Old Dog, Old Tricks

Dennis Bardens. Psychic Animals, Hale, 1987.
The latest bit of monkey business from the author of How Healthy are You and Training for Democracy is something of a mixed bag of Bonio. It comes out of the traps at top speed takes up the running, then unaccountably falters on its paws, rolls over and dies for its country in a manner beloved of spaniels the world over.

So what is it all about? Mr Bardens puts forward the proposition much favoured of animal fanciers that our furred and feathered buddies possess certain powers which are presently beyond our comprehension, He cites numerous instances which he assures us have been painstakingly researched and vetted [geddit?] However, many an apocryphal yarn then follows, and all our favourites are there: the beasties who trail their masters who have moved house 1000 miles away, turning up on their doorstep bedraggled but happy. The talking horses of Elberfeld are there, although I seem to recall their debunking some years back, and a good many more, But it is all good fun, rumbustiously written, lively, even thought provoking, But after about five chapters the author goes out for a pint and never comes back. The book runs out of steam and we are left with a few vacuous chapters about animal mythology, which are notable only for lack of accurate research.

However for all this questions still arise. Are, for example, homing pets acting on their own impetus, or are they responding to 'beacons', psychically projected by the grieving owners? Are we simply investing 'occult powers' to simple beasts to salve our own consciences for the wrongs we constantly perpetuate on the animal kingdom, in 'domesticating' creatures we do not truly understand? I am tempted to draw your attention to a certain dog Chips in the Borough of Brentford. This canine prodigy speaks three languages and is a member of Mensa, but I shall not, for fear of a protracted letter onslaught from the likes of Steamport Campbell and Ian Ridout.
  • Robert Rankin, from Magonia 27, September 1987

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