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The Baying of the Hounds

Headspace: How the state is leading us by the nose

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I contacted the civil liberties organisation where Tom worked and got put through to him. I hadn't talked to him since a brief conversation the day after our disastrous date.

"Hello, it's Amber."

"Hello, how are you?"

"Good. Good. Much better thanks. Still very embarrassed and grateful."

"Honestly, Amber, it happens to everyone. It was no trouble at all. How have you been?"

"Busy, busy. You know how it is." I haven't been thinking of you day in day out. I am not phoning you on the pretext of work just to talk to you. This dog-sniffing thing is serious. "I was wondering if you had carried out any research into the civil liberties implications of the increasing use of sniffer dogs."

He laughed. "Animal rights you mean?"

As far as I was aware, his organisation didn't campaign for the rights of animals.

"No. I think the use of police dogs in an increasing range of public settings has implications for all of us."

"Well, you can write something on it for our website if you want. We could probably fit it in during our silly season. No offence but it does have comedy value."

"OK, I'll be in touch."

Was I wrong to take this dog thing seriously? Was my obsession with dogs a sophisticated twist on my crush on this man? Was I barking up the wrong tree?

Then the Abu Ghraib story broke. The papers and television news were filled with photos of Arab prisoners being tortured by American soldiers. Journalists ranted about the hoods, knickers and nudity. I noticed the large Alsatian dogs in the photos, and remembered what the officer had told me in Fulham Broadway station about Muslims not liking them. Historians researching the mythology of the dog in Anglo-Saxon, Viking and medieval times claimed that its use by marauding invaders had cemented it in the popular psyche as a 'potent embodiment' of the threat to an existing social order. An article in the Observer described the police dog as "the public face of the War on Terror". I was sure there were dark forces afoot in this dog business and I decided it was time for some serious research.

Extracted from Headspace by Amber Marks, published by Virgin Books at £11.99. Copyright © Amber Marks 2008.

Get more information and buy Headspace here

Amber Marks is a criminal lawyer and freelance writer. She is presently undertaking doctoral research into new surveillance technologies at King's College, London.

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