Sunday, 17 August 2014

The End of Summer Summary

Summer fun is at an end. The temperature has cooled and the rain and wind have returned. The evening walk now ends under neon street lights, instead of daylight. I spend my days alone at home, not with Jess (my surrogate sister) or at the cabin or in Ardrossan. The holidays are over. 

I'm quite tired. In the morning when the master is about to leave for work and I get called downstairs, I can barely lift my head from their bed. He has to come upstairs to get me. He's not amused. It's not my fault. The noise from their bedroom has been keeping me awake most of the night. They both look very tired too. And not as happy as you'd expect. That's the thing with asthma. It kills and at four in the morning sometimes I wish it would (but not really). She's on stronger medication now. Part of me wishes she would get worse so she ends up off work again and I get a break from my kitchen bed. That way I can snooze with her on the soft warm couch or snuggle together in bed. It's better if she has a fever. Toasty!

The mistress got through a lot of holidays during her break: Jersey with her mum, London with the master and Majorca with her friends. Plus with me at the cabin. No wonder she's ill. She's going to need a holiday from all those holidays to recover.

The summer weather was so hot at times I wished my winter coat would grow a zip so I could take it off. That way when I smelled of sweat they could send it to a dry cleaners instead of having to bath me and I could have continued to sunbathe naked. Although, in all honesty, I enjoyed that bath, watching those winter hairs get scrubbed out of me, clogging the plug hole. It left me feeling summer fresh.

After all the fuss over wasps at the cabin, there was a certain irony to discovering we had a nest at home. The master was alerted to its presence by a neighbour and finally got to see what a wasp airport should look like. It's in the roof and we're waiting to see if the council can treat it. They are not bothering us yet (the wasps that is, not the council, although they haven't arrived yet because they're very busy at the moment). The wasps are not inside the loft but, given what they did to the bench and canopy pole at the cabin, it might not be long before they've munched their way in. 

I keep thinking I can hear them buzzing but then think it might be tinnitus induced by the volume at which the master listens to the television nowadays. He says he has ringing in his ears too, like the Master from Doctor Who. It would be great if he was THE Master from Doctor Who, having transformed himself into a human using a chameleon arch. That way when his weight and unhealthiness are about to kill him he can change back into a Time Lord and regenerate into a fitter person, like Peter Capaldi. And I don't lose a dog walker.

He's really looking forward to seeing the new season of Doctor Who. He's even paying to see it at the cinema on the big screen. I hope he doesn't go for a curry first. The smells that issue from his tail end would gas the entire cinema. I know the episode is called "Deep Breath" but I'm sure that is not what Steven Moffat meant. I call his flatulence problem "curry butt". When he has a curry and drinks Coke Zero, or any fizzy drink, he ends up farting uncontrollably. It's like any little movement releases gas. During one walk recently every step resulted in a noisy emission. He had his earbuds in so wasn't aware how loud it was. I winced and pretended it was squeaky trainers but my nose said otherwise. Luckily it was windy in other ways so no one else was any the wiser. 
Venus in Ferns

Friday, 8 August 2014

The Dogs of War Tribute

I read an article today that paid tribute to the dogs that assisted the troops during the first World War. These Airdales acted as guard dogs, carried medicines, located wounded soldiers on the front line and carried communications between bases. They were even trained to wear gas masks in order to survive in the trenches. I don't know how they did it. I couldn't even bear wearing a muzzle and that only covered my mouth. 

Paying my own tribute to these fallen companions I decided today to get as trench dirty as I could, rolling twice in a fresh, juicy, brown cow pat to get both sides. After we'd retrieved a tennis ball from a foreign field it was my duty to carry it home and I was going to do it, no matter what impediments lay in our path. I needed to traverse mud pools, drink ditch water and investigate small craters for bombs. I rolled in many smells along the way to blend in with my surroundings in my new camouflage coat. Not that you can tell from the picture above. The problem with being a brindle is shit may stick but it doesn't show (until you're close enough to smell it). The mistress didn't appreciate it when I brushed past her legs, marking her denims. Apparently the master is going to pay: the wages of war!

I never got any shrapnel in my jaw or my coat torn by a shell (we were nowhere near a beach) and my paws remained intact but I still dragged myself through those hills in the summer heat all the way back to the car. That ball came home again. I made sure of it. (Actually in truth the master had to send me back for it a couple of times when I got distracted by the present day but forgive me some artistic licence).

Then, for a heroes return, I was welcomed home with my second bath of the summer. My trench coat was replaced with a velvety soft one so I could return to civvy street and the couch. I bet it wasn't as simple as that for the dogs that did come home from war. A warm bath wouldn't wash away those sights and memories.

Figbane is just off camera in his new poop coat

Monday, 4 August 2014

Wild Life in Pictures

Ferguslie Cricket Gull Pond - members only - no crows

Shy frog papped

A plague of flying ants descends
Dinner time at the web
Do dogs get to ride in ambulances? If my master was in a walking accident and needed rescuing, would I get a lift too? I ask the question because he's been eating an awful lot again and I fear he's going to collapse on one of our walks. That's why I lead him round and round the dog exercise field. At least there we're near the cabin and I can make my own way home if he dies.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

A Few Dog Burning Questions

Until recently the only dog burning I was aware of was cremation after death and when I sunbathe too long at the cabin. It certainly never involved petrol. 

Today I learned that a man in Kirkcaldy killed a Staffordshire bull terrier cross by tying him to a tree and setting him on fire. They proved the dog was alive at the time because at the autopsy it still had smoke in its lungs. The man received a sentence of 45 months. However only nine months of those were for killing the dog. This was the maximum sentence. 

I believe this is what they call 'criminal justice'. 

Rob a shop: get three years. 

Burn a dog to death: get nine months. 

Perhaps I'm biased as I fit the description of the deceased, but I think there's something wrong with the numbers there. Did the judge confuse human years with dog years? Did he sit there counting on his fingers trying to figure out how much five dog years would be to a human and divided by seven instead of multiplying?

The convicted man is now disqualified from keeping animals for life. Is that 'life' as in his actual life or just 'a jail term'? Could he end up with a budgie, for example, with 'good behaviour'?

He was said to be abusing alcohol at the time. Would it not be appropriate to ban him from drinking alcohol for life too or would that be too drastic a sentence to be passed down by a Scottish Court? 

"You can take away his best friend (with petrol) but you canny take away his whiskey." 

The deceased dog was called Bruno. He enjoyed hugs and walks and was a family pet. Please take a moment to consider his final moments and tell me that you agree this was a fair judgement.



A Dreamy Fox Pup

Recently I've been feeling a little out of sorts. I've had a lot on my mind and my stomach has been playing up, eating too much of the wrong thing, like soil and roots. I spent hours just lying in my bed staring at the wall, not knowing what to do. I must have nodded off because I had the oddest dream.

Somehow I managed to find myself outside. It was a warm midsummer dusk and I was in a car park beside a number of concrete buildings. The public lights had yet to be illuminated and most of the car spaces were empty. The main building had light emanating from its entrance but its windows looked dark and reflective. It was eerily quiet. Then, padding daintily up the slope of the road towards me, came a young female fox pup. She didn't flee upon noticing me and without fear approached me to say hello. Instead of getting all flustered and defensive I responded kindly.

She was very young: her cute fox eyes sparkled, a panting smile stretching across her mouth, with an eager playfulness in her stance. I very rarely play with other dogs now but there was something about this young pup that made me feel young again. We played at chases, running around the cars that remained, pausing for breath occasionally, staring at one another, watching for a sign that the game would begin again. It was good innocent fun to use those old muscles again, spoiled only when two humans appeared. My master and mistress wanted me to come home. Distracted by their arrival I failed to see my new friend leave. As silently as she appeared, she was gone.

fox pup tribute

In that moment, still in the dream, I knew we'd never meet again but strangely I felt better. And I didn't vomit or shit the bed that night either.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Step inside my Parlour said the Spider...

The view from our cabin has always been a good place to witness a wide range of wildlife: from buzzards, woodpeckers, ducks and oyster catchers, to deer, hedgehogs, field mice, frogs and newts. There's even an owl, but I've never seen it, just heard it hooting through the night.

We've also got spiders, lots of spiders, and recently their presence has become a bit overwhelming. Last weekend the mistress and her pals witnessed a mass migration from the woods, like an army claiming new territory in preparation for an assault. Either that or the current resident spiders had invited all their pals over for a party and there were lots of gatecrashers. Talking of gates, we missed one weekend stay and discovered the entire gate lock mechanism had been webbed up. A 'Keep Out' message if ever I saw one. I think the spiders are taking over.

Previously I'd only occasionally get webbing on my nose when I poked it through the railings. Now it always happens. I'm scared to look out in case I end up with a spider crawling inside my nasal cavity. Despite the master brushing away all the webs, we awake to find overnight they've all been re-spun. Every railing gap has at least four spiders living there, hiding in the corners during the day and weaving their fly nets by night. I suppose it's a good thing that they eat a lot of the midges but something needs to be done to redress this arachnid population explosion. 

It's creepy to look out a window to find multiple spiders peering in, sitting pretty in their webs gathering dead insects for dinner. It's like they are gathering intelligence, watching our movements, checking what time we go to bed, investigating where the motion sensors are, plotting the take over of the interior, having already conquered the exterior. Generations of spider babies have been born on our walls and decking and now they want the rest. They need the space. Last night I witnessed a number abseiling down web cords in unison, as if they were attempting the crash through the window, S.A.S. style. I imagine these Special Assault Spiders were sent to test the glass strength. Fortunately we have double glazing.

As yet we've not found too many inside and the master has managed to eject these scouts. I'm all for killing them but the humans won't, being a superstitious bunch.  'It's bad luck to kill a spider' so the saying goes. Great PR by the spiders to protect themselves. And so their numbers grow.

I'm sure it's only a matter of time before they succeed with their plans. With the summer heat rising, the patio doors are being kept open during the day and the windows are staying open longer in the evening. They'll get a foothold inside and then the place will look like the creepy location of a Scooby Doo episode. I'll be the one sent in to deal with them but I'll only step a paw inside if I'm given a scooby snack first.   

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Weather too hot or not too hot, that is the question.

A Scottish scorcher today, 25 degrees C. I couldn't settle in the garden. It was too warm. The problem is I still have my winter coat and it's not shedding fast enough. I scratch at it but I really haven't got the energy to make much impact. I'm even letting the humans brush me without resisting.

Even the house was too warm. With all the windows open, we failed to attract any coolness, just flies and bees into the house. Maybe they thought it was too warm outside too. 

Not actually from today -
 the camera would have melted (maybe)
Fortunately by the time the master walked me in the evening, a cool breeze had developed. I was still panting and keen to play 'chase and retrieve' but he dissuaded me. The previous night I had given him, and myself, a fright after our game, unable to walk for more than a couple of yards without lying down. He was reminded of when his first pet dog was old and had had a heart attack. It perked up at the sight of the park, only to accept his legs couldn't carry him there and back. He made it there but had to be carried home, tired but content.

If I had died yesterday, it would have been a pleasant way to go, baking in the sun. Much better than on the vet's table. I'm not ready to go yet but it was a sign that I'm not quite as young as I once was. I need to slow down. I think that's why I'm getting grumpier with young dogs. If they steal my ball I would previously have chased after them but now I just bark at the master for a replacement, and he usually complies. Anything for an easy life. 

The master has been back at work for a while. Why he couldn't have been sick now when the weather is lovely is disappointing! I would have enjoyed the cooling effect of his tears on my coat, plus I would have been able to spend these lovely days at the cabin, instead of dodging out for walks between showers as we did back in March.

It won't be long before the mistress is on holiday. I wonder what plans she has to fill my days? Lots of sunbathing I hope.  

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Writer's Block

Finally a little sun and warmth
Loch Katrine
Rest time

Play time
Not letting go time

Proud to be home again - now throw the tennis ball

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Sunshine and Tears

Thursday was the International Day of Happiness but not for me or my master. We went for a walk up the Braes, leaving in sunshine but arrived in a bluster of rain. It looked like I had tears in my eyes and so did the master as he was chatting to his boss on the phone. He was breathing funny too in the cold, like he couldn't catch his breath. After the call, driving rain and hail battered the braes and I got soaked, a mesh of chill stones coating my body. He insisted on continuing the walk till he recovered his breath. Not a happy experience.

I haven't seen as much of him lately. He's been very busy at work, going in six days a week, leaving early and returning late. He's even been burning the 2am oil to keep up with his training (2am oil is like midnight oil but more reckless and immature). I wouldn't mind but, as I now sleep in his office, I've had to keep a leg over my eye to obscure the light. It's not really acceptable. He can juggle three tennis balls but he can't juggle a work/ life balance.

The mistress wasn't happy either. He was late home on her birthday, tied up with work, then went in again the next day on his day off. He forgot some of the gifts she'd suggested and had been disturbing her sleep with his irregular sleep pattern. The final straw came on Wednesday night when they rowed over me getting three walks on one night. He insisted on taking me out even though it was bed time. Having spent more than half the day at work, he wanted to get some air. Then he fell asleep on the couch with me snoring in his ear.

Thursday had been his day off. On Friday, he didn't go into work.

It's weird. He usually loves his holidays. In the morning he joined me on the couch and it sounded like he was laughing when he tried to cuddle me. Then I realised my coat was getting wet and not from tears of joy. I didn't know what to say. I'm the child in this relationship, not the parent. They don't teach you what to do with this at dog class. I just got upset for him, jumped off the couch and ruffed at him to stop. I don't like getting my coat wet. I didn't know what was wrong and it scared me.

He went out with shop keys and notes and returned without them. He packed up the car, with me in the boot, and we drove to Aberfoyle. He talked at me as we drove. I don't always listen, engrossed in the receding landscape but he explained I was to be a good girl and behave, not cause him any stress. Like that was going to happen! Does he not know me by now? We've been together eight years and I always give him grief: from ignoring his calls for me to come down in the morning, eating whatever I find on the evening walk and going nuts at any dog who looks funny at me; to being exasperated at foxes and wanting to murder cats. I always pull the the direction I want to go and bark at him when he comes home till he gives me a treat. I find it pays to be direct. I am my own dog, not just the family pet.

At the cabin, I eavesdropped as he chatted with his mum on the phone. I discovered he'd been previously ill with stress, before I was born. 

He explained his symptoms: feeling oversensitive to pressure; becoming forgetful, sometimes acutely; being constantly tired but unable to stay asleep. He'd made mistakes at work, a significant amount, and this frightened him. He didn't trust his judgment anymore. He was even off his food, which was good for his diet but not me. I live for these tidbits. He'd stare into space, his hands either squeezing the headache from his brain or touching his lips, sealing in the scream. Not healthy, not living, not fun. Away from work, he was now tingly and tired and finding it difficult to take deep breaths. Little issues caused him massive discomfort but he recognised this now, which was the first step to recovery.

We've got to go home after the weekend so he can see his doctor. I won't mind. I've had enough of these mixed weather conditions: cold wind, sunshine and rain. I love the cabin but more so when it's dry, sunny and warm. And I want him to get well.

When do the better times begin, we both wonder?

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

A Vominute Mistake

I discovered today that you do get bad deer poop and that I need to be more selective in my forest dining choices. Shortly after my return from a long walk, while I rested, I projectile vomited a lumpy, brown spray all over the carpet and couch, catching both the cover and the side coverings at the same time. It wasn't intentional. I only got time to sit up before I barfed.

The master wasn't amused. He's not practiced in multiple venue staining. Normally my vomit contains just partially-digested, mushy Burns pellets which can be easily scooped up and cleaned, but this time it was mud brown and that clashed with the carpet and had chunks.  

He did his best but I think he made a mistake in his choice of waste disposal. He should have flushed it down the toilet, not thrown the bucket's watery contents back into the woods because my nose is so sensitive I notice these things and I'm not fussy about re-eating regurgitate. Some of it is still good even hours later. I hope for his sake the rain washes it away or the field mice eat it up because if it's still there in the morning that's my breakfast number 2. I'm just warning him now.

I guess I'll not be sleeping in his bed tonight.

A Dog Show for Dogs

In the afternoon I enjoy lazing on the couch in front of the telly but the TV channels don't truly cater for the canine audience. You don't get a dog food show to salivate over where the chef presents a guest dog with a bowl of 'here's one I made earlier'. The quiz shows hold no appeal as I'm rarely interested in the trivia the humans pass off as general knowledge. And it's rare to find a house hunter who considers where the dog bed is going to go. Maybe the odd comment about 'the garden being big enough for the dog' but no mention of where the local dog walks are. 

Now Channel 4 have finally answered my prayers and put on a television programme aimed at me: a dog game show, 'Superstar Dogs', hosted by John Barrowman

From L to R: Captain Jack with John and Harris
There are three dogs, of different sizes and breeds, who compete over three rounds to see who's best. There's a retrieval round, that I would struggle with as I don't like to swim. If my master threw one of my toys into a pool of deep water, I'd bark obscenities at him until he fetched it himself. Then there's a fly ball round, followed by a deciding agility round that I would love. If I was competing I would take the time penalty to eat all the tasty treats in Temptation Alley. The show appealed to me because the dogs weren't perfect. They had flaws and messed up some of the activities, but weren't mocked by the commentator or JB. It was a bit awkward though when John had to tell them how long their dog had taken and try to inject some suspense into it when it was obvious it wasn't quick. 

I wonder if Channel 4 has offered any psychological help to the winner to cope with the imminent fame and lifestyle change that comes with the title, "Superstar Dog". I realise the glory will be fleeting, much like it is for a Big Brother or Apprentice winner, but what if the winner gets followed around by the Pooperazi, wanting to snatch a piccy of them performing a bodily function or sniffing another mystery beau's bottom. If they're a pedigree breed and are seen showing interest in a mongrel, for instance, their reputation could be ruined. 

I was surprised they got Jim Rosenthal to commentate. What's his connection with dogs?  Was Peter Purves busy or did he just want too much money?

Flood of News

I've been spending a lot of time at the cabin but it hasn't been much fun. It's been very wet. The rain has rarely stopped. Everyday it pours down. Each morning I walk down to the roadside to check if we're stranded but so far we've been lucky. Aberfoyle hasn't flooded. I think the meeting they had must have worked because the water seems to be draining south. England is now getting flooded instead.

Southern England
All the national news programmes have been describing how bad it is at the bottom of England. Cameron has brought the army in to help. That just shows how stupid he is. I don't think a bullet has ever stopped a river from breaking its banks. Maybe a tank but not the kind they use. Wouldn't the Navy be better qualified? They could just steer their amphibious crafts to the trouble spots, provided they weren't all hibernating. 

I bet the English frogs will get a big surprise when they wake up and discover their pond now covers a county. Big fish will have to adjust mentally to their new surroundings too. 

I bet she never thought her dog walking business would ever require a wheelbarrow. 

I think the car manufacturers have missed a trick this winter by failing to offer a car flood proofing service. They could over inflate the tyres so the car could float and offer a stilt frame to prop your car upon when parking or provide an optional anchor to use at high tide. Toyota could present a new hybrid model: part car / part boat. Useful during floods and tsunamis, to cater for the home and overseas (literally) market. They could call it the Prius Ferry. 

I bet there's a few English people jealous of James Bond at the moment.