Friday 30 November 2012

Bertie expands his vocabulary (with Robert Jay QC)

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 hope that's all clear now...

Thursday 29 November 2012

Surely I should have been Jeeves?

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.

Monday 26 November 2012

The right decision

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.

Friday 23 November 2012

Call me Usain ...

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.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Special privileges

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......? 

Sunday 18 November 2012

The Anti-Placebo by Proxy Effect

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.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

River Deep Mountain High

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'?

Surely it should be a 'drown'.

Sunday 11 November 2012

Ungainly? What an insult!

Oh I do wish I lived in one of those households where even the smallest of achievements are met with uncritical praise.

You see, now that it's dark in the evening when Gail returns home from work, she has decided to instigate a winter training programme teaching me new indoor 'tricks'.

This week it's been "roll over Bertie!"

It occurs to me that rolling over probably comes more naturally to the shorter legged breeds - dachshunds and the like.

For us gangling types, there seems to be an issue of where to put the legs.

Really, I think people should be impressed that I have finally, with the aid of extensive treat-related bribery, mastered the required activity at all.

But no, all I get for my efforts is "Bertie, can't you try to roll a bit more smoothly? You look so ungainly. No marks for 'artistic impression' for you my wee laddie".

Humph. What do YOU think?

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Scotland, Guernsey, Sana'a or Dubai?

Oh it's been ages since I met up with my Westie friends Florrie and Lucy. Yes, I know, yet more girl friends, well what's a handsome wee chappie to do?

Last weekend Gail and her friend the Oil Man (the Westies' owner) finally got themselves organised so we all went out for a leisurely walk around Loch Kinnord, the pace dictated by Florrie's twelve year old hips, and we had a chance for a good chat.

Florrie and Lucy spent much of the last year or so on Guernsey* with the Oil Man's son and daughter-in-law. Florrie confided to me that she really was happy to be back in her homeland, she admitted she felt a bit depressed away from Scotland and had lost her enthusiasm for walks, despite all the Channel Island sunshine and pretty beaches. Happily, now she's back, she's regained some of her former zest for life, even to the extent of voluntarily wading into the Loch despite the thin films of ice evident on the more sheltered stretches of water.

Lucy, it seems, adapted better to life amongst the rich Guernsey tax exiles. Gail tells me that this is because Lucy is five years Florrie's junior, and one is more flexible when younger, in all sorts of ways. Well anyway, Lucy loyally claims also to be content to be home, as she knows the Oil Man is very fond of her, and if he's happy, she's happy.

Florrie and Lucy's absence was, as some readers might remember, prompted by the Oil Man being away working in the Middle East. He's been dividing his time between Dubai and Sana'a, Yemen, and I was of course curious to learn if these would be interesting and dog-friendly places to visit.

Well I don't think I'll manage to convince Gail to take me to Dubai any time soon. It seems the main attractions there are hot weather and shopping and she's not a big fan of either, and come to think of it, neither am I.

Sana'a sounds altogether more appealing. Did you know the old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Look at this picture I just found in the internet.

Lots of fascinating places to sniff there, for sure. And at an altitude of 7500 ft, it has pleasantly cool climate too. OK so the terrorist threat means you have to go everywhere with heavily armed guards - on arrival at the airport they even escort you across the tarmac from the plane to the terminal it's so dangerous - but I don't see that should be a problem given my tank driving experiences...

Once again, Gail is not convinced. "Bertie, look at the beautiful, clean and safe environment we enjoy here in Scotland, especially attractive when bathed in soft winter sunlight isn't it? Why would you want to be anywhere else?" she says.

You know, on reflection, I'm inclined to agree with her.

Oh and if you're wondering why the 'Oil Man'...

*For readers from abroad, Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands, a small and wealthy archipelago belonging to the UK (albeit with a lower tax regime) but located closer to NW France.

Friday 2 November 2012

Agility: distracted by girls?

So, before this week's agility training session started, I had to listen to a great long lecture by Gail.

"Bertie pay attention now please. Earlier this week I forked out the grand sum of £10 to enter you in your first ever agility competition. It takes place just outside Aberdeen on Saturday 8th December and I know it says on the blurb that it's a 'Just For Fun' show but I shall be taking it all very seriously indeed and I expect you to do the same. I have to tell you that I was most disappointed by your performance at training last week, and I think our trainer Shaun was too. One would have thought you were a complete beginner at agility, which you are not. You really must learn not to be so distracted by the girl dogs in your class. Especially that fluffy wee Pippa..."

Not for the first time, I couldn't believe my flappy little ears. What was all this about me being distracted by girls? (And heaven help me if Addi hears about it...) The truth is that I had NO IDEA what I was supposed to be doing that week 'cos Gail kept forgetting which order I was supposed to be jumping the obstacles and was just waving her arms in a random fashion so I got all confused. Personally I think the underlying problem was that Gail was all stressed 'cos of worrying about her Dad, but I'm just a dog, what would I know?

Anyway, I must say that my three young lady dog agility training companions are very nice indeed (although in no way distracting) and I'm sure my blog readers would like to meet them.

Here is Cassie, with her handler Kevin.

As you can see, Cassie is a swotty collie, and would not waste time looking at the camera as she was far too focussed on trying to figure out the optimum angles to approach all the jumps.

Then there's Maddy. I think she enjoys posing for photos.

She is super quick over the obstacles too. And these days she even waits for Alison to give the 'go' signal before racing off.

Finally, yes, of course there's wee Pippa.

Isn't she cute? She's a relative newcomer and it's only polite for me to go and make her and her young handler Bethany feel welcome isn't it?

But I am totally not being distracted by her.

I hope that's quite clear.