Friday, 29 August 2014

FFHT August: I can't believe I ate….

Really, I don't know why Gail is protesting about my desire to participate in Murphy and Stanley's  August FFHT on account of the subject matter. She claims that this month's phrase "I can't believe I ate…", will encourage glorification of the baser side of our natures.

Does she not realise that the urge to break the boundaries of the conventional 'approved' diet is not confined to non-human species but has a distinguished lineage including some of this country's most illustrious scientists.

No less than Charles Darwin, top of my (and Gail's) list for 'Greatest Ever Briton' had an adventurous appetite in more ways than are usually recognised.

At Cambridge Darwin was a member of a dining club which met weekly in order to eat, basically, roadkill. He enjoyed hawk and bittern, but balked at a dish of old Brown Owl, describing it as 'indescribable'. On the Beagle voyage he ate armadilloes ('taste like duck'), puma ('veal'), iguana and Giant Tortoise. A Phylum Feast is a shared meal containing as many different species as possible, eaten by biologists on February 12th to celebrate Darwin’s birthday.

Before Darwin, the noted English geologist William Buckland, who wrote the first full scientific description of a dinosaur and later in his life promoted the notion that glaciation explains many of the landscape features formerly ascribed to the biblical flood, took exotic eating to another level (you may have to click on the image below to enlarge and read):

One suspects that "I can't believe I ate…" was not a phrase much heard in the celebrated Reverend Buckland's Oxford household...

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Englishman, the Scotsman, the Irishman and the Welshman.

No, this is not going to be another of those jokes invoking tired national stereotypes. Nor is it a reference to the independence debate.

And in fact it should truly be the Englishwoman, the Scotsmen and women, the Welshman, the Irish dog and the American…

All of these were present at the Royal Highland Showground, venue for last Saturday's dogs agility show.

The Englishwoman here, is of course Gail.

Note that she is looking mightily relieved and this is because, despite her woeful lack of commitment to training for the team relay event, we did not mess up in any major way and our team exceeded expectations by coming a respectable fifth (out of eleven).

See, Gail's team mates, Scotswomen Yvonne and Alison and our inspirational Texan team captain Jeri, were even still happy to pose with her after the event.
Yvonne and Phoebe, Alison and Maddie, Gail and Bertie, Jeri (Burns is hiding) 

The Irish dog I want to tell you about is this well cropped WFT pup Hayley.

Hayley is eleven years old and now retired from agility, but she had travelled all the way over from Ulster with her family - her sibling spaniels were in the competition. Gail was most impressed to learn that Hayley had reached Grade 6 in her agility career. She is quite a lot smaller than me. I think she is cute. 

Over in a different part of the showground on Saturday the Scottish Kennel Club were running their version of Crufts. Gosh there were a lot of very handsome pups strutting about the place. 

The Welshman was sat at a table outside the show arena when we walked past. He beckoned Gail over and told her she was a lady of excellent taste. 

You will have guessed that he was not referring to her dress sense. He wanted to know all about me, admiring my markings, my bone structure, my muscles, and my alert demeanour. He even asked if he could look at my teeth. (I have to tell you that did not go too well…) At this point the penny dropped and Gail asked if he was a show judge. It turned out we were talking to Mr Gerrard Morris, judge for the terrier group at Crufts earlier this year. Remember that a WFT won the terrier group? Gail found this picture on the internet. My new friend is the rosy cheeked chappie on the left. 

As for the Scotsmen and women well duh, I hear you thinking, we were in Edinburgh, of course there would be plenty of those, even at Festival time. 

This is true, but what we had on Saturday, in yet another part of the Showground, were hordes of bagpipe playing, kilt wearing, particularly Scottish looking Scots, all participating in a huge pipe band contest. 

You know, the Royal Highland Showground is not a place for lovers of tranquillity.

As if multiple pipe bands playing simultaneously next to a field of hyped up agility dogs did not provide enough noise, then you also had a nearby fairground blasting out loud music and, above, planes from the adjacent Edinburgh airport taking off every fifteen minutes or so.

To be honest, a bit too much excitement, even for me…
Back home and enjoying some peace and quiet.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Bye bye, dear sweet Jazzi

Oh dear I was distraught to learn that my sweetheart Addi's sister Jazzi had to say goodbye to her earthbound family last week.

This wee Scottie lass was full of life, fun and mischief (and tacos). I loved her so much, even though she did often refer to my gorgeous girlfriend as 'Dog-zilla'.

Gail and I are thankful we had the privilege of sharing a small piece of Jazzi's too-short life, and also that of her lovely and loving family. Jazzi's posts not only made us smile, always, but were so full of warmth and happiness that they left us feeling the world was a better place.

We send heartfelt condolences to all who are feeling sad at the loss of such a wonderful character.

Oh and if Uncle Ed is looking for a new pup to spoil, well he just needs to get in touch…

(Comments are turned off).

Friday, 22 August 2014

Bertie clarifies the debate on North Sea oil reserves

Yesterday I overheard Gail talking to a friend.

"I can't believe how much rubbish is being written about Scotland's future North Sea oil reserves. Honestly, I think even Bertie has a better understanding of the issues involved than most of the media commentators".

For once I shall ignore Gail's rather insulting use of the word 'even' and take her statement at face value.

After all, I live in the heart of Europe's oil capital and my human, a geophysicist, has been engaged in the business on and off (mostly on) for over 30 years. Naturally, my keen and attentive flappy little ears have picked up a wealth of knowledge about the petroleum industry.

But I think it will help if, instead of oil and gas, we consider the subject in terms of doggy treats.

Got your attention, right?

Let us imagine that once upon a time, many millions of years ago, a huge number of doggy treats were  buried under the ground in deposits of varying size and depth. And that this would form the only local supply of treats ever available to dogs in the UK.

For years, no-one knew they were there, but one day, a basset hound caught a faint whiff of something interesting in a field. A passing Scottie noticed the hound sniffing the earth, and started digging. Lo and behold, he had discovered the UK's first treat hoard.

A border collie, observing the action, used her brain and figured out that there were likely more treat deposits scattered around, and hired a gang of scent hounds to sniff them out and terriers to do the excavation work.

Initially only the larger and shallowest deposits were found, but selective breeding of scent hounds with ever more treat-sensitive noses meant that medium sized treat stores could also be detected, and likewise terriers with bigger and bigger front paws made for ever more effective digging operations. Meanwhile, the increasing global population of dogs meant the market for treats grew and grew, increasing the value of each individual treat.

Naturally it was the canny border collies, in partnership with some poodles, who organised and ran the sale and distribution of the treats and made off with most of the profits, although they did have to pay an annual tribute to a gang of powerful German Shepherds and Rottweilers who also controlled the permits to dig.

No-one knew exactly how many dog treats were buried at the outset, and so estimates of the number left at any point varied considerably. The uncertainty was compounded when the task of calculating remaining treat reserves was sub-contracted to a litter cross-bred from a Bulldog and a Shih Tzu……..*

It was also unclear if, as locally sourced treats became scarcer and scarcer, people would be prepared to pay ever more to extract them, or if they would look to overseas treat supplies instead. And no-one was certain whether further selective breeding could improve performance of the terriers and the scent hounds sufficiently to locate and dig out the remaining small or more deeply buried deposits. The cost of maintaining these precious (in every sense of the word) specialists was already going through the kennel roof.

One dog who without doubt understood all this was an Aberdeen-based billionaire treat magnate, a border collie known as 'Woody'.  Although Woody's judgement had in recent years been called into question when he attempted to move beyond his core expertise and started trying to design a city centre dog park, no-one questioned his deep knowledge of the complexities of the treat business.

And so when he said that there are not so many treats left as a certain power hungry but deceitful Gordon Setter named Alex had claimed (based on so-called 'expert advice' from a grovelling lapdog), then we can all agree that Woody should be believed.

All clear now, I trust.

*Blame Her from Scotsmad for this one…

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Priorities all wrong...

Really, how could Gail go swanning off with her colleagues, geologising in the far north of Scotland and abandoning me in prison when we should have been in intensive training for the big dog agility relay event near Edinburgh this coming Saturday?

This relay business is very complicated you know. So much could go wrong, and I don't think Gail has practiced the baton passing thing anything like as much as she should have done.

Oh dear, yes, I am worried that Gail, with her distorted sense of priority, is going to let the whole team down.

And by the way, I hope everyone realises I am going to get VERY UPSET if forced at any point to stand too close to my team mate Manchester terrier Maddy, who, frankly, I find irritating.

What's even more irritating is that Gail is trying to make out she was doing me a kindness by making me stay in prison boarding kennels while she was away, saying at least I had a room to myself, unlike if I had come with her to Helmsdale.
Helmsdale Hostel - outside
Helmsdale Hostel - inside
And perhaps you can tell me just why these localities are so worth visiting that one would miss a vital training session and jeopardise the future success of the Deeside Devils dog agility team.

Caithness flagstones and tidal swimming pool, near Wick
An infestation of geologists at Dwarwick
Ammonite bearing rock on beach - Portgower
Windswept geologists by Dunnet Head lighthouse
Cliffs:  west from Dunnet Head

No? Beats me too.

PS Many thanks to Gail's colleague Quintin, for photos 4,5,7, and 8. Quintin has a sideline in pet portraits, see:

Sunday, 17 August 2014

All dressed up and no place to go

So I saw "Caithness Field Course" marked on Gail's calendar for 17-19 August.

Yippee, another geology field trip! I had so enjoyed the previous jollies educational excursions to Lossiemouth and to the Isle of Skye.

I put on my hand-knitted sweater and searched out my geological hammer and my specially designed hard hat.

I checked the weather forecast and decided a scarf and my new winter jacket might come in handy too. So there I was, all kitted out and raring to go...

...Only to learn that this trip is…..gulp… can they do this to me….this is...


It gets worse.

Yep. You guessed.

Prison here I come.

Now I know why Gail was being so nice to me last weekend, buying me doggy ice cream at £2.99 at tub, and so on.


I wonder how she can live with herself.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

A wee peek at the 'East Neuk'

Last weekend Gail and her nice friend Alison - that's Alison pictured above - took me for a two day walk along the Fife Coastal Path. We covered the stretch that goes through the 'East Neuk', a string of quaint fishing villages on the north side of the Firth of Forth. On Saturday we walked from Lower Largo to St Monans (home of Gail's ancestors) and on Sunday from St Monans to Crail.

Friends, I want you to help me decide was was the wonderful-est thing about an all round wonderful trip.

Was it the scenic and sheep-free footpath with a different view round every bend?

Was it the smell of the lobster pots on the pier at St Monans? 

Was it the picturesque jumble of streets with so many beautifully maintained old stone houses?

Or was it the occasional head scritches from Alison?

Was it the thoughtful sign warning you of dangers where the path crossed the golf links? (We are only a few miles south of St Andrews here, but somehow we suspect that dogs are not allowed to wander across the Old Course quite so readily…) 

Was it the creative use made of wellie boots in this part of the world?

Or was it the frequent stops in dog friendly tea shops along the way? (You wouldn't believe how much cake these two ladies could eat. Oh? You would?)

The fact that doggy ice-cream was on sale in Elie...

….only counts as a highlight 'cos Gail actually went into the shop a bought me a tub. (But gosh it was embarrassing when she asked the shop lady if it was also fit for human consumption. And even more so when the lady, frowning, said "I don't think so" and Gail responded by inspecting the ingredients and saying "I don't see why not". But it was all academic as I had no difficulty finishing the big tub by myself, and was NOT sick on the hotel carpet later, like a certain person feared). 

I loved travelling on the top of the No. 95 double decker bus which took us back to our start point each day. (And no Gail, it was not inconsiderate of me to settle down to rest at the top of the stairs. I mean, if you can climb up the stairs on a double decker bus then you can manage to step carefully over a tired terrier, can't you?)

I suspect that Gail and Alison's favourite part was the late evening walk on the beach behind the hotel...

...and soon after, the view of the moon reflecting on the waters of the Firth of Forth, as seen from our hotel bedroom window.

Oh dear. Sometimes, when you look back at a lovely trip, it really is tough to decide which was the best bit, isn't it?

Sunday, 10 August 2014

A useful breathing exercise for humans

Fellow pups, is your human in need of a boost?

I think I can help.

You know all about how controlling your breathing is supposed to calm you down, or energise you, or make you altogether more brilliant, or whatever.

May I propose a useful four step breathing exercise for your human? One that will fit in nicely with your daily walks and make them a more pleasant experience for both of you.

It is important that the dog and human actions are synchronised as described below:

Step 1
Dog walks down the street and then stops, preferably downwind of human, and arches his back.
Human breathes in deeply while rustling around in pocket for a wee plastic bag (preferably recyclable).
Step 2
Dog performs his 'business' and poops out one or two neat little brown packages onto the pavement or grass.
Human holds breath.
Step 3
Dog walks on just a couple of steps.
Human exhales slowly and in controlled fashion while placing poop in the wee bag, expelling surplus air from the bag and tying a neat knot to seal.
Step 4
Dog and human walk briskly to the nearest dog waste bin.
Human breathes steadily and places sealed bag in bin.

I have to tell you I had a bit of difficulty persuading Gail that this post needed illustrating. You all found the pictures helpful, didn't you? And really, a reasonably self-confident person like Gail shouldn't be worrying what the neighbours will think about what she does with her camera, should she?

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Bertie's sideways look at photosynthesis

Bouncing Bertie Boffin here!

Have you ever imagined you were a plant?

No, don't panic, humans who were wee pups in the sixties, this is not going to be one of those dreaded  'now pretend you are a flower' musical movement exercises. This is SCIENCE!

Here in the North of Scotland we are enjoying an uncommonly warm and sunny summer. Of course, being Scotland, it does still rain from time to time.

The result is that all our plants have been growing like crazy.

(The photos in this post were all taken in the local park. As usual, I am banned from showing our garden 'cos, even more so than usual, it is so shamefully unkempt).

Anyway, today I want to stop and contemplate the amazing power of photosynthesis.

You see, unlike us dogs who are dependent on humans to supply carbon-based substances (i.e. food) to keep us going and growing, a plant need not panic about whether Gail has forgotten to order a new bag of kibble. No indeed, it simply waits around for some sun to appear and help it perform the magic scientifically awesome trick of synthesising carbohydrates from just carbon dioxide and water.

Of course you might think that hanging around waiting for your fix of sun is a rather boring survival strategy, especially in Scotland where it could be a long wait, and this is probably why predators evolved (OK, I may be missing out a few important steps in the evolutionary story here).

Personally, I am finding exposure to warm sunshine enervating rather than energizing.

Oh and I don't suppose that sun and CO2 come in beef, lamb or turkey flavoured.

I mean, no plant is going to be looking forward with eager anticipation to that especially yummy wavelength of light (600 or 700 nm perhaps) for dinner, now are they?

Monday, 4 August 2014

A 'Wowzer' or a 'Schnoxy'?

See this handsome fellow we met at Hazlehead Park last weekend.

His owners told Gail he was 'just a mix' of schnauzer and wire-haired fox terrier.

Would you like to be called 'just a mix?'

I'm sure that labradoodles and cockerpoos do not consider themselves 'just a mix'.

Gail thought perhaps our friend here could be called a 'schnoxy'.

Myself, I prefer 'wauzer' (pronounced 'wowzer' ) as having greater impact.

Do you have any suggestions?
PS Can you believe Gail said some folk might think the WFT temperament needs a bit of diluting!!??