Monday, October 30, 2006

Slinky Dog

For those of you wondering why I have referred to Harry as slinky dog, I give you Exhibit A.

As those of you who have spent time around the little lad will know, it's not just a physical similarity, more that his back legs have never formally been introduced to his front legs.

The Joy of Rex

It is a well known rule of the universe that what goes up, must come down. Unfortunately for Keith and I they have been coming down pretty fast because when wallpaper and plaster is confronted with a set of determined dog teeth, about the only thing it can do is to wave a white flag.

There has been progress recently, not in the house which has remained stubbornly untouched, but in the behaviour of slinky dog.

Desperate to avoid more rabbit related incidents we have started taking Harry to the river at the weekends. This isn’t for purely selfless reasons you understand, exploiting a love of fetching sticks from a pool of lovely clean water means we don’t have to do any dog bathing when we get him home. Come the summer we’re debating taking a change of clothes and joining in the fun, although that seems a long way off at the moment when I am knee high in the river wearing calf length boots with cries of “I’ve only got trainers on” ringing from the banks.

It is a pretty idyllic spot this river of ours. So idyllic in fact we spotted no less than 3 groups of gothy teens wandering around dreamily on Sunday. Now correct me if I’m wrong, aren’t gothy teens supposed to be holed up in blacked out bedrooms, playing ‘meaningful’ music about how the world doesn’t understand them?!? Keith pointed out that since we live in the country there’s not much to do but walk around fields, but even so, it was more than a little surprising to see them voluntarily walking out in the sunshine and ... smiling!!!

The only explanation I can come up with is that word has spread about the funny looking dog and its slightly unhinged owners:

I will grant you, it’s not entirely usual to see a fully grown woman wading around a river playing chase and fetch with a dog who happens to look just like a mini sea monster when he’s swimming.

It’s not especially common to see said couple wandering through the fields mooing at a herd of cows and laughing hysterically when they respond.

I can even understand the inclination to point and laugh from passing cars when such a family of oddballs eventually wander back towards civilisation wet and windswept.

But is that enough to crowbar a notoriously introspective tribe from their caves I wonder, or is it maybe that they recognise in Harry one of their own?

Anyway, back to the wall, aaah yes the wall, or ‘ex wall’ as it now is. Harry finally discovered that the hallway was plastered with crème cheese held in place with wallpaper. He discovered this on Friday and has decided that it is his civil duty to help us rid said wall of all signs of crummy workmanship. A noble cause I think you’ll agree. The Dyson certainly doesn’t. It has taken exception to being filled with chunky of plaster and paper on top of the indignity of its current dog hair duties.

We’re at a bit of a loss with this latest behaviour I have to admit, the only real benefit being to Harry who gets the amusement of seeing us bound from the sofa and up the hallway like a pair of whippets with every strip of wallpaper he removes. He has even developed a very hurt look which he saves especially for these situations, after all, he’s just trying to join the house renovation efforts.
Despite these new tendencies, Harry is actually doing fairly well with his training, his recall is improving even when in a field, his fetch and leave commands are wonderful and his chewing of exposed limbs is second to none!! We’re told it will pass in about 4 months and 20 days, and until then … well there’s always Prozac.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Harry the Teenager

Well, it had to happen at some point - the grumpy, awkward, time of life where self loathing is topped only by the loathing you feel for your parents - and so, almost overnight, Harry has gone from a lovable bundle of fluff to a stroppy teenager.

The changes are plentiful and joyous to behold - digging at the leather sofa, chomping on exposed body parts, complete deafness when out on walks, cheekily inching closer and closer to dinner plates before sneaking in with the ‘lizard tongue’ and throwing temper tantrums when he isn't getting all the food/ attention he wants.

Right now (and I’m sure all the parents out there will be sagely/ smugly nodding at the screen) Keith and I feel like pretty bad parents and are often at a bit of a loss at what to do with ‘Bo. Luckily for us, it’s not considered abuse when we shut him out in the garden.

So, on the advice of some very wise people on a dog forum I frequent, we have launched an offensive.

Phase 1 started last night when I took the slinky dog on his evening walk and kept him on a flexi lead in the field so we could avoid rabbitty distractions. We did lots and lots of recall training and by the time we were on our way back he was leaving scents (unheard of!!) to come racing back to me for treats.

Back home he laid on his towel to be dried off (his undercarriage is so low it gets a little muddy on walks in fields in this weather lol) and then watched me while I cooked dinner (he got a few bits of chopped veg for being so good)

Then Keith got home and it was all a little bit too exciting for ‘Bo but he eventually sat to be fussed rather than jumping up. Progress!!

After dinner, as is his new habit, Harry decided to throw a tantrum. No problem, we thought, we’ll distract him with games. So distract him we did, playing fetch, hide and seek (more hide than seek on our parts admittedly), and eventually we all managed to get some quiet time together in front of the fire.

We only resorted to a spell in the garden once – and that was when he just would not stop trying to dig through the leather sofa so he more than deserved it. In fact, he’s lucky he’s already had the snip or Keith may well have gone on the hunt for two bricks!!

I’m aware that all of this makes it sound like we are sailing through this latest phase. Not in the slightest. I have to point out that before I got home last night Harry had chewed several guests, rolled in some very dead and rotting rabbit on his morning walk and caused Keith no end of grief over the contents of his food bowl. We’re taking it in relatively good humour at the moment though, if only because dogs are only teenagers for a matter of months rather than years. As any long serving prisoner will tell you though, a month can be a very long time.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Petrol for Blood

This is a slightly off topic post, but I think you'll agree that it's worth it.

My Dad is off on assignment in Saudi at the moment and when you are away from your family in the middle of an exceptionally large expanse of sand, you make your own amusement.

For those of you wondering where I inherited my love of all things car related - I think that question has finally been answered.

For those of you wondering what my mother had to say about this photo - the words SKIN and ALIVE featured quite strongly.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Harry's First Road Trip

Harry has had a lot to digest over the last few weeks, literally in some cases. He has once again proven himself a worthy hunter of dead rabbits – in his case the deader the better – having appeared with rabbit limbs in his mouth on several occasions. Needless to say this is not a welcome addition to the daily routine and we hoping against hope that the rabbits in the field are previously unseen hibernating variety, so that we can have a few months off scrubbing the stink of dead rabbit from Harry’s coat.

There was another first for Harry last week - tractor and plant machinery in the field!!! He wasn’t too bad, relying on his tried and tested method of discovering new things which generally follows these lines:

1. Don’t move – I need to lie here and consider the situation
2. I’m pretty sure I’m not about to get attacked, time to walk slowly towards the offending article,
3. It pays to be safe, best grunt and growl to make sure I’m not being tricked
4. I’m going to carry on my walk now, what was all the fuss about, you weren’t scared were you?
5. On next encountering exact same new thing, in exact same location, repeat above safety measures.
6. Continue for about 2 days until fully satisfied that said new thing is completely safe.

In this case the repeat performances were cut short by the appearance of his best friend Dudley at which point they decided to play 'chase' around the tractor. I don’t think I need say more.

This weekend Harry went on his first road-trip. The purpose of said trip was two-fold, to reacquaint him with his uncle Bill, and to say hello to granny and grandpa Batsford.

We arrived on Friday evening after a very uneventful car journey when we discovered that most of the music we listen to puts Harry to sleep. It was a rookie mistake to take this as good news – a sleeping dog is quite clearly a newly energized dog waiting to happen. He was slightly unsettled by the newness of his uncle Bill’s house and that, combined with the rest he’d had on the journey meant that he managed, within a few hours, to chew his way through Bill's doormat and doorstep and sniff out the hunting potential of the large koi carp in the even larger pond. He also whined so much Saturday night that I ended up sleeping with him on a slate floor in the kitchen (and my back will never forgive me for that).

Sunday was less physically painful with us taking him for a long walk at a country park with Keith's parents. My chest is fully puffed out with pride when I say we were SO proud of him. He introduced himself very politely (rolled on his back at his granny’s feet, the little flirt) ran with her, sat, rolled over, stayed and returned on command, played well with a few other dogs and generally melted every heart within a 20ft radius. I’m told there were even mutterings of “can we get a Harry” by the end of the walk although I am unable to confirm or deny this.

He was also spoiled rotten by Keith’s parents with treats and a very cool tennis ball on a rope which he is studiously destroying. The tennis ball looks like it has mange and the rope is doing a valiant job in the face of some persuasive chewing.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Simple Things

Those of you who know me well know that I am not naturally a patient person. As a rule I find it especially hard to be patient when I have an end goal I can ‘see’ and other people are stopping me from reaching it. The kitchen has been a pretty big example of that and it has annoyed me every time I have walked into that room that it is so close, but yet so far. Well, far just became a little bit closer – the granite has now been installed!!

I did promise that I wouldn’t go on about it, so I shall keep to that promise as best I can and let the photos do the talking for me.

You have to admit, it is pretty damn special isn’t it? Smile? I spent most of the evening grinning and stroking the bevelled edges lovingly. Keith and Harry struggled to share my enthusiasm although I’m sure they were supportive of me from the comfort of the sofa.

More exciting than a slab of granite though – Harry has learned to roll over!! I take no credit for this you understand, Keith is the one who finally cracked Harry’s slightly odd approach to training. In his wisdom Harry chooses to listen to the commands you give him, consider them for a week or so, before deciding whether they are worthy of his time and effort.

So it was when we first tried to teach him to fetch. He spent many hours watching us throw toys before giving us a “you threw it, you go pick it up” look. About a week later he brought his toy up to us one evening and we haven’t been able to stop him fetching since (toys, sticks, rabbit legs, small children, you name it).

When it comes to rolling over, you are told that you need to get your dog into a full down position and then make a circle over their heads with a treat while saying Roll Over. This isn’t designed to turn them into toads, but the movement a dog generally makes while following the treat makes them roll over naturally. Under normal circumstances that is, there was no mention of when to do if you dog happens to have inherited the physical characteristics of the child in The Omen. We tried and failed to make Harry roll over although he would manage it if one of us did the treat circling while the other one did some gentle pushing.

True to form though, about a week later, Keith decides to try it again and without so much as a raised eyebrow, little Harry was straight down, legs flailing. So successful was he that when I came home that night the lounge had been rearranged to give him more room for his doggie manoeuvres and Keith was already thinking of the next tricks: Footballs, frisbees and hoops were all mentioned although I think I managed to discourage talk of the flaming variety.

Hold onto your hats next time you meet us folks, we could have a one dog circus going on by then!!!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Slowly, slowly, catchee monkey.

This weekend saw a few more “firsts” in the life of FTC, and all of them of the good variety.

First up, the barn got a fresh supply of legal elastic trickery. To explain, there were electrics in the barn before, but they didn’t inspire confidence in the way the fittings dangled majestically from the wall by the flex so the power was never turned on. When the kitchen fitter had the electrical work signed off, y’man took one look at the fuse board and promptly disconnected the whole supply to the barn. So, in preparation for impending winter, the decision was made to bump this job to the top of the list. Thanks to a nice electrician who was happy to take on some weekend work, the barn now has two brand new strip lights and three sets of nicely conduited sockets. As you will soon read, the combo of recently installed workspace and new electrics are proving to be an important mainstay in the health of the relationship – who needs a potting shed when you have a workshop.

The second big event to hit FTC this weekend was the lighting of the fire. Not really one to break out the marching band you might say, but this was a major symbolic event for both of us. When we were originally writing a list of “must haves” for the house, a fire was the first thing on the list. It is something I have had in every house I have had in the last 5 years except my last flat, and both of us had missed it more than I can describe because we’re both avid fire gazers. Based on the condition of pretty much everything in the house, we took the decision when we moved in that we wouldn’t light the fire until it had been swept and that mission was accomplished last week. This weekend, after some umming and ahhing, we decided that the weather conditions were just about favourable for a fire (and neither of us could wait any longer so it would have been lit even if we had needed to open all the windows and change into swimwear). As you can see, Harry is as much of a fire fan as we are, although I suspect that his interest is in the wood rather than the fire itself, since he risked serious fur loss over the course of the evening when any wood was added to the blaze.

At this point I had an epiphany my friends, Keith and I are fast becoming the biggest middle England cliché going – hound by the fire, wax jackets and wellies under the stairs, pipe and slippers of an evening … chuck in some tweed, a Volvo and an Aga and we’re pretty much there. If I ever utter the words “room for a pony”, somebody slap me, please.

Aaaaaanyway, moving swiftly onto the kitchen. Due to a lack of planning on the previous owner’s part, the kitchen extension was (very thoughtlessly in my opinion) not designed to accommodate granite in the edge profile I originally wanted, so I had to go for something that has delayed the installation by a few days. I took the opportunity to cover some of the delicious terracotta and ‘morning pee’ wall colours with a good solid base coat. Obviously since the plastering and tiling still hasn’t been done there was limited benefit in doing this but it needed doing and there was some free time going.

I say it was done, what I mean is that I did it. It was supposed to be a joint effort but after some discussion, it was decided that Keith should stomp out to the barn and hit bits of metal with a large hammer and I should spend the afternoon expanding my list of Universal Truths of Painting. For those of you who have not met this list before, they came to me during the decoration of my last kitchen, roughly about the time I went ar5e first into the kitchen sink while holding a full pot of white gloss. The rules at that point went as follows

1. Paint is like blood, the smallest amount looks like the end of the world, especially when you add water into the mix

2. Gloss paint is very difficult to remove from the crotch area but removal is preferable to letting it dry

3. The amount of paint you get on you is directly proportional to the importance of the meeting you have at work the next day

4. If paint is allowed to settle, it will always choose to settle on the surfaces you least want to ruin.

After this weekend I would like to add a few more rules to the list …

5. Dogs attract paint splatter.

6. Dogs like to lick wet paint

7. All things being equal a dog, given half a chance, will always lie right where you need to clamber down from the worktop. Don’t bother looking, just assume, and always, ALWAYS put the tray and roller down before you start clambering – halfway off a worktop with one leg dangling and one arm keeping the whole kit and caboodle level is not the time to be looking for a place to rest your paint.

and finally

8. Sometimes the Rawl plug is best left in the wall.


The kitchen is looking much easier on the eye now, and the granite should be arriving tomorrow, so more photos then. I apologise in advance for boring you to death with my excitement, I am fully aware of the fact that most people don’t feel especially passionate about kitchen worktops unless they are being used for lascivious purposes.

In a quick doggie update, young Harry has developed a bit of a taste for dead rabbits. We decided to take him to different fields recently, having got fed up of dodging cows, hauling him off cow pats and out of rivers and it seems that the field we have chosen has a not entirely healthy population of rabbits. He came bounding up yesterday with the rear legs of a rabbit hanging from his mouth and it took no end of bribery to make him put the damn things down again. He also had a good sniff at a very mummified corpse the day before and I was as green as green could be trying to get him away from it. I’m assured he is unlikely to have caught anything from these ex-rabbits though so the only real damage has been to my appetite – no bad thing I hear you cry. We have also now come up with a name by which we can describe him. It gets a little tiring answering the question “So what is he then” when your answer is “he’s a beagle basset cross”, so now, the conversations will mostly go along the following lines …

“He’s a lovely little fella, what is he??!”
“He’s a Bagle”
“You mean a Beagle?”
“No, a Bagle”

I think it suits the little lad.

And finally I would like to share with you the results of the weekend’s labours – it is truly a hard life.