Friday, 18 April 2008

If we're man's best friend, why do you still call us bitches?

The heading is my answer to the question "What would dogs say if they could talk?", but I'm sure plenty of people out there have their own idea about that.

The question was spun out by HarperCollins, and winning answers won a Selby pack - mine got me a pack, but I really thought it wouldn't, because Selby is a children's series and I thought the bitches bit might exclude me. Seems not.

A Selby pack was a copy of Duncan Ball's Selby Santa, a dog plush toy and a Selby cap. It's childish, but then Selby's a favourite of mine. I got the first Selby book when I was a kid (even then it was a simple read for me) and the series is still going strong. And I must admit that I catch up on Selby's adventures every now and then when I'm in bookstores!

For those who haven't had the joy of Selby in your life, the premise is this:

Selby is a normal dog, who lives with his owners, Dr Trifle, a somewhat eccentric inventor/scientist, and his wife Mrs Trifle, Mayor of Bogusville. Then one day Selby realises he understands human language. He decides to teach himself to speak it. After acquiring language skills, he thinks it'll be a great idea to reveal his secret to his owners as a Christmas present.

He's just about to do it, when he overhears a conversation that makes him realise that if the Trifles (lovely people though they are) knew that he were an intelligent, conversant dog, he'd lose his laidback, leisurely life. He'd be running errands, answering phonecalls, and in general being a slave.

He's best off keeping his secret a secret and using it to his advantage when he can, but keeping his old life where he can laze about the house and be the adored and looked after pet with no responsibilities.

Of course, this isn't easy, because Selby's ability to understand language makes him a sensitive, feeling, understanding, intelligent dog with curiosity, ambition, worries ... and the ability to get himself into a lot of trouble, all the while trying not to give his secret away while trying to use his skills to his advantage when he can.

There must be something like 30 Selby books out there now.

I find Selby fun - maybe also because in the whole thing, he's incautious, and just a bit up-himself! Just as many kids like their books - the adults around him are kind of gormless, even if one's a scientist and one's the Mayor, and Selby the talking dog is far wittier than them - and knows it - and doesn't try to hide it.

In Selby's Secret, Selby kisses himself in the mirror, saying "Oh you perfect pooch! You're my kind of dog."

He's my kind of dog, too!

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