PS from Gail - this blog will be quiet for a week or two over the festive season. Bertie and I will be down in Nottingham, concentrating on taking good care of HGD and HGY. Looking forward to being in touch again in 2013.
I know you're busy etc., and this letter is rather late and my request is, I admit, unconventional and in all honesty I can if necessary wait till New Year (like most of the folk who receive so-called 'Christmas' gifts from Gail have to anyway).
Oh but please, please, PLEASE can you send me a handler who will enable me to fulfil my true potential as an agility dog?
In case you doubt what I am up against at the moment, please watch carefully this video of Gail and me, filmed by my dear friend Alison during one of the 'fun' party games at the Deeside Dog Agility Club Christmas Party last night. For clarity, I have added some subtitles, although even without these, I think that Gail's shortcomings as a handler will be all too obvious...
Amongst the current club membership there are, in my opinion, several promising candidates for the position of replacement handler. Perhaps you could make some discreet enquiries at the next training session? (Probably best to park the sleigh and reindeer behind the barn and out of sight of the other dogs).
I'm sure you will agree that my request is an entirely reasonable one, and so I am happy to leave the matter in your capable and hopefully not too frost-bitten hands.
We know exactly what should happen when, and find it most disturbing when our humans forget the rules.
Take my morning walk, for example.
I know the drill, every step of the way.
Gail gets out of bed, has a shower, comes down to the kitchen, stops by my bed to say hello and give me a wee tummy tickle, then consumes her bowl of muesli and precisely and one and a half mugs of tea. After which she puts on her coat (and hat, and scarf and gloves, at this time of year), clips on my lead, and we're out the front door. Turn left and five minutes later we reach the park entrance and only then I am allowed off my lead and we complete our anti-clockwise circuit round the park, pausing now and then to greet all the other early morning regulars.
But sometimes Gail gets things terribly wrong.
Yesterday morning for example. We were only about half way to the park and Gail dropped hold of my lead. Incredible. It was as if she didn't realise where we were.
Well I can tell you, I stopped dead in my tracks and looked up at her, to let her know that she had made a serious error, and that she was still supposed to be attached to me at this point, whatever was she thinking of?
I am pleased to report that, on recognising her mistake, Gail immediately picked up my lead and from then on things proceeded according to plan.
You know how I told you a few days ago that I was sure I had won the agility competition, and found it hard to understand why the judges decided otherwise?
Well Gail is saying that my problem is "over-confidence".
What's more, she claims that this trait has been evident from the start. For example when I was a wee pup I would go up to big and aggressive looking dogs and bounce all over them, confident that they would want to be my friends, even when their body language indicated just the opposite.
So I was thrilled to learn that Human Grandad has also long been seen as over-confident. Recently, when Gail was trying to dissuade him from attempting to walk further than his aged muscles would permit, he replied, in a rare moment of verbal fluency, by telling her how, when he was training to be an RAF pilot in Oklahoma, his flying instructor would tick him off for failing to recognise the limits of his ability and for attempting manoeuvres that were unwise and even dangerous.
I am so proud and happy to have HGD as a role model!
You know I thought I was there at the Loanhead Equestrian Centre yesterday morning in order to enter my first ever contest, the Devanha Dogs Just for Fun Agility Show. But when, at the start of the day, I saw the humans 'walking the course', for a moment I wondered if I'd got it all wrong and Gail was taking part in a sequins-free version of 'Strictly Come Dancing'.
Well apparently that is all part of the proceedings. I also learned there's an awful lot of hanging around at agility events. And that unheated barns in December in Aberdeenshire are very cold.
Luckily, Gail had the foresight to bring Hamish's old coat along for me (and yes, I really did use the words 'luckily' and 'coat' in the same sentence).
I think Gail was was a bit envious of the more experienced handlers who wrapped themselves in sleeping bags whilst waiting their turn. If you are thinking that she looks chilled to the marrow in this next photo, you would be right.
Oh, you are in fact wondering how I performed in the agility ring?
Well frankly, I can't understand what happened.
I mean, I was so confident I was winning, but it seems that judges have strange and narrow-minded ideas about what constitutes a faultless round.
Lots of the dogs boringly restricted themselves to running and jumping over the obstacles, so I would have thought, having demonstrated that I too was perfectly capable of clearing a couple of medium sized hurdles, that my initiative in then going off-piste to inspect the far end of the barn before resuming the 'official' route should have earned me extra points, but the judges thought differently. Likewise, running straight along the 'dog walk' is just so dull when one can demonstrate one's agility - after all that's what it's all about isn't it - by jumping from left to right and back again, several times, across the lower end of the ramp. Oh yes and lastly, having heard Gail complaining about me not sitting patiently at the start on my first two goes, on my third and final event I decided to show her how well I could sit. And sit. And sit....
After all that carry on, it was eventually time to leave, and in the car going home Gail was saying some very odd things about how maybe it was good that my performance was so "erratic" as it doesn't always do to peak too soon and thus leave no scope for improvement next time around.
"Erratic"? Surely Gail at least should recognise my unique wire-haired fox terrier brand of perfection...
It aims to "give all young people the chance to develop skills for work and life, fulfil their potential and have a brighter future".
Jolly good thing, I hear you say.
Now Gail is supposed to be supervising Gregor, a young lad who lives on our street, and who has, for his Duke of Edinburgh community service project, undertaken to devote an hour every Sunday morning to picking up litter in an area of Aberdeen near to the North Sea shore.
Well up to now he has been just emailing Gail photos as proof of his endeavours, but last Sunday I persuaded her that we really should go along and see for ourselves what he's been up to.
It has to be said that standing around watching someone pick up litter is pretty dull work, so Gail and I joined Gregor's parents plus Bonnie and Jack for a brisk walk around the lighthouse whilst Gregor got on with his task.
When we returned we found Gregor had been busy.
Gail delegated the job of sniffing out the contents of the rubbish bag to the acknowledged expert.
I confess I was a bit disappointed not to detect any decomposing seagull, or left over fish suppers.
There were quite a few beer cans (remember we are in Scotland) and these could be recycled.
It was a chilly day and I expect you have been admiring Gregor's splendid hat.
I must admit, I had been rather hoping that Gregor would bring along his lovely Norwegian friend Aurora to help, as I knew from earlier photos that she had joined him one previous time when she was over on a visit.
But sadly Aurora was back home on the other side of the North Sea, and today it was just Gregor. I do hope you will all join me in congratulating him on his dedication to cleaning up our environment.
Oh and I am now waiting with eager anticipation for my invite to join Gregor on one of those exciting overnight adventures involving long hikes and camping out in the mountains, as I believe these are also an essential part of the DofE award programme.
I hope my regular readers will by now have realised that, with Gail's assistance, I attempt to uphold the highest standards of written English on this blog. After all, there are plenty of other places on the internet if you are looking for illiterate and dumbed down versions of the language.
This week I decided it was time to expand my vocabulary, and Gail helpfully pointed me to a video she found on the Guardian website, produced in the wake of the publication of the 'Leveson Report' (an inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press) and featuring the lead counsel to the inquiry.
It is titled 'Learn to speak like Robert Jay QC'.
Now sadly, Lord Justice Leveson's report did not tackle the challenging topic of Internet ethics, a subject which will be of much concern to my fellow canine bloggers, who so frequently suffer the indignity of being photographed while in bath, enduring treatment at the vets, or when dressed in ridiculous outfits purely for the entertainment of their humans.
Time to put that right.
And now that you have watched the video you will have absolutely no difficulty understanding any of the following.
First, I want to adumbrate any potential criticism of this post by emphasising that the topic of invasion of privacy on the internet is neither nugatory nor recondite, and lies squarely within the bailiwick of this blogger. The propinquity of pups to their human carers, the invention of the digital camera and the widespread availability of broadband services are all deleterious to preserving canine confidentiality. Adventitious occurrences of an embarrassing nature can be captured on camera and instantly broadcast across the globe. One can pelucidly voice one's objections until the cows come home, but the roads to justice are frequently occluded and condign punishments of the perpetrators are, regrettably, seldom enforced...
I guess most of you know that I was named after Bertie Wooster, the fictional character created by P.G.Wodehouse.
There comes a time in a chap's life when he starts to wonder if his name is really apt.
Gail says she chose it 'cos Bertie Wooster always makes her smile, and so do I. Furthermore, she claims that we two Berties have much in common, both being prone to getting into scrapes but never failing to bounce back, enthusiasm undimmed, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready for our next ill thought out adventure. Oh and that neither of us has a mean bone in his body.
Well I have been going into the subject in more depth and I can't help but feel Gail made a mistake with her somewhat superficial approach to name selection. Indeed I am quite upset to learn that this young Wooster is much given to alcoholic excess and short-lived engagements to unsuitable females. He has dodgy taste in clothing, an array of fearsome aunts and, worst of all, is described as possessing 'negligible mental powers'.
If only Gail had chosen to name me after a different and altogether more estimable inhabitant of Wodehouse's fictional England.
And no Gail, I am not thinking of Gussie Fink-Nottle, Bertie's Drones Club chum who keeps newts and has a face like a fish.
Nor am I thinking of Lord Emsworth, whose deepest emotional attachment is to his prize-winning pig.
That is so not funny.
We all know perfectly well I am talking about the masterful Jeeves, in theory Bertie's servant but without question a person of superior intellect, tact and subtly creative problem solving abilities.
Yes I think Jeeves would have been a quite splendid and fitting name.
Gail, please explain why are you laughing at me, again.
Us dogs get to know our humans pretty well don't we?
So I think you can trust me to give you an accurate report of Gail's thought processes first thing Saturday morning. Here goes: "Hmmm, I suppose I really should go Christmas shopping today, so I don't end up rushing around in a last minute panic once again. Oh dear but the shops will be terribly busy and anyway I haven't a clue what to buy, everyone has too many things already don't they? And it would be a shame to waste a nice bright day by being indoors. One needs to soak up every possible ray of sun at this time of year - they say rickets is on the increase 'cos folk stay inside too much. Plus Darren Bett on the BBC forecast heavy rain for Scotland tomorrow. And then there's Bertie. I really owe him a good long walk, after sending him off to kennels last weekend. See him sat there looking at me with that adorable, optimistic, trusting little face. Yes, the Christmas stuff can wait. But where to go? It's so muddy everywhere at the moment...(thinks for a minute or two). I know, we'll visit the Forvie Nature Reserve. The ground by the coast is sandy and well drained. And the terns aren't nesting at this time of year, so the dune area won't be closed off. The wind today is light, so no danger of Bertie getting sand grains blown in his eyes on the beach. If we complete the circuit of the Reserve - estuary, dunes, beach, cliff path and back - that's at least seven miles, so Bertie might even be a bit tired by the end. Yes that's what we'll do, better get going, it's a thirty minute drive and we've only a few hours before it's dark again..."
All in all, I think we can congratulate Gail on a good decision. As for presents, there's always Amazon gift vouchers.
But I must say she was wrong about the (lack of) mud.
To be running fast and free is absolutely the greatest feeling of all, don't you think?
A stretch of open ground lies ahead. The click of your lead being released is as a starting gun to Usain Bolt. Instantly you break into a vigorous, joyful sprint and, better than any Olympic gold, your prize is to be young, bursting with animal energy, unrestrained.
It's not about the chase (that is a different pleasure).
It's about the feel of the wind lifting your ears as your paws pass swift and light over the soft grass, limbs at full stretch, powered by your finely muscled haunches.
And your owner smiles in pure delight, all troubles set aside, bewitched as ever by your lithe and graceful movement.
Oh thank you Gail for letting me snuggle up on your bed, for once. And yes I do think that I deserve special treatment and also that you owe me an explanation. How come you disappeared off down to Nottingham for three days and I was consigned to what you euphemistically refer to as 'camp'?
Well Bertie, if I'd have been going for longer I certainly would have braved taking you with me on the train, but time was short and I thought it simpler to leave you up here while I was down with my family celebrating my Dad's 91st birthday.
WHAT!!!? This can't be true! Tell me you're joking. HGD had a birthday party and I wasn't invited? I feel a major tantrum coming on...
Just calm down and stop bouncing on me Bertie. Please. HGD is a bit old for parties now, and anyway he has outlived nearly all his friends. You didn't miss anything very exciting, believe me.
So then. All the more reason for me to have been there to liven things up a bit. You know I am very skilled at that. Well, perhaps you will have some photos I can post on my blog, at least.
I'm sorry Bertie. HGD had another fall on Friday and now has a bit of a black eye so it didn't seem right to take any pictures. He did ask after you though, and he was disappointed you weren't around. And of course I missed you dreadfully, especially during those 'family moments' when it is so convenient to be able to say "I think the dog needs a walk". I promise you will be coming with me at Christmas, my sanity may depend on it. So can we be friends again now?
Hmmm. Well OK then. Oh and, by the way, it is true that therapy dogs are paid with extra mince pie rations......?
So last month at work Gail was discussing important matters with her animal-loving boss, and the subject of my, er, 'excitable' nature and 'issues' with train travel cropped up.
The boss - who does sound nice - recommended Bach's Rescue Remedy, which she had apparently found most effective in calming down her two horses when they were reluctant to enter their horse-box.
Rather to my surprise, Gail, normally a major league sceptic about so-called alternative medicine, actually went out and purchased said compound. She did then spend quite a time moaning about the astronomical cost of the teeny weeny spray bottle and was overheard saying "it had d*****d well better work".
Pups, have you ever had such an evil substance sprayed into your mouth? Can you believe I was subjected to this humiliating treatment on the station concourse before embarking on the 7:52 a.m. Aberdeen to Edinburgh train? With Gail totally stressed, going "open your mouth you little brat, hold your tongue still, I paid good money for this stuff, and I'll be most upset if you carry on barking on the train, ow-ee your teeth are sharp!"
Now I have no idea how Bach's Rescue Remedy is supposed to work on us dogs, given that it contains no scientifically proven mood altering substances. Wearing my Bertie Boffin hat I hypothesise that a 'placebo by proxy' effect may come into play. That is, if the human is all calm because he or she is confident that the medication will work, then the aura of serenity might I suppose be transmitted to the pup who is by nature sensitive to the mood of its owner.
Well it all went badly wrong with me.
I think we shall have to call what happened on the train last month the 'anti-placebo by proxy' effect. Let me explain how it works:
For starters, Gail was fractious and irritable because she already suspected she had just spent her hard-earned cash on a useless 'quack' remedy. I of course picked up on this anxiety, as well as objecting to the indignity of have some revolting smelling liquid sprayed into my mouth (in fact most of it went up my nose) in the embarrassingly public forum of a railway station, and anyway the whole situation rapidly entered a downwards spiral...
Personally I think Gail should take a bottle of single malt whisky for her own use on the train next time and all will be, or at least seem, fine.
One of my all time favourite short walks is along the footpath which leads eastwards from our Wester Alligin cottage over to the slightly larger lochside settlement of Inveralligin. You can enjoy views of Loch Torridon and the mountains to the south, and the path is gentle and generally easy on the paws.
I expect that those folk who promote Scotland as a tourist destination would prefer that I show you photos of this lovely walk taken on a dry and sunny day.
Well my friends, it is no secret that bright and rain-free days are few and far between in Northwest Scotland in November (or any other month, come to think of it).
So I feel that I shall be doing you a public service by showing you what the path was looking like last weekend, when Gail and I were over at the cottage and ventured out for a stroll during a brief interlude between heavy downpours.
I mean how else would you know that what to any sane dog would appear to be a stream, best avoided by water-averse chaps such as myself, is in fact the correct route to follow?
It all started just fine...
Wet, yes, but perfectly passable
Then for a moment I lost sight of the track
And when I found it again...
It looked like this...
We did eventually reach Inveralligin, without doubt a feat of exploration to match Stanley's arrival at the mouth of the River Congo.
But you might not be surprised to learn that we decided to return via the road.
Oh and by the way, why is a stream known in Scotland as a 'burn'?
Hi, I'm Bertie, a wire-haired fox terrier pup. I live with Gail in Aberdeen, Scotland. An old Westie called Hamish used to live here but he died on 18th February 2010 (exactly the same day I was born). People tell me that he used to have a blog and that I have big pawprints to fill. That's a bit too much responsibility for a very young puppy - and anyway, I intend to make my own mark!
(Gail says that Hamish could certainly have taught me a thing or two about marking stuff....)