I have grave concerns regarding the moral wellbeing of my dog.
Generally speaking, he's a normal, happy, healthy five year-old golden retriever with a tendency to spend too much time noisily licking his own nether regions (because, of course, he can); evidently enjoying this distressingly inexcusable social faux-pas more than absolutely necessary. And before you ask, I'm not making a big deal out of it out of jealousy, or anything, OK? I know where he's been.
He's also a total coward, barking assertively at the postman from the safety of the hallway, only to scuttle upstairs like a rat up an aqueduct and shiver on the landing as the day's collection of bills and direct mailshots pushing the latest in amusingly named small Korean cars for our house's previous occupant tumble through the letterbox to the floor.
Neither of these habits give me pause to worry overmuch, although why the man we bought the house from would want to drive a Matsukihatsu Dungbeetle Supreme escapes me.
However, I noticed the other day that he (the dog, not the previous occupant) sometimes seems curiously attentive in front of the television here at the Acres. He's been eschewing his usual habits of sycophantically shadowing the cat for hours on end or, rather horrifyingly, licking the wife's feet (something else I don't envy him) with every outward sign of rapt contentment, to stare fixedly at the screen. Its taken some time to establish the kind of program that holds' his interest.
David Tennant's Dr Who doesn't seem to do it for him in the same way that the scary Northern bloke did. His ears prick up when Samantha Carter graces the screen in Stargate SG1 (but so do mine, so that's just learned behaviour). He seemed almost bereaved after the final episode of Star Trek Enterprise. But I finally cracked it. To my great consternation, it's the Animal Planet channel that's been ringing his bell.
He's got a thing for horses. Dolphins, monkeys, bats, earwigs and mice can all hold his gaze. But when the Andrex puppy toddles on and whimpers on about tuggable, huggable softness, his tongue actually hangs out. And the other day, he got so excited during a program about the mating habits of the Basenji that he was too tired to eat his Winalot at bedtime.
My dog has come to regard the Animal Planet tv channel as pornography.
I suggest that those of you with pets consider this: Animal Planet is available to the most basic of digital TV subscribers. There's no 'watershed' after which these programs are shown for you to make sure that Fido is all tucked up for the night and, crucially, there is no 'pet-owner control'. There's all manner of features available for parents to ensure that their children don't access unsuitable material, but absolutely nothing whatsoever to prevent your Shi Tzu ogling the girls down at the poodle parlour. And its not just dogs, either. There is 'specialist material' on here for lots of pets. Quite what Tibbles is going to make of 'Big Cat Diary' I really don't know.
You may scoff, but when you come home from the pub one evening having neglected to shut your dog out of the lounge, don't blame me if he's stretched out on the sofa with a cigarette, watching "K9 Boot Camp" with a satisfied expression on his face.
Post script: And keep him off the computer too, otherwise you'll find a subscription to "Reader's Bitches" on your credit card statement. Dont say you werent warned.