Saturday, 31 January 2009

A couthy wee dog

I do have some admirers you know. 

We went to Duthie Park this morning and as I was having fun playing with a pretty golden retriever, this nice lady looked on fondly and told Gail I was "such a couthy wee fellow". 

Just thought I'd mention it. 

Oh, and by the way. An interesting linguistic point, which surely reflects well on us Scots. In England, I believe, only the negative form of the word, i.e. 'uncouth', is still in common use. 

Gail has just lifted her eyes to the ceiling and asked if I'm campaigning to be Alex Salmond's mascot. 

A record

Five walks. In one day. That's what I had earlier this week. Feeling jealous, fellow canines?

Let me explain how this came about. 

Normally, weekdays, I'm taken out just twice, first for a short post-breakfast stroll round the block, and later when Gail's finished 'work' for the day we go a bit further, to the park if I'm lucky. There's a break in the routine on Tuesdays, when the second walk is delegated to young neighbour Aaron. 

Well, this Tuesday, extra walk number one came mid-afternoon, admittedly at a cost, a visit to the vet (who poked me around a bit but didn't do anything too nasty). Then, after Aaron took me out, a visitor arrived and she and  Gail disappeared off for the evening, leaving me home alone. So when Naomi came in, I kicked up a big fuss about being all neglected and guess what, she fell for it, reached for the lead, and out we went again.  Gail and visitor came back half an hour later and, Naomi having retired to her room for the evening, I pulled the same 'neglected' stunt and so achieved a record-breaking five outings. 

Any ideas out there on how to improve on this?

Monday, 26 January 2009

Burns Night thoughts

It's 250 years since Scotland's greatest poet was born. I think this is one literary figure that all dogs can appreciate. How so?

First point: Subject matter of poems. It takes a unique artistic sensibility to realise that a dish primarily made of sheep's entrails is worthy of attention.

'Fair fa your honest sonsie face,
Great Chieftan o' the pudding race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.'

From 'To a Haggis'. Wow. That's what I call good writing. Stomach, tripe and intestines all mentioned in the first verse.

Second point: Recognition that dogs too have something to say about the world. Is there a better poem around than 'The Twa Dogs, A Tale'? So many astute observations.

'But human-bodies are sic fools,
For a' their colledges and schools,
That when nae real ills perplex them.
They mak enow themsels to vex them;'

You know, I really think that if Burns was alive today, he'd have been helping his dog write a blog.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Why the delay, President Obama?

Still no dog for Malia and Sasha then? Oh come on Barack. You've found time this week to order the closure of Guantanamo Bay, lift the ban on stem cell research,  take the oath of office twice........  Surely you can now spare a little while to attend to important matters?

By the way, I can't help but feel a little hurt about the way everyone seems to think it's so great that the Obama family are black. Yes I agree they're a fine looking bunch. But, speaking on behalf of a dog breed that is, by definition, white, I think all those media commentators could show a little more cultural sensitivity at times.

Oh. Apparently Gail thinks I lack a "historical perspective" on the issue.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Torridon troubles

It's all very traumatic over at Torridon just now.

I've spoken before about 'the invasion' of our lovely cottage in Wester Alligin. Well it just got worse. Those two dogs think they own the place. There I was at the weekend, enjoying a nice, restful saunter round the garden, sniffing all my favourite spots, admiring the view of the loch, when out rushed the two young and manic Jack Russell terriers, Fudge and Nell, jumping all over me, no stopping them. I came over a bit shaky, and had to retreat into a corner of the shed to recover.

Then there was the breakfast incident.

A small person in a pink fluffy dressing gown decided she wanted to share my food. Yes really! I was pretty tolerant and ignored her as she kept plunging her chubby little fingers into the dog bowl. In the end I let her have a couple of pieces. It was the boring dry stuff after all - it would have been a different story had there been, say, a bone involved.
So all in all, not a relaxing weekend. Then, as if I hadn't suffered enough already, as we drove back up Glen Torridon, Gail threw me out of the nice warm Mini and wouldn't let me back in until I'd posed for this photo.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

At work on the blog

Just in case anyone out there doubts my proficiency with the computer, I thought I'd supply some photos of me at work on the blog. Our resident MacBook expert Naomi has been teaching me a few new tricks.

Weighty issues

I think the German class ladies were making fun of me on Tuesday night. Rubbing my tummy and saying something about an "Abmagerungskur". Which I understand is a long (aren't they all?) German word for a diet.

You know, it's winter and my fur is growing thick and fast. "Not fat just fluffy" remember - 15 October 2008 post. Gail is muttering something. Oh. Apparently she doesn't believe that I've grown a kilogram's worth of fur since early December. I hate it when Gail comes over all logical and pedantic. There are distinct drawbacks to having a scientist in the house. Two actually, counting Naomi. I can't believe I've put on a kilo.

Although, come to think of it, when we went out for a walk in the pouring rain this afternoon, my coat did feel a little tight around the middle......

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Sunday walk

OK so we're getting really fancy now with this blog. The map above shows where Gail and I went exploring this afternoon. Somewhere new, along Cowie Water, just a couple of miles inland from Stonehaven, and it turned out to be the nicest possible walk. Let me tell you about some of the highlights (numbers as marked on the map).

1. A really good boggy stretch near the start. Gail skirted around the edge but I galloped straight through the best bit. Unlike owners of Chelsea tractors, we have no need for spray on mud round here.

2. At the bottom of the valley, in the woods, down by the stream, sheltered from the strong wind, the path covered in rotting leaves - so nice and soft on the paws. We walked besides clear water tumbling fast over rocks, with plenty of easy access points for a paddle and a refreshing drink.

3. Up a bit and a lovely view over the gentle Mearns landscape. All rusty browns and greens, the colours subdued in the northern winter half-light. The dark mass of Fetteresso Forest glowered in the distance.

4. An unexpected encounter with some pigs. One was pale, the other two nearly black, all three had surprisingly furry coats, like aspiring Highland 'coos'. A bit it stupid though, pigs, they all came running up to the fence and seemed to think I'd be able to understand the ugly honking sounds they made. I just stood there and humoured them.

5. Well OK this bit didn't count as a highlight for me. But Gail seems to think it a good thing if she gets to dunk me in some freezing cold stream at the end of a walk and wash the muck off my underside before I'm put back in the car.

P.S. In my opinion it's a shame I'm never allowed back home all muddy. My street cred round Devanha Gardens would surely go up a notch or two if people could see that I'm not a 'townie' all the time!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Advice for soft southerners

I've just been peeking at the weather map. For once, the English bit is all covered in blue whereas here on the east coast of Scotland we have a positively balmy 4 degrees Centigrade.

So it occurs to me that readers down south might welcome a bit of advice on dealing with the ice and snow. Here goes:
  1. Be a Westie. We have inbuilt thick fur coats and compact bodies that retain the heat well. Just make sure your owner doesn't drag you off for an unseasonal trim (or worse, a bath). But biting the hairdresser, as I did once, is a tactic to be used sparingly.
  2. Four shortish, widely set legs are a great aid to balancing on slippery surfaces, although I admit that slightly longer limbs would be an advantage in deeper snow falls. If you have a mere two legs, then live in an area where the streets and pavements are gritted regularly. (In this household we suspect there is a black hole which swallows up all the council gritting lorries when they try to enter Ferryhill).
  3. Wear a proper overcoat. I have a nice distinctive red one, which is both flattering to my colouring and stands out well against a background of snow and ice.
  4. Cultivate the art of shivering. And looking pathetic. It is a very effective way of ensuring that the central heating is turned up a notch or two.
  5. Don't be afraid to refuse to go outside. Even the most enthusiastic walker will recognise that there are limits. If the weather's really too foul, I find that I can make the point quite clearly by trotting down the garden steps to the street, then at once performing an emphatic about turn, running back up to the front door and not budging until I am let back into the house.
  6. Finally, do embrace the opportunity for a good roll in the snow. Yes, you humans too. So therapeutic!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

A resolution

Prompted by my owner Gail, I've been thinking carefully about a New Year Resolution.

It is just possible that over the course of 2008 there were some trees in Duthie Park that I failed to sniff, and some lampposts in the neighbourhood of Ferryhill against which I never lifted a rear leg. 

Yes this really was most negligent of me, and my resolution for 2009 is to make sure that it doesn't happen again. By the end of the year, I vow that every single vertical post-shaped object within a 1 mile radius of this house will have received my close attentions. My territory will be carefully and diligently kept marked at all times.

Oh. Gail is giving me a 'look'. Apparently this isn't the sort of thing she had in mind at all. 

Well that's just too bad.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Peace and quiet

Boy am I pleased to be back in Aberdeen after the annual Christmas 'Grand Tour' of Gail's family and friends in England. 

It all seemed quite exciting at first, jumping into the Mini for the long drive south, me in the front seat of course, keeping an eye on Gail's driving. I quite like motorways too, nice and straight, much more relaxing than the sort of roller coaster route that is laughably classified as an 'A' road here in the north of Scotland.

But after a bit, I do tire of being taken to strange places and having to put up with restrictions on my movements. I think I shall start a campaign for more doors with Westie-sized dog flaps. So frustrating to have to bark and rely on the goodwill of others when you want to go out and explore the garden. 

Then there are other people's pets to put up with. I've already told you about Izzy the poodle (13th October post). En route back to Scotland we stayed with Steve and Drusilla in Cumbria. It used to be good there - big house and garden, freedom to roam,  no other pets, well-behaved children, lots of respectful admiration from Drusilla at least.  Imagine my horror then on discovering that a newcomer has moved in, Scooby, a very young, very bouncy (aren't they all) Jack Russell. I think we all know that no matter how big the house, there won't be enough space for two male terriers to happily co-exist. Let's just say we didn't get on. It didn't help that Scooby was garnering most of the attention. To be honest, I was relieved when Gail decided to put me in the car for the evening. A bit chilly, admittedly, but an old chap could at least enjoy some peace and quiet finally.

So, back in Aberdeen now. January the first. Gail wants to know if I have made any New Year resolutions. Hmmm. I'll have to think about that one.