask her boss. They consulted for fully five minutes. On her return she looked relieved. “Sir, we have no problem with breastfeeding.”
It’s worth remembering that any shop or café who takes exception to you breastfeeding your baby on their premises is breaking the law. The 2012 Equality Act says it is sex discrimination for any establishment to “discriminate, harass or victimise a woman because she is breastfeeding”.
So if you want to breastfeed your weans anywhere in the city, feel free. I’d like to think nobody in Edinburgh would ever make you feel uncomfortable for feeding your child as nature intended.
But I’d love to hear what you think. If you’ve a breastfeeding story or an opinion to get off your chest, so to speak, let’s hear it.
Gerry Farrell is co-founder of Gerry Farrell Ink and a former creative director of the Leith Agency.