Thursday 29 January 2015


Do you enjoy a routine? I do. I like to get up, be fed, taken for a walk, curl up on the sofa, etc. at about the same time every day. I guess you would say I am a creature of habit.

That's not to say I don't enjoy an outing to some new place, especially if it involves lots of off-lead running over the hills or through the woods of course.

Ever since I was a wee puppy I have been visiting Nottingham, which is where I am now. I soon learned there was a different routine here with the Human Grandparents, but it was a nice one, involving walks by the River Trent and afternoon tea and cakes in front of the telly (BBC News Channel).

It has been over a year now since Human Grandad lived here. When I last saw him he was in a different home, and then I had to get used to not seeing him at all.

The house has felt a bit empty, but there was still Human Granny. I got into the habit of resting my head against her arthritic foot every evening as she ate her dinner very very slowly.

But last week, everything seemed to change again. I noticed HGY needed help walking, and then couldn't walk at all. Doctors came and went. On Sunday I overheard Gail, sounding very anxious, saying again and again: "No Mother, I'm not Peggy I'm GAIL. Your daughter Gail, remember".

Then on Sunday night, in the middle of the night, my beauty sleep was disturbed when a big van with flashing lights arrived in the driveway and next thing I knew two burly gentlemen were carrying HGY down the stairs and into the van.

I haven't seen HGY since, but Gail tells me she is in hospital, very ill. The doctors seem flummoxed and the earlier diagnosis of Parkinsonism is now in doubt.

Oh I do hope Human Granny is going to be OK. I am missing her ever so.

This afternoon I am going to tell Gail to make a proper cup of tea, in a warmed tea pot covered by a tea cosy, then to drink it from a nice china cup with a saucer, sat in front of the TV tuned to the BBC News Channel, and we can pretend everything is just the same.

I don't like change.

When is Human Granny coming home?

Monday 26 January 2015

I'm not looking scruffy, am I?

We are still down in Nottingham and I want to report a conversation between Gail and her mother's 'help' Christine*, as overheard on Friday.

"Oh Christine, by the way, are you still working at the dog grooming parlour? How is that going?"

"Yes, I'm still there two mornings a week, helping wash and dry the dogs. I really enjoy it but business has been a bit slack lately."

(At this point I can hear the cogs in Gail's brain whirring.)

"Hmm. So. Do they do hand stripping there?"

(I think you can tell where this is heading).

"Oh yes, they do all that. Is Bertie stripped?"

"Yes I do it myself, rather amateurishly, as you can tell. I'm afraid he's looking very scruffy at the moment and I can no longer see his eyes. But I haven't the time or the tools down here to tidy him up. I am wondering if they could give him a good grooming at your place?"

(What! I have never ever been to a professional groomer before!! Please please please Christine, tell Gail they don't do bouncy wire-haired fox terriers!!!)

"Oh yes, I'm sure they'd be delighted to have him in. I'll find out when they have a slot." 

There followed a long and detailed conversation about my grooming needs. "Absolutely no scissors on the black patch, doesn't mind his tail being stripped, sensitive underbelly, neat ears and beard etc. etc." Gail then turns to me:

"So Bertie, you'll be all smart and trim for your upcoming VERY SPECIAL Valentine date with Addi. Won't that be nice?"


*PS from Gail: I don't think Christine reads this blog, but I want to sing her praises as she has been such a star in helping me care for my mother. In difficult circumstances one finds out who the truly kind, generous and effective people are, and Christine has proved worth her weight in gold. So I am more than happy to help bring some custom to her other business. Bertie is now booked in for 2nd February. It will be interesting to see what they make of him and he of them...

Friday 23 January 2015

Brusqueness etc.

Oh dear, I made a terrible mistake in my last post.

There has been such a lot going on here in Nottingham lately.

Normally, I pride myself on my clear and unambiguous writing style (unless ambiguity is intended of course).

Anyway, several of my dear readers thought I was saying that my poor dear Human Granny was being 'brusque' in telling me to get out of the way, when in fact it was Gail who has been failing a bit in the politeness department this past week.

Gail has apologised and explained that she is not really cross with me; in fact I am apparently "a much needed source of comfort and entertainment". Rather, she is upset because Human Granny has suddenly become very ill due to what the doctors call 'Parkinsonism', perhaps made worse by a small stroke, and moving even the smallest distance is such a struggle for her now.

Friends, thank you so much for all your supportive comments, and please be aware I haven't forgotten you and neither has Gail. But for the next few weeks you'll understand that our focus will be elsewhere.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Update on Human Granny and other Nottinghamshire stuff

(The white speck in the distance is Bertie)

Well now that Gail and I are staying again with Human Granny, I wanted to tell you about my walks in Nottinghamshire, where the landscape is dominated not, as in most of Scotland, by mountains, but by electricity pylons. I thought you might be interested to know all about how a third of the country's electricity is generated in the Trent Valley/Humber estuary area…*

But Gail says she thinks my readers are more concerned about Human Granny and will want to know how she is.

Oh dear. It is not good news I'm afraid. She can't seem to move properly any more, but the doctors are not sure what the problem is. She also seems a bit confused. When ever I try to help, I am told (sometimes rather brusquely) to get out of the way. Another doctor is coming today, and it may be that HGY will be admitted to hospital. Gail says we may be  down here for a while.

At least I might get a chance to tell you more about the pylons then!

*This 'fact' comes from Gail's 1975 'O' level Geography text book, so may not be strictly up to date...

Friday 16 January 2015

The perfect storm?

Us dogs always know when something is up, don't we?

My familiar routine was disrupted this week when Gail came home from work early on Wednesday and started rushing around making lots of phone calls, packing bags and generally acting fraught.

We did go to Agility Club as usual that evening, where I was feeling full of bounce, despite Gail's apparently distracted state.

But when I woke up on Thursday morning, my paw was hurting REALLY BADLY and I absolutely did not want to walk further than the nearest lamppost.

I lifted up my paw and gave Gail my best pity party look, but instead of being all sympathetic (like she usually is) Gail just looked at me and said. "Oh no Bertie, this is such bad timing!"

So there was a hastily arranged visit to vet, where Ashley, my favourite vet lady, gently examined my left paw and the words "inter-digital cyst" and "antibiotics" featured in the ensuing conversation between her and Gail.

Then instead of being taken home to rest I was bundled into the car and we drove a very long way indeed.

The weather was truly horrid. I'd like to make a pun about gales and Gails, but from the way my precious human was gripping the steering wheel in an effort to stay on the motorway, as torrential rain lashed the windscreen of the wind-buffeted car, I suspect any jokes about the Scottish weather would not be appreciated.

Rain turned to heavy snow as we crossed the Pennines and still we drove on.

It dawned on me that we were on the way to Human Granny's house, which seemed odd as we'd only returned from there less than three weeks ago.

We finally arrived in Nottingham and, oh dear, I am so sorry to report that my beloved HGY is not at all well.

I fear Gail might not have much time to assist me with my blog for the next week or so.

Thursday 15 January 2015

The wrong decision

I thought the flooded ground was frozen solid.

I didn't realise the water was several inches deep.

I didn't stop to think before I dashed across.

And now my legs are cold and wet.


P.S. Friends, thank you so much for all your wonderful and incredibly interesting contributions to my 'science of attraction' study. If you have not yet commented on what it is that you find attractive in a fellow pup, then you still can; just go to my previous post 'My new role, science and romance' (12 January 2015).

Monday 12 January 2015

My new role, science, and romance...

Greetings citizens of Blogville! This is your newly appointed Director of Scientific Affairs. I have been asked by recently inaugurated Mayors, Doods Murphy and Stanley, to introduce myself and to explain my new role in the administration.

Many of you know me already under my unofficial title Bouncing Bertie Boffin, and are aware that I have been striving to communicate important scientific matters in my own unique and canine-relevant fashion for several years now, having shown a precocious understanding of quantum physics and thermodynamics even before my first birthday.

To those of you who wish to verify my credentials, I would refer you to the 'Bertie Boffin's Science Posts' tab below the header picture on this blog.

In my new role, I plan to continue and expand my mission to communicate science, with a particular focus on public understanding and engagement.

Mayors Murphy and Stanley have suggested to me that, given Valentine's Day is fast approaching, I might like kick things off by tackling 'the science of attraction'. Leaving aside any reservations that this topic might be somewhat above my pay grade (remember I am the pup whose idea of romance involves a ride in tank) and ignoring, just this once, certain concerns about government interference in the direction of scientific investigation, I have decided to carry out some original and very serious research.

This is where you can help!

All you need to do is to leave a comment on this post, explaining what it is you find attractive in a pup of the opposite sex (or indeed the same sex if you are that way inclined, this department is pro-diversity, of course). Perhaps you might also like to comment on how attraction between canines differs from that between humans. If indeed it does at all.

Cats and other pet species are also welcome to contribute.

I promise to analyse carefully all the data provided and to write up the results in such a way as to provide useful guidance for Blogville citizens, all in good time for the 14th of February.

Now to work!

Friday 9 January 2015

Exciting travel plans?

Yesterday, I eavesdropped on an interesting phone call to the vet:

“Oh good morning, this is Gail ****** here,  I want to arrange for a passport for Bertie, my wire-haired fox terrier. Can I make an appointment?

“Well, Friday is good as it’s my day off.

“Yes, two-thirty is fine. Do I need to bring anything?

“Just the dog? Yes of course. Ha ha. So he’ll be needing a rabies vaccination, right?

“When do I intend to travel? No concrete plans just yet. This summer maybe, to the Continent.  If the oil price keeps on dropping I may soon have much more free time so I’m thinking ahead...

“See you next week then. Thank you. Goodbye.”

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Bertie's furs experiment: the results

You may remember that after I was wounded back in September, Gail and I spotted an opportunity for an interesting scientific experiment.

You see, prior to being stitched back together, my shoulder was shaved leaving a 4"x 4" bald patch, part of which encroached on my much admired black 'saddle'.

When us wire-haired fox terriers are puppies, our dark patches are as black as coal. It is commonly held that this distinctive colour contrast can only be maintained through hand-stripping of the coat. Any use of clippers or scissors will, so the theory goes, result in the black fading to grey. Which of course is fine too.

But is the theory correct?

Well until September, I sported a 'virgin' black saddle, untouched by any form of sharp cutting implement. So what would happen to the colour of the shaved patch, as the months passed?

The data from the experiment are shown below:

26 September 2014
5 October 2014
19 October 2014
9 November 2014
23 November 2014
28 December 2014

Well, you will have noticed that the furs grew back just the same shade as the rest of the never-shaven saddle area.

Now here I must explain that Gail and I had a little disagreement about reporting these results.

She suggested that, since we had not proved the 'fading to grey' hypothesis, it was maybe not worth writing up the experiment.

Imagine that. I think she was forgetting what science is all about. Real science is not about proving one's pet theory, it is a search for the evidence-based truth!

I was not about to compromise my scientific integrity by suppressing important if inconvenient data. We rightly criticise drug companies for doing just that. Blogville deserves better from its best Bouncing Boffin!

What now? Gail is suggesting I dismount from my high horse and stop being so melodramatic. As if!

To be strictly honest, I will concede that the statistical significance of the experimental result is questionable, given the n=1 sample size.

Notwithstanding this minor issue, please tell me you found the results of my experiment both useful and interesting.

Sunday 4 January 2015


I know I’m a bit late with this, but did you watch the Queen’s Christmas Day message? 

No, me neither, but I gather the theme this year was ‘reconciliation’.

So being a loyal subject (and still, Your Maj, hoping for that invite to spend the weekend at Balmoral with the corgis...) I am going to tell you about my own personal efforts at reconciliation, which took place a few days ago, on New Year’s Eve and were, by and large, successful.

We were back in Scotland, but not at home in Aberdeen. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t quite sure where we were heading, as Gail drove up the A9 then through Inverness and several miles beyond.

I must say it all looked rather promising when I saw this sign through the car windscreen and Gail said, “Nearly there Bertie".

We finally arrived at an unfamiliar house, but the moment I set paw on the front doorstep I picked up an all too familiar scent.

Imagine my horror when who should come galloping down the drive but my nemesis, flat-coated retriever Jake. Yes, he who inflicted those horrid wounds on my shoulder last September.

Jake’s master Neil quickly grabbed him by the collar and I nervously edged past them and into the house.

It turned out we were staying the night and celebrating the New Year with our Aberdeen neighbours Neil and Yvonne at their Highland retreat in the woods near Kiltarlity.

I have to say I was feeling a little tense at first, and stayed close to Gail. I noticed that Neil was keeping his hand near Jake’s collar, which was reassuring.

As the evening progressed, the humans relaxed as they emptied a bottle of Prosecco, then a bottle of Merlot, and then, as midnight approached, the Glenmorangie appeared. Jake and I caught the increasingly mellow mood, and when Gail suggested Yvonne take a group photo I only growled a little at being made to stand closer to Jake than I would have preferred.

(I fear Gail is looking just a teeny wee bit squiffy here….)

Next morning, we all went for a walk in the woods, Jake and I both off the lead, without incident.

So, not exactly best buddies yet, but there was at least some sort of a rapprochement.

Thursday 1 January 2015

Happy New Year!

Yes, Happy New Year to all my lovely friends. May you all have a simply brilliant 2015!

I wanted to list all the resolutions I have suggested that Gail makes, but, well, you know, she is not cooperating with this endeavour and is even telling me there will be little time for blogging over the next few days.

Not a good start to the year, in my opinion.

Well gosh, I must admit it, all this Christmas and New Year business has been quite exhausting for both Gail and me.

I think I shall take a wee nap. See you in few days time.