Sunday, 22 October 2017

A word about Wojtek

I expect you would all prefer that I steered clear of the dreaded topic of Br*x*t.

Well I do try to keep my mind on higher things, but you know how it is, every now and then, something reminds you of what a pickle my country has got itself into.

So on Thursday, en route to Nottingham by train, Gail and I stopped off for a walk around Edinburgh for an hour or so, and we ran into these fine fellows in Princes Gardens.

Meet Wojtek, the brown bear from Poland, adopted by a company of brave Polish soldiers in World War Two. He helped carry ammunition in the Battle against the Nazis at Monte Cassino and had many other adventures before spending the final years of his long and remarkable life in Edinbugh Zoo.

Many Polish soldiers who contributed so much to defending our country settled in Britain after the War (including the fathers of Gail's school friends Bronia and Halina). More recently, of course, large numbers enterprising Poles have come to the UK for work, enjoying the fruits of decades of peace in the European Union.

Gail and I think we know what Wojtek and his Polish soldiers would have thought of the knaves and fools in charge of this country's future relationship with the rest of Europe.

We visited Human Granny yesterday, and found her in good spirits, if ever more bent and also worried about what sort of a country her grandchildren (who most certainly did not vote for Brexit) will inherit.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Is it wrong to find this funny...?

How to rake your Malamute
And to think I complain about my grooming routine...

(For video version click here).

Monday, 16 October 2017

Getting spiffed up for Granny!



Perhaps some of my readers are unaware that I am on a regular basis subjected to a quite onerous grooming regime?

You might be thinking, "Oh that Bertie, he sports the natural look; none of your fancy-schmancy poodle parlour business for him".

Well, it is indeed true that the concept of a 'spa day' is alien to both human and canine occupants of this household, and that my fur-do is not the result of the professional attention.

But make no mistake, just as it can take a long time for a certain type of human (usually female) to create the impression she is wearing no make-up, and some human males go to very great pains to cultivate a not-shaved-for-four-days look, it also follows that my 'rough and ready' appearance is underpinned by considerable and ongoing efforts.

Early in my puppyhood, Gail took the decision that she was perfectly capable of teaching herself - with the help of a demo from my breeder and the occasional YouTube video - how to groom a wire-haired fox terrier.

And that has been the pattern of things for the last seven years.

So the furs on my back, neck and haunches are hand-stripped by Gail - a matter which I tolerate if given a tasty enough long-lasting chew to distract me from the mild discomfort involved. Scissors are used for my underside, face and ears, and my legs are pretty much left alone...

Thing is, because Gail generally adopts a 'little and often' approach to the hand stripping business, it tends to go unnoticed - and, we feel, unappreciated - by the world at large.

Well I would like to point out that on Friday morning I was stripped and clipped for as long as my patience and Gail's mildly arthritic thumbs would allow.

The timing might have something to do with the fact that I'm going to visit Human Granny for a few days later this week, and she always complains if she can't see my eyes.

Anyway, I like to think I was looking pretty spiffy for my Saturday afternoon walk in the woods, and I'm optimistic about catching the attention of (treat-bearing) admirers on the train to Nottingham on Thursday.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

A matter of aesthetics

Perhaps you can help?

It is a not uncommon occurrence, that Gail and I spend time agonising over which is the best photo to select for my blog.

For example, last Sunday, I had the opportunity to explore the ruins of Strome Castle, near the West Highland village of Lochcarron. Although the weather was far from perfect, it was a scenic spot, and I (most obligingly I would say, given my harsh treatment the night before) posed patiently for some pictures taken from inside the ruins.

We narrowed it down to two possibles for this post.

In the first, I am looking head on at the camera, and you get a peek of the hills on the southern shore of the loch, but unfortunately Gail has cut off the top of the arch in which I am standing, which I feel detracts from the overall effect of the shot.


In the second, the archway is better framed and you can see more of my side (and actually the right is my 'good side') but I am not looking at the camera. Also, because the photo was taken from a very slightly different angle, there is more water and less hill in the background.


So I am wondering, which do you prefer?

(It would, of course, be a legitimate point of view, to believe the only metric we should be using here is the proportion of the picture taken up with my handsome self...)

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Torridon: A wet walk and a wedding party


Gosh, it has been far too long since I last visited the Torridon cottage. But here I am this weekend on the wet west coast of Scotland, with Gail and her friend Yvonne for company. 

And look how patient I am posing for photos, even in the rain.

Of course I do expect a reward.

Now it may not come as a surprise to folk who have met Gail and Yvonne, but I can exclusively reveal to the rest of you that for this pair of friends, the main point of exercise is to enable them all the more to enjoy a good nosh-up in the evening.

So I am delighted to report that just a few miles from the cottage in the remote village of Diabaig, we have a most welcoming restaurant.

It turns out that on Saturday evening I was not the only dog to be invited along. 

Meet Patch.

I must say, Patch's people were so much better dressed than mine. Look at that fine kilt.

 And what's this? A wedding frock!

And there were two lovely bridesmaids looking most adorable in blue, with white fluffy capes. Gail says that not all bridesmaids would be so enthusiastic about posing with an ever so slightly muddy dog in their arms.

Patch told me that the couple had been married in something called a 'humanist service' on the old stone pier at Diabaig earlier that day. Gail seemed to approve. I sure hope they had some big umbrellas.

In the interest of accuracy I feel I must report that I spent the final part of the evening in the back of Gail's car.

Yes I know, it is quite unimaginable that Gail could have been so cruel. Ok, so there was the small matter of a noisy altercation with Patch while Gail was chatting with another customer at the restaurant (a nice man from North Carolina).

But I notice that Patch was allowed to stay, which I consider quite unfair.



Friday, 6 October 2017

On a rainy October morning

Do you ever just take the time ...
... to stop and wonder at the glory of the changing seasons?


Tuesday, 3 October 2017

A lazy dog?


Sunday morning in Duthie Park is 'meet and greet' time and this week I was introduced to a grand new pup called Dexter. 

Can you believe that Dexter is only 14 weeks old and already bigger than me! 

He is, of course, an Old English Sheepdog, a breed we rarely see in these parts. (Gail thinks that might have something to do with the label 'English'.)

When Gail was herself a youngster - actually a stroppy adolescent - in Nottingham, her mother's friend Angela owned an Old English Sheepdog called Nell.
Gail, age 15, and Nell 
I know Gail was very fond of this dog, but still I am thinking that her imitation of Nell's hairstyle was ill-advised. Gail asks in her defence asks how many of her readers can offer photos of themselves as teenagers which feature well-advised hairstyles...
Nell and Angela
Angela herself (a consultant geriatrician) was rather better groomed. 

Nell was a calm and gentle character. She was apparently a reluctant walker, who after about half a mile would tend to sit down and refuse to move further. Worried about this, Angela once took her to the vet to have her checked over. Following a thorough examination, the vet pronounced that there was absolutely nothing amiss with Nell, and added "I'm sorry Dr Truman, I think you've just got a lazy dog"! 

Nell lived on to a ripe old age so we guess the vet was right. 

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Hill top photo etiquette - a wee tutorial


An incident on the summit of Scolty Hill near Banchory this afternoon called to my attention that there are pups at large who are not well informed about the correct etiquette with regard to posing for photographs in such situations.

Let me explain.

You are enjoying a pleasant weekend walk with your owner and her friends (let's call them John and Fran├žoise).

It is a lovely sunny late September day, and you have reached the top of the hill, from where you can enjoy a panoramic view reaching from the North Sea in one direction to the Cairngorm plateau in the other.

Naturally your owner wishes to take a photo of you, perhaps posing nicely with her friends, in exchange for which you are of course offered treat.

It is all going so well until some cheeky little ball of high maintenance fluff arrives on the scene.

First she gets under the feet of the photographer, nearly causing her to drop her precious Samsung Galaxy S6, again...


I hope no-one thinks I am being racist when I mention that said ball of fluff is a Japanese Spitz and her name is Yuki. (pronounced You-key not Yucky).

Yuki totally bombs your photo shoot without so much as a by-your-leave...


And then she scarpers, caring not one jot that once disturbed, one might find it hard to regain the composure required of a successful model.

Fran├žoise tries to calm you down ...


... but your only focus now is to chase away the impudent intruder, all thoughts of "posing nicely" dissolving into a blur of red-blooded terrier action...


I am sure my readers will agree with me that Yuki's behaviour was wholly unacceptable, and furthermore that she should right away be disabused of any notion she might have about getting away with such stunts just because some humans might find her "super cute"...

Grrrrr.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Leader of the pack


Things have been looking up since my last post.

Long time readers will know that I have been a regular participant in the annual Grampian Tibet Support Group sponsored walk.

Traditionally, the event has taken place in early July, but this year they waited until September, last Sunday in fact, so the University of Aberdeen students could attend. And what a good idea that turned out to be. 

We always have a lovely day, and this one was no exception.

The walk started in Gourdon, a wee fishing village about 25 miles south of Aberdeen.

Look, here I am, leading out the merry pack, young and old.

We headed south along the coastal path to Johnshaven, where the weather was warm enough (just) for the group to enjoy a picnic lunch.

From Johnshaven we turned inland and uphill and walked along a grassy footpath. I was way ahead of slowcoach Gail at this point, so do not feature in the photo.

Where the path was too overgrown, we tramped through the adjacent field. I want you to know that the only reason I am not still leading the pack here is that barley stubble is mighty uncomfortable on WFT paws.

It was thirsty work too, but I'm pleased to say the students were all being so kind an encouraging.

We had a snoop around the old mill at Benholm before returning to the coast path.

And of course I posed nicely for more photos at the end of the walk, still looking sprightly and relatively clean after nine miles!

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Reflections on absence


Was it really only two weeks and three days
That you were gone and I was left bereft
Of all home comforts?

Abandoned in what I would not describe
As a 'pet haven', although I'm told that's what it's called.

Where was the comfy lap
On which to cuddle of an evening?
I barked (and barked) but no-one paid attention
(The other dogs were barking too).

Let me assure you,
A pad in a concrete kennel
Is no substitute
For a shared double bed (with goose down quilt).
And it's hard to sleep at night,
Unbolstered by the warm bulk of a human leg.

On too short walks with unfamiliar pups,
I yearned for Duthie Park.
For favourite trees, park benches, monuments,
For all my friends.

***

Did you miss me too?
My eager little fuzzy face,
And the endearing way my ears flap
As I trot daintily along
On my more compact than average paws?

You did?


Thursday, 21 September 2017

Bertie allows Gail to show some holiday pictures (just this once)

So this post is going to be all about Gail's recent holiday in the USA, and is the result of a painstakingly negotiated settlement whereby photos involving bicycles are balanced by dog and other animal related images.

Well let's get the boring biking bit out out of the way for starters.
Marse's dog Josh supervises the reassembly of Gail's bicycle
I had understood that Gail went to the USA to join her old friend Marse and a bunch of Marse's friends for an eight day bike ride around NW Montana.

Marse lives in Tacoma, WA. It seems she, Gail and the other riders drove all 450 miles from Tacoma  to the start point in St Regis, Montana on Tuesday September 5. And all the way back again the next day...  I, Bertie, think they were wimps to bottle out of the planned bicycle tour, just 'cos the route they'd planned, up to Glacier National Park, went right through the heart of an area of ferocious wildfires, and the whole state was blanketed in smoke so thick that people were being advised to staying indoors with windows closed and avoid all exertion...
Smoke covering Washington, Idaho and Montana
Gail had been looking forward to seeing all the Montana wildlife, but had to make to with this moose by the lake at Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
Marse and Moose
Even in Tacoma, the parked vehicles were covered in ash, reminding folk of the 1980 Mount St Helens eruption.

So the bike group re-thought their plans and organised rides around the South Puget Sound area and in Mount Rainier National Park, where the air was relatively clear. Gail says she thinks they did this mostly for her benefit, feeling bad that she had travelled such a long way with her bicycle, only to have the main event cancelled.

One day they started from the Cascade Bike Club HQ in Seattle (Gail was awestruck by the facilities), and toured the campus of 'U-Dub' (aka the University of Washington).

Another day they rode up to Black Diamond for a hearty lunch.

Then came a visit to Harstine Island, where the ride ended with a barbecue at cyclist Bill's gorgeous holiday home.
 

Next, the bike group spent a few lovely days enjoying more hospitality at Jim and Lori's cosy cabin in Ashford, near Mount Rainier National Park.

From the cabin, one day they rode up the 3600 ft ascent to the appropriately named Paradise.

Later that same day, back at Jim and Lori's cabin, Gail was instructed in the essential American campfire ritual of making s'mores, the perfect follow-up to all that exertion on the bike.
Lori exhibits the perfect s'more
Another day they hiked up to High Rock lookout, where they disturbed the peace of a solitary young man and his handsome dog Champ.

And afterwards drove miles and miles along forest track to harvest Lori's secret huckleberry garden.

Returning to base in Tacoma, Marse had other things on her mind. It turns out that her dog Josh is something of an escapologist, and has recently taken to scaling her 4 ft high fence, and roaming the neighbourhood. I don't see why this is a problem, but for some reason Marse was intent on installing a DIY 'coyote roller'. This apparently involved fixing lengths of plastic tubing on top of the fence so that it rolls in such a way as to make it difficult for coyotes and/or dogs to clamber over.

Oh, just to confuse you, the dog pictured about is not Josh, but seventeen year old Liddie, who also used to exhibit Houdini-like traits, but now is a sedate, if still charmingly cheeky, senior lady.

Finally, here is some bird-related artwork by the shore in Tacoma, plus one more photo of Josh and Liddie, as by my reckoning, there is still an imbalance in favour of bike photos on this blog post...

OK, finally, finally. Gail insists on posting this video she shot at a beach party one fine evening early in her visit, where Marse's nieces Marena and Soroa provided a memorable musical interlude.



PS Next and future posts, I promise, will revert to being all about ME (Bertie).