Sunday 30 April 2017

Are you as fit as a barnacle goose?

Hi folks! Bouncing Bertie Boffin here. It's been too long since I posted about an important scientific matter, hasn't it?

Apropos my recent paw-related infirmities (and nothing whatsoever to do with last week's diet of whisky-laced buttermilk ice cream) I have lately had cause to ponder the relationship between fitness and exercise, in both humans and other animals. For example, my human Gail has been complaining about her being unfit due to my intermittent lameness (yes I know, so selfish, but what can you do?) But as soon as my paws stop hurting, I feel as bouncy as ever, even when I have been doing little but lounging on the sofa for the preceding few weeks.

Well I am delighted to report that scientists have not neglected the puzzling question of how some animals stay super fit despite distinctly couch potato-ish habits. You can read all about recent work on this topic here, or, for those of you who are 'time poor', I have summarised the main points below:

Have you ever thought about how the barnacle goose prepares for its 3000 km migration? No need for tiresome marathon-style training sessions for them, apparently. Rather, according to environmental physiologist Lewis Halsey, "they just basically sit on the water and eat a lot".

Likewise, how fortunate the black or brown bear. Unlike your typical human, whose muscles tend to dissolve into unsightly flab over the months of darkness (in Aberdeen at least), lucky Bruin emerges from hibernation with muscles as ripped as when he stepped into his winter hidey hole.

It seems that migratory birds and hibernating animals have genes which respond to cues like daylight or temperature and these genes act to preserve or enhance their muscle mass. Humans do not possess this useful evolutionary adaptation, due to their different lifestyle, and so have been forced to invent the gym and the exercise bike.

It is not yet clear where dogs and cats sit on this evolutionary 'no pain, no gain' spectrum, although based on my own personal observations, I hypothesise that we pups would be somewhere between the barnacle goose and the human.

I wonder if my friends can contribute any useful data about whether the human or non-human species in their household find it easier to  maintain themselves in tip top condition? If so, do please leave a comment. No detail, however trivial, need be omitted. Who knows, I may even publish a scientific paper on the findings...

[PS On the subject of evolution, Gail has reminded me to tell you about an article she has written on Darwin, recently published in online journal 'Assay' (edited by Tootsie's Mom). Personally, I don't really approve of her writing activities other than helping me with my blog, but you may click here should you actually want to read her piece... ]

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Ice and ice-cream - a discussion

Scene near Gail's workplace, 25 April
Gosh Gail, I am wondering why you decided to whip up some home-made ice cream, the very week when it has been snowing again in Aberdeen? Your timing is not good is it?

Bertie, surely you know that criticising your human is not part of the dog job description! Rather, you are supposed to offer non-judgemental adoration at all times. That said, I will concede you might have a point about the poor timing. 

Yes. Please explain yourself then.

Well Bertie, you know how much we both love reading about the adventures of our PON friends Bob and Sophie and their humans Angus and 'the Font', in Angus's daily blog? The writing is so vivid that for a few minutes each morning we are transported to their warm corner of France profonde, and we forget we live in chilly Aberdeen, don't we? 

Er yes I guess that's true up to a point. Although the fact that I am still waiting to be offered a sliver of croissant for breakfast is something of a give-away, I feel.

Anyway, Angus mentioned at the weekend that 'the Font' was making homemade buttermilk ice cream and it sounded so delicious!  No soon as he had kindly provided the recipe than I hot footed it down to Sainsbury's for the ingredients, and it was all in the freezer before the BBC's Tomasz Schafernaker could say the words: "Cold blast of Arctic air imminent".

Hmmm, so now that I have warmed up from my icy walk around the park, I am thinking perhaps we could try a wee sample of the buttermilk ice cream? After all, it might be another year or so before we enjoy properly hot weather, and Gail, it would be dreadful for all your efforts to go to waste.

OK Bertie, I am persuaded, here it is!  A bowl with raspberries for me and a wee morsel for you too.

Oh my goodness this is utterly heavenly! Although I am thinking it is Scotch whisky and not the prescribed Bourbon you have mixed in with the cream, buttermilk, honey and granulated sugar?

Yes Bertie, in fact the Scotch whisky was your very own 'Sweet Wee Scallywag' blend. I'm so glad you liked the ice cream. I did too.

So when are we getting seconds then?

Sunday 23 April 2017

Spring, Recovery and Earth Day

It’s been a horrid winter – my paw’s been awfully sore,
But spring’s now in the air and in my step.
So with keen anticipation, I’m standing by the door,
As I was weary, aching, low, now I am full of pep!

A brand new day is dawning here in sunny Aberdeen,
And I see no point in lingering inside.
The world beyond awaits us, unsullied, fresh and green,
And I’m all bushy tailed, bright eyed!

I bounce past granite houses to the gates of Duthie Park,
I greet my pals and savour every smell.
Oh I am truly joyful; life is once again a lark,
So I pause for just a moment to give thanks that all is well!

PS I am so proud to have taken part in Louis Dog Armstong's Earth Day Challenge. Click here to see all the entries.

And finally, with my Boffin hat on, I would like to congratulate these 28 Very Good Dogs who yesterday took part in the March for Science.

Friday 21 April 2017

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Top notch Easter Weekend

As my regular readers know, I have come to expect excellent service on the East Coast trains when I travel between home in Aberdeen and visiting Human Granny in her Care Home near Nottingham.

But I must say, the conductor on yesterday's train back north excelled himself. After noticing that I was languishing on the floor while a seat was available next to Gail, he patted the empty seat encouragingly,  saying "Come up here Bertie; you'll be much more comfortable", and he lifted me so I could cuddle up to Gail. Then he took a nice photo of us (see below) and offered to fetch a bowl of water any time I should feel thirsty.

This is what I call Top Notch customer service.

In fact, it was all round a Top Notch Easter Weekend in Nottingham. Of course I got to spend quality time with Human Granny (whom we found in good spirits), played lots of tug-the-roadkill-fox with Gail's friend Janet, and on Easter Monday visited my poodle cousins Coco and Percy in Derbyshire.

I also met a most agreeable WFT called Teddy when out and about in Nottingham.

And finally, when taking a stroll between trains at Newcastle, I had good cause to feel grateful that I am a dog not a human...

Yes all in all, it was a totally spiffing Easter weekend.

PS Gail is betting that somewhere in the world someone is offering colonic irrigation for dogs...

Sunday 16 April 2017

Fluffy Bunny Ears

On Tuesday last week Gail, along with several female colleagues, received an invitation from her boss Alison, to attend a 'civilised hen party' ahead of Alison's wedding in June.

I understand that Gail replied thus:

Thank you very much for the invitation. I had thought I was past the age for attending hen parties but I shall be very pleased to come along, especially as it seems there will be no requirement to wear pink fluffy bunny ears…

Two days later, we were on the Friday morning train, heading to Newcastle (aka Hen Party Capital of the UK) en route to visiting Human Granny in Nottingham, and we met this party of exuberant young-ish ladies.

PS Gail failed to resist the temptation to email this photo to Alison...


Thursday 13 April 2017

Feeling left out

Can I play too?


Monday 10 April 2017

A Gentle Spring Stroll at Drum Castle

So Gail and I were both feeling somewhat delicate this weekend - she still a bit shaken up after her close shave in St Petersburg last Monday, and me 'cos my paw has been playing up again this week.

[Oh and regarding St Petersburg - congratulations to Inca, the first to guess correctly that the 'odd picture out' in the last post was the fourth one down and was a metro station (Avtovo) not a palace!]

But by lunchtime on Sunday I was getting bored with staring out the window, and suggested to Gail that we go for a short walk in the grounds of Drum Castle.

She readily agreed, and as it's only a ten mile drive, we soon were there. I am disappointed to report that, because apparently (and I think outrageously) I am not considered to be an 'assistance dog' I was allowed no closer than this to the actual castle.

Fortunately the ancient oak woods nearby are well worth exploring, and are the perfect place to forget the world's troubles, and one's tender paws, at least for an afternoon.

PS Gail and I read the sad news about our dear blogging friend Dory when we returned from our walk. Dory, we will miss you so much. You were the sweetest, dearest little pup and we send love and hugs to Beth and the rest of the family.

Friday 7 April 2017

St Petersburg - a city of opulence, splendour, and too few dogs?

Gosh I must say it is nice to have Gail home again after her slightly too exciting trip to St Petersburg.

I note that several of you want to know more about her visit and even asked if you can see some of photos! Well, I must remind you that this is supposed to be a dog blog and so I asked Gail if she had spotted any Borzois, Siberian Huskies or other Russian breeds. It seems not. She claims that the bit of fluff sticking out the front of this lady's coat is a miniature canine of some description, but frankly we'll have to take that one on trust won't we?

Gail did slightly better in the bookshop in the famous art nouveau Singer Building on Nevsky Prospekt, where she resisted the temptation to buy a Vladimir Putin mug and instead purchased me a nice calendar and a card, both pleasingly dog-relevant.

Oh and please, any Russian speakers out there, do tell us what it says on the card. Neither Gail nor I have quite mastered using Google Translate with Cyrillic script.

It seems one might become overwhelmed by the opulent splendour of the many palaces, museums, churches and other grand buildings in St Petersburg. But I have a question for you (there might even be a prize). Can you tell which is the odd one out of the eight photos below?

Finally, I confess I had been a bit worried that Gail would come home hungry, as she does not like  cabbage, caviar or vodka. But she assures me this is an out-dated stereotype of Russian cuisine, and she and Yvonne somehow managed to force the food down...

PS I promise you normal service will return on this blog next week, when I hope to be able to post new photos of ME enjoying a nice Spring walk in the Scottish countryside!

Tuesday 4 April 2017

Safely reunited

So Gail arrived back from St Petersburg just before midnight on Monday, and wanted to know all about how I had got on with Neil over the weekend.

Well I simply told her that I had enjoyed a lovely time at Neil's 'eco-home' retreat near Inverness, but we had agreed between us, he and I, that "what goes on at Kiltarlity stays at Kiltarlity".

And anyway, I think Gail wants to tell our blog friends about her trip (if that is not breaking the terms and conditions of this blog).
Nevsky Prospekt - morning of 3 April 2017
Gail here: 

First of all I want to thank all of you who heard about Monday's terrorist attack in St Petersburg and expressed concern for my safety and that of my friend Yvonne. Please be aware we are both fine.

Secondly, I want say that my thoughts are with all the victims of the attack and their families, as they come to terms with this terrible event.

Usually in these circumstances, one can simply reassure friends that of course we were miles away from the atrocity, and it didn't really affect us at all. 


Although we were not directly involved in the terrorist attack, we were in fact far, far too close for comfort. My friend Yvonne and I were in the Nevsky Prospect metro station, trying to board a train heading in the direction of the airport, when the bomb went off one stop down the line. So for about 15 minutes no one knew why all the trains had stopped, then fragments of news filtered through, the station was evacuated and the whole metro system closed down. On the streets outside it was chaos with the place swarming with emergency vehicles and sirens going off everywhere. Thankfully, guided by a lovely young Russian man who spoke quite good English, we managed to get to the airport by bus (actually 3 buses) arriving just in time for our flight to Frankfurt. 

At one point our very crowded bus was diverted onto a side street as the main thoroughfare had been closed, and we got stuck between parked vehicles for 20 minutes - the photo below is of the bus being guided along the road, inch by painful inch!

On Sunday afternoon I took this photo of Yvonne at the pristine Tekhnologichesky Institut metro station and emailed it to my mother:

And this (from the BBC website) was the scene 24 hours later:

So sad that such terrible events keep happening.

But I must add that,  despite the unnerving ending, Yvonne and I had an absolutely fascinating time exploring this magnificent city, and neither of us would hesitate to go to St Petersburg again.