Wednesday 31 August 2011

Not a wolf after all ....

Has it ever occurred to you that the human species is not quite as bright as it's cracked up to be?

Well I could think of a multitude of examples to make my point (and no doubt you can too) but I'm just going to tell you about this new book that Gail's been reading this week.
'In Defence of Dogs". I think you'll agree that the title looks promising.

And as you know, this is a scientific household, so the fact that the book is by John Bradshaw, an anthrozoologist* at Bristol University, and is claimed to "use science to advocate for a better life for companion dogs" is also in its favour.

But hang on a minute.


He could have saved so much time by coming to stay with me for a few days. After all, what wolf:

  • Goes to bed every night with a hot water bottle?
  • Likes more than anything else to be picked up and cuddled by a human?
  • Thinks everyone in the whole world will be his friend?
  • Writes a blog?

Oh. Wait a minute. Gail is telling me maybe there's more to it than not being a wolf. The author is saying that dog behaviour is all about sociability and cooperation rather than strict hierarchies. So the idea that us dogs need to dominated by their human is quite wrong.

This is beginning to sound much more interesting.

I have to tell you that Gail is only about half the way through the book, so if she finds out anything else useful, I'll pass it on.

*Anthrozoologist: that's someone who studies the science of human-animal interactions

Sunday 28 August 2011

But Gail we don't have a hurricane here ...

Oh I am so disappointed today.

Gail had promised me that we would be going for another hill walk.  I had been hoping to bag my third Munro.

And now she's saying that maybe we'll just have a short outing to the nearby woods instead 'cos it's too windy.

What kind of a wimp is she?  I mean, there's all my blog friends battening down the hatches in the Eastern USA, where they are experiencing a properly terrifying and dangerous hurricane, and my wings are being clipped in the face of some normal Scottish August weather.

Look, I've found the Met Office mountain forecast for our area for today. It's not that bad:

Can you see (you may have to biggify) it says "No risk of strong sunlight". So what are you worrying about then Gail? That pale freckly skin of yours won't be going all pink today will it?

Oh this is boring. Why isn't everyone an optimist like me?

To all my friends confined to barracks in the face of Irene, I totally empathise.

Friday 26 August 2011

Agility: progress report + Help for Horatio

Attention levels
Bertie must learn that barking at the horses in the adjacent field is not the point of the exercise.
I like attention. Why do all the other dogs get more attention than me? Especially that Maddy, just ‘cos she’s so hopeless at the ‘wait’ bit.
Speed over obstacles
Bertie could move faster if he put his mind to it, as he shows when chasing fellow trainee Maddy.
Look, if you go quickly then your turn is over too soon and that’s no fun.
Accuracy over obstacles
So long as he actually tackles the jumps, rather than dashing across the field to try and join the more advanced dogs, Bertie usually does well.
“Does well”? Talk about faint praise. I’m brilliant. Have I ever knocked down a jump? Ever? No? I rest my case. Oh and, what do you mean "more advanced"?
General behaviour
Bertie is not the worst behaved of the young dogs we have come across, but his tendency to go AWOL half way round the circuit needs attention.
Hey give me a break. Remember that I am a terrier, and unlike all those swotty collies, naughtiness is my birthright.
Areas for improvement
Bertie is far too fond of the sound of his own voice. We are less so.
I have noticed that some of the other dogs have treats that smell much better than the ones Gail brings for me.
Issues with handler
For someone who claims to have a PhD, Gail’s ability to remember the order of the obstacles seems rather poor.
See comment above. Plus, why are you always so ready to praise the other dogs Gail, yet so critical of me?

Maddy the Manchester Terrier (she's FAST!)

Dawn - one of the many swotty collies

PS My little wire haired fox terrier friend Horatio in Edinburgh needs your help!

He has been attending puppy school this summer, and has apparently made a big impression with his sparkling personality. For the final class next week, he is expected to perform a party trick. His humans are in a panic over this. If you have any bright ideas about what he could do, please do go over to his blog and let him know.

PPS Below is a version of the report card which hopefully those of you who see a big blank higher up in this post can read.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Human Grandad remembered me!

Well of course, I hear you saying. A distinctive little chappie like me. Why wouldn't he?

Let me explain.

My bloggie pals may have noticed that I wasn't much in contact last week. You see I was s'posed to be going down to Nottingham with Gail to visit her parents. I would have been the star attraction, as you will already have realised. But sadly this time it wasn't be be - something about a favourite aunt's funeral in Sussex and it all getting too complicated. So anyway, I had to stay behind in Aberdeen.

Now I am sorry to have to tell you that human Grandad's memory is not so good as it once was. He finds it especially hard to recall names of places and people. And he gets rather confused about things in general these days.

But guess what! Gail came home last night and she told me that almost the first thing human Grandad said when he saw her was "How's Bertie?" And later, more than once, "I do hope Bertie is OK", and then, when they were setting off for a short walk down to the River Trent, "what a pity Bertie's not here to come with us". He only once said "Hamish' not 'Bertie'.

It will be human Grandad's 90th birthday in November. Gail has promised me that, absolutely come what may, I will go down to see him then, if not before.  Oh I do hope so. I know he's a bit unhappy at the moment, anxious 'cos he's aware his brain doesn't work as well as it used to. I'm sure I would cheer him up.

Sunday 21 August 2011

Haar haar - not funny...

Gail and I have been debating the merits of a well known aspect of summer weather in Aberdeen.

I guess if you want to make something sound better than it is you give it a fancy name. You know, like bin men being environmental hygiene operatives....

So people in the east of Scotland have a special word for coastal fog. The call it 'haar'. 

We had a bad dose of haar when we took our visitors to Dunnottar Castle last week. 

Gail was going on about it all being so atmospheric, the ruined grey stone buildings looming in the swirling mists. 

But I think you can tell that the boys weren't too impressed.

And small wonder. You might remember I went there as a young pup with Gail's friend Helen. On a sunny day.

And Hamish too enjoyed fine weather for his visit. (Click here for his full report).

But talking of mists, oh deary me, Gail is getting all misty eyed looking at those pictures of Hamish. I'd better stop right now, and go and give her a lick and a cuddle.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

"Ickle wickle puppy next door!"

I mentioned a while back that my next door neighbours Paul and Jan were planning to acquire a Briard puppy.

What is it about the youngest members of my species that make humans, even the most down to earth and rational ones (yes I am thinking of Gail) go pathetically gooey and start spouting embarrassing baby talk?

OK I admit that I have been excited too, in a manly and not-at-all-sentimental fashion you understand.

Well the new pup arrived on Sunday evening. Paul and Jan picked her up and drove her all the way back from somewhere near Nottingham. I have not been allowed to meet her yet, but I know that her name is Ruby, and she is bound to be pretty 'cos Gail insists that all the most beautiful girls come from Nottingham....

Although that last 'fact' may be unreliable.

(Did I ever mention that Gail spent the first eighteen years of her life in Nottingham?)

PS Just caught a glimpse of a bundle of black fluff through next door's front window. She's not 'ickle wickle' at all in fact she's already almost as big as me. At only nine weeks. Eeeeek!

Saturday 13 August 2011

The consolation of philosophy

You would think from this photo that Gail's friend Michael and I were getting along quite companionably by the end of his visit.

Well, "up to a point, Lord Copper". Or at least, we co-existed peacefully provided the following conditions were met:

  • We were outdoors
  • Michael was wearing long trousers and boots
  • There was no food in the vicinity
  • I had already walked ten miles and was a wee bit tired
But sadly, I have to say (British understatement here) I do not think that this particular human being, fine gentleman though he is, Gail assures me, in all other respects, will ever be persuaded of the joys of dog ownership.

It is of course hard not to take this personally. But I shall try to be philosophical about the matter.

I am thinking how lucky I am to live with someone who tolerates my occasional naughtiness, and makes allowances for certain facts about my breed that have long been recognised:

"Fox-terriers are born with about four times as much original sin in them as other dogs."  ~Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat

Wednesday 10 August 2011

No riots here (and Michael is forgiven)

Well I know that those of you who aren't into hillwalking might be getting bored of yet more pictures of me bouncing and skipping around in the Scottish Highlands, but I want to show you that not all parts of the UK are as troubled as recent news reports may have led you to believe.

Plus, I want to boast a little.

On Tuesday this week, I bagged my second Munro! Lochnagar this time, a whopping 3789 ft above sea level.

There were seven of us on the expedition all told. Me, Gail, her friend Michael, his grandsons George and Albert, neighbour Neil and his flat-coated retriever Jake.

It is thanks to Neil that I was able to travel out to the start of the walk (a ninety minute drive) in a separate car from Michael...

At twelve whole miles, it was my longest walk to date, and also my highest climb.

Here we all are setting off. Lochnagar is the peak you can see faintly in the distance (top left).

And here we are, half way up. Can you spot me, leading the way? You may have to biggify the picture.

I wanted to rush right to the top, but every now and then Gail made me stop to pose in front of what she thought was a scenic view. As if I am not scenery enough!

For some reason everyone kept shouting at me: "BERTIE KEEP AWAY FROM THE CLIFFS!"

Do you like this picture of Gail and me at the summit?

Guess what? Michael took the photo (and some of the others in this post). Yes, it turns out he isn't so bad after all.

I will admit, that right at the very top there, I was a little scared, which is why Gail is giving me a cuddle. But I don't want anyone to go away with the impression that I was carried all the way up. That absolutely was not the case at all.

On this fine walk, Gail even remembered to bring me things to eat and chew. Although of course, her own sandwich box smelled so much more interesting than any of the stuff I was given.

Jake and I were not the only dogs to conquer Lochnagar that day. Meet, Fergus, a friendly Keeshond.

After lunch, we set off back down by a different route.

So pretty. The landscape I mean. Oh, and me too, if you insist.

Yes and didn't us youngsters all do brilliantly?

It was George and Albert's first ever Munro, so HUGE CONGRATS to them!

And finally, I would like to point out that, at the end of the walk, besides Loch Muick, there were swarms of midges that were definitely more irritating than me...

Saturday 6 August 2011

"More irritating than the midges"

Yes. I know you won't believe it, but that's how Gail's friend Michael described me last night.

You will want to hear my side of the story, I'm sure.

You know how exciting it is when you have visitors. This week Michael and his two grandsons are here in Aberdeen for a wee holiday. I was instantly attracted to Michael. He's one of those humans who insists on wearing shorts and sandals all the time in the summer, even in Scotland! It's rare I get the opportunity to lick so much exposed human flesh. Irresistible.

Surely, he should find it flattering that I pay him so much attention? But apparently not.

And worse.

We all went out for a hillwalk yesterday.

Once we escaped the midges in the trees at the bottom, we were having a fantastic time. Well at least until we reached the summit.

Michael and the boys climbed up the rocks to the very top to eat their lunch.

And Gail totally refused to lift me up the big rock to join them

It seems that Michael and the boys are too selfish to share their picnic.

I can tell you, when we came to some more rocks, Michael was VERY LUCKY I did not push him off....

And bearing in mind what he said about me and midges later, I wish I had!

(Gail says I should be grateful to be taken on such interesting outings, and need to learn that not all humans are fond of having their legs licked and their sandwiches nicked. But that can't be right, surely?)

Wednesday 3 August 2011

A visit to the Queen's Well

You just take a sip of spring water in the middle of nowhere and someone rushes along and builds a memorial to commemorate the occasion.

Well that's what happened to Queen Victoria when she ventured up Glen Mark, at the head of Glen Esk, in 1861.

Last week, approximately one hundred and fifty years later, I followed in her footsteps, along with Gail and her friends Kate and Henry.

This is the 'Queen's Well'. Quite an impressive little structure isn't it?

But to be frank, the water looked slimey, so we wandered further up the glen... search of the perfect picnic spot.

I think we found it - don't you?

So Gail, when are they going to come along a build a memorial so that future generations know that I lunched right here?

I wonder if my friend Wilf is aware that the whole area is called the Glens of Angus?

(And I'm telling you, you can't go anywhere in this part of Scotland without finding some sign saying that Queen Victoria got here first. It's a wonder she ever had time to be monarch. Well I guess if you reign for sixty years you get bored of hanging around sat on the throne in Buckingham Palace with some heavy bit of metal on your head...)

PS from Gail: history buffs please be tolerant with Bertie and remember science is his speciality.