Friday 31 July 2015

FFHT July: My talents go unrecognised

And it's Murphy and Stanley's FFHT time again. As usual, this month's phrase is highlighted in red.

A Trip to the Office

Once upon a time, on a Thursday evening last month, Gail came home from work, gave me the customary head scratch and cheerfully asked:

"Well Bertie my dear wee chappie, do you want the Good News or the Bad News?".

Then, of course, she proceeded to give me both.

So the bad news was that Gail had to go into the office the next day, Friday, her usual day off. But the good news, she said, was that I was, "just this once" invited to accompany her.

Good news? British understatement there I think. I was so excited my tail started wagging back and forth like a nodding donkey on speed.

Gail tried to calm me down by following up with a lengthy and tedious list of the do's and don'ts of office etiquette for dogs.

Do keep out of people's way; don't bark; don't lick or nibble anyone's ankles; don't go rummaging in handbags; don't get under anyone's feet and trip them up; don't try jumping on desks; don't chew any cables; should anyone stop to give you a pat, do just sit there quietly and look appreciative.

Well I have to say all this was a little disappointing. I had secretly been hoping that Gail's colleagues, knowing about my role as Boffin to Blogville, had asked me in to solve some hitherto intractable technical problem relating to finding oil in the North Sea. Heaven knows, the petroleum industry in this part of the world is in need of some fresh ideas just now.

So I entered Gail's office, bright eyed and bushy tailed as any new recruit, all prepared to play my part but you know what?


There was I, head bursting with ideas on how to sniff out the North Sea's remaining oil reserves, happy to advise on gas production issues, ready to assist with any necessary excavation work, all set to help the marketing department by sharing my social media expertise, etc. etc.


I had the distinct impression these experienced and highly educated professionals from all over the world* somehow doubted my credentials. More fool them.

So after a while I got bored and wandered off. Fortunately I ran into Gail's boss, who made a big fuss of me and even took me for a little walk outside. I'll be honest with you, I was a bit wary of this lady at first, recalling how it was on her recommendation that I had Rescue Remedy squirted up my nose prior to boarding a train a couple of years ago. But I've decided to forgive her role in that unfortunate incident.

I'm pleased to report that after a few hours Gail announced we were done for the day and she took me for a nice stroll along the River Dee behind the office. 

And, my friends, that was the first time I ever visited Gail's current workplace. 

*Pictured hard at work are Hamed and Mehdi from Iran and Henk from Holland. Yes you've guessed it, Henk's the tall one.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Green with envy?

Here's a picture from a recent walk up Millstone Hill. It's one of Gail's favourite views and is presented here today especially for those of you who live in parts of the world where the summers are all brown and dusty.

Sunday 26 July 2015

Sheep Shenanigans with the Suffolk Stupenda

Who knew a SHEEP could be such a drama queen?

Let me tell you about the goings on at Banchory Show this weekend.

So Gail and I arrived at the main arena in time for the judging of the 'Cattle, Sheep and Horse Champion'.
First into the ring trotted a most handsome Clydesdale, understandably voted the show's top horse.

He was shortly joined by a rosette laden and deliciously beefy example of the bovine family. 
But where was the sheep?

Absolutely sign of the show's Woolly Wonder.

The judges conferred anxiously and, by loudspeaker, reminded the sheep that her presence was required.
But a diva knows that to keep her public waiting is part of the performance.

After several more minutes a quad bike towing a trailer slowly drove into the ring...
...and, amidst much kerfuffle, an ORANGE coloured Suffolk sheep finally emerged.
She stood there patiently while her human entourage knelt down to place her hooves in the correct position.
Now talk about high maintenance. I mean, even the 'Best in Show' types at Crufts don't DYE THEIR FURS!

I can just imagine what my rugged Shetland sheep pals in Torridon would have to say about her...

Well I know you'll all be wondering which animal won overall, but I can't tell you 'cos at this point  I was distracted from the judging by a cheeky wee foxy called Blaze.
Blaze, we learned, comes from Granddach Kennels like me. You'll notice his tail is docked. At nine years old, he was born just before a total ban on docking dogs' tails was enforced in Scotland.
Quite a feisty chappie I must say, although I'm really not sure why Gail kept muttering "two of a kind all right"...

Thursday 23 July 2015

Quantity Time

A Protest Addressed to Gail

I don’t buy your line about ‘Quality Time’
I want it in quantity; I want it now!
Forget about work. Cut loose, go beserk,
Tell the boss you’ve a dog, who needs you, and how!

I want you to stay right beside me all day
On the sofa, the bed or the chair.
I can curl on your lap, maybe take a wee nap,
You can do what you like, I just want you here.

It doesn’t seem right that it’s only at night
We’re together. How cruel that you go
To the office at dawn, only late to return,
And bored I sit waiting and watching for you.

PS from Gail: concerned readers, please be aware that Bertie is exaggerating here for dramatic or poetic effect. I only work a four day week, rarely stay late at the office and he is anyway variously entertained by his dog walker and a kind neighbour in my absence.

Monday 20 July 2015

Hope bounces eternal...

Hooray! We are over in Torridon, it has finally stopped raining, and we are going to climb 'my mountain', Beinn Alligin.*

So the peak is in cloud, but hey, it's the middle of summer, for sure it'll clear by mid morning...

Oh dear. Perhaps I was being optimistic...

Well if you can't enjoy the view at the summit,

Then for sure you can enjoy a chicken chew before tackling the steep descent.

But I have to tell you I was not feeling in the mood to appreciate the view from the kitchen sink during my post walk paw wash...

*Note from Gail: Bertie's 'official' kennel club name is Granddach Beinn Alligin, the Granddach being from the kennels where he was bred, and Beinn Alligin being my favourite Scottish mountain.

Friday 17 July 2015

Bertie shows the golfers how...

PS Gail notes that REAL sportsmen (i.e. Tour de France cyclists) don't run for cover either when there's a drop or two of rain….
Rodriguez wins a stage in the Pyrenees yesterday.

Thursday 16 July 2015

Fae Tibet or Torry?

So earlier this week I posted about the sad loss of two of the park 'regulars'. 

But you know what? There's always new friends to be made. 

I hadn't met this wee Tibetan terrier before, but he seems a really nice pup. 

Although I was disappointed to learn that he's a Torry loon, and not from the Himalaya after all.

Monday 13 July 2015

A sad week for Duthie Park dogs

Oh dear Gail, it has been a sad week hasn't it? First, on the train back to Aberdeen last Monday, you had the text from Yvonne saying how flat-coated retriever Jake had been put to sleep, his cancer having become too bad to treat or bear. And then yesterday morning we saw Sheila in the park and she beckoned us over to tell us that her wee schnauzer Sadie had died of a stroke two days ago.

Yes, our morning walks in the park won't be quite the same without those two 'regulars', will they Bertie?

You know Gail, I don't feel so bad about Sadie, 'cos she was very old, and had been blind through diabetes for at least a year hadn't she? So one understood that her life would soon come to an end. But poor Jakey. He was only two years my senior, and a few months ago he was still rampaging around with the energy of a pup. It seems all wrong that he's no longer with us.

(Gail pauses a moment before replying).

Bertie, you're right. Of course Sheila will miss Sadie a lot. She's not been so well herself - remember how we walked Sadie last year when Sheila was in hospital -  and she lives alone. I think Sadie gave her a reason to go out for a walk everyday and talk to all the other dog owners. But do you remember what Human Granny said when HGD died? That his life had run it's full course. So it was with Sadie. It's much harder to accept when someone close dies too young. 

Oh dear Gail, you are looking sad now. Are you thinking of your friend Kate? Let me come and sit on your lap and give you a lick.

Bertie, you are such a comfort. Oh I do hope you are blessed with a long terrier life. 

Friday 10 July 2015

Square Leg or Fine Leg?

What's YOUR favourite position on the cricket field?
Cricket fielding positions

(We're hoping England won't be needing my help against the Aussies this summer…)

Tuesday 7 July 2015

A question of train etiquette

When one is towards the end of a long train journey and tired…

…. and one's slumber is disturbed because the passenger sat opposite has his "music" on so loud the beat is clearly audible through his headphones …

…. and then said passenger removes his deck shoes to expose his hot and smelly feet…

….one is entitled to lick those feet, don't you think…?

(Between you and me, I suspect even Gail agrees. She might have said "NO Bertie don't do that" but something about her tone of voice told me she didn't really mean it.)

PS We were returning from a few days in Nottingham, checking up on Human Granny. Delighted to report that she is doing GRRREAT!

Thursday 2 July 2015

DARWIN-LITE AWARD: Analysis and The Winner!

So first of all I would like to thank the ten pups (and other species) who braved potential retribution from their humans by entering them for my ‘Darwin-lite Award’ competition.

Gosh, reading your entries, it really is quite incredible that the human species has managed to evolve into ‘higher’ beings with sufficient leisure time to assist their dogs with social media activities…

Of course I wanted to make things simple by awarding prizes to every single entrant, but Gail said that would be far too expensive (really, she has been living in Aberdeen for too long) and I had to think carefully and select just one.

Where to start?

Of course, it was important to evaluate all the stories in a scientific manner, assessing their implications in the context of human evolution, natural selection  and survival of the fittest.

First of all I think we must discount entries which, whilst for sure indicating a general level of mild stupidity, did not suggest a high potential for serious harm.

So Frankie and Ernie, yes your pictures of your Dad’s ‘butt crack’ are embarrassing and your Mom has clearly not mastered the art of realistic impersonation, but believe me, things could be so, so much worse. Brom, I thought your story of Mara boarding the wrong train was pretty serious, but Gail has lived in London at tells me that lots of people, including ones with very high up and responsible jobs, not infrequently board the wrong train or even fall asleep, miss their stop and end up in Penzance (especially around Christmas time), so we must conclude that this sort of human behaviour is no impediment to success in life. Likewise, Retro-rover pups, your  Mom’s wearing of mismatched shoes, although worrying in someone who clearly takes good care of her appearance, is actually, judging by the comments to your post, quite normal amongst dog-blogging moms/mums. Oh yes, also in this ‘stupid but not catastrophically so’ category, I have included Lily and Edward's comment. Granted, it would have been smarter if your human had directed the water bottle at you guys and not herself when she was using it to stop you barking at a passing motorbike, but, hey, it’s only water!

What to make of Reilly and Denny’s Mom’s ‘issues’ with number and letters? This is indeed concerning, but one has to point out a couple of mitigating factors. First of all, she is due extra credits on the ‘mate selection’ front, and this is a great survival strategy to have mastered. So R+D’s Mom found a partner (their Dad) who not only helps her with her phone problems but also has stuck around despite being presented with an EMPTY OVEN for dinner. Oh yes, and by the way, who wouldn’t want to live in a world where all the signs read ‘Free Chicken’?

Craig’s tale about how he used paint-stripper to clean his first dog’s paws after said dog had walked across a freshly painted floor can, I think, be put down to youthful inexperience. One might even say the story suggests a certain level of creativity and problem solving ability, misguided in this instance but these are otherwise useful evolutionary traits.

Now we are moving on to the more worrying cases.

Bella, Roxy and Dui, WHATEVER WAS YOUR MOM THINKING!!! Really it is so important to be able to distinguish between vitamins and mind altering medication! Now if she had mistaken her tablets for candy, then it might have been excusable given the Scottie presence in the house and the fact that here in the Scottie ancestral homeland we do in fact have a type of fudge-like candy known as ‘tablet’.  But this was a serious (if also in retrospect highly amusing) mistake. However, one could argue the fact that your Mom survived this horrifying incident shows a degree of evolutionary 'fitness’ despite the tendency to inadvertent drug taking.

On to our famous friend Easy Rider. Easy, from any other dog, I think your entry would be a strong contender for the prize. Uniquely, you gave us clear evidence of deeply worrying behaviours from BOTH of your ‘parents’. With a Dad who lights matches over a methane-emitting septic tank, and pokes a screwdriver in a lawnmower which is still running, and a Mom whose kitchen mishaps defy straightforward categorisation, it is indeed amazing that this family trio are still here and merrily blogging away. Only problem is Easy, we read similar stories from you most weeks! A case of ‘crying wolf’ too often, I’m afraid…

So we are left with two serious candidates for the ‘Darwin-lite Award’; Madi, and Stella and Rory, and the decision on the winner comes down to a matter of ‘head’ versus ‘heart’.

I will admit my heart says Madi. How many of you did not cry “Ouch! Ouch!! OUCH!!!” as you read how Madi’s Mom pierced her thumb, yes that so precious  human appendage the opposable thumb, with a CROCHET HOOK. She did this while trying to poke an extra hole in her daughter’s friend’s sandal strap. Oh the drama of this story: the pain, the phone call made by the four year old daughter, the trip to the emergency room, the offer (refused) of the crochet hook for a ‘keepsake’…

Yes my heart says Madi. But we must remember this decision is to be made by applying rigorous scientific principles, and so ‘head’ must take precedence when it comes to choosing a winner.

So let me explain why the head says the award goes to Stella and Rory’s entry.

For those of you who missed the post, the nub of the matter is that one time, shortly after acquiring a new spaniel Kara, S+R’s Dad went out for a walk and spotted ‘his dog’ out loose down the street. Assuming the dog had escaped, he brought her back home. EXCEPT THAT IT WAS THE WRONG DOG AND KARA WAS AT HOME ALL THE TIME! Understandably, S+R’s family have never let their Dad forget this incident.

Oh dear. An ability to recognise one’s kith and kin is so important to survival isn’t it? Moreover, us dogs are descended from wolves and it is thought that these wolves first formed a bond with humans by offering protection from other predators in exchange for scraps of food. Pretty useful then, for the human to be able to figure out which of the wolves was the friendly one likely to co-operate and not attack, etc. Yes and another thing, Stella and Rory. Imagine what would happen in your household if your Dad brought home ‘the wrong human’? Picture the scenario. He goes out for a walk, runs into a woman he thinks he recognises and drags her home. Only to find his wife is already in the kitchen cooking his dinner? (Gail says this is outrageous gender stereotyping but no matter…) Well anyway, do we rate S+R’s Dad’s chances of survival in this instance?  We do not.

So, congratulations Stella and Rory and your Dad! That was a TRULY AWESOME tale. I hereby pronounce you worthy winners of this years ‘Darwin-lite Award’!

(Gail will be getting in touch by email to find out your mailing address and a very special prize will shortly be winging its way from Scotland to Australia.)

PS from Gail: Sincere apologies if we missed mentioning any entries - it has been a busy couple of weeks.