There’s a chapter in my book about all the weird things that dogs pick up and bring to you. I tell the story of how, on a walk in a neighborhood woods, my dog found a sex toy – a king-size vibrator – and didn’t want to give it up. I describe my efforts to get this thing away from him. I thought this was pretty unusual.
In my experience, sex is not one of the major themes of dog walking. I’m not talking about dog sex or the intimate face-in-the-rear-end way that dogs have of greeting one another. I mean sex between human beings. If I were to make a list of all the things that dog walking has taught me – about the animal-human bond, about the beauty of the natural world, about the surprising joy that can be found in a daily chore – sex would be at the bottom of the list.
I have, on a few occasions, come upon a parked car in which two teenagers (I assumed they were teenagers) were making out, or whatever, but this was just an inference. And my response has always been to walk in the opposite direction. I have always assumed that people who seek out these out-of-the-way “fringe places,” which I also find congenial for walking the dog, do so because they want privacy and this is the best they can do.
A few months ago, however, I came across an article in the New York Times that made me realize how naive I have been. The story, “Puttenham Journal – Ancient Church, Welcoming Pub and ‘Public Sex …” is by Sarah Lyall and tells of pastime in Great Britain called “dogging.”
“Dogging” means having sex in a public so that others can watch. For some reason, a lot of this has been going on in the village of Puttenham, about an hour’s drive from London. Puttenham, the article says, has fewer than 2,500 residents and “is famous for its ancient church; its friendly pub, the Good Intent; and its proud inclusion in the Domesday Book — an 11th-century survey of English lands.” Now, it is prominently featured on Internet lists of good places to go “dogging.” So many people come to a particular woodsy field for this sport that the police have designated it a “public sex environment.”
One of the protagonists in the story, I was pleased to see, is a local dog walker, Ms. Jules Perkins. On a recent walk, she told the reporters, she encountered “two blokes sitting side by side, watching a man and a woman having sex. Nearby, there were two men sunbathing together, wearing nothing but tight little white underpants.”
Later, Ms. Perkins found a pink vibrator in the bushes. “I gave it to the police,” she said. “They said, ‘What should we do with it?’ I said, ‘Put it in Lost Property.’ ”
Here, I admit to feeling slightly disillusioned. I could no longer claim that my experience of finding a vibrator in the woods was unique. Perhaps it isn’t even unusual in that part of England.
This all came to mind because the United Kingdom edition of my book is out this week. It has a different cover and also uses British spellings (“manoeuvres” instead of “maneuvers”) and substitutes some British terms (“ mobile” instead of “cell phone.”) However, it doesn’t include the term “dogging” in my speculation of how a vibrating dildo found its way into our the woods.
But if there’s another edition, it definitely should.