THIRSTY WORK: "Taking the dog for a walk” has taken on a whole new meaning for Damian Bathersby. Darko Vojinovic

Walking the dog can be thirsty work

"WHICH way to the toilet?" I asked the girl behind the bar.

"See that red setter over there?" she replied.

"If you go straight past it, you'll see a couple of corgies having dinner in the corner.

"Take a right just past them, step over the sleeping foxie and it's the first door on your left."

Not long ago, that conversation would have forced me to reconsider my alcohol consumption but after a fortnight in England it seemed normal.

Or as normal as you can expect in a country where the temperature ranges from one degree down to minus four, with a 90 per cent chance of sleet.

But I don't want to knock the English weather because it introduced me to the delights (nay, the absolute necessity) of long underwear, man scarves and English pubs.

After a long day trudging through the sodden countryside, weighed down by the aforementioned long underwear, scarf and three layers of jumpers, nothing warms the heart (and the all-important nether regions) like an hour or two in a country pub.

And the English have discovered something which, I believe, we need to seriously consider in Australia.

If you allow people to take their dogs into pubs, everyone's a winner.

I would even suggest it could change the very fabric of our society.

Sure, at first it was a bit confronting to step over a dozing dachshund on the way to the bar but I soon realised what an ice-breaker it was to stop and pat a stranger's dog.

"He's beautiful - what's his name?" is the natural conversation starter, which quickly leads to wide-ranging discussions on the weather (miserable), English cricket (even worse) and the current price of ewes at the local sales (don't get me started).

Before you know it, you're best friends with both dog and owner.

Many times they've just ducked out for a quick walk and stopped in for a couple of pints of ale.

In England, I soon realised that "Honey, I'm just taking the dog for a walk", loosely translates to "I'm off to the pub - back in a couple of hours".

And get this - no one cares!

In fact, many times the dogs were accompanied by a couple who were "taking the dog for a walk" together.

How bloody romantic!

Most country pubs even provide water bowls and little doggie treats to make our four-legged friends welcome.

And there are so many pubs in country England (about one every 50m) their use is not solely confined to dog walking.

"Let's go hiking ... and stop off at a few pubs along the way."

"Let's go to the park ... and stop at the pub on the way."

"Let's do the groceries ... there's a pub next door to the supermarket."

"Let's go to church ..." - I think you're getting the idea.

So I say Australia should seriously consider changing the laws to allow our four-legged friends into hotels.

Imagine what it would do to the economy, our stress levels and the special bonds between a man, his wife and their dogs.

I'll drink to that.

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