Friday 29 June 2018

FFF: Kolya the Nizhny Novgorod Terrier

After a couple of month's absence we are delighted again to take part in YAM-Aunty's Final Friday Fiction. Today's effort is, we admit, an ever so slightly contrived tale. It is of topical relevance although the source text for the phrases, Vasily Grossman's 'An Armenian Sketchbook' was written in 1962.

The phrases are:

Line 8: professors, old revolutionaries, sculptors, architects, actors
Line 12: a sullen looking man, he had cast a quick glance
Line 16: administration had decided to make use of his phenomenal

Kolya the Kanine

The Black Russian terrier Kolya lived, or should we say eked out a precarious existence, sheltering in the basement of a decaying apartment block in Nizhny Novgorod.  He was streetwise enough to have survived three frigid winters in this once closed Soviet city. Kolya was born to a bitch owned by a retired professor of nuclear physics. A sullen looking man, he had cast a quick glance at Kolya's wonky ears and too curly tail, and concluded that this puppy, the runt of the litter, could never be sold for a profit and to keep him would be an unjustified drain on his ever diminishing pension. So Kolya was cast out into the cold, to take his chances with Nizhny Novgorod's ever growing band of street dogs.

This tenacious terrier survived, feeding on scraps scrounged from dustbins outside a nearby restaurant. Left-overs of the local speciality, green shchi, made from soured cabbage leaves, salt and pig fat, sustained his skinny frame. You had to be tough to endure this environment, and although Kolya was in fact gentle by nature, he developed a facade of aggressive behaviour, his repertoire including a truly terrifying snarl.

Come 2018, a certain Russian President issued a decree that the city had so be cleared of street dogs ahead of the FIFA World Cup*.  When the dog catcher came round with his net and his van, Kolya tried hard to make use of his phenomenal snarl, but all to no avail - Putin's henchmen are not so easily deterred. Kolya found himself incarcerated in a pound with half a dozen other dogs, and all had similar stories to tell.

Initially the decree had required the stray dogs to be shot, but a public outcry had resulted in a stay of execution for Kolya and his fellow prisoners, who were still awaiting their fate when English football fans started arriving ahead of their nation's game against Panama.

It is of course well known that English people (even football fans) are uncommonly sentimental about dogs.

It just so happened that a couple of likely lads from Newcastle, Gary and Ryan, were staying in a hotel next to the dog pound, and were woken by anguished howls during the night. On hearing about the decree, they asked to see the dogs, and a visit was arranged.

Ryan had long yearned for a pet, and when he set eyes on the poor half starved pups, his heart melted and he asked if it would be possible to take one of them home. Gruffly, but with the slightly unnatural smile she had been practicing ahead of the World Cup (having been taught that foreign visitors expect to be smiled at, an alien concept to many Russians), the lady in charge of the dog pound said "Yes no problem, just select the one you want".

But of course Ryan found it impossible to choose. "I know", said Gary, the more practically-minded of the two lads, "Why don't we randomly label them from zero to six, and then we'll come back tomorrow and you can take the dog whose number coincides with the number of goals England score against Panama tonight!"

And so it was agreed. Poor Kolya was allocated the number six, and looked enviously at the dogs who were zero and one, and trembled with foreboding, so convinced was he that, once all the World Cup visitors had departed, it would be the firing squad for him.

After all, it was impossible to imagine that England, with their lamentable recent record, could ever score six goals in a single World Cup game. Wasn't it?

The next day, Ryan and Gary returned, looking, frankly, more than a little green about the gills. They were singing, or rather croaking " Six-one! Six-one! Six-one!"

Yes it really was true. England had scored six goals. Kolya's snarl transformed into the broadest of smiles as the reality of his reprieve sank in.

So Kolya will be going back to Tyneside to live with Ryan, as soon as the paperwork and vaccinations are sorted out. He can look forward to fattening up on a diet of meat pies from Greggs and will henceforth be known as Harry Kanine.

And this Russian fairy tale has a second happy ending. Once Ryan and Gary told all their mates about the likely fate of the remaining six dogs, the pound was flooded with adoption offers from slightly hung over England fans, and all the former strays will in due course be living lives of relative luxury, as they remind their new owners of one memorable night in Russia.

*This element of the story is sadly based on fact.

Wednesday 27 June 2018

My tiny paw was frozen

[A conversation in Duthie Park this morning between Bertie and his schnauzer pal Frankie.]

Hi there Frankie, how's things?

Och, nae bad Bertie. Did I catch sight of you shivering in the park last night?

You most certainly did. I escorted Gail and her friend Kirsty down to the open air screening of La Bohème. Really, I would have preferred to be have been inside at Royal Opera House, wouldn't you? So much for heat waves! At least one did not have to suspend disbelief during all that singing about living in an icy Parisian garret. My tiny paws were frozen! But how come I didn't see you?

Well Bertie that's because my owner Maggie thoughtfully brought along a blanket and allowed me to snuggle under with her.

No such luck for me Frankie. Gail did remember her woolly hat, but even then we were both so cold we left before the end.

Hmm. I'm wondering what's Covent Garden's policy about letting dogs inside the Opera House? After all, they do lay great stress on not being elitist these days, don't they?

Interesting point Frankie. So how much does a train ticket to London cost....? 

Monday 25 June 2018

A world class team?


There is nothing on earth that can beat
A walk with your very best pal,
On a midsummer's day when the air is sweet
With wild roses and honeysuckle.

When buttercup meadows invite you to gambol,
And lily-strewn lochans await,
Offering paw-cooling ease at the end of your ramble,
Then together in peace you reflect.

On how many paths together you've trod,
On the sorrows and losses endured.
On how side by side you'll walk forward in hope,
And delight in exploring this wonderful world.

PS Apologies to anyone who read the title and thought this post was going to be about the FIFA World Cup!

Friday 22 June 2018

A shout out for Chickweed Wintergreen

Gosh I can't wait to show you what I found in Clochandighter Woods this week ...

Come here and look at these pretty white flowers!

They do look a bit like wood anemones, but they bloom later, in early summer, and have oval leaves and pointy petals. Just like little stars twinkling in a galaxy of greenery, don't you think?

The plant is called chickweed wintergreen.

You won't come across chickweed wintergreen in the southern parts of the UK. It likes our cooler Scottish temperatures.

Rather insultingly, I feel, the website NatureGate describes chickweed wintergreen's sexual reproduction as "quite inefficient'". Well that's as maybe, but it seems to be doing OK here on the fringe of this pine plantation, ignoring the sex business and happily cloning away without so much as a word of encouragement from Sir Ian Wilmut.  And anyway, plant sex sounds rather boring doesn't it? All that hanging around waiting for a pollinator to show up. Not nearly such fun as us animals have! Might I mention here this hot wee spaniel I met in the park the other day? Phwoar, she was gorgeous. AND she smelled a like a bitch in a state to enjoy a good time, if you know what I mean....

What's that Gail? I am straying off topic? Well OK, so that's enough for this Flower Friday. Must hurry away and find something new for next week!

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Mind the gap!

So I just received this 'postcard' from Gail, who is away in London on business for a couple of days.

"Hey Bertie, look at these two handsome Sibes I met on the train from Luton Airport into London earlier this evening. And they were SO well behaved too. For a moment I almost forgot I was missing you. (Just kidding!)
Sending fond kisses, Gail."

Monday 18 June 2018

On and off piste in Glen Tanar

Shall I let you into a wee secret?

It seems that when Gail was looking for a small to medium sized terrier to replace her beloved Hamish the Westie, one key criterion was that the new dog should have legs long enough to enable him to yomp over our heather-clad Scottish hills without difficulty. Apparently on a couple of occasions Gail tried taking Hamish across the upland moors on paths less trodden and ended up carrying all 22 lb of wriggling white fluffiness for much longer than she would have wished.

Little did she know that the bouncy wee puppy she selected to follow Hamish would grow into a strapping fox terrier, tall enough to exceed the official breed standard height to a degree that would disqualify him from Crufts.

In truth we rarely venture off piste on our walks, but yesterday Gail decided on a cross country route which she claimed would be just fine, given all our recent dry weather, and would avoid a long walk through a boring stretch of pine plantation.

Have you any idea how hard work it is, traversing lumpy tussocks of moss and heather, in between which one's paws can sink suddenly and unpredictably into squelchy boggy gullies?

Not to mention that these places are tick heaven.

Frankly I was most relieved when we finally regained the 'boring' forest track.

And happier still when we ended the walk on a nicely soft, smooth and paw-soothing grassy path.

Irrespective of leg length, I am thinking Hamish had the right idea insisting at times on being carried.

Oh and please note that despite my height, I actually weigh a couple of pounds less than Hamish did.

Friday 15 June 2018

Flower Friday and a Bouncing Beach!

Gosh I had a bright idea this week.

Did you know that Gail has volunteered to do some wildflower monitoring work for a conservation organisation called Plantlife

I confess I was a bit surprised 'cos Gail's flower identification skills are er, frankly, er, shall we say 'basic'?

Well apparently she is persuaded you can teach an old dog new tricks, as it were, and so, being a cooperative wee chap, I have decided to help her by posting every week on Flower Friday about a wildflower I have sniffed during that week.

I'm just going to do one flower at a time, so Gail's poor brain doesn't get overloaded. 

Today I'm showing you the sea rocket, which I came across a few days ago, while roaming around beach at the St Cyrus National Nature Reserve, thirty miles down the coast from Aberdeen.

It must be quite a hardy wee thing, this sea rocket plant, 'cos believe me it's never warm right by the North Sea, even in June, and not every flower wants to be sprayed with salt all the time either. 

Pretty though, don't you think?

I'm told that the thick and fleshy leaves are edible and rich in vitamin C, although I must say I was not tempted.

Oh and finally, I do want to tell you something else about the St Cyrus Nature Reserve, even though it has nothing to do with plants.

Apparently the area just back from the current shoreline is a raised beach. It used to be the actual beach, when the land was weighed down by ice in the last glaciation, but now the ice has melted, the land has rebounded to a higher level. A display in the Visitor Centre tells you all about it.

I do like the idea of a Bouncing Beach.

Wednesday 13 June 2018

There's no escaping...

Clochandighter Woods

So one advantage of all this dry weather we've been having in Aberdeen is that I get taken on nice walks to localities deemed, in normal conditions, too boggy (see above).

You would think, wouldn't you, that the lack of mud might also translate into a suspension of the tedious routine of daily paw washing which has been in continuous operation in this household ever since last year when I went to see the dermatologist in Glasgow about my interdigital cyst problems.

You might think so but you would be wrong. What Gail calls "the precautionary principle", I call an unnecessary imposition.

What's even more irritating is how these standing in the sink sessions are inevitably announced in cringe-inducing baby talk, as Gail extracts me from my hiding place under the desk in the study and carries me through to the kitchen, holding me tightly in what she pretends is just an affectionate cuddle.

"Come on little chummy-wummy. It's time to give those pawsies a wee rinse, isn't it now?"

So humiliating. As if I were not a full eight and a third years old...

Oh and by the way, pleased to report that my 'pawsies' are just hunky-dory right now.

Sunday 10 June 2018

A convert?

It is an unfortunate but true fact (and in no way fake news) that some human beings are not 'dog people'.

This does not necessarily mean they are bad people.

Maybe they had bad experiences when young. Or perhaps in some, an innate fear of wolves is hard wired from pre-historic times.

Or could it simply be that they have not yet had the pleasure of spending time in the company of a certain Bouncing wire-haired fox terrier?

I only ask because a couple of days ago Gail received this very nice thank you card from one of our recent American visitors.

I hope you can read what it says inside.  I'll just show you the first - and obviously most important - bit.
Gail, where is my Gold Star and my lamb bone treat?

Friday 8 June 2018

Flower Friday: Azaleas galore!

When one thinks of colour in reference to my home city Aberdeen, I'm afraid the phrase that comes most readily to mind is 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. ..

But thankfully, every May/June in our Hazlehead Park the Azalea Garden bursts into life, and us poor colour-deprived Aberdonians can for a few short weeks enjoy the sort of vibrant and glorious display which those of you in sunnier climes might take for granted.

To celebrate our friend Rosy's 'Flower Friday', it is my privilege to take you on a visit to Hazlehead.

Monday 4 June 2018

Òb a' Bhràighe and Upper Diabaig

No I don't have a clue how to pronounce it either, but this idyllic spot is Òb a' Bhràighe, a secluded little cove, just a hop a skip and a jump from our Torridon cottage.

Now as you know, I am a terrier, and so have the good sense to keep my paws on terra firma at all times. 

But give a certain member of my household a warm sunny afternoon and a swimsuit and she's wading into that not-so-warm and rather salty water, and before you can say goose pimples and hypothermia she's swimming around like a ..... (er, think of something that swims with more enthusiasm than style). You don't even have to throw a stick. 

So yes, our spell of most un-Scottish weather continued through the weekend, at least in Torridon. And just as I described in my previous post from Aberdeen, here too on the normally wet West Coast, one's favourite mud patches have all dried up.

And worse, last week, just a couple of miles from our cottage,  a really scary wildfire raged across a large area of moorland. Gail and I went over to Diabaig to investigate the aftermath.

Thank goodness no one was hurt and the fire did not damage any houses. But gosh it was a shock to trot along the footpath and suddenly go from this...
 To this...