Sunday, 27 June 2010

A walk with John prompts memories of Hamish...

Yesterday evening, I went for a walk with Gail and her friend John. It was my first ever hill walk! (Just a little hill, admittedly. Scolty, near Banchory, 299m high).

Before we went, Gail gave me a long lecture about how, if I were to be let off the lead, I had to promise faithfully to stay really close to her, and not go running off anywhere.

Well, I really couldn't quite understand what she was getting so uptight about. I always stay close by when we go somewhere new. Why all the fuss? I tilted my head to one side, giving her my best quizzical look, and in return was told this story about Gail's former dog, Hamish the Westie.

It all happened one Sunday, in October 1999, when Hamish was just three years old. It was only a few weeks after Gail had adopted him. He was a lively, energetic chap in those days, and loved roaming in the hills. Anyway, on this particular Sunday, Gail had met up with the same friend, John, for an afternoon walk. Another chap, Frederic, a former colleague from Belgium came along too. The plan was to go up Bennachie, a well-known Aberdeenshire landmark.

Well, as those of you who knew Hamish will be aware, he was a dog who liked to sniff just about everything. That was his notion of a perfect walk. Frederic, who had spent time in the Belgian military, had other ideas, and favoured the 'route march' approach to Sunday afternoon outings. John too, likes a brisk pace. It was never going to work.

Well Hamish kept up quite well to start with, but gradually, as his sniffing-things to moving-forwards ratio increased, Frederic's patience wore thin. After about three miles, at a five way junction, Frederic and then John went striding off in one direction and Gail followed, not immediately realising that her dear little Westie was nowhere to be seen. A couple of hundred yards down the track, she suddenly looked back and panic set in. 'Oh my God where's Hamish?' She rushed back to the junction, closely followed by John and Fred.
They searched and searched and searched the different tracks and into the woods and heather, calling Hamish's name, but all in vain. Gail was distraught. How could she have been so careless? And how little time it takes, she remembers thinking, to become so deeply attached to a dog.

Eventually they abandoned the search, went home and telephoned the Forest Ranger Service and the police, to report the lost dog. Then, just as John was suggesting that they go back and resume the search, and about four hours after Hamish first went missing, Gail received a phone call from Inverurie police station. Hamish had been brought in by a walker who had found him on top of a different hill, a mile or two from where he'd last been seen.

So the story had a happy ending. Gail drove the fifteen miles over to Inverurie and was greeted by a friendly policewoman. And there was Hamish, his little nose poking out from behind the bars of the police station cell, where the nice cops had provided him with a bowl of water and a couple of dog biscuits!

Well silly old Hamish, I say. He really should have been looking where his humans were going, shouldn't he? I can promise you after hearing this tale, I didn't let Gail and John out of my sight last night for even one fraction of a second, despite the fact that Gail insists that she has now learned from earlier mistakes and has also developed a sixth sense as to whether her dog is nearby or not.

But seriously, would you trust someone whose previous pet once ended a walk banged up in a police cell?

PS I don't think Gail ever mentioned this episode when trying to persuade my breeders that she was a fit person to 'own' a dog....

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside? (+ gluey ears!)

Can you believe we have this beach in Aberdeen, the sea is less than two miles from my, sorry our home, and yet Gail didn't take me down there until a couple of days ago.

Something about waiting for warm weather, apparently. Will she ever learn? Hello Gail? We live in Aberdeen! Summer took place on 18 June. Oh you blinked and missed it? That's too bad.

Actually folks (and I'm a teeny bit embarrassed to admit this, especially to Uncle Eric) I did find it scary at first.

Yes and Gail was so busy chuntering on about enjoying the magnificent sense of semi-infinite space etc. etc. it didn't occur to her that I might be feeling rather overwhelmed and not quite ready to go splashing about in the water, which, by the way, tastes nasty and salty, not at all like the stuff that comes out of the tap.
And then I kept finding weird things.
Most disturbing. Animal, vegetable or mineral, or alien anti-matter?
Well it was a lot to take in, so I sat down for a ponder.
And then decided it was good fun after all.
I hope we can go again soon..

PS I don't know if you've noticed but something funny has happened to my ears. Gail has glued them down to my forehead! She says it's just while I'm teething, to make sure they don't start sticking up too much. A wire-haired fox terrier vanity thing apparently. Quite what teeth have got to do with ears is a mystery to me, but I guess she's the pack leader round here, or so she likes to think. So anyway, as I don't feel any different, with or without the glue (and I can assure you that the world will know if I start to get uncomfortable) I've decided to humour her on this one for the moment.

PPS For those of you that are interested in facts and figures, I now weigh 4.5 kg (i.e. just under 10 lb), despite having lost 3 teeth this week. And I am over a foot tall!

Monday, 21 June 2010

In defence of my record at puppy class...

It has come to my attention that Gail has been going around saying some very unfair things about my behaviour in puppy class.

Now is the time to set the record straight! Let me make clear the following points:

1. Unlike EVERY SINGLE OTHER DOG IN THE CLASS I have never pee'd or poo'd on the floor of the scout hut where we meet every Thursday evening.

2. I am really quite co-operative at doing stupid exercises like weaving between poles, despite the fact that, being of superior intelligence, and unlike certain other dogs present, I fully recognise that these things are totally pointless.

3. Provided that my mouth is continually crammed full of tasty treats, so that I have no teeth free to bite at other dogs or their handlers, I behave impeccably.

4. That Daisy Dachshund needs to learn that some dogs find her very irritating and I think I am providing her with valuable life lessons, at no extra charge.

5. It is my understanding that teachers like kids who will speak up in class, and I am SO MUCH BETTER at doing this than the other puppies.

6. Obviously, I am the favourite of Mr and Mrs Munro, who run the class. Why else would I, more than any other pup, be so often singled out for their special attention, scooped up and cuddled very tightly in their arms, etc. etc.

7. Last but not least, taking me to puppy class has surely given Gail (who, I believe, was herself a bit of a goody two-shoes at school), new insight into a different approach to the learning process...

And all this despite still no black pudding.

PS Why oh why oh why did I ever allow myself to be persuaded to support the ENGLAND football team...........??

Friday, 18 June 2010

New disciplinary measures - I blame FIFA

Well, awfully sorry MaxMom in South Africa, but I've gone right off this Soccer World Cup thing.

Gail has been watching far too much of the football on telly. Obviously, this cuts into "me time", but that's not the half of it!

No, the real problem is that she has instituted a FIFA-inspired disciplinary regime.

For trying to jump up on Gail's lap when she's eating, or if I nibble at the tablecloth, I get shown this:

I think the idea is that I am supposed to retreat to my bed.

In your dreams Gail.....

So I ignore the caution and start snapping at Gail's ankles, or maybe chewing her trainers. Only to hear the words 'RED CARD BERTIE - THAT'S YOU OUT IN THE GARDEN MY BOY!'


And she slams the door shut and leaves me all lonely and cold out there...

I say! Please let me back in.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

ME! Just ME! Pictures of ME!

Enough of that football stuff for now. I know what my readership likes best! All these photos were taken over the last two weeks, when I have been out and about exploring some nice new places. I wonder if you can tell which picture is the most recent? And do you think I have a 'best side'? (It's important to know so I can pose properly in the future.)

Oh and I should like to thank my dear and lovely friend Stella in Minnesota for gently reminding Gail what this blog's supposed to be about....

Saturday, 12 June 2010

England, football, and a childhood memory

Well friends, Gail is taking over my blog today, to participate in the 2010 Soccer World Cup 'Unity in Diversity' celebration. I must warn you now that there's lots about football (soccer to my American pals of course) and England (a country I haven't yet visited) and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, NADA, ZILCH ABOUT DOGS!

Over to you Gail (just this once).

I suspect that I am almost alone amongst the dog blogging 'mums' in having a long standing interest in football, as I was brought up in a fairly sports mad family in the English Midlands and as a teenager wasted many a Saturday afternoon standing on the terraces at the City Ground watching Nottingham Forest.....

The first football game I explicitly remember was the 1966 World Cup Final. I was seven years old and must have already seen other games as by then I was certainly familiar with the rules. My family were on holiday on the Isle of Wight (a small island off the south coast of England) at the time. Mid afternoon, we were having fun at the beach when we remembered the game was on. My older brother abandoned a half-built sandcastle, my mother put away the binoculars through which she had been watching the transatlantic passenger liners cruise past, I licked up the last of my sixpenny (pre-decimal) ice lolly, Dad, who had been enjoying his customary swim far out to sea, hastily returned to shore, and we all headed back to the guest house, to find the other holidaying families in the lounge, gathered around the black and white TV.

The game, England versus West Germany, was already in progress. What's the score, my brother asked. Most of the faces were glum but a Scottish lad called out, in unmistakably gloating tones, 'one-nil to Germany'. I remember this moment so clearly, not so much for the score, but because of my innocent seven year old's shock that a fellow British citizen should be pleased England were losing. Of course England went on to a famous 4-2 victory, but it is sad that my strongest memory of the day is my first ever encounter with the anti-English prejudice that still lingers in some quarters in what is now my adopted home of Scotland.

It is interesting to look at a photo of the victorious 1966 England players

and compare it to a picture of the team taken earlier this year before an England game.
So much has changed in this country in the last 44 years.

Few English families now spend their two-week summer holidays swimming and building sandcastles on our chilly beaches, and those transatlantic liners have long since been replaced by jumbo jets. Schoolchildren are no longer tortured with complicated sums involving pounds, shillings and pence. Does anyone still buy a 'black and white' TV licence?

And we truly are, these days, like South Africa, a 'rainbow' nation (and not just because of the weather...)

Finally, I leave you with this video clip I found on Youtube, because I think it shows, more clearly than my words can express, the excitement and euphoria that football can generate. It's 2008. Liverpool, one of our top club sides, famous for their passionate supporters, are about to play at home in the Champions' League and the entire Anfield stadium is resonating to an ecstatic rendering of the 'Merseyside Anthem'. The picture quality's not great but the atmosphere is electric. Turn up the volume and imagine you're there...

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

World Cup decision, and red bandana(?) day

Talk about pressure.

I think Gail's been reading too many dog books about how the human has to be the 'alpha' animal in the household. She's come over so bossy lately.

Not just this puppy class 'sit', 'lie down', 'paw', 'other paw', 'stay', 'come' stuff (all of which I can now do, by the way, well, apart perhaps from the 'stay' bit, and of course only when I choose.....)

No, it's been all Bertie you need to decide who to support in the football World Cup, Bertie it's not big and it's not clever to be anti-English after all who feeds you, Bertie I think you should take part in this red bandana day thing on, Bertie just please try and be a bit more co-operative for once...

Well on Sunday night we had a long heart to heart as I lay cuddled up on Gail's lap, and, inspired by our new coalition government, agreed a compromise. I was planning to back South Africa in the World Cup, as Hamish had promised his dear friend MaxDog that he would and of course I want to honour their memory. The compromise is that I support England and South Africa. If they play each other, I am allowed to support South Africa.

So, the red bandana thing. We thought that I could wear an England flag bandana, red and white of course. I sent Gail out to the shops.

She came back hours later, having scoured Aberdeen for an England flag. She went on and on about how hard it was to find one, and how eventually she asked at the service desk at Sainsbury's and they produced a little packet from under the counter, wrapped in brown paper*.

Secretly I was relieved that it wasn't bandana sized. I don't do clothes, at least not yet (although come to think of it, a rainjacket would have been handy in the park this morning). But I did help Gail arrange the flag nicely on our sitting room floor, so this is my red 'too big to be a bandana' picture for the Porties event on 10th June.

Apparently I am lucky we don't have laws here in the UK about violating the flag.....

Oh, and England play the USA on Saturday, and I'll be posting about that too. Hope all my American friends will be watching! I should also say that MaxMom in South Africa has much more about the World Cup on her wonderful blog.

*OK, Gail says, I admit I made up the brown paper bit, but honestly, not the rest...

Saturday, 5 June 2010

It's (not) cricket

Can you believe that us dogs don't always get the local park to ourselves?

For example, I came across this notice today during our Saturday afternoon perambulation.
Imagine my horror! I mean normally I get to run around wherever I like. But for some reason Gail saw fit to snap my lead straight back on and started issuing tedious instructions about not straying over the white boundary line or chasing after the men dressed in white clothes.
Well, I said to Gail, you're always trying to get me to fetch a ball (so far without success, but that's another story....) Surely that means I can join in? I mean any game that can involve bowling a maiden over has to be good fun, no? After all, that's what I do to Daisy Dachshund at puppy class every week....

Gail laughed - in an ever so slightly patronising way, I felt - and asked if I'd considered which fielding position I'd like to try. Well, obviously, 'fine leg', I replied and was just a bit hurt when she said no Bertie I think 'silly mid off' would be more your thing. Or perhaps 'slip'.
Well we clearly weren't getting anywhere, and to be perfectly honest, the game of cricket is just a teeny weeny little bit slow if you're only allowed to spectate. I persuaded Gail to let me go and introduce myself to some new friends, for once choosing doggies approximately my own size.
She started telling me to 'play with a straight bat' or I'd find myself on a 'sticky wicket'. Did I have any idea what all this meant?

Frankly I was stumped.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Things people say in the park

A man whose tough-looking bulldog I am barking at: "I think it's called Small Man Syndrome"

Just about anyone who hasn't experienced me barking at and trying to jump all over their precious pet: "Awwhhhh - isn't he cute"(if English) / "He's an affa bonnie wee doggie"(if Scots).

Soft-headed people often also say: "Such a shame they have to grow up."

A lady who is clearly too myopic to notice my fine long legs: "What is he? A rough-coated Jack Russell?"

A local ned* - pale, spotty, skinny, baseball cap, lurid tracksuit, speech incoherent - presumably on his way to pick up his methadone prescription at the chemist: "Bearrr-tie? Yer didnae name him efta tha' sh*t Sco'land Manager noo did Yer?" (We think he was referring to the former and disastrously unsuccessful Scotland football coach, Berti Vogts).

Lots of people aged fifty and over: "A wire-haired fox terrier? You dinnae see sae many of them aboot the day" and "far's he fae?" (Aberdonian for "where did you get him from?")

The owner of a large German Shepherd who - the dog that is - is uneasily backing away from my persistent friendly overtures: "He's nae feart is he?"

Now my conversation with this handsome Rottweiler/Akita cross is strictly private.

But, Uncle Eric, the one question that so far no-one has asked is "where are his wheels?"

*For those not familiar with modern Scots vernacular, NED = Non Educated Delinquent