A case of dogged repetition

Minty, left, and Vega, two Labradors that I have looked after
Two of my doggy guests, Jess, a Golden Retriever, and Oreo. A Black Labrador


We have come to end of the year, and what a year it has been! I’m sure that most of us are not sad to see the back of 2020 and are hopeful that the coming 12 months are better for us all.

Something that was severely impacted during the past year was my small side business of looking after other people’s dogs. My boys and I love dogs, but I am not keen to take on the commitment of owning one. Looking after other people’s seemed like a good compromise and until the pandemic hit, I was pretty busy. But because few people are going on holiday now, and more people are working from home, the demand for this kind of service has reduced significantly, although thankfully not entirely.

I have welcomed many breeds through my doors and one thing that used to puzzle me is why some people call a certain dog a ‘Labrador’ and others call it a ‘Labrador Retriever’. That question cropped up in my dad’s column from 29th December 1980 and he thought that the Labrador was one breed, and the Retriever another. In fact, although the Labrador is a Kennel Club-recognised breed in its own right, it does come under the banner of ‘Retriever’ alongside the Golden, the Flat Coated, the Chesapeake Bay and the fantastically-named Nova Scotia Duck Tolling.

As the name suggests, the dog’s hazy origins lie in Canada, and it is believed that English settlers arrived in Newfoundland as far back as the 1500s and would use native dogs to help them fish the waters. These dogs, that were smaller than today’s Labradors, were known as St John’s water dog or the lesser Newfoundland, and would retrieve nets, lost lines, dropped fish and pull carts loaded with the catch.

English traders took them back across the North Atlantic Ocean and interbred them with their own hunting dogs to create a new breed altogether that was not only an excellent working dog, but also blessed with a friendly temperament that was eager to please. They became an instant hit with the sporting aristocracy, especially the Earls of Malmesbury.

The third Earl of Malmesbury is credited with naming the breed in 1887 in a letter in which he referred to his ‘Labrador dogs’, presumably because they came from the region known as Labrador and Newfoundland. He established his own breeding programme and the Labrador Retriever was officially recognised by the UK Kennel Club in 1903, with the first official breed club set up in 1916. Today, the Labrador is the most popular of all pedigree breeds thanks to its versatility as a family pet, a service dog, a guide dog and a working dog.

The reason Dad mentioned the Labrador Retriever in the first place was because he was discussing our usage of certain words that are unnecessary, and was citing ‘Retriever’ after ‘Labrador’ as one such example. Another was ‘salt cellar’, because the word ‘cellar’ actually means ‘salt’ so we are in effect saying ‘salt salt’. 

This could be said to be an example of tautology, the practice of saying the same thing twice, but using different words and I’m sure many of us do it regularly without even noticing. But what really irritates me is when people in positions of power do it to try to fool us into thinking they are more intelligent than they are, as if we won’t be able to tell when they are spouting meaningless waffle.

An expert in the art of meaningless waffle is former U.S. president George W Bush, who had a reputation for making tautological gaffes. His intelligence (or lack of it) was the subject of much comedic scrutiny.

“Our nation must come together to unite!” he declared, and “By making the right choices, we can make the right choice for our future.” 

What about this insightful observation? “Over the long term, the most effective way to conserve energy is by using energy more efficiently.”

It seems to run in the family too. His father, George Bush senior, is reported to have said: “It’s no exaggeration to say that the undecideds could go one way or the other.”

And wisely, on that wisest piece of wise wisdom, I’d like to wish you all a very Happy, Jolly, and Content New Year! 

Contact me, and read more, at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times and the Gazette & Herald on 30th Dec 2020

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