Monday 30 November 2015

Gold star for best behaviour?

Between you and me, it can be a bit annoying, living in a household where boasting is not approved of and praise is meted out in puppy kibble sized portions.

"Blowing your own trumpet", "showing off", "being big-headed"; these things are all frowned upon by Gail.

But just occasionally, I feel I deserve at least a pat on the back.

Take Sunday morning for example. We had been over in Torridon for a couple of days, checking the cottage was OK before the winter weather sets in. On the way back to Aberdeen we stopped at the Basil Harbour Café in Nairn.

Gail says it is only recently that she has taken me into cafés "with confidence". She says readers will correctly guess there is history behind that statement.

Well I would like to point out that on this occasion I was as good as gold and as quiet as a mouse, despite the following potential threats to my equanimity:
  • The cafe was noisy and crowded when we arrived 
  • Bacon rolls and Full Scottish Breakfasts (including black pudding) were being served
  • Gail ordered a yummy looking cheese scone with her coffee
  • There was another dog present
  • I was made to sit in the middle of the café and pose for a photo when the place quietened down a bit

Am I not entitled to brag just a wee bit about my excellent manners?

Oh, Gail thinks you would also like to see a photo of a wintery looking Loch Torridon. I suppose, since I am also featured, you might find it worth a glance.

Can you feel the bone penetrating chill of the damp air?

Sunday 22 November 2015

A visit to Birnam Wood and the Lonely Mountain Ski Shop

I was a bit surprised on Saturday morning, when Gail announced we were driving down to Birnam, near Dunkeld. I never knew there was such a place, outside of Shakespeare's Macbeth, did you?

Well yes apparently it does exist, and although later in the day we went with Gail's friends John and Françoise for a walk through a  remnant of the ancient Birnam Wood, this was not the main reason for the trip.

It turned out that we had been invited to the launch party for Lonely Mountain Skis, a new venture, started up by Jamie, son of the aforementioned John and Françoise. This is what the business is about:

"Lonely Mountain Skis is a Scottish ski company specialising in hand made skis built from Scottish timber and natural fibre composites. With an emphasis on quality and sustainable materials LMS will keep snow falling on the mountains."

Now I'm going to be honest with you and admit that I am not a fan of these so-called "winter sports". One time when I was still barely more than a puppy, Gail attempted to make me run alongside her as she went swooshing around Hazlehead golf course on her cross-country skis. It was not a success, from my perspective, and thankfully that particular experiment has never been repeated.

But anyway I listened politely enough as Jamie explained all about how he designs and constructs these beautifully crafted wooden skis.

And I must say there were some fine looking products on display. 

Gail seemed worryingly interested, asking all about the materials used (flax, carbon fibre, resin, maple, beech, poplar and other timber) and when would Jamie be making some cross-country skis? I'm sorry to report that she signally failed to ask certain important and dog-relevant questions, like if he was thinking about making a nice comfy wooden Bertie-sized sled, so Gail could tow me along with her.

(You weren't imagining I might pull the sled were you? What do you think I am? A husky?)

Afterwards, it was fun to explore Jamie's workshop and environs, and I was given lots of friendly ear scritchies.

When we got home, I did some research, and I have a message for young James. 

Jamie, with your superb design skills, I don't doubt you could come up with a bespoke conveyance so that I could accompany Gail on her cross country skiing outings in comfort and style. Here are a couple of ideas for prototypes. (Please note that I would consider the quality of the cushions important). 
I shall look forward to receiving the blueprints for inspection. 

Thursday 19 November 2015

Seasonal fun and games!

This is just the best time of year to play 'Hide the Poop'.

Here's how.

You have to be in a public place where your human must 'pick up' after you.

The game can be played any time of day of course, but it's most fun after dark.

The rules are ever so simple. You just find a nice big, deep pile of leaves, and do your business.

Then you stand and watch (and try not to laugh) as your human frantically rummages around with bag in hand, attempting to locate your deposit.

If your human is just a beginner, you could be kind and 'go' near a lamppost the first time.

Maybe my friends have other favourite 'hide the poop' spots?

Sunday 15 November 2015

One world in a street?

It is grey November in Northeast Scotland. Aberdeen is the centre of my world, but my owner Gail has lived many years in London and two years in the USA, and she occasionally complains that we are a bit boring up here, lacking in cultural diversity.

Can this be right, I ponder this morning, as I walk down the street in the drizzle.

True, our nice French neighbour Jacques, who arrived in Aberdeen in a 1970s to work as a diver in the nascent North Sea oil industry and married local girl Lucy, has recently moved to a bungalow in Brechin. The house has been sold to a couple returning from Dubai, although they have not yet moved in as the house is being remodelled by Polish builder Waldemar and his 'boys'.

Neighbour 'other Gail', three doors along, will miss her good friend Lucy, although she keeps busy between looking after her half-Russian granddaughter Fedosia, and flying off to visit a daughter who lives in Australia.

Next to 'other Gail'  and also relatively new to the street, is an African family (Nigerian?) whom we don't know much about yet, except that they all greet us with big friendly smiles whenever we walk by.

Across the road, you'll see Neil and Yvonne's house. Yvonne, like Gail, is an 'economic migrant' from England, although Yvonne's Jewish family originally came to London early last century, fleeing pogroms in Lithuania.

Now I'm standing next to Mike and Kirsty's house. Mike might be an avid supporter of the Scottish Nationalist cause, but he was born half a world away in Pakistan.

We have't seen so much of Jim at No. 2 lately, ever since his labrador Mackay died of old age. Jim is a private man, who a few years ago became the centre of unwanted attention when one of his sons was reported in the papers as having been kidnapped in Afghanistan.

So this is just one quiet street in one not very cosmopolitan part of the UK.

We are all connected, and had better try to live together in peace, don't you think?

Friday 13 November 2015

In praise of dark mornings

I get the impression from Gail that folk in Aberdeen – humans that is - don’t much like the dark winter months of these northern climes. They seem to think it a problem having to get up before sunrise.

I have a different view.

A mundane morning walk in the park becomes a big adventure; the familiar rendered unfamiliar by the cloak of darkness; one’s other senses heightened; one’s regular terrier alertness supercharged.

And I’ll tell you what’s even better.

It can happen that your human forgets to put on her glasses and also forgets to attach the pink light to your collar, and then, on reaching the park she lets you off your lead as usual, neglects to keep her eye on you as she ponders a work-related problem, and, joy of joys, she fails to notice that you have slipped away into a dense shrubbery and disappeared from view.

Selective deafness kicks in (the heightened senses having conveniently failed you at this juncture) as your human calls ‘with animation’* but to no avail, and it is not until you have nearly circumnavigated the park that your excited owner locates you again and firmly clips on the walking string.

Oh yes, gosh, early morning walks can be such fun!

I do hope Gail’s boss is properly appreciative of my role in ensuring that Gail is well and truly wide awake by the time she arrives at work. (A bonus payment would perhaps be appropriate?)

*I must thank my Down Under friends Stella and Rory for introducing me earlier this week to the concept of our humans calling "with animation".

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Grooming routine and the Pee vs N-Pee problem

Today I am going to tell you about my grooming routine.

I know some of my friends go for fancy 'spa days' to get all primped and primed, but that's not how it is for me.

Every month or so, on a Friday morning (Gail's day off) I am placed in front of the prehistoric electric fire and given a long-lasting chew. Then Gail removes my collar, fetches the stripping tool, and, starting with my neck and ears, the grooming session begins.

There is not much conversation (Gail never asks where I am going for my holidays) and so we listen to Desert Island Discs or, if the guest on that programme is being boring or irritating, a podcast from BBC Radio 4, often something to do with science. Last week I learned all about the P versus NP problem on 'In Our Time' and gosh it was very interesting. I think I understood it right. Suppose you wanted to go round the park and pee on every tree just once in the shortest possible time, then you might be surprised to learn that working out the optimum route is not in fact a Pee problem, rather it is an N-Pee problem, for which mathematicians and computer scientists have yet to find a ready solution. Although the answer, if ever found, would be easy to check. Apparently.

Do I digress?

So as I was saying, Gail starts with my top end, then strips my tail, then my back and haunches. (I may be onto my second chew by then). If I get restive, she switches her attention back to my neck and ears again, which feels quite nice - a bit like a massage I suppose.

ON ABSOLUTELY NO ACCOUNT will I countenance my belly, private parts, legs and face being stripped, and these are dealt with using pinking scissors, or, where more precision is required, nail scissors. Often this part is done later in the day when I am getting a bit sleepy.

There is also quite often a follow-up session the next day, to tidy the parts that Gail missed first time round. Thankfully this doesn't usually take too long.

Gail claims she rather enjoys the whole process, despite what are, frankly, sub-Crufts standard results.
(I think there is still work to do on my ears.)

Sunday 8 November 2015


I can never work out why I am always kept on a lead around sheep.

Can you?

Thank you for all your kind messages following last week's post. I'd better let you know that Gail took me to the vet on Thursday morning, although both my paw and my cough were feeling a bit better by then. Actually, 'cos I got all excited at the vet, I had a major bout of coughing  and I did notice the vet raised his eyebrows in quizzical fashion when Gail claimed the cough was "almost gone". Anyway, we came away with a 'precautionary' packet of antibiotics and I am almost back to my normal bouncing self.

Thursday 5 November 2015

In the wars

I had a wee argument with Gail, my 'owner', about the content of today's post.

You see, I wanted to tell you about some health problems I've been having lately. But Gail said that I shouldn't bore everyone with these issues as they are not too serious, and why not show some nice photos from our recent weekend in Torridon instead?

I countered that certain other members of her family never hold back when it comes to discussing their ailments at great length, so why should I be expected to behave differently?

To which Gail replied, OK Bertie, you have a point.

So we agreed a compromise. I'll tell you about my sore paws and my cough, interleaved with some images from our west coast trip.

Now, you might remember I had problems with a so-called 'interdigital cyst' on my left front paw earlier in the year. Gosh, I swallowed bucket loads of anti-biotics but it just kept getting reinfected. Later, in June, another cyst thingy appeared on my right front paw this time. It was ever so painful for a while but eventually both paws healed up.

Then a few weeks ago, same thing again, left front foot. Gail knew by now that regular post-walk soaks in chlorhexidine solution were key to keeping the sore spot from getting reinfected and it went away quite quickly this time (although Gail wants me to tell you she did sacrifice going on her annual geological field trip with her colleagues to stay home and care for me at the end of September).

Just when my feet were fine again, a new trouble, I began to cough. Occasionally at first, and then more and more often. I thought that thing whereby the vet squirts horrid stuff up your nose once a year was supposed to prevent these coughs, but it seems I got the worst of both worlds this time. And Gail was all grumpy 'cos she said I kept waking her in the night. As if it were my fault. At least she got to meet some early morning guests.

BTW, the only dogs I was allowed near while I was coughing were these rather wooden fellows we spotted in a little park by a church in Keith.

I would have liked to visit with this fellow (the dog not the skeleton) last weekend, but Gail said I must keep away.

By Monday this week I'd stopped coughing and guess what?

The next day I woke up and my left rear paw was all sore. No way was I going to put any weight on it, so I made sure Gail carried me downstairs to breakfast.

And that's how things are just now. I'm told yet another trip to the vet is in the offing...