Year of the ninja dog

I’m sat on the train from Cardiff to Birmingham, winging my way to our factory unit. Actually ‘winging’ doesn’t really describe this particular journey. ‘Sauntering’, perhaps. ‘Ambling’, maybe, but ‘winging?’. No. The cross country service meanders from South Wales, heads up the Severn estuary, pootling through Gloucestershire and Worcestershire before arriving in England’s second city. It’s perfect. I can catch up on e-mails, listen to music (Robert Plant is adding North African melancholy) and update the blog.

I just did a quick check on the web and discovered it’s the Year of the Dragon. For a Welshman nervously heading off to watch rugby at Twickenham tomorrow, I’m hoping that bodes well. But that’s by the by. After recent experiences on the Taff trail, I’m not convinced by these Year of the Dragon claims. For I know different. It’s actually year of the Ninja dog. Darkened menaces, blackened and masked, creeping insidiously through the undergrowth before launching themselves, paws outstretched toward the unsuspecting (but well lit) cyclist.

Now I’m not the moaning type (dog owners can relax), but after spotting a delightful poster by Kiputniq (below and produced for exactly the type of situation I’m about to describe), I thought I’d bring it up.

You may recall some recent press hyperbole about the Taff trail. Apparently cyclists truly leather it through Cardiff parkland and the commute becomes the crit. As a consequence the Taff Trail code of conduct was drawn up. Dog walkers, pedestrians, cyclists and runners engaged in the Mexican standoff. Signs were put up. Cycle slowly! Dogs on lead! No smiling every second Tuesday! Representatives spoke in the media; ‘ban cycles through the park’, ‘clap ‘em in irons’, ‘we’re hard done by’ etc. etc. Frankly, all a little over the top, but if you get enough people vying for the same resource, the teddy soon gets lobbed out of the pram.

Taff trail 'discussions' (Image courtesy of devious theatre and totally unrelated to the Taff Trail)

Anyway……the Taff Trail code of conduct (in itself not a bad idea and a reasonable diplomatic solution) does ask that dogs are kept on a lead. Pretty sensible, given that there are people balancing on two wheels and dogs tend to be a little random in their actions. Yet when I commute to work each day, hardly any dogs are kept on a lead. No biggie, I’m generally not travelling quick enough for it to be a problem and I understand that the owners want to give their dogs a bit of a run out. But when the lights go out and dusk descends on a busy commuting route, leaving your dog off the lead is BLOODY BARMY. I’m convinced that dog owners don’t really want to see their beloved pet stuck underneath my fork crown any more than I want to be propelled into the bushes. So far, I’ve bitten my tongue. So much so, that my tongue is now a squishy useless mass. However I think I may take the Kaputniq’s advice, laminate and post the image above at pertinent points and the next time it happens, employ my finest rictus grin and politely suggest a more sensible course of action.

Incidentally, the view out of my train window is particularly splendid today. Spring is emerging from gloomy skies to illuminate the Severn Estuary. Zero 7 is now playing through my headphones. Not a traffic jam in sight.

Rush hour on the Severn Estuary