Lost in the Mire of Research(similar to the Slough of Despond, only you need stouter wellies) I happened upon the Tin Man dog costume.
Yes: someone actually conceived this idea. Someone designed a tin man costume, right out of the Wizard of Oz, only smaller and with four legs.
I feel sure Toto would not approve.
Toto knew who he was. He didn’t need Tin Man costumes. Toto could speak the minute he got to Oz, did you know that? But he never told anyone. Frank L Baum had other animals reaching Oz and acquiring speech, and those animals already there could speak anyway. But Toto revealed – when he finally decided to come clean in Tik Tok Of Oz – that he could talk all the time.
He simply chose not to.
The little dog is a whole lot less needy than the Scarecrow, who wants beyond anything to have a brain. Yet in both book and film he has one all along: he just doesn’t believe in it. He needs a sign to tell him he’s got it. In the film it’s a diploma: and the book?
Why, Oz stuffs the scarecrow’s head with bran and pins and needles, a placebo which makes the scarecrow feel wise indeed.
“Oz, left to himself,” writes Baum, “smiled to think of his success in giving the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman and the Lion exactly what they thought they wanted. ‘How can I help being a humbug,’ he said, ‘when all these people make me do things that everybody knows can’t be done? It was easy to make the Scarecrow and the Lion and the Woodman happy, because they imagined I could do anything.'”
We are what we are. Whether or not we have the bit of paper to prove it.
Macaulay the Dog has Toto’s self assurance. He is who he is. Yet we, on his behalf have become excited about a virtual diploma all his own.
We have always thought Macaulay a mongrelly a one-off. Until recently we had never seen another like him: and then at a county fair, in the summer of his seventh year, we spotted a dog which looked so like him that surely, she must have been a sibling?
Last night I took one look at the Tin Dog and something clicked. I had been searching for details on the scientific side of puddles (don’t ask) when something sent my fingers in search of a doggy diploma: some kind of canine family tree for my dog.
Whatever the reason, I googled something along the lines of “schnauzer crossed with King Charles spaniel”.
And just as the Wizard had accorded the Scarecrow his diploma, here at last was the complete story of the lineage of Macaulay the Dog.
He is, it seems, a King Schnauzer.
Along with designer cockapoos and puggles and schnoodles, the King Schnauzer has emerged as a most desirable cross. He’s a designer label. These dogs are bred for their looks and temperament, all too often from puppy farms.
But what is undeniable is that there are a host of dogs uncannily like Macaulay walking around out there: with the same traits, the same affable personality, the same propensity to foster a barrel stomach, and possibly the same love of homely forest smells.
No longer shall we call him a strange cross, as we explain him to other dog walkers, and colour slightly as we describe the amorous King Charles Spaniel-schnauzer liaison. When people ask us what breed he is, we shall declare:”He’s a King Scnauzer”. It will save a lot of time on dog walks.
And now Macaulay the Dog knows what his people are called. He has his diploma.
But while his humans are all-of-a-flurry at this development, Macaulay just goes on watering the forest and chasing squirrels, just the same as he ever did.
A dog is a dog is a dog, after all. He doesn’t need a degree.