Monday 30 October 2017

Did I ask the wrong question?

So Gail and I were out walking near Aberdeen on Saturday afternoon when we ran into this fine fellow.

The long silky furs and those most impressive ears told us right away he was one of the UK's most endangered breeds, a Skye terrier.

He seemed a friendly kind of a guy, so I asked him a question.

"Are you by any chance descended from Greyfriars Bobby?"

Gosh, it turns out I had made what Human Granny would describe as a big "faux pas".

Since this is a family blog, I shan't relate word for word his response, but this was the gist of it:

"Oh my goodness, have you any idea what a trial it is to be a Skye terrier here in Scotland? No wonder we are nearly extinct. Barely can you step outside the house and some random mutt asks you about that idiot of a dog in Edinburgh who sat and pined on his master's grave for fourteen years... FOURTEEN YEARS, I ask you! And Edinburgh is almost as cold as here in Aberdeen.. I would be embarrassed to have such a fool for an ancestor, and would like to make it quite clear that Greyfriars Bobby was absolutely no relation of mine. Let me assure you, should my owner here pop her clogs while I am still alive, I shall be knocking on the door of the local rehoming centre demanding a new family with a nice warm home, a well-filled treat jar and a relaxed attitude to the dogs in bedrooms question. No point looking back, that's my philosophy. What was it that Einstein said about life being like a bicycle; to keep your balance you must keep moving...."

You know, by the end of this diatribe, I was feeling quite sorry for the Skye terrier's owner, an innocuous looking lady who told Gail that fox terriers were her second favourite breed of dog.

PS from Gail: I came across this interesting article when googling 'Skye terriers':
Also, here are some statistics on Kennel Club registrations of vulnerable breeds over the past ten years:

Friday 27 October 2017

Advice for Americans in Scotland?

So Gail, what's this I hear about you organising a bicycle tour in Scotland for your American friends in May next year?

Yes indeed Bertie, that is so. (I see you have been peeking at my emails again.)

Well Gail, as one who was so nearly picked as Ambassadog a couple of years ago, I feel duty bound to try to ensure your guests enjoy our fine country to the full. May I ask a few questions?

Fire away little Bert.

OK, so you are starting in Edinburgh. I am guessing your friends have romanticised ideas about castles and so forth. Perhaps you should suggest they watch 'Trainspotting' or read some of Ian Rankin's crime novels, so they develop a more rounded view of our capital city before they arrive. That way we can avert disappointment, I feel.

Er, yes, well, maybe Bertie. Or maybe not. Anything else?

Oh yes, plenty. I understand that cyclists enjoy their food and have good appetites. Have you considered the breakfast arrangements?

Well of course Bertie, our hotels and B&Bs will inevitably serve generous portions of porridge, I'm sure.

Um, so are you also sure that folk accustomed to breakfasting on tall stacks of blueberry pancakes with butter and maple syrup, and maybe a side order of eggs 'over easy' and bacon, will find oats boiled in salty water a satisfactory way to start the day? I somehow doubt it.

So then Bertie, we can always add in some tattie scones and black pudding to fuel us up the hills if necessary. So what now?

Oh, it's just occurred to me, am I correct in thinking Americans drive on the right? Will they not find our traffic most confusing?

Bertie, rest assured that my friends have travelled all over the world with their Bike Fridays, and they are a capable and resourceful bunch. Why one of them is a retired USAF pilot, so I'm confident his spatial skills will run to figuring our which way the cars are coming from on a roundabout.

Point taken Gail. But another thing - I do hope they will come prepared for our weather. I mean, even Canadians complain here about how the dampness and wind makes everything feel colder than indicated by the thermometer.

Don't worry Bertie, I shall tell them to pack a full set of waterproofs and thermals. And at least we can assume that the bike trip will not have to be cancelled due to forest fires, unlike the last two occasions I have visited the USA.

Well Gail, I think we have covered enough for the time being. Oh, just one final issue - I believe your friends have said they are interested in visiting historical sites along the route. Now readers of this blog will probably already have deduced that history is not your strong suit, at least not unless it involves rocks that are hundreds of millions of years old.  Might I respectfully suggest you spend some time between now and May swotting up on kings and queens and battles as so forth, to avoid being a total embarrassment as a tour guide. Look, I found this on your bookshelves - a good starting point I think...

PS I am delighted to report that, although I shall not be taking part in the bicycle tour, at least one member of the American group has stated her intention also to come to Aberdeen for the express purpose of meeting Yours Truly.

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Terriers only on East Coast Trains?

Meet Billy the Parson Jack Russell terrier, sitting pretty in Coach C of the 13:00 hours service from Edinburgh to Newark North Gate last Thursday. 

We have yet to encounter a Scottie on the train though.

Sunday 22 October 2017

A word about Wojtek

I expect you would all prefer that I steered clear of the dreaded topic of Br*x*t.

Well I do try to keep my mind on higher things, but you know how it is, every now and then, something reminds you of what a pickle my country has got itself into.

So on Thursday, en route to Nottingham by train, Gail and I stopped off for a walk around Edinburgh for an hour or so, and we ran into these fine fellows in Princes Gardens.

Meet Wojtek, the brown bear from Syria, adopted by a company of brave Polish soldiers in World War Two. Wojtek helped carry ammunition in the battle against the Nazis at Monte Cassino and had many other adventures before spending the final years of his long and remarkable life in Edinburgh Zoo.

Many Polish soldiers who contributed so much to defending our country settled in Britain after the War (including the fathers of Gail's school friends Bronia and Halina). More recently, of course, large numbers of enterprising Poles have come to the UK for work, enjoying the fruits of decades of peace in the European Union.

Gail and I think we know what Wojtek and his Polish soldiers would have thought of the knaves and fools in charge of this country's future relationship with the rest of Europe.

We visited Human Granny yesterday, and found her in good spirits, if ever more bent and also worried about what sort of a country her grandchildren (who most certainly did not vote for Brexit) will inherit.

Thursday 19 October 2017

Is it wrong to find this funny...?

How to rake your Malamute
And to think I complain about my grooming routine...

(For video version click here).

Monday 16 October 2017

Getting spiffed up for Granny!

Perhaps some of my readers are unaware that I am on a regular basis subjected to a quite onerous grooming regime?

You might be thinking, "Oh that Bertie, he sports the natural look; none of your fancy-schmancy poodle parlour business for him".

Well, it is indeed true that the concept of a 'spa day' is alien to both human and canine occupants of this household, and that my fur-do is not the result of the professional attention.

But make no mistake, just as it can take a long time for a certain type of human (usually female) to create the impression she is wearing no make-up, and some human males go to very great pains to cultivate a not-shaved-for-four-days look, it also follows that my 'rough and ready' appearance is underpinned by considerable and ongoing efforts.

Early in my puppyhood, Gail took the decision that she was perfectly capable of teaching herself - with the help of a demo from my breeder and the occasional YouTube video - how to groom a wire-haired fox terrier.

And that has been the pattern of things for the last seven years.

So the furs on my back, neck and haunches are hand-stripped by Gail - a matter which I tolerate if given a tasty enough long-lasting chew to distract me from the mild discomfort involved. Scissors are used for my underside, face and ears, and my legs are pretty much left alone...

Thing is, because Gail generally adopts a 'little and often' approach to the hand stripping business, it tends to go unnoticed - and, we feel, unappreciated - by the world at large.

Well I would like to point out that on Friday morning I was stripped and clipped for as long as my patience and Gail's mildly arthritic thumbs would allow.

The timing might have something to do with the fact that I'm going to visit Human Granny for a few days later this week, and she always complains if she can't see my eyes.

Anyway, I like to think I was looking pretty spiffy for my Saturday afternoon walk in the woods, and I'm optimistic about catching the attention of (treat-bearing) admirers on the train to Nottingham on Thursday.

Thursday 12 October 2017

A matter of aesthetics

Perhaps you can help?

It is a not uncommon occurrence, that Gail and I spend time agonising over which is the best photo to select for my blog.

For example, last Sunday, I had the opportunity to explore the ruins of Strome Castle, near the West Highland village of Lochcarron. Although the weather was far from perfect, it was a scenic spot, and I (most obligingly I would say, given my harsh treatment the night before) posed patiently for some pictures taken from inside the ruins.

We narrowed it down to two possibles for this post.

In the first, I am looking head on at the camera, and you get a peek of the hills on the southern shore of the loch, but unfortunately Gail has cut off the top of the arch in which I am standing, which I feel detracts from the overall effect of the shot.

In the second, the archway is better framed and you can see more of my side (and actually the right is my 'good side') but I am not looking at the camera. Also, because the photo was taken from a very slightly different angle, there is more water and less hill in the background.

So I am wondering, which do you prefer?

(It would, of course, be a legitimate point of view, to believe the only metric we should be using here is the proportion of the picture taken up with my handsome self...)

Sunday 8 October 2017

Torridon: A wet walk and a wedding party

Gosh, it has been far too long since I last visited the Torridon cottage. But here I am this weekend on the wet west coast of Scotland, with Gail and her friend Yvonne for company. 

And look how patient I am posing for photos, even in the rain.

Of course I do expect a reward.

Now it may not come as a surprise to folk who have met Gail and Yvonne, but I can exclusively reveal to the rest of you that for this pair of friends, the main point of exercise is to enable them all the more to enjoy a good nosh-up in the evening.

So I am delighted to report that just a few miles from the cottage in the remote village of Diabaig, we have a most welcoming restaurant.

It turns out that on Saturday evening I was not the only dog to be invited along. 

Meet Patch.

I must say, Patch's people were so much better dressed than mine. Look at that fine kilt.

 And what's this? A wedding frock!

And there were two lovely bridesmaids looking most adorable in blue, with white fluffy capes. Gail says that not all bridesmaids would be so enthusiastic about posing with an ever so slightly muddy dog in their arms.

Patch told me that the couple had been married in something called a 'humanist service' on the old stone pier at Diabaig earlier that day. Gail seemed to approve. I sure hope they had some big umbrellas.

In the interest of accuracy I feel I must report that I spent the final part of the evening in the back of Gail's car.

Yes I know, it is quite unimaginable that Gail could have been so cruel. Ok, so there was the small matter of a noisy altercation with Patch while Gail was chatting with another customer at the restaurant (a nice man from North Carolina).

But I notice that Patch was allowed to stay, which I consider quite unfair.

Friday 6 October 2017

On a rainy October morning

Do you ever just take the time ...
... to stop and wonder at the glory of the changing seasons?

Tuesday 3 October 2017

A lazy dog?

Sunday morning in Duthie Park is 'meet and greet' time and this week I was introduced to a grand new pup called Dexter. 

Can you believe that Dexter is only 14 weeks old and already bigger than me! 

He is, of course, an Old English Sheepdog, a breed we rarely see in these parts. (Gail thinks that might have something to do with the label 'English'.)

When Gail was herself a youngster - actually a stroppy adolescent - in Nottingham, her mother's friend Angela owned an Old English Sheepdog called Nell.
Gail, age 15, and Nell 
I know Gail was very fond of this dog, but still I am thinking that her imitation of Nell's hairstyle was ill-advised. Gail asks in her defence asks how many of her readers can offer photos of themselves as teenagers which feature well-advised hairstyles...
Nell and Angela
Angela herself (a consultant geriatrician) was rather better groomed. 

Nell was a calm and gentle character. She was apparently a reluctant walker, who after about half a mile would tend to sit down and refuse to move further. Worried about this, Angela once took her to the vet to have her checked over. Following a thorough examination, the vet pronounced that there was absolutely nothing amiss with Nell, and added "I'm sorry Dr Truman, I think you've just got a lazy dog"! 

Nell lived on to a ripe old age so we guess the vet was right.