Tuesday 27 December 2011

My very important Christmas role

So here I am cheering up Human Grandad (HGD).

He had been feeling a bit down. You see, while Human Granny (HGY) is now so clever on the computer that she no longer even needs me to supervise...

...HGD finds anything modern terribly confusing, and that upsets him and makes him anxious.

So anyway, I asked him about some of the interesting things he had done in the past, and suddenly he relaxed. I found out that of course HGD still knows lots of good stuff. Gail only had to prompt him a few times when he couldn't remember the words. He told me about how to fly a Mosquito across the North Sea to Norway, to fire rockets on German shipping (a valuable skill in 1944!) He also told me how to discover new and useful substances. (When HGD was a research scientist in the 1950s he apparently patented a chemical for dipping sheep in to prevent disease.)

Well now, all this morale boosting is important but tiring work.

OK, that's enough break time. HGD needs me again. I have to go.

Well I have lots more I could be telling you, like about yesterday's visit from my poodle cousin Izzy (she of the lovely pom-pom tail, for those of you with long memories) and her new brother, Percy 'Fat Boy' poodle.

Gail says I was "surprisingly well-behaved" during their visit. A back-handed compliment if ever I heard one.

Oh, if only there were more time. I have been so missing my blogging pals.

Sunday 18 December 2011

My 2011: by Bard Bertie

The year begins with shocking cold.
With long dark nights. The sun stays low.
The snow is deep, but in the home,
Soft laps, warm hearts and fires aglow.


February’s time to celebrate,
And bake my birthday cake.
But Gail finds it hard to eat
My replica, such a mistake!


In March a new experience,
A true test of my social skill.
A house party with fifteen guests,
For whom I finally sit still….


So April is the cruellest month,
Old T.S. Eliot had it right.
How mean of Gail to leave me home,
And go with friends to France by bike!


In May, in Britain, some were pleased
To cheer along our Wills and Kate.
Did you stay in and watch TV,
Or climb Munros to celebrate?


The month of June, my chance to shine.
A village fete (Feis Alligin).
When I am jumping through the hoops
Those collies don’t get a look in!


July and down to Nottingham
To visit Gail’s Mum and Dad.
We go by train, the passengers
Think I am such a bonny lad.


Not everybody's quite so charmed.
In August Michael comes to stay.
I really did not mean to harm
Him but, bare legs? What can one say…?


Month nine, it is my turn to show
My heartfelt patriotic zeal,
Go Scotland rugby team, go go!
Win the World Cup! Or not. Oh well.


October comes. In Torridon,
I'm simply horrified to see,
The kayak, made by Florian


Can you believe it? I cannot,
November saw this lovely chap,
Gail’s Dad, turn ninety, that’s a lot
Of years, (he often needs to nap).


So here we are, year at an end,
It’s now the season of goodwill.
So bouncing love to all my friends
And may your lives be joyful still.

Merry Christmas to all my dear readers! 

PS I'm off with Gail to Nottingham shortly and I will be concentrating all my efforts on trying to cheer up Human Grandad, as Gail tells me he has suddenly taken a turn for the worse. But never fear, I shall be back, and as ever with plenty to say, in the New Year!

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Suffering from Tall Poppy Syndrome

Now I am all excited about reported sightings of the Higgs boson. However, Gail has persuaded me that my readers will on the whole be more interested in the goings on at this week's Deeside Dog Agility Club Christmas Party.

Fine then. But first I want to ask a question.

Fellow canines, do you ever feel held back by the low expectations and aspirations of your human?

You know, when I started out on this agility training lark, Gail went on and on about how it was all for fun, she just wanted to spend time doing stuff and bonding with me, she knew I'd never be winning any contests, etc. etc.

Well I'll have you know that at the party on Monday I won this most magnificent prize for 'Best Newcomer'.

And no Gail I do not think it necessary to be pointing out that 'Only Newcomer' would be a more accurate label. I hate this British tendency towards Tall Poppy Syndrome.

Now we have already established in this blog that I do not do fancy dress. It seems I share this trait with most of my fellow Scottish agility dogs, as only three turned up in full costume.

And two of these are owned by an American.....

I could tell though that my fellow party goers - dogs and humans - were in fact quite serious about the so-called 'fun' agility games. And so while Gail was still all "Oh Bertie I don't think we'll enter will we, you're really not quite at that level yet",  I was cannily sniffing out the competition.

As well as the food waste bags...

So OK, I was thirteen places off the lead in the 'figure of eight two tunnels and a jump' speed game (fourteen entrants). The winner scored fifteen tunnels in the allotted minute. I managed four, which is surely pretty good for a first go, what with the distracting cacophony of barking and shouting. Really I would have done so much better were it not for 'handler errors', like Gail kept placing herself in my way, giving confusing and panicky hand signals and at one point she threw a treat into the tunnel so of course I stopped to eat it, what on earth is one supposed to do?

I can't tell you how disappointed I was not to be allowed to enter the weave contest (on the spurious grounds that I've never yet in my life successfully executed a proper weave manouevre....) but I will concede I might not actually have won. One collie surely broke the speed of light.

Oh but if only we had some pictures, or even a video, of the final game. You would be so impressed to see me jumping round and round the 'cube' of hurdles, barely missing out a single one. I was all a blur, just like this photo of one of my fellow contestants.

Eleven hurdles in fifty seconds saw me half way down the field. Impressive, eh? Oh, no, here goes Gail again, trying to undermine my achievements, telling me to say they specially lowered the jumps for 'the novice'.

It's a good job isn't it, that I have such impregnable self belief.

I shall be getting around to the Higgs boson another day.

Sunday 11 December 2011

The calm after the storm

We went over to Torridon to check up on the cottage.

Did someone say there's been bad weather in Scotland?

We'll let the pictures do the talking today - just this once...

Friday 9 December 2011

Northern winter light, or treats? (+weather update)

I have often noticed that humans and dogs have different ideas about what makes a good photo.

For example, from our walk in the woods last weekend, Gail's favourite pictures were all about "Oh Bertie look how the bare birch trees and the fields are bathed in softly glowing winter light blah blah blah...."

Whereas it's quite obvious that by far the best picture...

...is the one where I am being given treats by Jake's owner Yvonne whilst my nemesis Jake is skulking in the undergrowth somewhere off camera.

No contest!

PS from Gail: thanks readers for all your excellent suggestions for a fancy costume that Bertie might actually tolerate. I think we'll be going with the seasonal collar concept.

PPS We had a big storm in Scotland yesterday, as reported in this morning's Guardian under the headline "It's raining hats and dogs"!

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Pandas prompt a touch of inter-species jealousy

I don't know about you but I am fed up to the back teeth with all the gushing media coverage about the new arrivals at Edinburgh Zoo.

So giant pandas TianTian and Yang Guang, aka Sweetie and Sunshine, arrived here in Scotland on Sunday morning, all the way from Beijing on their own private jet, having apparently enjoyed inflight meals of bamboo, apples, carrots, a 'special panda cake' and mineral water. The zoo will be paying China the princely sum of a million dollars a year for the privilege of housing the pair. An enclosure specially built for the spoilt brats honoured guests has cost more than a flat in Edinburgh New Town.

What's the big deal about giant pandas anyway? Why do humans make such a fuss over them?

It can't be their sophisticated taste buds. (More bamboo, anyone?) They don't exactly have interesting sex lives. (Once a year, if Yang Guang's lucky, by all accounts.) And you can see eyes like that all over Glasgow any morning after an Old Firm game. (Gail says this last comment is in dubious taste, and reflects badly on Scotland.)

And no it is not that I, as a wire-haired fox terrier, am simply jealous of a rival species that beats even me in the 'looking like a cute toy' stakes. Nor that I envy TianTian and Yang Guang their £70,000 annual food budget.

It's just, oh I don't know, pandas don't do anything. They lead such boring lives. I mean, imagine a panda's blog.

Day 1 - ate bamboo
Day 2 - ate more bamboo
Day 3 - ate more bamboo
and so on until perhaps
Day 300 - thought about sex
Day 301 - went off the idea and ate bamboo instead.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Bertie WFTer the Christmas Fairy ?

An invitation dropped through the email earlier in the week. It has caused great consternation in this household.

"Christmas is coming. I hope you are all getting your fancy dress costumes ready for your four legged friend! The Deeside Dog Agility Club agility Christmas party is at Drumforskie Barn on Monday 12 December 2011 from 7pm. There will be a fancy dress competition plus agility games for you to try. Each game will be suitable for everyone and needless to say they will be lots of fun. Unfortunately so that every member can join in, dog numbers are restricted to one dog per handler for the evening. We would ask if everyone would take with them a Secret Santa present (up to approx £5 value), a raffle prize for our HUGE raffle, something for the buffet and of course loads of money to buy raffle tickets!! (Presents/raffles can be for either human or dogs!).  Deeside provides soft drinks for those who are unfortunately driving - or too young - but if you wish to have some alcohol, please take your own.  It is always a really good night."

How is it that so short a paragraph could contain by implication so many patently absurd suggestions? For example, the notion that I could be persuaded to wear any kind of a costume, and not rip it to shreds in the two mile car ride 'twixt home and Drumforskie Barn. Or indeed the idea that Gail's limited creative powers might stretch to devising a fancy dress outfit anyway, much less one that is compatible with 'agility games'. Or the thought that I am likely to cooperate calmly in an event that takes place in a big barn full of hyperactive collies, terriers, poodles and the like, with food and drink available and raffle prizes to be torn apart.

Oh and one thing I am not clear about. Am I allowed my own alcohol or am I too young?

PS from Gail: HELP!!! Any ideas for Bertie-proof costumes gratefully received.....

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Quietly assertive or just plain bossy?

Do your humans ever make the mistake of assuming that just because they are friends with someone, then you will automatically be best pals with that person's dog...

It doesn't always work like that does it?

It might look from the photos above that, when Gail went for a walk in Glen Tanar with her friend Yvonne on Sunday, Yvonne's flat-coated retriever Jake and I were getting along just fine. I think that's the impression Gail sought to create with her highly selective camera work.

Let me list for you some of the pictures that could have been taken but weren't.

In my house before we left:

  • Jake eating my food
  • Jake drinking my water
  • Jake laying on my bed
  • Jake monopolising my spot by the radiator
  • Jake tearing the nose off my favourite stuffed Newfie dog
En route to Glen Tanar:
  • Jake peering over from the boot of the car in an irritating manner
  • Me on Gail's lap in the front seat, barking loudly in response
  • Yvonne driving, gloating "isn't my Jakey a good, quiet dog?"
Out walking in the forest:
  • Jake unfairly taking advantage of his longer legs to beat me in a race through the undergrowth
  • Jake after a swim, shaking himself dry all over me (and Gail, and Yvonne)
  • Jake stealing the stick I was chewing from OUT OF MY VERY MOUTH!!
But you know what irritated me more than anything? Overhearing Gail say to Yvonne; "Isn't it fascinating the way Jake is so calmly and quietly assertive".

FASCINATING!?  Grrrrrhhh

Here are some Jake-free better photos from the walk. (We stayed in the glen 'cos it was too windy to go climbing any hills).


PS from Gail: should any readers ever visit Royal Deeside, I thoroughly recommend the 'Sign of the Black-Faced Sheep' cafĂ© in Aboyne for the most delicious post-walk cakes!