Thursday 30 November 2017

Rescued by Meghan?

Amidst all the hullaballoo following certain unhelpful* tweets emanating from the President of the USA last night, I want to make it quite clear how much Gail and I admire and respect our many friends across the Pond.

And let's not forget about the happier news concerning UK/US relations announced earlier this week. Although I, Bertie, am not yet personally acquainted with the fiancée of our very own Prince Harry, I would also like it to be known that this is one American whom I am very pleased to welcome to our shores.

Not only has Ms Markle already received the rare accolade of a positive vetting by the Queen's notoriously snooty corgis, but, even better, we learn that she is the adoring owner of two rescue dogs, Bogart and Guy.

Sadly, it seems that Bogart is too old to fly and so cannot come to live with Meghan and Harry in the UK.

I hope you will not think me heartless if I confess my first thought on hearing this news was: "Gosh, I guess that creates a vacancy then"...

Who would not want to be adopted by a lovely Princess and join Team Royal Family?

What fun one could have with all those splendid palaces to explore, and corgis to chase. (Although it might be wise, I understand, to steer clear of Princess Anne's Staffies...)

So anyway, I asked Gail, just out of interest you understand, totally theoretically etc, how one might go about putting oneself forward for the position of Bogart replacement?

I had better not publish Gail's response in full. It did contain phrases like 'world's most ungrateful dog', 'hurt feelings', 'no supper tonight', along with many other less nice words.

Well I'll be honest with you I backtracked faster than you could say empty food bowl. Peace was restored, and we agreed there are many other dogs in the UK whose circumstances are much less favourable than my own. And anyway, as part of her forthcoming UK citizenship classes, Meghan will surely be made aware of the canine adoption opportunities offered by Battersea Dogs Home and suchlike?

*That's an example of  British understatement, BTW.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Snowy Donside

Just want to show you a few pictures from my walk in Glenbuchat last Sunday, in case anyone out there doubts that I am a properly tough NE Scotland male who is quite happy to venture out in freezing temperatures without a coat...

Rest assured, my paws were given a nice warm soak when we got home.

Sunday 26 November 2017

Better than a husband??

Bouncing Bertie Boffin here!

A couple of weeks ago I came across such an interesting article in the newspaper. Researchers in Sweden have found that owning a dog reduces the risk of death from heart disease. For single humans like Gail, it's a whopping effect. My presence in the house makes it at least a third less likely she will suffer a heart attack.

Oh yes and it turns out that of all the breed types, it is terriers, retrievers and scent hounds who have the most positive impact.

Now you might think that Gail would be pleased to read about this, wouldn't you? Perhaps a more empathetic owner might even believe their dog deserved a treat or two for conferring such spectacular health benefits.

But no.

Gail scanned the article with eyebrows raised and said she didn't think it applied to owners of wire-haired fox terriers. And then pointed out that I was directly responsible for her very nearly having a heart attack that time I jumped off the train at Newcastle Station... She also referenced (irrelevantly, I thought) the evening at puppy class when I tried to savage 'make friends with' Daisy the miniature dachshund and she came close to nervous collapse.

There's no pleasing some folk, is there...
Early morning walks on frosty mornings are particularly beneficial, I feel...

Friday 24 November 2017

FFF: An autobiographical tale

Today I am entering YAM-Aunty's Final Friday Fiction challenge.

My source text is 'The Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Grahame, and the phrases (from p87) to be used in my story are:

Line 8:  As a matter of fact I did none of it

Line 12: Well very long ago

Line 16: Here where we are standing

[Regular blog readers will recognise that my piece is, as is traditional for first fiction, strongly autobiographical. I do hope this is allowed.]

Pees and Prejudice 

Our tale today is one of injustice, reconciliation and forgiveness. It is a true story, which starts off, well, very long ago. The main character is a wee terrier puppy called Bernie, and we begin when Bernie went with his owner Gill to stay with his Human Grandma and Grandpa for the first time.

Now it is important to  to understand that although Bernie was a wee puppy, he was already very advanced in his house-training and he absolutely knew the difference between indoors and outdoors and which was the right place to take a ‘comfort break’. In fact the thought of soiling his indoor territory was quite repulsive to him (as it is to most dogs).

Unfortunately, Bernie's Human Grandma held fast to the prejudice that all puppies pee on the carpet, as he realised when he overheard the following interchange between her and Gill:

“Gill, there are some dark marks here on the rug, I think it must be Bernie. Look, right here, where we are standing…”

In response, Gill sounded a bit irritated. “Oh Mother, that’s just a trick of the light, see it’s not even wet, really you are imagining things again.”

If Bernie had been able to speak, he would have added, quite firmly, "As a matter of fact I did none of it".

But repeatedly throughout this and subsequent visits, poor Bernie was falsely accused of peeing on the carpet. He felt quite hurt, and was not sure he even liked his Human Grandma that much.

Now Bernie is an older and wiser pup, and his Human Grandpa is sadly no longer with us, he thinks he has worked out what was going on. At the time of those early visits, his dear Human Grandma was so worn to a frazzle caring for her beloved but by then very sick husband that she could barely think straight. She just knew that as a good wife it was her role to keep everything in the house clean and tidy, and was anxious lest she be found wanting in this respect. So her brain started conjuring up problems that weren’t real.

These days, Bernie's Human Grandma lives in a very nice care home and is no longer responsible for the housework, and she is much more relaxed and loves having Bernie to visit and never ever accuses him of peeing on the carpet. And so Bernie has forgiven his Human Grandma for all the earlier misunderstandings, as he  can appreciate that it was neither his fault nor hers that the issues between them ever arose in the first place.

Click here to see the link up to the other FFF stories.

And a big THANK YOU to YAM Aunty for organising this fun challenge!

Tuesday 21 November 2017

A gravy bone from Postman Pat!

Bertie in Glen Muick, midday on 18 November 2017
You might be looking at the picture above and thinking, gosh you are a lucky chap Bertie, living in such a beautiful part of the world with a human who loves to go exploring.

I guess you would be right, but sometimes the best part of an outing is not captured on camera.

So there I was last weekend, trotting along the tranquil farm track on the western side of Glen Muick, when a Royal Mail van - the first vehicle we'd seen - came bowling along.

I don't know about you, but generally I like to walk in the middle of a road if given the chance, and believe it is the responsibility of others to avoid running me down. 

So I ignored Gail's shouts and forced the postman to stop. He wound down his window as Gail, having put me on a lead and dragged me to the side, was babbling apologetically: 

"I'm so sorry, thank you for stopping, my dog has absolutely no road sense...."

The postman had a nice round ruddy face and a wide smile. He ignored Gail, looked down at me and said fondly "ach, you're an affa bonny pup, maybe you'd like a treat?"

And lo an behold he dug into his pocket and produced a gravy bone and offered it to me whole! (Gail normally breaks them in two, or on a bad day three).

This agreeable episode has confirmed my belief that is is always best to stick to the middle of a track, although Gail disputes this conclusion...

After the walk we stopped in the nearby town of Ballater, where a rustic nativity scene was being erected on the green by the church. 

Gail was amused to see that the workman setting up the floodlighting had used the praying hands of one of the Three Kings as a coat hook. 

Sunday 19 November 2017

Why don't we do this more often?

As you know, my usual early morning constitutional consists of a walk to Duthie Park and back.

So I was a bit surprised on Saturday when Gail bundled me into the car shortly after seven a.m. and announced:

"Bertie, we're having a change today and going to the beach for a dawn photoshoot".

It's only a ten minute drive to Aberdeen City Beach and we arrived about half an hour before sunrise.

Not all the photos Gail took in the low light with her smartphone turned out as intended...

But amongst the many fails (Gail blames cold hands which I guess is a valid excuse - the air is always, er,  'bracing' besides the North Sea), there were a few photos I have deemed acceptable for my blog.

As it started to get properly light, some other pups showed up on the beach.

Gosh it was all such fun,  I do hope we can do it again some time.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Paw wash imminent...

In truth, these days, following my visit to veterinary dermatologist Peter Forsythe in April, a paw wash is ALWAYS imminent, even when I have been walking across ground that is nowhere near as muddy as that pictured above.  And it's not just a gentle rinse, but a thorough working over, focusing on making sure the deep clefts between my paw pads are clear of mud and grit.

The good news is that I have been free of those horrid interdigital cysts, which made my (and Gail's) life a such misery earlier this year, for over six months now. Cross paws that things stay this way through the winter.

Gail says Dr Forsythe is already her clear choice for Man of the Year.

Sunday 12 November 2017

Shy, undramatic and without a trace of egotism

Gosh it has been proving hard to get Gail out of bed these last few dark and frosty mornings.

In truth, usually she is up and raring to go while I am still curled up snug and sleepy. But the combination of a sinus infection (Gail's Achilles heel, if that is not too medically confusing a metaphor) combined with what she says is a most fascinating book, have meant the roles have been reversed - one suspects temporarily - this week.

So the subject of the book that's been keeping me from my customary early attendance in Duthie Park is former UK Prime Minister, Clement Attlee. Perhaps you have heard of him, perhaps not.

Well it seems that when Attlee was deputy to Winston Churchill during the Second World War, he was considered by some as Churchill's lapdog. Leaving aside the implied slur against lapdogs (a status to which I aspire), this, according to biographer John Bew, was very much not the case, and Mr Attlee was in fact most influential despite (perhaps because of) being "shy, undramatic and without a trace of egotism".

Post-war this supposedly meek and ineffectual man defeated Churchill in the general election and became Prime Minister, and his Labour government introduced the National Health Service and laid the foundations of the modern welfare state.

Oh yes, and I should also mention that as a young man Attlee fought bravely and with distinction in the World War One, and was injured in the Battle of Hanna in Mesopotamia (now Iraq).

Not bad for a 'lapdog', I say!

And what a contrast, in both style and achievement, to certain of today's politicians on either side of the Atlantic..

PS from Gail: do we get a prize today for efforts in making the most unpromising subject matter 'dog relevant'???

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Inappropriate sniffing?

Recent reports on 'sexual harassment' in our Westminster parliament have recently given me paws for thought about my own behaviour in public.

By all accounts (OK, some accounts), conduct that was considered acceptable between humans a couple of decades ago is now likely to give offence.

I am wondering if the same is true for dogs?

Although it is hard to admit it, I am now a middle-aged pup, and I fear I may be losing touch with the latest thinking on these matters.

Is it still OK to greet a bitch in the park?

Indeed, is it still OK to refer to her as a bitch, or should that be 'woman dog'?

And what is the latest thinking around sniffing etiquette?

I so hope the rear end is not going to be declared a 'safe space'...

Gosh and I do enjoy licking my private parts, but maybe I must in future confine this innocent pleasure to the bedroom?

It is all so confusing for the male pup these days. Friends, can you give me some guidance, please?

Monday 6 November 2017

What goes in Macduff stays in Macduff

So Gail and I spent the weekend in Macduff, staying with her nice friends Molly and Neil.

Neil and Molly, and their lurcher pup Maisie, live in an old house overlooking the harbour, just downhill from the church which forms a distinctive landmark in these parts.

I'll be honest with you, early on Saturday morning I was initially a bit miffed when Gail and Neil disappeared to meet up for a bike ride with the Deveron Cycling Club.

But then I realised that I'd get to spend the morning unsupervised with pretty Maisie!

I hope I shall not be accused of inappropriate language if I mention that both Maisie and I are happily still in possession of our full reproductive organs.

When Gail returned from her chilly bike ride, she asked, slightly nervously I thought, "Now you have been a good boy, haven't you Bertie?"

I tried my best to look inscrutable (not a look which comes naturally to a wire-haired fox terrier)...

Thursday 2 November 2017

Now that's my idea of an 'enrichment item'

Mexican Gray Wolf. Credit: Clark Jim, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, via Wikimedia Commons.

Bertie Boffin here (your go-to guy for all matters pertaining to canine-relevant science)...

Scanning through a range of blogs on the American Geophysical Union website, a post about particular experiment recently caught my eye.

This experiment involves some Mexican gray wolves held in a 'pre-release facility' prior to being let out into the wild as part of a carefully planned re-introduction programme in New Mexico and Arizona.

To mitigate any stress and boredom the wolves might feel while temporarily held in captivity, a variety of 'enrichment items' have been introduced to their cages, and the aim of the study is too see which ones work best. These items include - now wait for it.....

'Road killed elk carcass', 'bones', and 'buried meat with a blood trail leading to it'.

Now it seems to me that this experiment has clear relevance to us dogs (we do share 98.8% of our DNA with our wolf brethren after all) and I would be more than happy to offer my services to Science as follows:

So Gail goes to work three days per week, leaving me shut up at home alone*, potentially stressed and bored. I suggest we could work it like this with testing the enrichment items:

Tuesdays: road killed elk carcass (or if hard to source in Scotland, red deer would be an acceptable substitute, I guess)
Wednesdays: Bones (miscellaneous, although my preference would be lamb)
Thursdays: Buried meat with a blood trail leading to it (really, I am not fussy at all about the type of meat)

Replication is of course all important in science, and I suggest the experiment be run over a period of ten weeks. If necessary, further iterations, with the items on different days, could be tried too.

I would, of course, write a detailed report explaining in very analytical fashion my levels of satisfaction with the various sources of 'enrichment' at the end of the study.

So how about it Gail?

I can't see any objections. Can you?

*Alone, that is, apart from the dog walker who comes midday, and those afternoons, quite frequent, when I go round to entertain our neighbours Yvonne and Neil.