My dog has been given a yellow ribbon that says: ‘I need space’. Can I get one as well?

I took Oscar, our morose, ancient whippet, to the vet this week. Nothing serious: his failing body and my failing wallet spend half our lives there (a friend texted recently: “I have joined Dignity in Dying on the strength of Oscar,” which I’m unsure how to interpret). There are unexpected upsides, mainly the other animals; I met a cat called Corbyn last time.

Related: My dear old dog won’t be around for ever – so I will cherish every last walk | Emma Beddington

Drawing up Oscar’s arthritis shot, the nurse asked for a progress report. How is his zest for life? (Absent, as it always has been.) What’s his opinion of stairs? (Against.) Does he enjoy food? (The costlier the better.) Is he still waking at 5am? (Look at my ruined face: you tell me.) I mentioned as we chatted that, after a lifetime of disdainful indifference, he has become anxious around other dogs – conscious of his own frailty, I suppose. He barks and gets upset if they want to play. “I’m going to give you something,” she said, rummaging in a cupboard. Dog Xanax for us to share? No, a yellow ribbon that reads “I need space”.

I hadn’t heard of the “Yellow Dog” campaign, but apparently it has been running since 2012. The idea is to provide an instant visual cue to identify dogs that would prefer to be left alone for various reasons – they are in training, they are recovering from surgery, they are traumatised or, like Oscar, they are just old and fed up.

It’s a great idea. Why don’t we have them for people? It could be an excellent way to smooth over some of our pandemic-induced social awkwardness and uncertainty. Imagine if you could know at a glance whether a person doesn’t want to be touched, or is a hugger or an air kisser (maybe even specify which side they start on – such a minefield).

I want several for myself, starting with a “No spatial awareness” one to tie on the car when I’m trying to park. “I can’t do small talk” would be handy at parties, then “Incapable of sharing” for small-plate restaurants and “Ssssh” for train journeys. Actually, perhaps I need only one ribbon: “Perimenopausal”.

  • Emma Beddington is a Guardian columnist