Friday, 14 May 2021

Not doing so great...

Friends, I want you to know how it's going with me.

Well I'm still going, but things aren't so great.

It takes me longer than it used to, to squeeze out those last drops of pee. And that sometimes my front leg shakes a bit with the effort of it. (I'm still taking the Previcox tablets.)

Over the past few months my hearing has deteriorated, and what once was selective deafness is now involuntary. 

Peripheral vision never really was my thing, and it certainly isn't these days.

I do believe I have a touch of arthritis in my right hip joint, but I still trot along on my walks (even quite long ones) happily, if a touch unevenly. Perhaps there's not so much bouncing as once was. And much more stopping to try to pee.

My appetite is just the same as ever, although I did have a bout of 'the runs' earlier this week.  

But I feel a little vulnerable now, and like to spend more time cuddling close to Gail.

PS from Gail: The sad truth is that after several months in which Bertie's bladder cancer symptoms first eased (after being prescribed Previcox) and then stabilised, there's been a marked deterioration very recently. He's stopping ever more frequently on walks, seemingly to try to force out more pee and looking distinctly uncomfortable, and a noticeable amount of  blood has been appearing in his urine from time to time in the last week or so. I am taking Bertie to the vet later today.  I fear it might soon be time for a difficult decision.  

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Our latest conquest

I expect you are wondering which mountain Gail, myself, and our friends M and J ascended this week.

Is it Everest? 
No, I can still breathe.

Kilimanjaro perhaps? 
No, this doesn't seem to be an extinct volcano.

The Matterhorn?
Not pointy enough. 

Ben Nevis?
Er, I don't think you can see the back end of Torry from Scotland's highest peak...

OK, I suspect you're tired of guessing so I'll reveal we were at Baron's Cairn on Tullos Hill, the area known locally as 'The Gramps' on the southern edge of Aberdeen. We reached the grand height of 83 m above sea level and Gail and I traversed a treacherous boulder field to conquer the summit. 

We descended on a path through the yellow gorse-covered hillside, where I'm pleased to say the scent of coconut* was strong enough to overpower any nasty whiffs drifting over from the nearby landfill and waste treatment sites. 

*Fun fact for today: when cycling along a narrow and gorse-fringed lane a few days ago, Gail's well-travelled fellow cyclist Anita observed that whereas gorse shrubs in bloom give off the powerful scent of coconut, there is no such aroma if you are pedalling through an actual coconut plantation! 

Monday, 10 May 2021

A Convenient Excuse

I have heard people say that "a dog is a tie".
These are not dog lovers, obviously.  
Today I propose an alternative view,
And I hope you don't think me obtuse
When I state that a dog's a convenient excuse. 

When the person's a lark, and it's hours after dark,
And the party's gone on far too long,
And they hate to seem rude by departing too soon, 
They remember the dog that they've left all alone.
At such times, a dog's a convenient excuse. 

If the cycling club's due to ride all the day through,
But the forecast's for afternoon rain, 
Then why not join in until coffee, then say
That you need to turn back 'cos your dear pet's shut in.
Again, I contend that a dog's a convenient excuse. 
When family stresses make home life oppressive,
(We all know this happens sometimes),
The claim you can make, that the dog needs a walk,
Ignoring the fact he's on bed, fast asleep,
Demonstrates how a dog's a convenient excuse.

In long wakeful nights, when losing the fight 
Against intangible worries and strife.
A person's mind might focus on how short
A dear dog's life is, and other woes suppress.
And in this too, a dog's a convenient excuse. 

PS from Gail: This poem should, of course, include a 'dog ate my homework' verse, but my family never had a dog when I was a child, and anyway I was a diligent little swot who almost always handed her homework in on time! 

Friday, 7 May 2021

Bertie front and centre

It strikes me that the last few posts on this, MY blog, have dealt with topics of particular interest to my owner Gail, and I, Bertie, have not been sufficiently prominent. Today, I aim to redress the balance with various photos taken over the past couple of weeks (since we regained our freedom to roam), where I am posed front and centre, enhancing a variety of attractive Scottish landscapes.

Looking north from Scolty Hill

River Dee, Milltimber

Coire Mhic Nòbaill, Torridon

Òb a' Bhràighe, Torridon

Bullers of Buchan

Cowie Water, near Stonehaven

Polling station at Ferryhill church

That's more like it, don't you agree?

Happy Nature Friday! 

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

'Pushing Out the Boat'

It might come as a shock to readers of this blog that my owner engages in activities other than taking me for frequent walks and going on the occasional bicycle ride, but in fact this is the case.

Today, Gail wants me to tell you about the new edition of 'probably the best regional literary magazine in Scotland' (according to their website).

The magazine is called 'Pushing Out the Boat', although I don't think it has any particular connection to nautical matters. Gail is part of the team of volunteers based here in Aberdeen who produce this always excellent (she told me to say that) publication.

Well I must say, POTB Issue 16 has a vibrant and attractively geological cover, but of course the first thing I looked for inside was any story or poem about dogs, or artworks on the same theme.

It wasn't until page 80 that I found a canine-relevant piece - 'The Lead', by Calum Moore.  As we all know, the best literature can support a variety of interpretations, and my response to this poem and Gail's differed markedly. What I saw as an enthralling and satisfying poetic account about an unleashed dog killing a deer (something I have done often, but only in my dreams), Gail read as a tragic work, compactly addressing issues of shame and failures in personal responsibility...

Well of course, there is lots more inside the magazine to savour - Gail particularly recommends Brenda Conn's 'Fit Like', a short and witty story in Doric in which a widower comes to terms with loss through taking up cycling. 

I bet if you bought a copy of Pushing Out The Boat Issue 16, available online for £5.99 plus postage and packing, you too would find in it something to enjoy and treasure. 

Monday, 3 May 2021

Le Tour de Angus

I have a question for you.

If your human takes you round to neighbour Kirsty's house at the crack of dawn after loading her bicycle in to the car, then she returns ten hours later, tired but euphoric, does the fact that while away she took a couple of photos of dog memorials make it all OK?

So it seems that last Thursday Gail and four of her cycling friends had agreed to meet up in Montrose, 40 miles south of Aberdeen, and spend the day riding around the quiet roads of the Angus region of Eastern Scotland, first heading down the coast to Arbroath (famous for its Declaration and its Smokies), on to Carnoustie (golf) then inland to Forfar (Bridies) before arriving back at the beach car park in Montrose.

In cool and blustery conditions these five ladies reached Forfar early afternoon and, fortified by this town's renowned culinary offering of greasy minced beef enclosed in shortcrust pasty, they then completed the final 20 miles of their 66 mile circuit. 

Oh, you want to see the dog memorials?

First we have Bamse the St Bernard, heroic mascot of the free Norwegian Forces, who served on a minesweeper during World War Two and died right here on the dockside in Montrose on 22nd July 1944.

And further down the coast, in East Haven, just north of Carnoustie, this memorial celebrates the brave Airedale terriers who carried wounded men and messages on the frontline in the First World War. I wonder how my Airedale friends Molly and Ruby would take to wearing a gas mask? (I fear Ruby would find imbibing her favourite margarita tipple a bit tricky...)

Well when Gail showed me these photos I'll admit I did at least in part forgive her (after all I had enjoyed a lovely day with Kirsty). Do you think I did right?

Friday, 30 April 2021

Spring babies in Torridon

When inspecting the Torridon cottage earlier in the week, Gail noticed that a blackbird family has taken advantage of a hole the builder recently made in the back wall (as a precursor to installing a new window there).

She has asked the builder to delay enlarging this hole until after the blackbird chicks have flown the nest.

Meanwhile, in the surrounding fields, spring lambs are arriving thick and fast. 

Gail has long been hoping that I would follow the pattern set by my predecessor Hamish the Westie, and lose interest in chasing sheep and lambs as I got older.

Now why would she imagine that might happen...

So I am only allowed to roam off-lead in sheep-free areas of Torridon.

Happy Nature Friday friends, and thank you so much to our lovely LLB Gang friends for continuing to host the blog hop!

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Behind schedule?

So a couple of friends have been asking if the renovation and remodelling work on the Torridon cottage is yet complete.

While politely reminding my readers that this is supposed to be a dog blog and not a home improvement blog, I am happy to take you for a wee sniff around inside the cottage to see how things are going. 


So what do you think? 

Gail recalls how when she first bought the cottage (November 2002) a German neighbour warned her the prevailing attitude in the NW Highlands was deep suspicion of the 'mañana' concept as it implied far too much haste! Over the past few months, the pandemic and associated restrictions + Brexit + Highland Council's slow processing of a building warrant + the particular vagaries of the builder, have all combined to make for slow progress. The delays were to some extent anticipated, and Gail is working hard (and mostly succeeding) at not getting too frustrated by the situation...

And who can feel cross for long when just behind the cottage there are mountains to explore?

That's more like it! 

Monday, 26 April 2021

Just in time for summer...

Gosh Gail, this is most kind of you to be knitting me a nice cosy blanket. Thank you so much. Is it nearly finished?

Bertie! No!

What's the problem Gail?

You know perfectly well Bertie that it's not a blanket for you, it is a new jumper for myself. You even posted about it back in January. Now please shift over and let me get on with the knit-one-purl-one crew neck.


Oh well done Gail. So you have completed your nice warm jumper just in time for summer.

To be honest Bertie, I am not sure here whether you are being sarcastic or are making a realistic appraisal of the weather conditions to be expected in a typical Scottish summer. But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt...

PS The good news is that we have made it across to Torridon to check up on the cottage and, for one day at least, the sun shone warmly. 

Friday, 23 April 2021

Just dead wood?

Earlier this week during a short walk in the forest I stopped for a moment beside a pile of logs. To be honest, I was hoping that if I sat and posed nicely I might score some treats, but that is not the subject of today's Nature Friday post. 

No, instead I have a question.

How did it ever happen that 'just dead wood' became a metaphor used to describe people or things that are no longer useful or productive?

Let's have a closer look at this pile of logs. What do we see? 

We have several different species of beautiful mosses and lichens.

We have fungus,

And ferns,
And even new saplings sprouting up, 

Not to mention a multitude of creepy crawlies which Gail failed to capture with her camera.

So it turns out that far from 'just dead wood' the whole edifice is teeming with new life. Such a productive mini-ecosystem in fact.

'Just dead wood' indeed. You would think that humans could make better use of their supposedly superior language skills...

OK, that's enough posing. As no treats are forthcoming, I'm off to find something else to pontificate about!

Happy Nature Friday! 

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

What I've learned about humans...

I bet I'm not the only pup out there who has learned a few new things about humans during this Covid pandemic.

OK, to be strictly accurate, I've learned a few new things about ONE PARTICULAR HUMAN.

For example:

  • Unlike dogs, most of whom are naturally wary of the grooming table, it seems that the lack of availability of hairdressers causes a certain amount of anguish, even among humans whom one normally thinks of as not too fussy about their appearance.
  • If a human was never, pre-pandemic, a fan of domestic pursuits such as decorating and gardening, then even if they suddenly have infinite time on their hands and nowhere to go, they are unlikely to become enthusiastic about these activities.
  • The human might, however, display hitherto unsuspected talents when it comes to legalistic interpretations of new rules design to reign in other activities which they actually enjoy. For example, they might point out how a rule decreeing outdoor exercise (e.g. cycling, dog-walking) must begin and end not more than five miles from the city boundary is silent on where one ventures between the beginning and end of said ride or walk.
  • Through spying on the human's electronic messages, one learns that there is among any human friendship group a 'hierarchy of obedience' and that it is not always easy to predict which humans will slavishly follow all rules and restrictions relating to the pandemic, and which will take an informed but more pragmatic approach.
  • I had previously understood that taking the dog for a walk was primarily for the dog's benefit. How wrong I was. We pups are just handy accessories used to justify restless humans' need for frequent outdoor exercise and a degree of interaction with other human beings in their front gardens or the park. Suck it up, pups!
  • Regarding food intake one's human can be quite disciplined (I gather this is not the case with all humans) but still be capable of creating time-consuming rituals to rival the Japanese tea ceremony. Er yes, Gail, your obsessive cup warming prior to pouring that mid-morning coffee of such precisely calibrated strength has been noted. I fear you might be turning into your mother...
  • However hard one might try to persuade one's human that sitting on the sofa reading books about or set in other parts of the world while snuggled up closely with their favourite dog is the perfect way to travel, one can see that the human is not quite convinced...
I could go on, but I think you get the gist.

Have you learned anything new about humans/your particular human over the past year?

'Before' and 'After' hairdresser visit

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Thoughts from Balmoral

It won't come as a surprise to my readers that, as soon as light dawned on Friday, the first day this year when we were allowed to drive into the hills, Gail was bundling me into the car and heading up Deeside to one of our favourite haunts, Ballochbuie Forest

The spring sun was shining brightly on this unfrequented corner of the Queen's Balmoral Estate, and in carefree mode I even ventured in to the sparkling river for a wee paddle.

Only up to the knees mind you.

Among the ancient pines the air was crystal clear and sweet, and the warming temperatures had melted most of the ice from the higher level streams and ponds.

And as we wandered around the royal forest Gail remembered it was the the eve of Prince Philip's funeral, and her thoughts turned to our Queen, widowed after 73 years of what was apparently a strong and supportive marriage. We are told that, throughout their long life together, she and Philip enjoyed some of their happiest moments in this most lovely and tranquil corner of the Scotland.