The real reason dogs are better than cats | Zoe Williams

They are clever, versatile, pro-social – and tenacious in the extreme

The Thin Blue Paw is a new organisation honouring the achievements of police dogs, in active service or retired. The inaugural award for outstanding bravery was won by Stark, a West Midlands rookie police dog who kept holding on even as the suspect in his grip attacked him with a machete. Initially, I thought, have these people never met a dog? That’s what they do. There’s an actual adjective named after them. It’s like giving Kate Winslet an award for having expressive eyes (coincidentally, she did win an Emmy the same week for this very thing).

Then I read how many times Stark was hit with the machete and revised my view to be more awestruck. But I still thought: if it’s tenacity the police are looking for, they should switch to staffordshire bull terriers. My dog would still be attached to the criminal – he wouldn’t let go for long enough to attend the awards ceremony. Then I read the extent of Stark’s injuries, and the happy news that he is now recovered, and I had a hard word with myself. This is indeed an outstanding dog, who deserves all the plaudits life throws at him.

Prison Service dogs also have quite a complex awards system, and so do staff members of the prison estate. I’m a trustee of the Butler Trust, which celebrates the people (not the dogs). One year, another trustee was also on the dog judging panel, and I definitely considered – although I hope didn’t say out loud – merging the two bodies so we could have the ceremony for both species at Buckingham Palace. The canines were just so incredible, so versatile: drug dogs that could also smell sim cards, perimeter dogs that also cheered people up. I wasn’t thinking they should go head-to-head with the prison officers, by the way, who are more incredible still (details to follow next March, when we announce our winners).

People always call them “service animals”, presumably to indicate that cats are also eligible. Yet cats never win, because they are not pro-social. Cat people, one day, will accept this.

• Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist

Contributor

Zoe Williams

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Snoring, slugs and sarcoptic mange: is it safe for cats and dogs to sleep on our beds?
Dogs can carry bacteria and parasites, while cats smuggle in gory ‘presents’. So is it best to lock them out of the bedroom?

Jules Howard

20, May, 2021 @11:00 AM

Article image
Small dogs: why are tiny hounds more aggressive than big ones?
Not only are little dogs more likely to lash out, they also tend to be less obedient and less well house-trained

05, May, 2021 @3:53 PM

Article image
The Dog House review – a pure-hearted paean to puppy love
The docuseries following rescue pets and their prospective owners has only grown more lovely in its latest incarnation, as well as offering important lessons about animal ownership

Rebecca Nicholson

11, Mar, 2021 @9:00 PM

Article image
Horny dogs: what can Boris Johnson do about his pet Dilyn’s romantic urges?
It’s important to remember that dogs don’t hump things only for sexual reasons – it could be that they are overexcited, attention-starved or have a bladder infection

28, Jul, 2021 @3:10 PM

Article image
A moment that changed me: meeting the rescue dog who comforted me through unfathomable loss | Shirley Manson
When I first held my dog Veela in my arms, I was grappling with my mother’s dementia, which was followed much too soon by her death. The teachings of my little red dog helped me survive

Shirley Manson

21, Jul, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
Down boy: why grumpy dogs are more intelligent than happy-go-lucky hounds
Worried that your canine companion is disobedient, territorial and quick to bark? Research suggests it’s probably a clever clogs

10, May, 2021 @12:58 PM

Article image
The love pug: why our passion for flat-faced dogs and cats has to stop
Vets are calling for an end to pugs being pictured on Valentine’s Day cards, as demand for the animals with flattened faces, including French bulldogs and Persian cats, continues to grow

Emine Saner

12, Feb, 2018 @4:00 PM

Article image
I’ve developed influencer envy – and the influencer is a dog | Emma Beddington
He has a nicer life than me, scuttling from deli to deli and snuffling through gifts from brands. And yet still I follow, writes Emma Beddington

Emma Beddington

16, Feb, 2021 @7:00 AM

Article image
My dear old dog won’t be around for ever – so I will cherish every last walk | Emma Beddington
I have loved Oscar since he was a puppy. Twelve years on, the morning stroll is a challenge for both of us, writes Emma Beddington

Emma Beddington

28, Jun, 2021 @3:00 PM

Article image
‘Alice the rat was so special’: readers on their brilliant, beloved pet tattoos
During the pandemic, every pet became an emotional support animal – and many people decided they wanted to commemorate them indelibly and incredibly

Guardian readers

07, Jun, 2021 @5:00 AM