Wednesday 29 February 2012

At last she finds a decent book to read ... Maxdog

What's that book you're reading Gail?  Something interesting for once, perhaps? I see it has a beautiful picture of a golden retriever on the front cover.

Well Bertie, strictly speaking I'm re-reading it.  I raced through it so quickly first time round, and now I'm going back over some of my favourite bits.

Fine, Gail, fine. Look really I just want to know who the dog is.

It's Maxdog, silly! Your predecesssor Hamish's old cyber buddy from South Africa. I thought you might recognise him from the photoshopped picture of the two of them 'together' at the side of this blog. 

Oh, THAT Maxdog! The one who died of cancer when I was a wee pup. I don't really remember him, but he was special in some way wasn't he?

He certainly was Bertie. Of course I knew that just from his blog, but now I've read this lovely book by his owner Caryl I understand quite how special he was. 

Hmmmm. (Bertie sounds unimpressed and perhaps a wee bit threatened). Aren't I special too?  So what was so great about Max?

Well, for a start Max was trained to talk, and, more importantly shut up, on command!  No it's OK Bertie, I'm just teasing you. You are special too, of course, even if you don't stop barking when I tell you.  But Max did so many wonderful things, like helping Caryl  reconnect with the world when she was suffering from depression and feeling isolated, and inspiring her to write the blog which played a big part in helping her regain her health, and through which she made friends all over the world with our unique community of dog bloggers. Which you know all about, of course. And then, when Max was diagnosed with liver cancer, he was only given days to live but incredibly he survived and mostly enjoyed life for many more months. 

So which bits of the book are you re-reading Gail?

Well, I really liked the opening chapters about how Max came into Caryl's family initially as her husband's dog, but how Caryl and Max started to develop an exceptionally strong bond - she describes so vividly how he became like her 'shadow'. Then there are some interesting stories about taking Max to obedience classes and dog shows. Anyone who has tried to train a pup will relate to these. Although frankly I think you were a whole lot more of a handful at puppy school than Max ever was. The tales I could tell about that.....

OK, OK, no need to exaggerate.  Anything else about the book?

I found Caryl's account of Max's final illness, and the difficult decision to end his life, particularly poignant, as during that time I had Hamish put to sleep too.  And although much of the book's subject matter is universal, the South African background details are also part of the appeal. Personally, I would just love to have a swimming pool in my garden! But on the other hand, life in Johannesburg clearly has its downsides. At least when we go out for walks here in Scotland, we don't have to worry too much about you getting into fights with aggressive, unsocialised dogs, do we Bertie? Oh and another thing I liked were the poems, so touching - rather better, I might say, than your feeble efforts. 

Oh that is so unfair. You are not comparing like with like.  My métier is comic verse. But tell me, is Maxdog mostly a serious book?

Well of course Bertie, a book about a member of your species will naturally have plenty of light hearted moments. But this one becomes more serious as Caryl describes how she became depressed, after the death of a close friend coincided with several other tough life events. Caryl writes about this with great honesty. And then we learn how it is that she starts a blog and of course that's interesting for me because it was through the Maxdog blog that she and I got to know each other. Believe it or not, Bertie, some of my friends think I'm nuts, helping you write a dog blog. Yes they do! But Caryl explains, so much better than I ever could, why it's all so enjoyable. 

Unlike some books you try to read Gail - the recent tome about particle physics comes to mind - I have noticed that with this one, you are turning the pages over quite rapidly. How is that?

Oh it's such a pleasure to read, Bertie. Caryl writes so well, in a fluent, accessible style. It's entertaining, moving, informative and uplifting, so you always want to find out what's on the next page. And she wisely steers well clear of the Higgs boson... 

Do you think I should be recommending the book to my bloggie friends then?

Definitely, Bertie, most definitely. Tell them to click here to find details about 'Maxdog' and how to order it. 

And I've been thinking Gail, if I am special too, why is there not a book about me?

Well Bertie you never know. One day there might just be! 

Monday 27 February 2012

Sunday crowds

When I first arrived I thought I had Forvie beach all to myself...

But it turned out that wasn't the case at all.

Saturday 25 February 2012

Sympathy for bankers after my haircut...

Gail has warned me that today's title might be inflammatory.

Well I am a terrier, and it is not in my nature to back away from a confrontation.

You see, I heard this week, apropos the debt crisis in Greece, that the banks have been forced to have another haircut.

By an amazing co-incidence, I too have been enduring a haircut this week.

It is not my idea of fun.

To be strictly accurate, for the most part my hair is not cut, it is 'hand stripped' (by special stripping knife rather than literally by hand). Gail persists in the delusion that this is a skill she will eventually master. Meanwhile....

I have noticed that she has developed a strategy of starting with my neck area, then moving backwards. Now I will admit, it's quite a pleasant feeling, all that pressing and plucking action around the neck. A bit like a massage. One can feel relaxed. Having lulled me into a false sense of security, Gail then moves onto my black patch. This is not so relaxing, but Gail insists, "Oh it's worth it Bertie, think of all those people we meet who admire your markings and wonder how it is that your patches are black not grey like so many other wire-haired fox terriers".

Perhaps I should include a wee technical explanation here.

See this photo below. They are some of the old hairs Gail stripped from my back this afternoon.
See how the hairs change colour half way down. The tips are black and the root ends pale grey. If my hair were cut not stripped then the black would be all removed and my markings would be a boring grey colour. Which, as Gail says, would impress no-one.  Except perhaps the odd schnauzer owner.

Now I can't help but remark that it is Gail who basks in the glory from having a dog with a coat that other humans admire, and me who has to put up with all the tugging. "But Bertie" Gail says "you gain too, your beautiful glossy wiry coat is so much more waterproof for not having been sheared."

Well that's as maybe, but really there are limits to what one will tolerate, for vanity or weather resistance. 

When Gail moves on towards my nether regions, the stripping action is most uncomfortable, and I let her know it. At this point I am suspecting her of fantasizing that she is giving this sort of a 'haircut' to Sir Mr Fred Goodwin

Fortunately, before too long, she puts down the stripping knife and out come the scissors. Phew.

I wonder if my friends are put through all this malarkey?  

PS I asked Gail if she would take an 'after' photo of me, but she said, Bertie, the sad truth is, despite the fact I seem to have removed half a dog, you don't actually look that different. So I said, oh go on Gail, take one anyway. 

And here it is.
PS Gail would like to point out that all she is aiming for with Bertie's coat is a modicum of tidiness, and not a 'show grade' outcome!

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Chicken liver brownies and more...

Well, contrary to the fears I expressed in the previous post, it turns out that being two years old is not so bad.

Here are some highlights from my birthday weekend (which I spent over at the Torridon cottage).

Gail baked me my very own utterly delicious 'Chicken Liver Brownie Birthday Cake'.
See me blowing out the candles there.

My dear friend Marie-Thérèse not only made a beautiful card,

But also gave me a super present, which I unwrapped, quite delicately, all by myself.

That important business completed, I went exploring outside in the freshly fallen snow.

Gail and I shared a joke*.

Then before we left I caught up on the local gossip with my Irish Terrier neighbour Dooley. These Irish lads do enjoy a good craic.

On the way back to Aberdeen, I galloped around by the sea in sunny Nairn, and made some brand new friends.

And there was also time for a spot of posing, as is expected of the good looking young male when he visits the beach.

Yes, all in all, I'm quite happy being two.

Oh and by the way, 'That List' proved most useful when we ran short of fuel for the wood burning stove...

*Thanks to Michael of Baclenbea for the photo. No that is NOT Michael of 'more irritating than the midges' notoriety.....

Sunday 19 February 2012

Time to put away puppyish things?

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

This is a serious, sober and grown-up post. I hope you can tell.

You see, it was my second birthday yesterday. I’ll show you some pictures of the my presents another time (i.e. when Gail has found the card reader for the camera) but for the moment we shall pause to reflect upon what it means for a dog when he reaches that age at which he is considered fully mature.

In fact I have been issued with a set of instructions as to how the adult wire-haired fox terrier is supposed to conduct himself. It is a lengthy and frankly rather intimidating list.  Apparently, at two years old, one can no longer excuse one’s misdemeanours as mere puppyish pranks.  It is expected that henceforth one’s behaviour will be impeccable. For example:

  • Chewing activities are restricted to designated toys and dog food.  
  • One will not jump up at humans unless explicitly invited.
  • Commands will be obeyed at all times, instantaneously.
  • In particular, one should be able to comprehend the meaning of every part of the word ‘NO!’
  • Rolling is only permitted on odour-free surfaces, and hole digging in the garden is banned except in the designated corner. 
  • One will submit to one’s human’s cack-handed grooming efforts without complaint.
  • Small and timorous dogs met in the park will not be terrorised, and bigger dogs will be treated with due respect.
  • One must remember that sheep are for growing future woolly sweaters or providing Sunday roasts accompanied by mint sauce; they are not for chasing across the hillsides.
  • Barking in the car is a thing of the past.
  • As is ‘mad hour’ – that period of the day when one feels compelled to rush around the house, bouncing on and off the furniture and walls and randomly trying to grab in one’s jaw any available human limb …
  • ...
Oh dear. The list goes on and on. And on. 

I am going to find this being grown-up business awfully difficult.

Yes you may wish me a (belated) Happy Birthday.

Thursday 16 February 2012

A visit to Union Terrace Gardens

So. Back to reality, after my Valentine's escapade.

There is one almighty row going on in Aberdeen just now.

I think it's time I got involved. Be part of David Cameron's 'Big Society' and all that.  Not to mention there's nothing a terrier likes more than a good scrap.

It's all about this plan to redevelop a park running through a valley in the heart of the city. A local business magnate, Sir Ian Wood, has offered to fund about half of a £100 million transformation of Union Terrace Gardens into some swanky 'sculptured space' they're calling the Granite Web. (The City Council's to pay for the rest, with money it doesn't have.) The blurb from the architects talks about all these extra green areas they'll create, although what we see in their computer generated graphics is quite a lot of concrete.  We can only guess, from the enthusiastic support of builder of cheap and flimsy homes and ugly commercial buildings local property developer Stewart Milne, that other aspects of the plans are being kept under wraps for now. Oh and I have to tell you, when Gail read some claim that 6500 jobs would be created, I heard her muttering "I suppose they think we all believe in Father Christmas too...."

Anyway it's only a mile to walk to the Gardens from our home, so I persuaded Gail to take me there this afternoon so I could have a nose around myself.

And here we are.

Well I can see that it is rather neglected. Look at the state of that pathway.

And while the facilities for dogs are acceptable,

The ones for humans leave something to be desired..

But all in all you know, it's a bonny wee park, with its own unique charm. Not at its best in February perhaps, but even without the flowers in bloom and the trees in leaf, it is a handsome prospect, looking up towards His Majesty's Theatre, is it not?

In fact, three imposing granite buildings, all in a row, adorn this part of town, and they are known locally as "Education, Salvation and Damnation". Yes, you've guessed it, the library, the church and the theatre.

Standing guard over both the Gardens and the fine civic buildings, we find Braveheart himself, Sir William Wallace, who surely would be pleased to see that at least the railings under his statue are freshly painted.

But perhaps he'd be less happy if he heard about the new scheme of things, whereby a firm of American architects seek to obliterate the distinctive character of the Aberdeen city centre....
The Granite Web: the Diller, Scofidio and Renfro/Keppie design

I had a great time exploring Union Terrace Gardens today. So many splendid trees to sniff, places to run about, and no boring 'dogs mustn't do this and that' signs. Gail was looking a bit peckish after she'd finished taking all the photos for me, so I guess it would be nice if someone opened a cafe down here. And perhaps smartened the place up a bit in general, while preserving our precious heritage. It wouldn't cost too much, would it? Unlike the Granite Web.

There will be a local referendum at the end of the month, asking residents whether or not they support the new development. I am sorry to say that dogs are not invited to take part. I am pretty sure I know which way Gail will be voting. 

Tuesday 14 February 2012

All guns blazing for the Valentine Party

It has been a stressful week chez Bouncing Bertie.

Well, OK, buying flowers for my Valentine date Addy was easy enough.

But oh the problems I've been having over transport.

I just knew in my heart of hearts that my attempts to deploy a so-called 'Magic' Carpet to take Addy to the Valentine Party would not go well.  I fear that for a carpet to fly, an ability to suspend disbelief is required, and that is not a strong point in this household.  And then, worse, it dawned on me that my 'in case the magic fails' calculations for the solar panel additions had not allowed for the near total absence of sunlight in February in Northern Scotland...

Well, it turns out that every cloud - and we have many in Scotland - has a silver lining. I am delighted to tell you that Addy, being a spirited lass, was quite content to ditch the carpet, and thrilled to bits when she saw my back up transport plan.
(Thanks to Addy's Mom for the composite picture)

What a girl! Oh isn't it wonderful when you find a partner who is not only beautiful, in a unique and distinctive fashion, but is also a soul-mate. Do we not look the perfect couple?
(Thanks again Addy's Mom)

So here we are, finally on our way to the Blogville Valentine Party. It's going to be a blast....

P.S. Don't forget to visit Addy's blog later today to find out what happens next...

Sunday 12 February 2012

Adventure Animal credentials take a knock?

Look it's REALLY SCARY when your human takes you on some supposedly gentle walk in the woods and all of a sudden you are faced with a scramble down into a gorge via a slippery and precipitous rock face.

As happened earlier today at Burn O'Vat.

Friends, I am sure you will still vote for me in the Adventure Animals category of the great  Mango Minster competition tomorrow.

Won't you?


Friday 10 February 2012

A tendency to topple

I do resent being laughed at for something that is not my fault. Wouldn't you?

Lately, what with rain one minute and sub-zero temperatures the next, the path through the park has been covered in a slippery sheet of ice. 

So slippery, that when I try to turn corners at speed, I sometimes lose my pawing (that is 'dog' for footing isn't it?) and I topple over on my side.

For some reason Gail finds this hysterically funny. And rather than coming over to give me a cuddle and nurse my bruised body and ego, she just stands there giggling and saying, "Oh Bertie, you do crack me up, Hamish never used to fall over like that, it really does look comical, you need to learn to take more care, people will think you're tipsy, chortle chortle...."

I think it is time for a physics lesson.

A body is liable to topple over if the vertical line between the body's centre of gravity and the ground lies outside of the area of that body's contact with the ground. 

So you see that my predecessor Hamish the Westie, with his short legs and broad chest, was a highly stable configuration, even when his body was tilted to one side, as happens when one takes a sudden left or right.

Whereas I, with my long legs in relation to my narrow frame, am somewhat liable to topple. 
And it's got absolutely nothing to do with me being careless and reckless and not looking where I'm going. 

So there. 

PS Don't forget to vote for me in the Mango Minster Adventure Animals category on Monday!

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Winter camouflage for the deer hunter

Sometimes on winter walks I can hide from Gail, even when I'm right under her nose.

Although I do break cover when I need my opposable thumbed servant to open the gate in the deer fence.
Come on, where are you Gail?

And more to the point. Where are the deer?
Och well, there's always another day.

Sunday 5 February 2012

Me, on a 'Magic' Carpet ?

Readers, thank you so much again for your enthusiastic participation in my readers' poll.

As you can see, your favourite for the mode of transportation to take Addy to the Valentine Party, just edging it over the Oil Man's Audi and the Tank, was ....


Boy, have you left me with a dreadful dilemma.

Seriously, you are expecting Blogville's chief (all right, only) scientific advisor to travel to the party by Magic Carpet ???

You might as well have voted Richard Dawkins for Pope. (No Gail, I do not think that is an excessively grandiose analogy.)

As a dyed-in-the-wiry-coat rationalist, of course I do not believe in magic. Also, being a terrier, I am a bit fearful of water.  So I am most dreadfully anxious about the whole Magic Carpet thing, especially the Atlantic crossing part of the journey. Plus there is the issue, as my greyhound pal Deccy points out, that people will think I am on drugs.... Oh how I wish I had not, on a thoughtless whim, included this Magic Carpet as an option in the poll.

I would feel so much safer in a tank.

Gail is telling me it is all a good lesson in how democracy can sometimes produce an unsatisfactory result, after all the Italians did actually elect Silvio Berlusconi (more than once), and that I shall have to learn to live with the result.

Well I thought long and hard about what to do, and have decided on a compromise. A bit like our current UK coalition government in fact - after all who voted for that? I have modified the so-called 'magic' carpet by installing solar panels and these will power a small engine (discreetly installed on the underside of the rug) which should keep us aloft in case all the abracadabra business fails. I am sure that Addy, being a sensible lass, will appreciate my precautions.

I have done some very careful calculations, based on my in-depth knowledge of aerodynamics and an estimate of the weight of my 'traditionally built' lady (thank you Jed and Abby!) I am now confident that with my additions, the carpet can be trusted to relay both Addy and me safely to the Valentine Party on 14th February.

Although, being a belt and braces kind of a dog, I have made arrangements for the tank to be held in reserve, just in case...

Oh I am so excited!

P.S. A word about the poll: I would like to note that both Gail and I did spot an 'irregularity' in the voting pattern. Just who are all the folk that voted for the 'Oil Man's Audi'? Only one comment (Rottrover) actually voiced support for this vehicle yet it garnered close on a quarter of the votes cast in the poll. How could this be? Is it that fans of Audi TTs and personalised number plates prefer to keep quiet about their preferences for some reason...?

Thursday 2 February 2012

Whale watching is rubbish (+ keep voting!)

First, I want to thank you all so much for your amazing response to my readers' poll (see previous post). The vote closes on Sunday, so if you haven't yet selected Addy's Valentine vehicle, don't forget to do so in the next couple of days. I really appreciate your help with this tough decision!

Well what else have I been up to?

There was great excitement in this household at the weekend when one of Gail's friends called to say that humpback whales had been sighted off the village of Collieston several times in the last few days. A most unusual occurrence, and apparently of great interest to humans....

Well, we drove the 15 miles north up the coast from Aberdeen to Collieston and this is what we saw:

And this is what we hoped to see but didn't.

So I have decided that whale watching is a greatly overrated pastime anyway.

From the canine perspective it's all "no Bertie no, don't jump all over the little children you'll frighten them, no Bertie you can't run off down the cliff path and explore the village all on your own, Bertie you must stay here where I can see you're not getting into any trouble, no I don't want to go down to the beach just so you can roll in some decomposing fish, OH BERTIE NO, sigh, I'm going to have to put you back on the lead, Bertie please stop barking no-one wants to listen to a noisy dog, no Bertie we are not going anywhere just yet, those whales might show up any minute now..."

Tedious or what?

Oh, I have been instructed to tell you that we did also have a very pleasant walk in the nearby Sands of Forvie nature reserve the same afternoon, and also told that I would do well to display more gratitude once in a while...