Hand on heart until recently I hadn't fully acknowledged the plight of black dogs all over the country languishing in rescues purely because of their colour.
My son is considering owning a dog in the future & as such has started doing his research. As you will know there is a whole myriad of practical considerations to overcome before you reach that point where you can finally say, yes I am suitable to be considered as an adopter.
He has of course had a look at the adoption pages of several organisations & has been very saddened by the volume of black dogs being passed by.
Page after page of beautiful dogs homeless just because they are black. Shocking isn't it.
Apparently, this phenomenon has a name. It's called Black Dog Syndrome.
There is speculation that it is fuelled by our newfound lust for likes in the modern digital world.
I digress slightly but seeking approval is nothing new. Humans have been doing it for an exceptionally long time. We fare far better in group situations than we do alone in general so seeking the approval of others has always been important to us.
You might be thinking what this has to do with black dogs?
Some people with a black dog or cat might tell you that it isn't always easy to photograph them. You must get them in the right light otherwise they tend to merge into the background of a dimly lit room.
Anyone using a dog as a prop in a social media post isn't going to get the response they had hoped for.
There is a school of thought that as we engage more with the digital world & less with the world on our doorstep the dogs look less appealing in pictures than they do in the fur so to speak.
Not sure that I would agree with that. Each dog I saw on the pages my son was viewing was adorable.
I would hope that there are few of us whose primary concern when welcoming a dog into their family would be the dogs photogenic value.
So what else could be driving Black Dog Syndrome because in my experience it has been around for a long time. It hasn't just popped up alongside the installation of a like button on social media platforms.
Historically black dogs have been given some pretty bad press over a very long period of time.
If we take Black Shuck for example (Shuck coming from the old English word for devil-fiend). The Rev E.S Taylor in 1850 gives an account of a big shaggy black dog with fiery eyes who visits churchyards at midnight & is considered to be an omen of death.
There are many references to Hellhounds in mythology, great shaggy black dogs with matted coats & foul odours guarding entrances to the world of the dead.
Having spent a considerable portion of my childhood in Devon I am familiar with the Yeth Hound. The spirit of an unbaptised child. Headless it prowls around at night making unnatural wailing noises.
But surely these old wives tales would not sway our opinions in 2020?
Or do those stories passed down from generation to generation have more impact than we realise?
The colour black is associated in our culture with low mood, sadness & depression. Indeed, we have long since worn black at funerals, an event that sees us at our unhappiest.
The phrase The Black Dog is often used to describe a person’s feeling of low morale. The great Winston Churchill used the phrase often to describe his struggles with depression.
But maybe we are overthinking all this. .
I wonder if people simply find the black colour ordinary or boring. As sad as that sounds it could well be a very valid reason for black dogs being overlooked.
When I was growing up I was lucky enough to share my life with a toy poodle called Mitzy.
Mitzy had a black coat, she wore a bright red collar & always looked amazing.
She was a confident little dog who had impeccable manners due to my Mothers training.
She was given to my parents because she was a barker. I assume she barked out of boredom as I don't remember her being particularly noisy with us.
She was a lovely dog & if anybody had overlooked her because she was black then they would have missed out on a whole doggy lifetime of fun, love & frolics. That little black dog of mine was amazing.