Friday 30 July 2010

We hate Donald Trump!

Serious matters today folks.
We went for a walk by the sea at Balmedie earlier today. (Oh don't fuss, yes OF COURSE I've recovered from last Sunday. I wasn't really that tired you know...)

There's a wonderful beach, HUGE sand dunes, interesting little creeks with unusual wildflowers. All unspoilt, peaceful, pristine.
Gail told me that I could go exploring anywhere. So it was a bit of shock when we came across this sign:
What on earth could be going on?


Apparently some horrid man called Donald Trump has bought the land and is going to build a golf couse, a HUGE high rise hotel and about a thousand houses. He says the area will be "improved".

But how can you improve on what is already perfect?

Well I bounced right past the sign and went exploring anyway. (Don't worry, my American friends, you're not allowed to shoot trespassers here).
I promised Gail I would try out my brand new teeth if we came across this Trump character.

So, truth to tell, I was just a wee bit disappointed that he was nowhere to be seen.
PS I hope you like my new sand-in-the-beard look? It means you get that extra tingling sensation when I kiss....

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Dog poop - it's a gas!

Doggie pals, are you fed up of being thought a drain on our planet's resources?
Would you like to 'DO' something for the environment?

Then how about this for a fine idea from the Park Spark project?

You know how, when you go to the park, you take a human servant along and they will pick up any 'little messes' you leave behind and put them in a smelly old bin.

Well, what if, instead of a smelly old bin, your poo got fed into an 'anaerobic digester'? That's a fancy term for an underground container full of microbes which can transform your poop into methane gas and so produce renewable energy.

Here's how it's supposed to work:

The energy generated could be used to light the park at night. Or to fuel an ice-cream cart (just wishful thinking....)

I don't think that they have any of these systems up and running yet.

Spiffing wheeze though isn't it?

PS from Gail: Readers may not know that my day job is co-ordinating a project called MethaneNet, which aims to promote communication between methane researchers. It's amazing what you come across in the line of duty....Meanwhile, Bertie is being rested up this week after Sunday's exertions.

Sunday 25 July 2010

A Simply Splendid Sunday Stroll in Sometimes Sunny Scotland

Actually it wasn't a stroll at all it was a VERY LONG WALK with Gail and her friends Kate and Henry.

And I had SO much work to do. For instance, waking Henry from his post-lunchtime nap.

Meanwhile, I am learning fast about this posing business.

But I have no idea what Kate thought was so funny at this particular moment.

It was a lovely walk, but also VERY LONG.

And I was very happy when, eventually, we got back to Kate and Henry's cottage.

PS From Gail: Bertie has not been weighed lately, but I can report with confidence that he is now far too heavy to carry comfortably in my arms for the last two miles of a seven mile hike....

Thursday 22 July 2010

Nature red in tooth and claw...

Scientists are always arguing about Nature versus Nurture.

One of the things you have to put up with if you live in a scientific household is that your human is endlessly speculating about the origins of your behaviour.

Take toys for example. Just something to play with, right? Some are more fun than others, end of story?

Oh but no.

You see I have this great little mouse (or is it a hamster?) It was given me by a lovely lady called Diane. I have lots of wonderful toys but this one's my absolute favourite. It's all brown and fluffy and if you pull the tail it vibrates as it scoots across the floor. If I'm quick I can catch it in my mouth mid scoot, and after a few seconds the vibrations cease. I find this immensely enjoyable.

So of course there has to be a theory about why I like this toy best. A certain person, a friend of Gail's whom we shall call 'Rhoderick' ('cos that's his name) put forward the idea that when the vibration stops, it's as if the animal has died, and the reason I like the mouse is that it satisfies some primal urge to kill. An urge not otherwise satisfied if one's food supply comes in the form of dried pellets out of a packet labelled 'Burns Mini Bites'.

Well I wonder what you think about this hypothesis?

Should I be insulted by the implication that I may not be quite as sweet and innocent as I sometimes appear?

Or should I be proud of my killer instincts?

[By the way, for this blog post, Gail wanted me to pose for a photo with the mouse in my mouth, dripping tomato ketchup, but I vetoed the plan on grounds of bad taste. Aren't you glad?]

Monday 19 July 2010

Smelling of roses?

It's a thorny issue isn't it? How to avoid being defined by one's worst moments. (I think Bill Clinton has faced the same problem).

You know, I was SO well behaved for so much of the time on my trip down to Nottingham to stay with Gail's Mum and Dad. Impeccably well behaved, you might say.

There were no 'accidents' leaving marks on the carpet. At least not from me. (A certain person did drop a glass of red wine but that's another story).

Neither did my teeth leave any marks on the shins of my dearest human grandparents. Or on their hands or wrists.

I settled down happily at night in my cosy corner of the utility room, never making a noise or fuss. Of course it helped that I was given my first ever proper bone.

Even though I quickly spotted a hole in the hedge, I never once tried to escape from the garden into the neighbours. (The garden is too nice for that).

There was no hint of car sickness, despite the fact that we drove over a thousand miles.

The white Nottingham lace table cloth remained jam free.......

I performed all my puppy school lessons and Granny was impressed. She's a great believer in education.

So what ever could have gone wrong, I hear you ask?

Well, you know what it's like when someone invades your personal space? I mean, don't tell me, you humans, that you haven't stood in a queue at an airport and spotted some blimp-shaped traveller just in front of you and prayed that you won't be sat next to them?

I had always thought that the rear of Gail's Mini was my domain and mine alone. But then, last Friday, Gail decided we all would go on an outing to Newstead Abbey (ancestral home of poet Lord Byron). It's only a twenty minute drive. So I would travel in the back as usual, and all three humans could fit in the front surely? They're thin, not blimp-like, after all. And these new Minis are much bigger than the originals.

Well. Just imagine my horror when human Granny, despite her arthritic limbs, bent herself into the rear of the car and sat down beside me (I was in my crate). I can tell you, I voiced my disapproval of the arrangement VERY loudly. And yes I can keep going at full volume for twenty minutes, no problem.

Is there something about sound reverberating in a confined space? Human Grandad was sat in front of me in the passenger seat and I guess my mouth was only a few inches from his ear. When we arrived at the Newstead car park he was all dizzy and confused. Gail led me away from him and gave me a right old ticking off.

Luckily, Human Grandad recovered enough for a walk round the Abbey gardens. Just in case he should be starting to doubt the benefits of canine companionship, I took him over to see Lord Byron's monument to his beloved dog, a Newfoundland called Boatswain. On the monument is inscribed Byron's famous epitaph:

NEAR this spot
Are deposited the Remains
of one
Who possessed Beauty
Without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
And all the Virtues of Man
Without his vices.
This Praise, which would be unmeaning flattery
If inscribed over human ashes,
Is but a just tribute to the memory of
"Boatswain", a Dog
Who was born at Newfoundland,
May, 1803,
And died at Newstead Abbey
Nov. 18, 1808.

But do you know, I don't think, that particular afternoon, that Gail's Dad was quite in agreement with Byron.

What do think will be remembered of my first trip to Nottingham?

Do you think I came out smelling of roses?

Saturday 10 July 2010

Can I confide in you please?

Oh I have been getting so many lectures this week.

"Now Bertie, you won't be doing that when we visit Granny and Grandad's will you?"
"Bertie you must remember to be very quiet because my father just hates yappy dogs."
"Bertie you must realise that the human grandparents aren't used to puppies and they won't understand the difference between a friendly nibble and a nasty bite."
"Bertie, your Granny won't want her pale coloured summer trousers decorated with a pattern of muddy paws."
"Bertie, if you see a plate of scones temptingly laid out on a lace tablecloth*, DON'T YOU DARE GO ANYWHERE NEAR!"

And finally:

"Bertie, when we're in Nottingham, I am afraid that we won't be able to devote much time to your blog, so you'd better warn your pals that they may not be hearing much from you over the next week or so".

So I admit I am just a little apprehensive about this visit down south to England.

We head off later today. Wish me luck!

*Reference to a notorious incident...

Wednesday 7 July 2010

My name is NOT 'Big Grey Cloud'

We went over to the cottage on Loch Torridon last weekend.

From the garden, Gail kept pointing up in a north-easterly direction and saying 'see Bertie, that's what you're named after'.

I was most confused. I had understood that for my 'official name', Gail had chosen a rather grand Scottish mountain. But where she was pointing, all I could see was a great big dark cloud. And lots of rain coming out of it.

How very disappointing. One is led to believe that one has been registered with the Kennel Club as 'Granddach Beinn Alligin' (Beinn Alligin is one of the Torridon Moutain group, and the words mean 'Jewelled Mountain' in English). A name that one could be proud of indeed.

And then one finds out that one is actually called 'Big Wet Cloud' or something.

I think Gail caught my look of utter disenchantment. 'No, no Bertie you've got it all wrong, just wait a while and you'll see'.

Well as we know, waiting patiently is not my forte. So I wandered round the garden chewing a few plants, then went indoors and had a nibble at the bristly doormat.

By the time I came back outside the wind had shifted the clouds and we could see a big round lump behind the cottage. That was Beinn Alligin, apparently.

Later, when the clouds had lifted further, we drove round to the other side of Loch Torridon, and Gail made me pose 'nicely' so that she could take this picture of the mountain from a better angle.
Next year, when I am bigger and stronger, we are going to climb it!

[Readers of Gail's 'Between Dogs' blog will know that for everyday purposes I was named Bertie after Bertie Wooster, 'cos P.G. Wodehouse makes Gail smile and I am supposed to do the same. Sometimes she calls me 'Bertie WFTer' or 'Bertie Woofter'. It can be something of a trial when your human likes stupid puns....]

Oh, and while we are one the subject of my weekend in Torridon, I want to show you some more things, to make up for our last visit, when Gail forgot the camera.

I am told that the newly opened shop and cafe in Torridon village is lovely, and that you must visit it if you find yourself in that part of the world. I was made to wait outside, but several friendly people stopped by to give me a pat so that was OK.

Back at the cottage, I discovered a very comfy sofa, and I am allowed up there if I do not nip at Gail's hands too much when she is sitting besides me trying to read. (Why do humans read, by the way, it seems so boring when they could be playing with their dogs...)

Outside, Gail showed me a very special stone. The ashes from her old dog Hamish the Westie are buried under there.
I noticed Gail getting a wee bit tearful when she was telling me about this, so I bounced up and down a few times and tugged at the bottom of her shirt and tried my best to make her smile again.

It seemed to work.

Monday 5 July 2010

Final puppy class party and video!

Not boasting or anything but I totally cleaned up at the puppy class graduation party last Thursday night!

Yes, I won prizes for games of musical chairs and pass the parcel, and, paired with team mate Baxter the Cockerpoo, also the relay races which involved weaving round the poles with and without potato and spoon (which was held by the humans, obviously..... ) It maybe helped that Gail was once, back in the day, a 100 meters runner! Or so she tells me.

Here am I with Baxter and his mum, celebrating our two victories. Which were no less meaningful for the fact that the competing team consisted of Daisy Dachshund and Freddie Lhasa Apso.
It just so happens that the only time I didn't win was when we played the 'sit when the music stops' game. Which of course is the only one that we videoed*.

*Big thanks to Marie-Therese, film director and fellow member of the victorious relay team.

Thursday 1 July 2010

Four months and four score years!

Phew! Last weekend was totally exhausting. I'm only just now recovering.

You'd think the Friday evening walk up Scolty would have been quite enough! But no, it turns out that Gail had big plans for Sunday too. Every year (well, most years anyway) she goes on a sponsored walk organised by the Tibet Support Group Grampian. They always pick a lovely route through the hills, somewhere different each time, and Gail told me it's not only a good cause it's a wonderful day out.

All well and good, but not till next summer surely? I'm still far too little to walk this year's 7-8 miles round Glen Gairn and Morven Lodge.

But it turned out that Gail had a plan. (I'm learning to be a bit wary of Gail's plans, but that's another story....). Her friend Brian, who is a lot more 'senior' than me (and her) wanted to join the walk too, but maybe just for part of the distance. Well they looked at the map and spotted a path marked which would cut off a section, reducing the length by about half.

The weather was pleasant, by Scottish standards (you will notice in this group shot that the human participants are at least not wearing gloves and woolly hats).
It turned out that the 'shortcut' path was a figment of the Ordnance Survey's imagination, but that didn't deter Brian and I one jot.

And Brian was a jolly good sport all round, for someone who isn't much accustomed to dogs.

He used to do lots of mountain climbing, and could teach me a thing or two about nimbly scrambling over rough ground and down steep slopes. (I'm not as wobbly as I was a month ago, but I do still sometimes lose track of my rear legs).

And no Gail, I don't want to tell people about how I fell fast asleep when we stopped for a break a mile from the end, and then had to be carried most of the rest of the way!

At least she didn't take any photos of that bit.

Well it really was a super day, as promised. Brian and I both thought that the path-less short cut was the most fun part.

And Gail was so glad we hadn't stayed in to watch the England versus Germany football game...