From the Archives No more borders for collies: changing canine lifestyles after ‘89
In the early 1990s it wasn’t just political change that was on Radio Prague’s agenda. In many ways the social changes under way at the time were just as radical. Dogs had always been popular in Czechoslovakia, and in 1992 - by which time I had been working at Radio Prague for about a year - I had a look at how life for dog owners and breeders was changing, starting in Kampa Park in Prague’s ancient Lesser Quarter, where I persuaded a fox terrier owned by an enthusiastic old lady in a fur coat, to give me a sound effect. Here is an extract from that programme:
RP: “In a winding mediaeval street in the Old Town can be found the Czech and Moravian Union of Hunters. This is where Lenka Fairaislová works, a breeder of Dachshunds. I asked her about Prague’s ubiquitous dogs.”
LF: “It’s a question of the last few years. I’ve noticed on Prague housing estates that in a house where there used to be one dog, or none at all, there are now five. At the moment there are lots of Dachshunds and other small breeds – Dachshunds are in fashion. Alongside them, the cocker spaniel has also long been popular, and so has the poodle. The Labrador will come into fashion soon too. It’s one of those things that are spreading from the West.”
And Lenka Fairaislová’s prediction, back then in 1992, was spot on. If you go into the park these days, it is hard to believe that breeds like Labradors, retrievers, Dalmatians or beagles were virtually unknown here just 18 years ago. The latest fashion seems to be for the Yorkshire terrier, which is even threatening to knock the good old Dachshund from its traditional top slot here in Prague.
And there was another phenomenon that was quite new to Czech dog owners back when I made that programme:
“… another thing that is spreading from the West is tinned dog food. The newly commercialized television stations abound in advertisements for the stuff, where in the past it was normal to give your dog left-overs from the local butchers’ shop. Dogs too are being sucked into the consumer revolution, and in this case I have a funny feeling that most dogs preferred it the old way.”
So that was me, talking on Radio Prague 18 years ago. Since then, the pet-food bonanza has continued. If you go to a supermarket today, you will find shelf after shelf of dog and cat food, and even, in one shop near where I live, gift-wrapped non-alcoholic dog beer.
But back in 1992, memories of more serious problems faced by Czechoslovakia’s dog breeders were still fresh, as Lenka Fairaislová reminded me:
“In the period of so-called totalitarianism it was problematic for people with higher ambitions in dog breeding. It was very difficult to bring dogs over from the West. For most people it wasn’t easy to go to shows in the West. In fact, it was more or less impossible. So we mainly went to Poland and Hungary. It’s now changed fundamentally. We now go at least five times a year to Austria, Germany, Belgium and so on. The only problem now is money.”
And that, of course, remains the problem to this day.
The episode featured today was first broadcast on October 22, 2009.