Man bites dog

Tony Deyal
Date Published: 
Jamaica Gleaner

IF YOU ever ask a Korean dog how things are going, it will answer, "Rough! Rough!" While talking dogs are rare in Korea and everywhere else, eating dogs is quite commonplace in Korea and some other parts of the world, notably Vietnam, Cambodia and China. In fact, some Koreans prefer their dog meat rare, and there is actually a spokesman for the dog meat aficionados, Professor Ahn Yong-keun, known as 'Dr. Dogmeat', who boasts 350 recipes for cooking dog, some including dogs fed on marijuana or sprinkled with 'poppy' seeds.

This is where "Seoul" food and "soul" food part company. While we walk our dogs, Koreans "wok" them to death. Journalists are brought up to believe that while dog bites man is commonplace, "Man Bites Dog" is worthy of a headline and by-line.

Dogs are bred to be eaten in South Korea, notably in a dish called "poshintang", literally "body preservation stew", which is supposedly good for your health and sex life. However, the dogs are beaten, burned or hanged to make their meat more tender. Dog-eaters claim that adrenaline, stimulated by pain, improves the taste of meat. This clearly gives new meaning to the phrases "I'm a flayed mutt" and "Every dog will have his day."

In Korea, give a dog a bad name and it ends up in a stew. A group of 100 dog meat restaurant owners even planned a meeting to outline plans to promote dog meat to foreign tourists before and during the World Cup period. It seems that they understood football to be a dog-eat-dog sport in which the devil takes the hindmost. The group also plans to develop web sites on opening dog meat restaurant franchises and developing new recipes. Most potential visitors, including the footballers, feel that the group is barking up the wrong tree and have vowed never to ask for a "doggy bag" if they eat in a Korean restaurant.

Few, if any, West Indians can relate to, or will ever encourage, the practice of eating dog meat. For us, dogs are, and will always be, pets. My family was extremely poor and lived in a very small apartment. We still had a dog even though, because of the lack of room, he could only wag his tail up and down and not sideways. We once had a dog I called Casio because he was a watchdog. Another one, a pitbull, I soon had eating out of my leg. When Bill Clinton told a friend that he had got a dog for his wife Hillary, the friend said enviously, "I wish I was lucky enough to make a trade like that." We even had a gay attack dog. If you came near it, the dog would scratch your eyes out.

Interestingly, FIFA, the governing body for world football, has no beef with dog meat. Despite a letter from FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, urging South Korea to be sensitive to worldwide public opinion about dog meat, Chung Mong-joon, co-chairman of the South Korean organising committee for the World Cup finals, told Korean reporters, "The recent controversy of the consumption of dog meat is not a FIFA matter."

This reaction by the Korean official makes me fearful for the safety of our own FIFA vice-president, Austin (Jack) Warner, who will be in Korea for the World Cup. He is well-known for his dogged determination and dog-like support for Mr. Blatter. This has placed him in the doghouse of the group now engaged in a dogfight with Blatter and his supporters. Mr. Warner, who is dogmatic in his views, has been the dogsbody of regional football. He will be sorely missed if Dr. Dogmeat and his cohorts hijack him. One can see them jacking up the prices for such a commodity.

However, they will discover soon enough that Jack's bite is much worse than his bark and while he may have a centre of excellence, as we say in Trinidad, "He don't eat nice." They are already in the soup and hopefully, Blatter and his pack will all be dog meat after the election. The other team is reputedly printing a special T-shirt to mark the occasion. It reads boastfully, "Who Let The Dogs Out?"

Some Koreans are sentimentally torn between their love of dogs as pets and their appetite for dogs as culinary delights and canine delicacies. There is a story about a Korean who walked into a Western-styled saloon in Seoul, catering to the Korean country and western karaoke crowd, with a dog under his arm.

"Why have you got a dog under your arm?" asked the bartender.

"This isn't just any ordinary dog," the farmer said. "This dog has twice saved my life. So, just to be on the safe side, I carry him about everywhere with me."

"Seriously?" asked the bartender, incredulously.

"Yes, once I fell into the river and he jumped in and dragged me to the bank. Another time, my house caught fire and he ran in and saved me, the wife and the kids."

As the man spoke the bartender could not help noticing that the dog was missing a leg. "In which of those accidents did the dog lose its leg," asked the bartender solicitously. The Korean replied, "None of them. But an animal like this you don't eat all at once."

The amazing sequel to the story is that one hot dog day afternoon, the dog came back to the saloon dressed in a broad-brimmed Stetson hat, wearing three spurred boots, tight Levi and carrying two big Magnums. Immediately the saloon became silent. Limping on his bandaged stump, his spurs jangling, the dog looked at the bartender and said, "I'm looking for the man who ate my paw."

• Tony Deyal was last seen asking what breed of dog most vampires prefer? Bloodhounds.