Friday 29 May 2009

Dog food versus Pâté!

Has it ever struck you as odd, that we dogs just love to eat human food, but our humans don’t in general seem to fancy the stuff they give us?

Well I am pleased to report that this puzzling phenomenon has finally been taken seriously by some (human) scientists, who published their findings last week.

This study* investigated whether humans could spot ‘real’ dog food in amongst samples of spam, liverwurst, pâté, and duck liver mousse. An excellent use of precious research funding, would you not say?

Well, I read the paper, with a bit of help from Gail – I mean how many dogs know what Measuring the hedonic tone free of bias requires a double-blind trial” or “A Chi-Squared test did not support the hypothesis that the distribution of guesses was significantly different from random (X2=0.433, P=0.9797)”  is supposed to mean?

The long and the short of it is, the human tasters could not distinguish reliably between the so-called human foods and the dog food. Nearly half the tasters thought the liverwurst was for dogs, a finding which the Liverwurst Marketing Association may want to suppress…..However, and rather confusingly, the humans did rate the actual dog food as tasting worse than the other meats on offer.

Would dogs have done any better, I hear you ask?  Well I suspect that there would be no shortage of canine volunteers for this particular scientific trial!

Two crumbs of comfort may be drawn from the experiment.

First, it seems we dogs will not anytime soon have to start guarding our dinner plates from the attentions of our ‘owners’.

Second, I note that the trial was conducted between 7 and 10 pm on New Year’s Eve, so valuable working hours were not lost. Nowhere in the paper does it state the number of units of alcohol already consumed by the humans when conducting the experiment. I would have thought this point highly relevant and am surprised that the omission of these data was not noted during the peer review process.

*John Bohannon, Robin Goldstein and Alexis Herschkowitsch, Can People Distinguish Pâté from Dog Food?, American Association of Wine Economists, AAWE Working Paper No. 36, April 2009.

Tuesday 26 May 2009

An obstacle course

For example, my favourite place to explore, the path west from our Loch Torridon cottage, could be considered a bit of an obstacle course. But I am an intrepid dog (although old). We were there again last weekend. 

First I had to cross a small stream:

Then came a tricky descent:

Bogs, I find quite fun (although I didn't roll in this one):

 I'm well practiced at those big gates in deer fences:

And I've always been rather proud of my climbing abilities, although I had to be careful here, as the rain was making the rocks slippery:

There are lots and lots of streams in the west of Scotland (all that rain.....) But so long as I can see the bottom and the water's not running too fast, I cope quite well:

Steep slopes don't faze me, nor does an undergrowth of heather and bracken (well so long as there's some sort of a path). 

Then, nearly home, one final obstacle, a ladder over a deer fence. OK, I confess, I had to be lifted onto this one. But don't you think I was brave, standing there on the top, all alone and not making a fuss whilst Gail took this photo! 

Back to the road and civilization, surely all plain sailing from here. Oh no, I give up! 

P.S. As you can see, it was one of those days when you couldn't decide whether to have your raincoat on or off. We have them quite a lot in these parts! 

Friday 22 May 2009

Dogs before ducks!

Well I think it's about time we had the canine perspective on the big UK political issue of the moment. 

You know what upsets me most of all about these MP's expenses stories? No it's not the tax avoidance, the lying about mortgages, or even the now notorious cash-for-moat-cleaning claim.

No, what really upsets me is the distorted set of values evident when it comes to the animal kingdom. 

We dogs are 'man's best friend', are we not? I feel that implies a certain priority should be given when it comes to our upkeep. But what do we read in the papers?  Just ONE of our elected representatives, a mere single Member of Parliament, has bothered to use Westminster's generous and ever flexible 'allowances' system to the benefit of her pet pooches. And how much exactly did she claim? A measly £4.47 for dogfood. Peanuts, as it were.

Compare this with expediture claimed by our Honourable Sir Peter Viggers, Tory MP for Gosport, Hants. An unbelievable £1645 for a floating DUCK HOUSE! Yes that's right, a house for ducks. Floating. (See picture). 

Now you tell me, what have ducks ever done for the taxpayer? Are there therapy ducks? Guide ducks for the blind? Police ducks or sniffer ducks? How many ducks even entertain you with their blogs?

I think you get my drift. Humans, think about this next time you vote. And chose the candidate that puts dogs before ducks! 

Wednesday 20 May 2009

In praise of Aberdeen City Council!

Readers, especially those based in the 'Granite City', may be surprised by the title of this post. Like me, they may even have heard Gail whinging at length about the shortcomings of our local government - the closed swimming pools, the astronomical taxes, the parking charges, the fifty million pounds debt.....

Well today I shall attempt to redress the balance. For there is one thing that Aberdeen City Council really does well. Parks and Gardens. Dog friendly parks, with lots of colourful flowers and interesting places to sniff. Mostly, you don't have to be on a lead in these parks, just 'under control' (ha ha). Duthie Park,  just down the road from where I live, is my usual haunt. But my favourite is Hazlehead, where we went on Sunday to check out the Azalea Garden.

Pretty isn't it? Notice up here in cold Northern Britain we still have a few daffodils, and it'll be couple of weeks before the azalea blooms are at their peak. But anyway, I had great fun exploring. 

What else did I get up to in the park?

Well, I made friends (sort of) with a cute little schnauzer, I paddled in a puddle, I sniffed some daisies and I went to check that the memorial to the 167 oil workers killed in the Piper Alpha disaster is still in good nick.

Oh and I made sure all the kids were enjoying themselves in the playground.

Finally Gail and I both admired the rhododendrons, and I let her take just one picture without me in it. 

PS If you click on the montages, they should biggify.

Sunday 17 May 2009

A boon to the dog world?

What will these humans think of next?

Apparently the New Scientist magazine* has been running a competition asking readers to describe a Wallace-and-Gromit style invention. This is one of the winners, deeply worrying in my view, from Ben Marshall: 

Dog-washing device

VR (virtual reality) goggles and a VO (virtual olfactory) mask are applied to a cooperative canine standing on the stationary Ezi-Treadmill. The solar-powered electronic device is switched on and the canine sees and smells a rabbit in a field. The dog gives chase, which moves the treadmill, powering the washing, cleaning and drying attachments, as well as pumping clean rainwater into the system, and expelling rinse water into a nearby orchard.

I am considering writing a letter to the editor pointing out that us dogs are simply NOT THAT STUPID. What kind kind of a self-respecting canine is going to 'cooperate' in this charade?

*I keep trying to persuade Gail to buy a proper dog paper, but she just won't, and the newsagent doesn't accept friendly licks as legal tender.

Thursday 14 May 2009

A dog for Gordon?

Oh, I am so sorry if you were expecting another cute dog picture! But we have important matters to discuss today. 

This is our Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. He doesn't look happy does he? He never looks happy, even when he smiles (in fact especially when he smiles...). What could be wrong?

Well I have a theory. Let's contrast him with the U.S. president.

Now both leaders have big problems in their countries - economic crises, wars, terrorism, climate change, to name but a few. But does Mr Obama look depressed? Not one bit of it.
What could be the difference? 

Well of course we know the answer. Bo.

Yes I think the time has come for Mr Brown to acquire a dog.

We are all aware that it took Barack a good few months to decide on which breed to chose.  

Our Prime Minister is not famed  for his decision making skills, so perhaps he needs help. 

Readers might be surprised that I'm not going to propose a Westie this time. I am mindful of course that many English voters already find Mr Brown 'too Scottish' (incredible but true). There is a danger with English breeds too, in that so many have associations with a particular social class, and that could be divisive. As for a French breed, quelle horreur! 

My suggestion is a husky. Hard working, purposeful, handsome, strong leadership skills, politically neutral..... You could even imagine Mr Brown boosting his 'green' image by journeying from Downing Street to Westminster on one of those dog sleds with wheels.....

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This is Gail. Hamish was making me type such drivel there that I went on strike and told him to do the typing himself if he wanted to carry on. Not a success...

Sunday 10 May 2009

A wet and windy week out West

Well at least Gail remembered to pack my waterproof coat this time...

There is a theory that May is the best month to take a holiday in the West of Scotland. When the days are long, the midges not yet abundant and the weather calm and settled. Supposedly. 

Well, midges don't like severe gale force winds, so it's true we didn't see too many of them over at Loch Torridon last week. And it's also true that it wasn't getting dark until nearly ten in the evening, not that there's much incentive to go outside and take advantage  of the daylight if it's also raining horizontally. Settled weather? Ha!  Judge for yourself from the photo below..

By dint of careful shower dodging, we did manage to get out and do some exploring, and at least the waterfalls looked impressive.

We even, eventually, saw a ray or two of sunshine.
And by the end of the week, I was more than ready to put my paws up.  
Such a comfy sofa. Zzzzz.

Saturday 2 May 2009

Home guard

Here's me on duty, guarding the property in Aberdeen. As you can see, for the times when I'm not at my post, we have a special sign, warning would-be invaders that inside this house resides a Westie. 

Some folk question whether a dog as cute as me can be an effective burglar deterrent. Especially when the sign implies (wrongly) that I wear a kilt and play the bagpipes. 'Dad's Army' fans may wonder whether defense of the home front should be left to citizens of pensionable age. 

Fortunately, guard dog is not a job for which one requires references. Should that change, I have no doubt that several local vets will happily vouch for the fact that my bite can be every bit as good as my bark! 

PS I am quite ashamed about the state of our windows, and have set Gail to work on the paintwork, now that the thesis thing has been handed in.