'Silly Season' Officially Begins As Sky News Debates Dog Tail-Wagging

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  • Kay Burley
    British journalist

Article originally published 02/08/2016: due to a technical issue this article may have resurfaced for some readers, and the original publish date may not have been visible.

Serious news has been unrelenting and largely depressing in recent months. So it is with a sigh of relief that ‘silly season’ has begun - the stretch of summer where oddball stories get their time in the sun.

Parliament breaking for recess typically marks a rash of stories of the WTF variety. But ‘Brexit’, British political upheaval, the rise of Donald Trump and tragic events, almost daily across the world, have continued.

Now, a story about dogs, and why they wag their tails less in different parts of the UK, may mark a welcome return to normality.

On Sky News this afternoon, presenter Kay Burley led a discussion headlined:

“Why do northern dogs wag tails more?”

(Photo: Sky News)
(Photo: Sky News)

It revolved around an Edinburgh University study suggesting dogs in the north may lose their wag because it is colder than in the south. Researchers put it down to a phenomenon known as ‘limber tail’ - which causes a dog’s tail to become limp and difficult to move.

One tweeter watching the segment, Burley recounted, suggested they were “more depressed” because “it rains more, and there’s more cats up north”.

“I’m sure it’s got nothing do do with the cats,” Burley rejoindered, “but it’s probably got something to do with the temperature. Hasn’t it?”

“Yes, we do think it’s temperature,” replied Dr Carys Pugh, stroking a Labrador named Daisy, explaining the condition was “under-appreciated” and after speaking to 6,000 dog owners they found the “further north they were the more at risk they were”.

Almost imperceptibly, the penny appeared to drop in the Sky News production booth. Do northern dogs wag their tails more? Or less?

An executive decision must have been taken, and “more” was replaced with “less” in its news ticker.

(Photo: Sky News)
(Photo: Sky News)

“Why do northern dogs wag tails less?”

(Photo: Sky News)
(Photo: Sky News)

Burley, a seasoned journalist who knows news requires light as well as shade, then displayed a bout of self-awareness that should land her an award. She said:

“Does that have any impact on their character? Their mood, would you say? Do you often see sadness in her eyes or not?”

The reference, of course, was to her tweet summing up the emotion of a dog following last November’s Paris attacks that was mercilessly mocked on Twitter.

Of course, the piece didn’t meet the standards of high journalism most on social media expect and appreciate.

But Burley had a message for them, a statement of defiance that most reporters accused of producing puff will doubtless echo.

“Those of you on Twitter who are being a bit poo-pooey about it and saying this isn’t real journalism: get a life, you people. People are very excited about dogs.

“We have more dogs in this country per capita, I think, than any other country in the world. Lots of people are very interested in what happens with dogs.”

And dogs were causing excitement elsewhere in the media, with The Daily Express seizing on a dog on a surfboard in Cornwall.

(Photo: .)
(Photo: .)

Meanwhile, it was a cat that caught The Guardian’s eye as it carried an opinion piece from Downing Street resident, Larry the Cat, who has been in the news this week for all the wrong reasons.

(Photo: .)
(Photo: .)

All in all it bodes well for a vintage ‘silly season’, filled with stories about seagulls terrorising neigbourhoods and Great White sharks being spotted off the UK coast (it’s never happened).

But whether we reach the high of ‘Victor Meldrew found in space’ from The Sun in 2005 remains to be seen.

(Photo: The Sun)
(Photo: The Sun)

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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