My Dog Does Not Have Rabies
After a short hiatus (I don’t think we use that word often enough in the English language), I decided that as a self-titled blogger, I should perhaps write a blog post every now and again.
The other day I was having a chat with some other parents whilst waiting for our little darlings to go into school. We were talking about tetanus shots and whether our kids had had theirs or not, which got us on to the subject of rabies. Yes, talk on the school playground can really be that wild and random at times. This talk of rabies then led us onto the many fears of a 70s child which was mostly fuelled by well-meaning public information films or PIFs
If you weren’t a child of the 70s then I apologise, but I am also deeply envious of your life as you have probably grown up with far less fears than the average child born between 1970 and 1979. I like to think that’s why my generation is so goddamned resilient and yet so risk averse when it comes to the safety of our offspring.
You may not even be 100% aware of what rabies actually is. Well, I will tell you something for nothing, Rabies means death! Growing up we were completely brainwashed with the idea that every stray dog was a rabid wolf just waiting to sink his teeth into you, infect you with rabies and leave you to a long and lingering death, foaming at the mouth like you’d swallowed the entire contents of your Matey bottle. Our source of fear came from these PIFs that well-meaning wannabe actors and masochistic writers and directors made to warn us impressionable kids (and adults) that indeed the modern world was a dark and scary place. It’s sad to say that we even knew the symptoms of a rabid dog and the likely consequences of infection (death, death, death.)
I was terrified on two counts. On the one hand as a dog owner (my parents varied between owning 2 to 4 canine family members) I was concerned that someone might wrongly accuse my dog of being rabid and have them put to sleep in a humane fashion. On the other, I became quite scared of any dogs that were roaming around our neighbourhood in a post-apocalyptic style (because that is what the adverts would have you believe). There were a lot of stray dogs in the 70s, to the point where some of them even became landmarks of my childhood, like Scooby Hound Dog who seemed to live at the local park and Snappy Yorkie who was often to be found by the sweet shop at the top of the road. I had a very vivid imagination growing up so it was quite easy for me to see Snappy Yorkie and transform him into a whole pack of vicious hounds that wouldn’t look out of place in a Sherlock Holmes drama. I guess that rabies died out in the end due to routine quarantine and vaccination programmes, although I still can’t help but wonder when I do see a dog roaming around with a serious slobber problem, or even a human for that matter.
Another massive fear was that our house would be burgled. There were lots of PIFs which warned you of the dangers of leaving your house unsecured and looking inviting to those nasty burglars. Of course, unlike today, no-one in the 70s ever worried about the dark nature of some of these warning films and how they might have terrified an impressionable child like myself. I’m not a great sleeper and I put a lot of this down to having watched all of those ‘watch out, watch out there’s a thief about’ type adverts of the 70s. Watching those films from back then (you can find a lot of them on YouTube) the words and voice-overs they used were so grim and foreboding, I’m surprised I didn’t have nightmares, although I was often to be found up in the middle of the night having heard a noise. Having dogs in the house (non-rabid ones, I might add) did give me some sense of peace that they would probably bark if they heard anything, so if they did bark I was positively beside myself and ready to beat any intruder into submission with a rolled up Bunty and a pack of frozen Findus Beef Pancakes.
I’m pleased to say that it all came to a head when my student house was finally burgled in the 1990s. I’m not saying it was a relief, but it kind of killed off that demon in my mind. Having said that, I’m still not sure I will ever get over the fact that our burglars stole the video on which we were recording Casualty, an episode I have not managed to catch up with to this day.
One thing that hasn’t changed so much is the emphasis on stranger danger and as the mother of two children, I appreciate why this is of concern to all. However, as a child growing up the mixed messages we received could be incredibly confusing. Should we be declining sweets from everyone, just in case they were a stranger? If we met up with Uncle Eddie and he offered us some flying saucers, but we hadn’t seen him since we were babies, was that acceptable or not? What if Mr Brookes across the road really did have puppies that he wanted to show us? Because, these were the two scenarios that were presented to us in the 1970s: all strangers that meant harm to small children would either a, offer sweets or b, arrange for you to come and visit their puppies. Strangers clearly were not sophisticated in the 1970s and sadly as recent times have shown, people we didn’t know were probably a lot less of a threat to us as the ones we did know.
Once my mum sent a friend of the family to pick my younger brother and I up from school. Unlike today he didn’t have to fill out 15 forms, submit his last 3 residential addresses and inside leg measurement to do this (not that I’m against all of this), school just merrily handed us over and off we drove in his VW Beetle. We’d only met this particular friend a couple of times and I guess this illustrates that in spite of their sinister message, those public information films failed at the first hurdle. Uncle Bob offered us Smarties and with that we probably would have gone anywhere with him!
With the passing of time, these public information films disappeared into celluloid history, although they are often a topic of fond nostalgia among people of a certain age. We were well versed in crossing the road correctly, keeping out of deep water, being careful around fireworks and I imagine a lot of us have a rather pronounced fear of house fires (as those adverts were the most disturbing of all).
I do wonder if this has affected my parenting in any way, I mean do younger parents really shout after their kids ‘don’t go climbing any pylons today Johnny.’ or ‘Watch out for that quarry with suspiciously deep water, on your way to the Co-op.’ Do you even know where your lad is tonight?
If you are feeling really brave, these are my top 3 chilling Public Information Films:
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