Wednesday, 30 July 2008

A pity party

I'm feeling very sorry for myself just now. So stop reading right here if you want cheering up.

My skin's been really itchy for a couple of weeks. Especially my paws. They itch so much it makes me want to lick them over and over again, especially at night. And now my left front paw's all red and sore and I can't bear to put any weight on it. The right one doesn't feel to good either. I can only hobble a few feet, I need Gail to carry me up and down stairs, and I'm so miserable, I've lost all my energy and enthusiasm for life. All I want to do is lie on the sofa, all floppy.

So this afternoon we went to see Ian the vet at Ardene House. Ian has a long face that fits my current mood. He brings to mind the quote about not confusing a Scotsman with a ray of sunshine* . He always looks like he's about to bear bad news, and I can't help but think that he really should have been an undertaker.

Anyway, usual story at the vets. Getting my revenge in first, I try to bite Ian before he hurts me. Quickly a muzzle is produced and I'm restricted to aggressive jaw grinding. After a bit of poking around, and, unbelievably, Ian telling me to "think calm thoughts Hamish" (calm, CALM, you've gotta be joking mate, you're a VET!!!!), I'm released from the muzzle, then Gail is released from a large amount of cash in exchange for some small packets of pills and we go home.

* "It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine." P.G. Wodehouse

Monday, 28 July 2008

The trials of old age

See this picture here on the left. That's me, on top of Beinn Alligin, above Loch Torridon. Not very recently, I'm afraid. In fact the photo was taken by Gail in October 2005. We'd climbed up over 3000 ft from sea level. Not bad for one with such short legs, as I'm sure you're thinking.

Well that was three years ago. I don't think I'll be going up there again. We just spent last weekend at Gail's cottage on the shore of Loch Torridon. The weather was hot and still and walking a just mile from Wester Alligin to Inveralligin and back, which was once to me a mere hop a skip and a jump, is now a marathon. I get short of breath, my paws hurt, I overheat, I need a drink every few minutes, my skin itches. Old age is just not that much fun.

Gail went for a swim in the Loch on Sunday afternoon. There's a lovely little stony beach just a few yards from her house. She went straight in and swam all the way out to the yacht moored a couple of hundred yards from the shore. Incredible. I don't get this swimming business at all. What a horrid feeling, to have a wet back.

Do you know, some idiot company published a calendar last Christmas called 'Water-skiing Westies. Yes that's right, a bunch of dumb pictures of my fellow terriers, in what I suppose are meant to be amusing poses, balanced on water skis in enormous ocean waves. Well let me make it quite clear that we Westies have clear and strict rules regarding water and these are:

  • Mostly, we're happy to avoid water altogether.

  • If it's a really warm day, it's OK to go and lie in a nice stream, or a still lake, where we can see what we're stepping into and can feel the bottom. On no account should that water come up higher that half way up the side.

  • Waves are a no-no.

  • Ditto fast running streams.

  • We have no desire to swim, retrieve sticks thrown in the water, or other such stunts which are fit only for lower breeds of dog.

  • In heavy rain, we'd really rather wear a coat (Some of us may even humour our owners and tolerate a tartan one).

Friday, 25 July 2008

Health and Safety

As a breed, I don't much care for restaurant owners. They promise so much and deliver so little. Most humans will walk by a cafe, catch a whiff of bacon being fried and think "how delicious". Well you may have noticed that we Westies have a rather more acute sense of smell than your average hominid. To put that in context, on a typical tree stump in Ferryhill I personally can detect an average of twenty different marks left there by my canine neighbours. To Gail, it just smells of tree. So imagine what it means to me to walk past those wonderful aromas emanating from the kitchen of a nice restaurant.

And walking past is inevitably what it comes to. Past not in. Oh Gail will sometimes go in. Quite often actually. But do I get invited to join her? You know the answer. Apparently the reason I'm left tied up outside is 'health and safety laws'. I think this means that I'm somehow considered dirty. What an insult! You should see some of the people they let in restaurants. Kids especially - snivelling noses, grubby hands, and what a noise..... And when peeking in through the door, I've notice so many people leave half their food on the plate. What an insult to the chef. I'd never do that (well carrots maybe).

I look cute, I have good personal hygiene (mostly), I don't make a lot of noise (ditto), I would be a deeply, deeply appreciative customer. Little girls like to stroke me. As the Americans say 'what's not to like'. On rare occasions, we find a cafe or pub where dogs are welcome, where the person in charge has the spine, or common sense, to ignore these famous so-called 'health and safety' laws. A nice coffee shop on the main street of Grantown-on-Spey comes to mind.

Fellow Westies, we should start a campaign!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Baytree House B&B, Kirkcudbright

Back in Aberdeen now, and not impressed with the weather. You can usually rely on it being nice and chilly here, but not today. I spent most of the afternoon hidden in bushes, trying not to overheat. Where was the haar when I needed it most?

No complaints about the temperatures on holiday last week though. Cool, windy, damp, just how I like it. And no complaints about the accommodation either. Can I in particular recommend to other Westies the Baytree House B&B in Kirkcudbright? ( You can be sure of a warm welcome there - nice big rooms, a garden with lots of interesting corners to explore, friendly, relaxed owners. The breakfasts smelled great and the morsel of sausage I was offered was really tasty, though as usual too small. I even wangled my way into the kitchen and if Gail hadn't intervened I'm sure my cute begging stunt would have yielded positive results.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Westie Heaven in Auchterarder

I'm just back from a week's holiday in Dumfries and Galloway. More on all that later, but I do right away want to sing the praises of a wonderful delicatessen in Auchterarder. Gail stopped there for a break on the drive south. We've visited this town before, and frankly I hadn't found it much fun. A long straight street, no parks, no streams or woods, no opportunities to roam free.

So I wasn't that thrilled when Gail tied me up outside a shop with Australian flags hanging in the window and a nice smell of chocolate coming from inside. Fat chance of me getting offered any chocolate - Gail has this misguided idea that it's "bad for me". She goes in and orders an ice-cream, exchanges pleasantries with the Aussie shop assistant, and when I decide to remind her that I'm still outside and bored she just calls out 'oh shut up Hamish'. More words are exchanged, I hear my name mentioned and then out troops Gail with a big ice-cream cone in one hand and in the other a miniature version of the same which she offers to me. A little present from the shop apparently. Wow! Absolutely scrumptious. I'll never again be rude about Australians (cattle dogs excepted).

Just one suggestion for next time Gail. I'll take the big cone and you can have the little one.

Saturday, 12 July 2008


It's always a good sign when Gail gets up, make a cup of tea and then retreats to bed for a while. My sign that she's not going to work today, and so there's a chance of getting a decent walk somewhere other than boring old Ferryhill. Another good sign, when we go out the front door and I'm directed into the Mini. (I do wish she'd clean the inside though, all that sand that fell out of my coat after last week's trip to Balmedie makes the seat look a right mess, and those smears on the window obstruct my view out!)

After a short drive, I leap enthusiastically out the car and if I didn't have such short legs, the wind might have blown me over. We must be at Torry Battery, by the harbour. Sea to the north, groups of men in funny clothes hitting balls with sticks (seems so pointless) to the south, lots of wind - did I mention that already - and several couples sitting in cars, binoculars trained on the water at the harbour mouth.

Gail and I follow our favourite route round the coast, past the lighthouse and the old 'Torry Coo'. Boy it's cold. As it starts to rain horizontally, we meet a pretty border collie. Her owner, an old man with a well-indurated face, greets mine with a single word. "July". He doesn't smile, but looks resigned.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Hello folks. I'm Hamish, a Westie aged twelve and a half. I live in Aberdeen and now that I've been retired from scampering up Munros with my owner Gail, due to a dicky heart (mine not hers) I've decided to take up blogging. It's the first time I've had a go at this, so let's hope the 'old dog new tricks' thing won't apply.

Let me start by telling you a bit about my life here. You know I once heard Gail's American friend Marse (a very nice lady of who more in later posts I'm sure) say that if she were a Buddhist she'd want to be re-incarnated as Gail's dog, i.e. me. Why? Well the way she saw it, my life consisted of being taken for long walks in the beautiful Scottish countryside, being fed twice a day (plus the odd tasty titbit) and otherwise lying around on the sofa having my tummy tickled.

Yes well, lady Marse, I can tell you, it's not always like that! Take yesterday for example. I get dragged out of bed at some ungodly hour and taken for a VERY short stroll around the hard grey granite streets in the pouring rain. I'm not even allowed a few seconds to stretch up and sniff the fragrant rear end of my stunning neighbour, the sleek silver greyhound Marcelle. And then I'm left alone all day in the house as Aaron, the kind young lad who often takes me out in the afternoon, is away at scout camp. At least I can get out through the dog flap and into the back garden, where I have some ongoing excavation projects to keep me occupied....