Monday 30 May 2011

Feis Alligin - the trip was worth it

I think Gail is lucky she has me around, to help her make the right decisions. 

Take this past weekend for example.

We’d known for ages that there was going to be a village fete, ‘Feis Alligin’ taking place on 28th May, just a mile along the shore from our Loch Torridon cottage. All sorts activities were planned. Childrens games, duck races, craft stalls, a piper, a raffle…… It sounded such fun.

So I couldn’t believe my flappy little ears last week, when I overheard Gail saying to a friend, “well I was intending to go over to the cottage but the weather forecast is so dreadful, especially for the west coast, it’s going to be rain and gales the whole bank holiday weekend, I think I might be better off staying in Aberdeen.”

I like to think it was my enthusiastic bouncing around the house all Friday that persuaded her to change her mind.

So on Saturday morning Gail pointed the Mini into the increasingly strong westerly wind. The sun reluctantly accompanied us to Inverness then retreated cowering behind massed ranks of fast moving and ever darker clouds. An onslaught of horizontal rain and hail then slowed the car down as we drove across the Highlands, but thankfully the worst was over by the time we reached our cottage.

As soon as we’d unloaded the car (yes of course I helped!) I was itching to set off to the festival.

No matter that the recent downpour had turned the footpath into a stream.

And white horses were tearing up the sea loch.

Soon I spotted a crowd of people (a rare sight in this part of the world)

The signs told us we were in the right place.
This is Scots Gaelic for 'Welcome to the Alligin village fete'

But, oh dear, some of the activities seemed a bit boring. For dogs that is. Did I care how many balloons there were in this car?

And Gail kept me well away from the men playing crazy golf.

And, unfortunately from the cakes too….

And dogs weren’t allowed a ride in the RAF search and rescue helicopter.

I didn’t even get to sniff or decorate the ambulance.

Just as I was beginning to wonder if we should have stayed in Aberdeen after all, I finally spotted my big chance, and, after much clamouring, persuaded Gail to part with 50p so that I could demonstrate my skills in agility.


Oh you must be!

Gail was trying hard not to look too full of pride when Ian and Sylvia, the couple who ran the agility test, told her I was better at it that their two border collies.

But I know that she was pleased that we’d braved the bad weather after all. And so was I.

PS So my football team (see previous post) didn't win on Saturday night, and I was a bit fed up, but, you know, it never takes me long to bounce back! 

Friday 27 May 2011

About a former Aberdeen 'Top Dog'

I think we can all agree on the identity of the current 'Top Dog' in Aberdeen.

 But today it is timely that I tell you about an earlier Aberdeen 'Top Dog', although, as you will see, he is not a dog at all, sensu stricto...

Rather, this one, known by the local press as 'the former Aberdeen FC manager' and in other parts of the world as 'Sir Alex Ferguson, boss of Manchester United, most successful English football club ever blah blah blah', is a mere human being, albeit one with, I contend, an impressive set of terrier-like traits .... e.g. stubborn; tenacious; loves chewing; possesses unlimited energy and determination; refuses ever to submit; throws terrible tantrums when thwarted; is not lacking in self-esteem; possesses both bark AND bite; speaks a language incomprehensible to most of the human race; is always able to dig a hole and keep digging - need I go on?

So, to mix my metaphors, why was this 'Fergie' chappie such a big cheese round these parts?

Where Sir Alex (then plain mister) led underdogs Aberdeen to a 2:1 victory against mighty colossus of European football, Real Madrid, in the final of the European Cup Winners' Cup.....

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN THESE LAST 28 YEARS?  (Not Aberdeen, clearly! And don't ask if the team has won anything since....)

Have there been other notable events in Sir Alex's past?  Well there was the famous incident when he kicked a football boot at David Beckham from across the dressing room and grazed the star player's face. What other human old enough to collect his free bus pass could have conjured up such passion, power and accuracy...?

OK, I can see you're getting bored. Why am I telling you about this today (or at all), you are asking.

Well tomorrow, Saturday, the 'former manager of Aberdeen' will be at Wembley Stadium, where his current team Manchester United are playing Barcelona in another big European football final.

And I for one, shall be barking my support for the team managed by the old honorary terrier, following the grand tradition of Manchester United supporters hailing from anywhere in the world but the city of Manchester.

Gail, now where are my prawn sandwiches....?

Wednesday 25 May 2011

What's a Briard like? (and goodbye to Butchy)

We have some new next door neighbour humans, Paul and Jan. They came round yesterday to play with me (and, I suppose, Gail) and they seem super nice. They told us that they are soon to acquire a Briard puppy.  I don't think I've met a Briard before. Gail tells me that it is one of the herding breeds, and when fully grown will be a lot bigger than me. Not to worry, I won't be scared, I can handle big dogs! In fact, as I am an 'only dog', I am bouncing up and down with excitement at the prospect of another playmate living nearby. But I wonder if anyone out there could give me some tips on how to make friends with a brand new Briard pup, and help me start off on the right paw? Gail says she thinks I tend to be 'over-exuberant'. Is that a bad thing?

Any advice gratefully received!

Meanwhile, I am keeping an eye out for the pup's arrival...

Oh and another thing. There was a big storm here in Scotland earlier in the week. This is what happened to a car parked on the street just around the corner from our house...

PS. Today, our dog blogging community is saying a sorrowful final goodbye to Butchy, the bravest wire-haired fox terrier in the world, as his loving humans are kindly bringing his suffering to an end. I never met you Butchy, and you live thousands of miles away, but through your blog I feel I know you, and my thoughts (and Gail's) are with you and your sweet family on this sad and difficult day.

Sunday 22 May 2011

My Dog Tulip: the verdict

So Gail came back from the cinema with her friends Yvonne and Neil (that's Jake Flat-Coated Retriever's parents) and they opened a bottle of wine. I cuddled up on the sofa and eavesdropped:

"Well I think I was right in suspecting that that film would only appeal to someone who's lived with dogs."

"No really, they did seem just to concentrate on all the most unpleasant aspects of dog ownership."

"And wasn't Tulip's owner Joe horrid and selfish? I think his obsession with 'marrying' his Alsatian said more about his own personal frustrations perhaps."

"Well it's the only film I've seen showing a dog scooting across the carpet, followed by a graphic account of treatment for anal gland problems. You have to be impressed with that."

"I couldn't help but smile at the bit where he's carefully describing how Tulip's posture is different for a 'properly evacuating' pee and a 'marking' pee."

"Yes I never realised that there was a difference for bitches too."

"You know, I thought of Hamish so many times. The way the dog barked when the sister went into the owner's private room. Remember how Hamish used to do just that when anyone but me sat on this sofa? Bertie doesn't seem to mind, so far at least. Then there was the problem with attacking the vet, just like with Hamish, we had to resort to a muzzle. Oh and Hamish was never too successful with the lady dogs either."

"Now when was that film set? The 1950's? Clearly before the invention of poo bags. When did people start using poo bags by the way? I remember when I was a child you were supposed to train the dog to 'go' in the gutter."

"And what about that scene where Tulip has diarrhoea in the bedroom of the friend's house? And Joe tries to mop it up with the newspaper." 

"What do you think is worse to clear up? Diarrhoea or sick?"

"Oh diarrhoea, definitely. Do have another glass of wine."

"No I think vomit. Oh, thanks, just a small one then."

"But wasn't it sad when Tulip had the puppies and they were all given away to just anybody."

"Well I'd kind of lost interest by then. Did it really hold your attention all the way through Gail?"

"Well it did, kind of. It was a fascinated horror at times, admittedly. And maybe I identified with the 'single person and dog' relationship theme. Although I won't exactly be recommending the film to too many other friends."

"I did at least think the art work was beautiful."

"Yes. And I loved the music."

"Me too. Oh well, it's getting late. We better go back across the road and check that Jakey's OK."

"Well goodnight then. Thanks for coming along. Perhaps you should choose the film next time! Wake up Bertie! Time for your pre-bedtime trot round the block."

Thursday 19 May 2011

The park will never be quite the same...

Most days when I go for my walk in Duthie Park I run into the the 'Early Morning Gang'.

This was them on Tuesday morning, when, for once, Gail remembered to bring her camera.
Dogs left to right: Chip, Monty, Milo, Bertie, Rory
I normally stop to greet everybody, and cadge a treat off Rory's affectionate and generous owner, Sheila.

Then, having said my hellos, I race on ahead, 'cos, frankly, they are all a bit slow for me.

Well this morning (Thursday) something seemed wrong.

Rory usually greets me with a gruff, friendly bark. But I couldn't see him anywhere.

Then Sheila came up to Gail and I overheard the following:

"Sorry, I hope you don't mind me asking, but could I possibly have a copy of some of those photos you took of the dogs a couple of days ago?"

"Yes of course, no problem" replied Gail, still not quite getting it.

"You see I lost Rory on Tuesday night. He was very old you know and he suddenly went downhill badly. It was his time to go...."

Sheila was being so brave and stoical, still out walking with her friends.

Here are a couple of the photos that Gail is going to print out and give her.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

This is your morning call!

Do you ever worry that other residents of your road are missing out on a lovely fresh new Spring day by lying asleep too long?

I do.

Why else would I bark so enthusiastically as I trot down the street first thing every morning with Gail, on my way to the park?

And of course, encouraged by me, my partners in crime pals, Daisy Yorkie at No.4, Harry Schnauzer at No.39 and Heidi Border Terrier at No.41 (she has the most impressive vocal chords) all join in. Sometimes next door's Molly Springer Spaniel too. Only Jake Flat-Coated Retriever at No.8 always stays silent.

I think my neighbours are very lucky to have such a public spirited dog like me to wake them up!

PS My wire-haired fox terrier friend Butchy (Katie's older brother) has terrible news this morning. He is very, very ill, suffering from brain-tumour induced seizures, as did dear old Hamish. So I am a bit subdued just now, thinking about him and his family. Gail's face looked so sad when she read the news.

Sunday 15 May 2011

A walk with the 'OIL' man

We went for a lovely walk in the hills with Gail's friend Ian this weekend. 

Wow his car is a bit smarter (and cleaner) than Gail's ...

See how I am gazing in admiring fashion at Ian.

Of course, I didn't neglect to remind Gail that I adore her the most.

And here I am at the top of the big hill, receiving in return the attention that is my due.
(We are sitting in a wind shelter. You often find these little stone constructions at the top of hills in Scotland, as up high it is almost always blowing a gale and so walkers need somewhere to shelter and eat their squashed sandwiches and drink their flasks of coffee. They are great places to sniff out scraps of left overs.)

Normally, we'd expect to meet mountain hare and ptarmigan up here, but it seemed they were being shy so it was just us and the occasional noisily flapping red grouse.

At the end of the day, we came down off the hills and into a pretty birch wood. The grass was so soft on the paws, like a deep pile carpet, a relief after all the stones higher up.

The humans appeared to be slowing down a bit. Well you know, they're not as young as when they first met, a quarter of a century ago!  Whereas me, I am now in the full bloom of youth, at one with the fresh green leaves dancing on the birch trees, and the bluebells, violets and delicate speedwells newly bursting through the undergrowth. (Sorry there are no photos of the flowers. Blame Gail.)

So anyway I sat down patiently to wait.

And when the others caught up I remembered to wag my tail and say "thank you" politely to Ian for such a nice day out.

PS You might recall that last summer I stayed briefly with Ian and his two gorgeous Westies, Florrie and Lucy. I was most disappointed that the Westies didn't come along today, and rather worried. But it's all OK.  Gail explained that, 'cos Ian is mostly working abroad at the moment (in Yemen, yikes!) the 'girls' have gone to stay temporarily with his son who lives in the Channel Islands, and are having a splendid time with beach walks every day. Here they are, about to board the plane on their way out to Guernsey.
I do hope I see them again some time.

Friday 13 May 2011

Our Churchillian leader...

(Repeat of Thursday's post, which Blogger seems to have lost)

Elections to the Scottish Parliament last week resulted in a landslide victory for the Scottish Nationalist party under the supposedly charismatic leadership of one Mr Alex Salmond.

Yes I know. You won’t be interested in some smarmy politician, however successful, unless I can dig up a canine connection.

Well, neither Gail nor I could recall seeing any photos of this giant* of Scottish politics out walking a favourite pooch (although, from the look of him just now, he sure could use the exercise…)

In desperation, we reached for Google.

No sign of Wee Eck doling out ‘Best in Show’ rosettes. No cuddling fluffy puppies. Nothing.

Ah but wait!

Did you know that there is a Facebook group dedicated to the proposition that ‘Alex Salmond looks like the Churchill dog’.
 Oh Yes!

[Note for non British readers – the ‘Churchill dog’ - pictured above - is well known in the UK as star of a long running series of TV adverts for a certain insurance company.] 

*That’s ‘giant’ as in an ‘ever expanding girth’ sense.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Just a CWV today

That's Cute Wee Video of course...

Friday 6 May 2011

Galileo, Newton, Einstein and Bertie Boffin

Welcome, students, to this latest lecture in my world renowned 'Canine Science Series'! This lecture is dedicated to our Relentlessly Huge friend Mango and his family and I wish them all the best in their efforts to bring his horrid seizures under control, and hope that science (plus love) can help.

As you are aware, today's topic is gravity, and I know you will all be leaping up and down with excitement at the prospect.

Of course, it is only because of gravity, that we have the 'down' bit...

Now all good scientists like to test their ideas by performing experiments. Italian physicist/astronomer Galileo Galilei conducted one of the most famous experiments in history when he dropped two balls of different masses off the Leaning Tower of Pisa and thus conclusively demonstrated that all objects fall at the same acceleration, due to gravity.

And so, when planning this lecture, I had what I thought a truly excellent idea. I suggested to Gail that we take the whole class on a trip to Pisa, and all the dogs whose weights we know (see graph, which will biggify on clicking) would jump off the top of the tower together, and I would stand at the bottom with a big net and observe what happened.

I have to tell you that Gail immediately looked alarmed. "Hold on a minute", she said, "I don't think we have the budget for that, what with all the higher education cutbacks, etc. Anyway, there is a fine tradition in science of 'thought experiments', using pure logic to determine what might happen. Why don't you try that instead Bertie?"

So I spent a little while pondering what might happen if I took all my friends to Pisa....

Oh dear.

Well first off, numbers were greatly reduced by the time we reached the Leaning Tower, Lacie having shamelessly announced that she thought science "too boring" and hijacked a bus to take her and an entourage of the more fashion conscious dogs for some retail therapy in Milan. Asta wanted to join them, but she had consumed an excess of gelato and was too sick to travel, but also too bloated to fit through the door of the tower. Stella, who didn't really deserve to join the class anyway as she never divulged her weight, predictably hightailed her presumably rather chubby self off to the Clooney villa on Lago di Como no soon as we'd set paw in Italy. Some of the boy dogs heard about a poker night organised by the local mafiosa, and their whereabouts is still unknown. And finally, oh horror of horrors, dear sweet innocent little Katie accepted an invitation to a 'Bunga Bunga' party, courtesy of some creepy older guy with an orange tan and strangely unnatural hair....

The faithful few that did make it up all the steps to the top of the Leaning Tower (led of course by George) were to leap off in unison the minute I gave the sign.  Sadly, Mango got distracted at a crucial moment and was a couple of seconds late in jumping, so landed on top of all the others and....

What's that Gail? You are saying that I have misunderstood the concept of a 'thought experiment'?

OK then, back to the text books (sigh).

The name most commonly associated with gravity is of course Sir Isaac Newton, quite possibly the least likable personality ever amongst world ranking scientists (and believe me the competition is strong). The story goes that Newton's dog Diamond knocked over a candle and burned a notebook containing 20 years worth of observations, but when you read about the relish with which, in later life as Master of the Royal Mint, Newton pursued the prosecution of coin counterfeiters and had the miscreants hung, drawn and quartered, you will be relieved that his dog apparently escaped with a mild ticking off.

Oh, I am digressing again.

Let's move on to Einstein, who introduced the concept that gravity is the curvature of space time, hence the more massive an object, the more light bends around it. It seems that this effect has been noticed in Wilf's household, but only in the vicinity of the bipeds (surely not 'the Font', whom we all imagine as a slender, long-limbed and not at all dense Scandinavian, don't we?)

I think that the explanation for why light shines out of a certain orifice belonging to 'King' Toffee in South Africa awaits a 21st Century Einstein figure.

Now I would like to have made more use in this lecture of all the fascinating weight data that you provided, but I confess that I am more that a little troubled about its accuracy. Lacie dear (said in my best patronising David Cameronesque tones), did you weigh yourself on top of Mount Everest? Or maybe even on the moon? And another data point looks like an 'outlier'. Or can a dog really be 230 lb? Nearly two Gails?? If so, Mango, we predict high tides in the Estate Pool when you approach. As for Riley and Enzo - Newton himself would have been baffled by your measurement system. Lastly, on legal advice from Jed and Abbey, I decided to steer well clear of any of the data relating to the humans, cats and parrots...

I would also like to have discussed with you my interesting theory of "dog mouth/black hole equivalence",  but sadly we have already run out of time today!

Monday 2 May 2011

Britain at its Best?

Now I've had a wee peak at the photos in the paper and I will concede that Kate - ooops sorry I mean Catherine - did look lovely down in Westminster Abbey on Friday.

But I still contend that, if you had wanted to see 'Britain at its Best' this weekend, you should have joined me in Northwest Scotland.
Posing on the beach at Gairloch, Wester Ross
More posing - Gairloch village in the background
Yes it really is Scotland. And the sea really was that blue!
Escaping the Bank Holiday crowds
Admiring the view of the Torridon hills
Conquering my first Munro - Beinn Alligin, above Loch Torridon
It was so dry that one of the Torridon hills (Liathach) caught fire.
Yes really!!
Watching the fire from a safe distance at the far end of Loch Torridon
And finally, back at our cottage, enjoying 'Hamish's view' over the Loch

Log in on Friday for the much anticipated Gravity Lecture.....

PS for more on the fire, see this dramatic report from a walker on Liathach.