Monday 31 August 2009

An old dog with something to prove

It has been suggested that my views on paying for doctors and vets (see previous post) are overly simplistic, and that I should stick to what I do best. Which is accompanying Gail on walks in scenic places, and sniffing things. 

Just for once, I'm going to follow the advice (it won't last, after all, what's a blog, if you can't be a bit controversial now and then......?)

Well this weekend, I decided I had something to prove. You know how us older fellows can find it hard to accept that our glory days are behind us. I certainly resent any implication that I am fit these days only for short strolls to the park and back. 

So I persuaded Gail to take me up Millstone Hill.  Just south of that famous Aberdeenshire landmark, Bennachie, it's a favourite haunt of my youth, and I knew that the heather would be looking pretty at this time of year. 

I was so sure I could still manage to get to the top.

At the start, you have to climb some steps up through a conifer plantation. No problem, although the steps do go on for quite a long time....
A bit higher, the trees are mostly birch and Scots pine, and you start to see the heather. 
A granite boulder makes for a good vantage point from where to admire the view over the valley. And if you're thinking that maybe I needed to stop and catch my breath at this point, well you're JUST WRONG. 
In fact, I was going so fast that I had to keep stopping to look round and check that Gail was keeping up (she is fifty you know...)
As you can see here, I had absolutely no problem scrambling over the larger rocks on the path. 
When you get even higher up, there's more heather and fewer trees.  So much heather in fact, a small dog could almost disappear in it.
Gail kept making me stop to pose for photos. I didn't want to stop, really.....
Approaching the top, I was still going strong(ish).
Eventually I reached the summit. As on most Scottish hills, you can tell you're at the top 'cos there's a pile of stones (technical term, a cairn, as in cairn terrier, Petey). OK, I'll admit, I was by then ready for some refreshment.
And as it was quite a warm afternoon (for Scotland that is...), and the pool was so handy, I felt the need to cool off my underside. This was the result...photogenic or what?

I really don't understand why Gail had a problem with this look....
But for some reason I was banned from the next photo on the way down.
Then forced to sit so that the muddy bits weren't too visible. 
Now I will admit, that by the end of the walk, my paws were getting a little sore, so it came as a relief to find a soft grassy stretch. 
Then, just before we returned to the car, I saw a building that looked very interesting, and went straight inside. They had all sorts of fine animals in there. I felt right at home. 
Well all in all I had a splendid time, and the fact that it took us nearly three hours to complete a walk of under four miles was of course due to Gail taking all those pictures and ABSOLUTELY NOT ON ANY ACCOUNT because I'm old and slow....

Saturday 29 August 2009

An NHS for dogs? (a political interlude)

Lying on my comfy sofa, I have plenty of time to think about things.

This week, I've been wondering why Gail always complains that it costs so much money when I go to the vet. She comes out muttering about how having me has made her so grateful for the National Health Service.

I never understood what she was on about until a couple of days ago, when I found time to read a newspaper that was lying around. And, do you know what, doggie friends? When Gail goes to the human vet, she doesn't have to pay anything at all! This National Health Service thing means that everyone in Scotland gets treated for free, however sick they are. What a good idea, don't you think? The only catch being, it doesn't work if you are a dog......

Then I read some more and found out that over on the other side of the Pond, humans are treated like dogs, and they do have to pay. 

It's all very confusing isn't it? 

Monday 24 August 2009

In truth, mostly just a couch potato these days....

I do want to apologize for having given the wrong impression in my previous post. It was never my intention to claim that my many and varied skills include surfing.....The picture that caused the confusion came from a silly calendar.

The reality is, I find waves scary.

So, dear Stella, there is no need at all to worry about me overtaxing my aging body. I am quite happy spending most of my time just relaxing on the sofa.

Friday 21 August 2009

Congrats Ben - Westies can surf too...

See this young man here? The one on the left, showing his 'appreciation' of his father's newly acquired accordion playing skills. He's called Ben and he's Gail's godson. And he's just passed  his 'A' levels, all with grade A. Which means, for those of you unfamiliar with the English education system, that he's altogether brilliant, clever, hard-working, handsome, witty, kind, brilliant (did I say that already?) etc. etc. It's a bit like winning all the rosettes at a dog show, only better. 

So Ben will shortly be off to Exeter University to read history. And Ben, I shall try not to take it personally, the fact that you have chosen to study in a city that is about as far away from Aberdeen as it is possible to be while remaining the UK. I understand that your choice of place to study was dictated by the proximity of excellent surfing beaches - oh apologies - I meant to say the high academic standards of Exeter's history department

And perhaps I can come to visit some time? Please? After all, it seems that Westies can learn to surf too...... 

Thursday 20 August 2009

Yoga instruction

As you know I'm a knowledgeable and helpful kind of a chap. Gail likes to do yoga sometimes, but she doesn't always get the positions quite correct 

Luckily I'm there to check up the arms and legs are in the right place. 

P.S. Thanks to Marie-Therese for the photos/videos. She's sharing our home now, so you'll probably be hearing  more about her...

Sunday 16 August 2009

A harbour, a memorial, a castle and a Scottish culinary mecca..

You know, one of the great things about having a blog is that it encourages Gail to take me out on walks to interesting places once in a while. 

The downside, of course, is that she always takes a camera and pushes me around, trying to get me to pose, usually in the one place where there is nothing interesting to sniff. 

Oh well.

Today, we drove fifteen miles south to Stonehaven and started the walk at the harbour. We followed the sign to Dunnottar Castle. One and a half miles! Would I make it on such a hot day? (21 degrees Centrigrade, that's 70 degrees Fahrenheit in American money).

On the first hill you get a nice view back down over all the boats. 

Then it's along the coast to the War Memorial. Would I find a way through the gate? 

Yes I did. Of course. Up at the memorial, Gail told me to think of all those brave men who fought and died in the two World Wars so we could enjoy our freedoms today. And I pretended to do that....(but really was wondering about the dogs that had been there before me, and making sure that I left my mark too).

After the war memorial, Gail made me pose by some thistles. Something to do with trying to make me look stereotypically Scottish I think. As if being a Westie called Hamish wasn't enough.....

Then the castle came into view. Even I can see that it's a rather spectacular spot.

The rabbit droppings looked interesting too...

Oh. Gail is telling me that readers won't want to see a picture of rabbit droppings. But you do, don't you? Go on, please write and tell me. Prove me right and Miss "smarty-pants-know-it-all-just-passed-her-viva-for-her-PhD-thingy" wrong....

So, on to the castle. Impressive eh?

Even better, dogs are allowed inside. And at no extra charge.

OK, it does say we have to be on a lead.

But we didn't see anything that said the other end of the lead has to be attached to a human...

I got to explore the castle inside and out. It's hundreds of years old and so has lots of  history. No I'm not going to explain it all Gail, haven't readers heard of Google or Wikipedia! I will say I wasn't too impressed with the interior furnishings. No comfy sofas in the olden days, I note. 

And the kitchen was a bit disappointing too. 

It seemed a long, long way back to Stonehaven. 

I was hot, tired and a bit shaky, and so greatly relieved when the harbour came into view again.

We finished off the day with a stop at a place that is very dear to the hearts of Scottish gourmets (Gail says I mean BAD FOR the hearts of...etc). 

PS Many of you have been asking about my itchy skin. It's much better, thank you. We don't know if it was the steroids that did the trick or dear Asta's porridge and Talisker bath...

Friday 14 August 2009

My tree

Do you have a tree? 

This is mine. My own personal sycamore. 

OK, in the parallel human universe (see I'm still working on the multiverse hypothesis, Nobel Prize pending), Aberdeen City Council lay claim to the sycamore, which stands in the street directly outside my house.

But in the dog world, the tree belongs to me, no doubt about it. To make sure it stays that way, the first thing I do each morning after breakfast (Gail's and mine) is to rush out the front door and (how to put this delicately?) ensure the base of the trunk is liberally sprayed with all that I have saved up overnight. 

There are other neighbours out there (you know who you are, flat-coated retriever Jake from no. 8, sleek greyhound Marcelle and fellow Westie Jock, both who live just up the road, next door's springer spaniel Molly, to name but a few) who will trespass on my property and leave their mark. 

But I am a terrier, ever vigilant.

Monday 10 August 2009

My predecessors

I can't show you a picture of Arthur -  at least not until we acquire a decent scanner - but I would like to introduce you to some of my inanimate predecessors, who I'm pleased to say are still around today.

This is Mr and Mrs Teddy. Quite the old married couple, don't you think?

Mr Teddy used to play a tune, if you wound him up, but nowadays he just has a patch on his back covering where the key used to go in. 

All the rather splendid clothes worn by these teddy bears were knitted and sewn many many years ago by various members of Gail's family. Special mention should go to Mr Teddy's scarf, a one-off contribution from big brother Max (who long since gave up knitting for accountancy and who, as far as we are aware, does not read this blog!)

Uncle Edward the Elephant, pictured right, was also the beneficiary of Gail's relatively short-lived enthusiasm for knitting. It was thoughtful of her, don't you think, to fashion such a fine trunk warmer, mindful of the fact that winters in the UK are so much colder than in his native Africa. I try not to be jealous of Edward, who still shares a bed with Gail, as I am a rationalist, remember, and it would be stupid to envy a non-sentient object, wouldn't it?

As for Sammy the Seal, I have taken care to photograph his 'good side'. I'm afraid that this young fellow's nose was badly burned in an unfortunate accident involving a gas fire, some time around 1965, and he may still be a little self conscious about his looks...Oops, sorry, forgot to be rational there for a minute! 

Now some of my canine blogging friends, I have come to realise, do not treat their own stuffed animals with the respect they surely deserve. Fortunately, my scientific interests do not include dissection, or dismemberment, and as you can see, the Teddy duo, Edward and Sammy are all quite safe in my paws. 

Thursday 6 August 2009

Dactylis versus Plantago...

So. This 'job' Gail has. She took me along the other day. Didn't look like work to me.

I mean, she and this bunch of other 'researchers' stood around in this beautiful walled garden all day, up at Mar Lodge in the Cairngorm Mountains, and in between tea breaks, they carried plant pots back and forth and sometimes poured stuff into the pots.

Oh. It seems I'm going to get a lecture from Gail. I have got hold of the wrong end of the stick apparently.

This is a VERY IMPORTANT SCIENTIFIC experiment. It's all about a competition for resources between two plants. Dactylis (that's a grass) and Plantago (er, that's a bit like a banana, or something??)

See, here are the two plants in a pot. No, it doesn't look like any sort of a contest to me either. Perhaps it's easier to think of it in terms of two dogs of different breeds competing for food from the same bowl. I'm imagining my friends Kira and Scampi. For those of you who don't know them, that's a Siberian husky and a border collie. Which one ends up with the most food? Does it make any difference whether they're both standing on top of a hill or not. I'm sure it all makes sense to you now.....If not, perhaps you might like to tell me your own ideas on how the experiment could be improved.....

Gail was working with a very nice lady called Miranda. That's her in the floppy hat. I know she's nice because she gave me some of her lunch. Unlike one other chap there who kept a very tight hold on his ham sandwich. Some people are so selfish.

Tuesday 4 August 2009

So soothing...

The question is, was it because of the vet's itchy skin tablets that I was all comfy and content in my last posting?

Or was it the porridge bath that my New York friend Asta so kindly prepared?? 

Saturday 1 August 2009

(Almost) Still Life

Music courtesy of the Patrick Kunka Quartet

Pleased to report that I'm feeling happier (and less itchy).