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How dogs can bring us together

BY Clare Balding

1st Nov 2023 Inspire

2 min read

How dogs can bring us together
Our dogs say everything about us. In her new book Isle of Dogs, Clare Balding tells us how dogs can bring us together 
Dogs are a big part of all of our lives—there's a reason they're called "man's best friend." In her new book Isle of Dogs, Clare Balding looks at her own relationships with her dogs, but also at the importance of dogs to British culture. Instead of looking at Britain through the lens of politics or war, Balding sees Britain through her dogs and talks about how they change our lives for the better.

Dogs can help you build a community of friends

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Our gang of dogs gathered almost daily and therefore so did we. A group of folks of different ages, backgrounds, careers, life experiences and interests—all united by our dogs.
"I have met so many people whose daily walks with their group of dog friends have been their mainstay"
It’s a story that is repeated across the nation. Friends made through dogs creating a bond that lasts far beyond the lifespan of our canine family. Sid, Dougal, Sunny, Jess and Archie have all gone now, but the bond between us humans remains. I have met so many people whose daily walks with their group of dog friends have been their mainstay, have got them through grief, stress at work or at home, helped them deal with loneliness and built their confidence. It’s medicine for the soul.

The ways that dogs change our lives

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I am fascinated by the impact dogs have on our lives, the characteristics they display themselves and bring out in us and even how they influence our choice of friends, how we live, where we go on holiday and the sort of jobs that we want to do. Isle of Dogs is an exploration of the way dogs have shaped and influenced the people of the United Kingdom. It is a telling of our national story not through the usual metrics of wars, monarchy or politics, but through our dogs.
"It is a telling of our national story, not through wars, monarchy or politics, but through our dogs"
Why are we drawn to certain breeds and what does that say about us? What has changed in the way we look after our dogs, and how has their role in society altered through the centuries? We have certainly moved away from keeping dogs outside in kennels and far more of us have them in our homes, on our sofas and (hands up as guilty on this one) sleeping on our beds at night.

A dog called Mac and a dog called Boris

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My parents, until recently, had an ageing lurcher called Mac and a boxer called Boris. The latter is as badly behaved as his name might suggest, with no heed of recall and no understanding of personal space—which, given his size (he is a beast), is an issue when he enthusiastically greets young children, elderly people or anyone with balance issues.
"We have a boxer called Boris; he is as badly behaved as his name might suggest"
The sofas and chairs in their sitting room are covered in books—not because my parents love to read, but in an attempt to persuade the dogs not to climb on the furniture. Consequently, any human who wants to sit on a sofa has to rearrange a library of books. I’ve suggested a removable cover would be more attractive. Or, of course, training, but it’s too late for that.
Boris has been known to sit up on a chair at the kitchen table expecting full service, and whenever the dishwasher is being stacked, he likes to add a personal prewash to the plates. Even my mother might concede that Boris is the worst-behaved dog she has ever had, but on the plus side, he is very affectionate and funny.
Isle of Dogs final jacket image
Book credit: Isle of Dogs by Clare Balding out now RRP £22 (Ebury)
Banner credit: Dogs (boytsov)
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