Friday, 9 May 2008

A Dog's Bottom Should Not Be On a Bus Seat

The title of this post is my favourite line in this week's edition of my local paper. To be accurate, it's not actually my local paper, but the local paper of the next town; we get a different edition here. To most people reading this, that's neither here nor there. But locals here often have a very strict idea of 'local' and I wouldn't want to offend, so the clarification was necessary.

The statement that forms the title for this post is the last line of a letter from a reader, responding to an article published last week about a woman who was asked to pay 50p in order for her dog to travel with her on the bus. The bus company in question is Best Bus, which personally I think is an inspired name. It effortlessly tops whatever any of their competitors can throw at them. 'Quite Good Bus?' 'Largely Reasonable Bus'? 'Not Bad Bus Let Down By The Two Year Old Chewing Gum Under The Seats Bus?' None of them can hold a candle to it. Whatever you call your bus company around here, whatever clever name you dream up, it's trumped by Best Bus. Because how can you get better than best? You can't. Unless, of course, you don't charge 50p for dogs, in which case you would be better than Best Bus, at least in the opinion of some residents, such as the lady featured in the original article last week. Sadly for Best Bus, the writer whose words I've borrowed for my post title has a bone to pick with them about a dog's bottom.

The writer of the letter is primarily concerned about the Health and Safety aspect of allowing dogs to travel on buses, and specifically, as you may by now have guessed, about the issue of dogs' bottoms on bus seats. The writer worries that if a child travelled on the bus and sat on a seat previously containing a dog's bottom, there is a possibility that the child could touch the seat and then put his fingers in his mouth. The writer does not elaborate on the resulting perils of such an action, but the inference is that she feels that someone would suffer. Whether that is the dog or the child, she does not say.

The writer feels that since these days there is a lot of publicity about dog owners being fined for failing to clean up dog mess, the notion of a dog's bottom on a bus seat is surely a Health and Safety issue. Unless the implication is that the dog owners may fail to clean up dog mess that is actually deposited on the bus seat by the dog's bottom during the journey, I'm not quite clear about the connection between people getting fined for randomly leaving dog poo festering and the dog's bottom (minus mess) on the bus seat. If I'm missing the obvious link, do let me know.

The thing I'm concerned about, is that this cuts both ways, frankly. What if a seat previously occupied by a child's bottom was then licked by a dog? Dogs are people too, let's not forget. You could be forgiven for not realising that. I won't be judgemental, because I didn't realise myself until I found out that they are required to pay 50p to travel on the bus. And really, it would seem rather unfair to take that dog's hard-earned 50p and then forbid him to place his bottom on the seat. Possibly, the dog would be entitled to sue the bus company for failing to provide the service he'd paid for.

Not all residents agree with the writer of the first letter, about the inherent incompatibility of dogs' bottoms and bus seats. A second letter published in this week's issue is penned by a writer who, if he or she had a dog, would be happy to pay 50p in order for that dog to travel by Best Bus, particularly since Best Buses are so clean (notwithstanding the dogs' bottoms of course) and have such polite, smart drivers (an issue about which dogs are known to care deeply). Regrettably, the writer of this second letter inadvertently (I presume) rather undid his or her great praise of Best Buses by finishing his or her letter with "Sadly, my dog died last year. So keep up the good work Best Bus."

Anyone who has owned a pet will understand the great sense of loss at the end of the pet's life, and I have no wish to demean that sadness. And I'm sure Best Bus were in no way responsible for the death of the writer's dog. Still, I can't help but hope that the ill-fated canine hadn't been licking a Best Bus seat immediately after the school drop off.

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