Leslie Ann Horgan: I hate dogs... please call them off
Hounds of hell... Please, people, call your dogs off!
I hate dogs. ALL dogs. From the big, sleek, black ones (the scariest kind) to the tiny, fluffy, white ones (the most vicious kind), I hate dogs of every shape, size and cutesy cross-bred iteration. I hate their smell, their shedding, their barking.
I hate the aggressive ones who bare their teeth and give the low growl that comes before they tear you limb from limb, and I hate the friendly ones who stick out their tongue and give the happy yelp that comes before they lick you all over. It's a hate heavily coloured by fear, and powered by the inability to understand that mushy look my boyfriend gets whenever he catches the slightest glimpse of a pooch.
Whenever I tell people that I hate dogs I get one of two divergent reactions - so I know what you're thinking right now. It's either that I am a grotesque monster who should be burned at the stake, or that I only think that I hate dogs because I haven't met your adorable pooch yet. Who could possibly resist his waggy tail, his floppy ears, his wet little nosey-wosey? Me, that's who. Give me the Salem witch trails any day - at least they only had cats.
As far as I can remember, I have always hated dogs. Dredging the murky pool of memory doesn't bring up a time when I ever felt anything warmer than disdain towards them. Ponies, yes - for that brief pre-pubescent stage where horses provide a safe lull between Barbies and boybands for the makers of books, films and playthings aimed at girls - but puppies? Never.
Though ever simmering, my canine abhorrence has been brought to the boil again by two recent encounters. The first was a holiday in America where, for some reason beyond the realms of my comprehension, they allow people to bring dogs on domestic flights. Now, I don't mean tucked away in the cargo hold of which I am ignorant, ergo blissful - although the thoughts of my Orla Kiely luggage becoming a chew toy are horrifying - but actually on domestic flights.
The result of this is not only a plentiful luggage situation that would have Michael O'Leary rubbing his palms together gleefully, but also an airport full of dogs that are not yet in their crates. As luck would have it, the number two spot on my hate-list is occupied by flying, so pre-flight nerves plus rigid security checks plus dogs equals an anxiety level akin to, well, Fido on Halloween night.
Hell exists and it's a place where a forgotten half-bottle of water in your handbag is considered a high-level security risk, but a set of 42 sharp teeth with a mind of their own is not. A place where, as you attempt to flee a toilet cubicle that a dog from the neighbouring stall has just stuck its head under, you fall over the entwined leads of two snarling mongrels - and are then berated by their owners. They call it Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The second burner to relight my loathing was closer to home. In an attempt to shift some of the post-holiday excess baggage (for which I'm blaming the huge American portions and not my own inability to stop eating) I have started running again. It's been a few years since I let my jogging regimen slip and then stop, so I'm on the more-walking-than-running end of a couch-to-5km programme. It's hard enough to motivate myself to run without having to face the canine-laden gauntlet that is my local park. No matter whether I run early in the morning or late at night, midweek or weekend, the dogs vastly outnumber the humans there.
There are dogs fighting; dogs playing - which looks much the same as fighting to the nervous passer-by; dogs on no leads suddenly darting across the path; dogs on leads so long that there's no way around them. There are some dogs that run around your legs in circles and others that run alongside you (although it must be said that even I found it funny when a confused-looking greyhound tried to slow itself to my glacial pace). Perhaps if I get them to run behind me I can go from couch to 5km in just one session.
Not that I think dogs pay me any special attention. Other than the temporary inconvenience of being put out the back garden should I happen to visit their house, and a potential bruising of the ego should I cross the road to avoid walking by them as I regularly do, they're largely ambivalent to my hatred.
People are another story, however. In a hipster society, where there are dog cafes and office dogs, and an age of millennials, where dog ownership has replaced the impossible-to-attain home ownership as the proof of full-blown adulthood, pooches have attained powerful status.
Any slight on a person's dog, such as not wanting to pet it or not following its Instagram account, is considered a grave sin. And while it's okay to openly say that you don't like children and to scoff at those who dote on theirs, to take the same attitude towards dogs is to be considered a freak. (Incidentally, I do like children and will happily coo over any baby photos you want to show me, no matter how boring. See, not a total monster!) A Trump voter or junior bondholder would sooner be embraced by most groups than someone with a distaste for dogs.
With some 20pc of the population now owning a pooch and more pup-friendly services popping up by the day, it would seem that Ireland's dog days are far from over. For a dog hater like me, the choices are stark - learn to love doggies, or exit by the dog-free (for now) airport.