Tuesday, 7 July 2015

A question of train etiquette

When one is towards the end of a long train journey and tired…

…. and one's slumber is disturbed because the passenger sat opposite has his "music" on so loud the beat is clearly audible through his headphones …

…. and then said passenger removes his deck shoes to expose his hot and smelly feet…

….one is entitled to lick those feet, don't you think…?


(Between you and me, I suspect even Gail agrees. She might have said "NO Bertie don't do that" but something about her tone of voice told me she didn't really mean it.)

PS We were returning from a few days in Nottingham, checking up on Human Granny. Delighted to report that she is doing GRRREAT!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

DARWIN-LITE AWARD: Analysis and The Winner!

So first of all I would like to thank the ten pups (and other species) who braved potential retribution from their humans by entering them for my ‘Darwin-lite Award’ competition.

Gosh, reading your entries, it really is quite incredible that the human species has managed to evolve into ‘higher’ beings with sufficient leisure time to assist their dogs with social media activities…

Of course I wanted to make things simple by awarding prizes to every single entrant, but Gail said that would be far too expensive (really, she has been living in Aberdeen for too long) and I had to think carefully and select just one.

Where to start?

Of course, it was important to evaluate all the stories in a scientific manner, assessing their implications in the context of human evolution, natural selection  and survival of the fittest.

First of all I think we must discount entries which, whilst for sure indicating a general level of mild stupidity, did not suggest a high potential for serious harm.

So Frankie and Ernie, yes your pictures of your Dad’s ‘butt crack’ are embarrassing and your Mom has clearly not mastered the art of realistic impersonation, but believe me, things could be so, so much worse. Brom, I thought your story of Mara boarding the wrong train was pretty serious, but Gail has lived in London at tells me that lots of people, including ones with very high up and responsible jobs, not infrequently board the wrong train or even fall asleep, miss their stop and end up in Penzance (especially around Christmas time), so we must conclude that this sort of human behaviour is no impediment to success in life. Likewise, Retro-rover pups, your  Mom’s wearing of mismatched shoes, although worrying in someone who clearly takes good care of her appearance, is actually, judging by the comments to your post, quite normal amongst dog-blogging moms/mums. Oh yes, also in this ‘stupid but not catastrophically so’ category, I have included Lily and Edward's comment. Granted, it would have been smarter if your human had directed the water bottle at you guys and not herself when she was using it to stop you barking at a passing motorbike, but, hey, it’s only water!

What to make of Reilly and Denny’s Mom’s ‘issues’ with number and letters? This is indeed concerning, but one has to point out a couple of mitigating factors. First of all, she is due extra credits on the ‘mate selection’ front, and this is a great survival strategy to have mastered. So R+D’s Mom found a partner (their Dad) who not only helps her with her phone problems but also has stuck around despite being presented with an EMPTY OVEN for dinner. Oh yes, and by the way, who wouldn’t want to live in a world where all the signs read ‘Free Chicken’?

Craig’s tale about how he used paint-stripper to clean his first dog’s paws after said dog had walked across a freshly painted floor can, I think, be put down to youthful inexperience. One might even say the story suggests a certain level of creativity and problem solving ability, misguided in this instance but these are otherwise useful evolutionary traits.

Now we are moving on to the more worrying cases.

Bella, Roxy and Dui, WHATEVER WAS YOUR MOM THINKING!!! Really it is so important to be able to distinguish between vitamins and mind altering medication! Now if she had mistaken her tablets for candy, then it might have been excusable given the Scottie presence in the house and the fact that here in the Scottie ancestral homeland we do in fact have a type of fudge-like candy known as ‘tablet’.  But this was a serious (if also in retrospect highly amusing) mistake. However, one could argue the fact that your Mom survived this horrifying incident shows a degree of evolutionary 'fitness’ despite the tendency to inadvertent drug taking.

On to our famous friend Easy Rider. Easy, from any other dog, I think your entry would be a strong contender for the prize. Uniquely, you gave us clear evidence of deeply worrying behaviours from BOTH of your ‘parents’. With a Dad who lights matches over a methane-emitting septic tank, and pokes a screwdriver in a lawnmower which is still running, and a Mom whose kitchen mishaps defy straightforward categorisation, it is indeed amazing that this family trio are still here and merrily blogging away. Only problem is Easy, we read similar stories from you most weeks! A case of ‘crying wolf’ too often, I’m afraid…

So we are left with two serious candidates for the ‘Darwin-lite Award’; Madi, and Stella and Rory, and the decision on the winner comes down to a matter of ‘head’ versus ‘heart’.

I will admit my heart says Madi. How many of you did not cry “Ouch! Ouch!! OUCH!!!” as you read how Madi’s Mom pierced her thumb, yes that so precious  human appendage the opposable thumb, with a CROCHET HOOK. She did this while trying to poke an extra hole in her daughter’s friend’s sandal strap. Oh the drama of this story: the pain, the phone call made by the four year old daughter, the trip to the emergency room, the offer (refused) of the crochet hook for a ‘keepsake’…

Yes my heart says Madi. But we must remember this decision is to be made by applying rigorous scientific principles, and so ‘head’ must take precedence when it comes to choosing a winner.

So let me explain why the head says the award goes to Stella and Rory’s entry.

For those of you who missed the post, the nub of the matter is that one time, shortly after acquiring a new spaniel Kara, S+R’s Dad went out for a walk and spotted ‘his dog’ out loose down the street. Assuming the dog had escaped, he brought her back home. EXCEPT THAT IT WAS THE WRONG DOG AND KARA WAS AT HOME ALL THE TIME! Understandably, S+R’s family have never let their Dad forget this incident.

Oh dear. An ability to recognise one’s kith and kin is so important to survival isn’t it? Moreover, us dogs are descended from wolves and it is thought that these wolves first formed a bond with humans by offering protection from other predators in exchange for scraps of food. Pretty useful then, for the human to be able to figure out which of the wolves was the friendly one likely to co-operate and not attack, etc. Yes and another thing, Stella and Rory. Imagine what would happen in your household if your Dad brought home ‘the wrong human’? Picture the scenario. He goes out for a walk, runs into a woman he thinks he recognises and drags her home. Only to find his wife is already in the kitchen cooking his dinner? (Gail says this is outrageous gender stereotyping but no matter…) Well anyway, do we rate S+R’s Dad’s chances of survival in this instance?  We do not.

So, congratulations Stella and Rory and your Dad! That was a TRULY AWESOME tale. I hereby pronounce you worthy winners of this years ‘Darwin-lite Award’!

(Gail will be getting in touch by email to find out your mailing address and a very special prize will shortly be winging its way from Scotland to Australia.)

PS from Gail: Sincere apologies if we missed mentioning any entries - it has been a busy couple of weeks.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Heat and Pressure…

Bertie? I hope you are working on analysing the entries for the Darwin-lite Award contest. Remember, you promised to announce the winner tomorrow. I fear you are falling behind on your schedule.

But Gail, it is impossible to do anything in this extreme heat. It was 24ºC in Aberdeen this afternoon! Now let's think, ((24x(9/5))+32. Wow. 75ºF! No-one can be expected to work in those temperatures, surely?

Bertie dear lad, I think I can hear the guffaws of your readers from distant lands. And even those from England. And I'm not hearing about your compatriot Andy Murray going on strike at Wimbledon just because of a few rays of warm sunshine.

Well OK Gail, I admit I am behind with my analysis. You see the Darwin-lite entries were of such a high standard (and one or two were, frankly, painful to read), so it is going to be VERY DIFFICULT to choose which one gets the prize. In fact I am quite exhausted with the stress.

Dear little Bertie, you are tired after all. Now I'll tell you what. We are travelling down to Nottingham tomorrow to spend a few days with Human Granny. It is a long train journey. Seven hours, and that's if everything goes smoothly. So we will have plenty of time to review thoroughly the stories from your friends and decide which of them best illustrates the failure of natural selection in the human species. 

Hmmm. I suppose we can do that. But what if we get distracted by other passengers telling us the life stories of all the dogs they ever owned? You know that happens quite often when we travel together on the train.

Bertie, we will just have to frown intently at the MacBook and state that we have important scientific data to analyse. I'm sure they'll move on pretty quickly…

Er, I guess so.


Oh Happy Day!

We nearly didn't make it to this year's Grampian Tibet Support Group walk (one of my favourite annual events).

First of all Gail was saying "Bertie, I know your poorly foot is looking much better, but are you really up for an eight mile hill walk?" But of course I told her I was feeling tip top and reminded her that anyway, several of the participants are not as young as they used to be and the pace would not be too demanding.

Then Gail was saying "Oh but look at the weather Bertie, it's bucketing down, maybe we should stay at home today". But I made her check the weather on the BBC website, which forecast the rain would clear by mid-morning.

Then Gail forgot that the drive from Aberdeen to Ballater takes an hour if, and only if, there are no Sunday drivers on the A93. On a Sunday…

So we arrived late. (I will admit that being late is an exceptionally rare occurrence in our household, given a certain person's tendency toward obsessive punctuality, a trait she inherited from Human Grandad).

Oh but I am so pleased I was able to take part in this event once again.

Does it look like I was having fun?

I think it does.
Poorly foot? What poorly foot?
Race you to the top!
Sure I can catch those mountain bikers...
Phew, Gail has remembered my lunch
Oh this is such fun!
Look, I have a rival in the beard department!
It is windy on top of Pannanich Hill
Everyone's furs are in disarray. 
But if I sit here looking cute, some one will surely feed me...
Oh. Gail says I have to show you the view of Lochnagar too.

PS Remember, you have just one more day to enter 'Darwin-lite'.