Category Archives: Dogs
Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.
6th December – Snow by the Missouri
I awoke to the news that The Shakers had won away at Rochdale in the FA Cup. It was therefore with a light heart that I climbed aboard Barry’s grasshopper* together with a huge dog (Ranger) and a tiny one (Cha Cha) for a ride along the Missouri shore. Snow still covered the river margin, sparkling in the sun, criss-crossed by the tracks of deer and wild turkey.
Later we visited Al’s Oasis again for a little shopping and more photography of ‘unusual’ American products, followed by a drive up the ridge to the west of the river for a sweeping overlook of the Missouri where it bends at Bad Hand Creek, and a magnificent sunset.
As the sky darkened we made a little tour of Oacoma and Chamberlain to look at bright Christmas lights and displays. Imbued by the Christmas spirit we spent much of the evening drinking beer and binge-watching Naked and Afraid.
*totally not a euphemism. The Grasshopper is an off-road vehicle thingy. There’s a photo in this post from last year’s American adventure.
Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.
14th November – Bear Lake, Michigan
Ace came over to visit us early, in search of a biscuit. Erm, Ace is the dog, remember, not some passing randomer. We listened – or rather followed on Twitter – as Bury lost to Gillingham on the other side of the planet. We baked particularly British things for our hosts – quite tasty cheese scones and a batch of went-slightly-wrong sausage rolls. Can you believe that America doesn’t have sausage rolls? Or beans on toast? IKR!
Now, I’m not a fan of guns, but we were in the middle if hunting country, so when Barb’s nephews offered to show us some target-shooting it seemed sensible to accept. Also the whole “don’t criticise something you’ve not tried yada yada yada” thing. I almost went out in my pinny which, you know, hardly cool.
Mary was a bit good with the rifle, taking the best shot of the afternoon. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it – the shoulder kick, the smell of cordite, the stupid earphones. I performed better with the handgun, though it was difficult to stop my leg shaking, No, I have no idea why my leg was shaking. Mary got to shoot a crossbow, too – again doing well. You know what? Shooting is fun, although I would never be able to fire at anything but an inanimate target.
Blogging our recent US trip day by day, four weeks after the event.
A lazy morning, catching up on this journal and making scones once more. Also preparing for the next day’s trip back to Erie. The cheese scones had been a big hit, despite the first batch suffering from being baked at too low a temperature due to my forgetting to allow a difference for not having a fan oven.
We drove out to Jessica’s farm after lunch. Jess is Janine’s daughter, and is heavily involved in animal rescue. Every other night it seemed that she had phoned Janine to say she was heading up the rez to grab a stray dog that had been spotted up there. There are lots of stray dogs up the rez.
Out of the Missouri River valley the land was flat, featureless. I spotted more than one ramshackle falling-down building that would have made an excellent subject for a photograph, but only fleetingly, with no time to ready the camera.
The road was straight and flat and soaked by hot Dakota sunshine. We turned off onto a dirt track that led up to a green and tan farmhouse. Six or seven dogs bounced behind a fence, creating a symphony of barked greeting as we approached. There was Laddie, a gorgeous Lab who reminded me of my dear Ben, and Copper and Cha-cha and Layla and others that my swiss-cheesing memory has forgotten. I delighted in being swamped by dogs.
Jess, in wellies and shorts and calf tattoo, showed us round. In the stables we met a pair of black and white cats and a horse named BJ, who wore a mask against fly irritation. I fed him muffins. Outside a fountain tinkled and swallows flitted about our heads.
Barry wandered into a field to talk to two donkeys, and while he was out there found the other horse, Turbo, who had lost one eye completely and was blind in the other. He enjoyed popcorn while the dogs Copper and Cha-cha chewed discarded bits of hoof.
Thanking Jess for her hospitality we moved on to Jenny’s farm. Jenny is Janine’s niece. There we saw tiny goats and a young buffalo named Belle. Very playful, but on the verge of being enormous. Barry had fun playing with her. It was only later that he remembered his allergy to buffalo hide, and paid the price of a rash.
Jenny’s garden, in a lush hot corner of the farm, produced wonderful vegetables, as we saw when she collected them. Baby Colt was here, whom we’d met before, and he reached out to Mary to hold him. Such a smiley baby.
In the evening we ate at Al’s Oasis, where I had buffalo burger. It was tasty, like very lean beef. I have now encountered five types of buffalo – plastic, stuffed, skeletal, live, and cooked. This was our last day with Janine and Barry, and I felt the looming disappointment of having to leave. I made certain to enjoy every moment of my last trip out in the Grasshopper with Barry and Ranger.
Has ever a dog been more frustrating, more irritating, yet more fulfilling and wonderful than Todd? I swear, he drives me mad sometimes, then at others he melts my heart. His current annoying habit is attacking the door whenever he comes in from a walk. Not going out, not any other time, but just returning from a walk. He also objects with a growl or a snap to having his lead taken off – again only AFTER a walk (although I may have solved that one by not putting up with it).
He’s massively freaked out by thunder, but I reckon we know how to handle that when it happens.
OK, that’s the downside. The upside is that 90% of the time he’s wonderful. He’s brilliant with the cats, he’s great with meeting other dogs when out and about, as well as people who aren’t either (a) carrying sticks or (b) Owen up at Bleakholt. He’s fantastic on car journeys. We had a marvellous day up at Mombat’s yesterday, when he was angelic and responsive throughout.
He’s also house-trained to the point of perfection. When he barks continuously indoors, we know he needs a poo. Like today’s, which was a squitty one due (I suspect) to Mum feeding him chips and bits of scone and who knows what else yesterday, despite my instructions otherwise. Bloody Mums.
Oh, and I’ve lost a stone and a half in the two months since we got him. Yay me! I told the family when he arrived that we’d review his progress after Christmas. Overall, he remains a work in progress, but his daily log does show that he’s improving all the time. Watch this space.
Yet another doggy post, I’m afraid – you fed up with them yet? After this though there’ll be all sorts of posts. Stuff on writing, obviously, but I also have planned articles on a huge variety of crap.
So, today at Bleakholt I walked Keano (who you’ve met a few times now – there he is top left with yet another stick), Pippa and Tyson (lovely old couple top right), and a new lass for me, Ella (left). She’s a smasher, although inclined to launch herself without warning at other dogs. And she’s some weight, I can tell you. The more walking she gets to slim her down the happier she will be.
Here’s another couple of pics of things that will be familiar to Bleakholt regulars. On the left Andy takes Scruff for a walk –Scruff obviously hoping for a treat from Andy’s Magic Pocket. And a regular hazard round by the farm is Annabel on a wall. There are two goats, actually, and I’m rubbish at telling them apart, so let’s just assume that this is Annabel.
Finally though, and here’s the good news, I finally completed the paperwork that means Todd is officially a wombat. Yay! I’m the sort of bloke who needs a dog in his life, and ever since Ben died I’ve been hoping to find one to adequately fill that gap. Todd, bless him, has been perfect (well, he growls at carrots, but we can live with that). If you look back at the first time I posted about him, you’ll see that even then I liked the cut of his jib.
So here you go, have a very short video of the brand new wombat.
More video of Todd out walking. This time I’ve not added music, so that even Americans should be able to watch. You’ll just have to put up with the sound of the wind and the stream and me sounding like a BIG GURL.
I plan to get back to blogging about things other than dogs soon, I promise, but here’s just one last word about – and from – Todd. Despite my clear instructions that he wasn’t to do it, he went and got himself a Twitter account (@ToddBat37). Typical collie. Here are his first musings from today.
Hello. Last night I slepped at Beerdy’s house for the first time. I noticed through the WINDWO when it was dark and took myself to bed cos I am CLEVER. I was a GOOD BOY last night and didernt poo or wee in the kitchen. And I was QUITE all night and was a GOODOG and that. And then today we went to BLEEKHOLT to see Adriman & Sharlet. And Beerdy walked some dogs that were not me and then he walked me and I did a MASSIVE POO. And something about a MICRASHIP in my sholder happened as well in a hot room that made me PANT. Then we came home.
So many of you have been asking about Todd and whether it was true that he was on his way to becoming a Wombat, that I thought it was about time I posted an update. When I first met Todd, walking him with kennel-mate Saffron (now in a new home) as part of my volunteer dog-walking at Bleakholt, this is what I said in my subsequent blog post:
“Anyway, here are the pooches that I walked today. Normally, I try to make their walks last about half an hour, the recommended time, but I’m afraid that if I really like a dog, I’ll often go beyond that. I went beyond that with TODD here, as I really enjoyed our walk. Gorgeous collie (much more handsome than my quick snap suggests), lovely movement, and really responsive. After about twenty minutes, when he’d relaxed with me, I tried doing some close control work with him. He was brilliant, walking to heel well. I might look more into TODD’s background – if he’s happy with cats I might just think about whether I want to take things further.”
Three months later, I was amazed that he hadn’t been snapped up. Sure, the notice on his cage said he would push his boundaries and should go to an experienced collie owner, but he always seemed extremely biddable whenever I took him out. He often shared his kennel with other dogs who had found a home, such as Saffron and Kim, so he wasn’t a fighter.
Given our dodgy experience with Evan, I wasn’t at all sure that I could actually cope with another pushy dog, and I prevaricated for weeks before tentatively asking Charlotte and Michael what they thought of me trying him out. Their idea of just taking him home for the day to see how he got on with the family and the cats seemed a grand idea, guaranteed to iron out any hitherto unnoticed Evanesque tendencies to transform into the Hound of the Baskervilles.
I tried to keep it quiet at first (in order to avoid a big fuss from Twitter and Facebook Assembled about yet another dog) but Mary let the cat… erm, the dog out of the bag in an unguarded tweet, and some of you caught on. At Bleakholt the news slowly spread that Todd might be about to come home with me, and I found myself stopped by staff and other walkers to ask if it was true.
His first day at Wombat Towers arrived, and I was worried. Would he have a go at the cats? Would my daughter, a dog-wary after Evan’s attacks, accept a ‘pushy’ collie? Would he be happy to be here? Long story short – no, yes, yes. He was brilliant, respecting and avoiding the cats, behaving perfectly at meal times, and generally being the perfect dog. He walks to heel well, and is oh-so-eager to learn.
And you know, he’s been the same on every day since. Buffy the cat bosses him about, while Midge ignores him. He did try to stop Mary going upstairs one time, but was perfectly content to be told not to be so stupid and move out of the way. He’s great to walk, and brilliant off the lead (see the video below). All seems positive. Tomorrow he’ll sleep Chez Wombat for the first time, and I’m worried again, but not hugely so this time. I think he’ll be OK as long as Buffy doesn’t creep up behind him, sniggering, and whack his tail while he sleeps. Cross your fingers for us; Todd’s won me over big time, and it really does look like he might inherit Ben’s mantle and become the new Womdog.
Oh, and here’s that walk video. The wind was so loud on the soundtrack that I’ve stuck some music on instead. Please do sing along.
I had a bonanza Bleakholt walking session today. First out of the traps was DEBO, who set off like a train on fire (yes it is a thing, shut up). I careered along after him, almost skidding across the grassy bit. Once we got out, though, he did a humungous poo and slowed down to a more sedate pace. Still pulling a little, but the urgency had gone. Odd name, Debo, but he’s a fine brindly gentleman.
As I was putting Debo back in his pen, I could hear ROLO in the next kennel barking “Take me! Take me! I NEED OUT!”, so that’s what I did. We’ve met Rolo before, when I failed to take a decent photo, so here’s two of him this time to make up. Once again we had a big old tummy tickle at the end of the walk. He’s not good at selling himself to visitors, unfortunately, barking at them loudly when they appear.
Remember TODD? The lovely feller has another kennel mate at the moment, little KIM, and I took them out on a double. Blimey Kim’s lively. Todd, as usual, wanted to stop and smell all the smells, while Kim just wanted to be off to look at ALL THE WORLD! Trees! Grass! More grass! Poo! Birds! Charlotte! Grass again! It was like having dogs at different speeds, Kim all 78rpm and Todd relaxed at 33rpm (a little vinyl reference there for all you oldies). Perky Kim has already been provisionally booked, so here’s hoping for a good home for her.
I was about to go home when I spotted BELLA, a new arrival, and I just had to take her for a walk. She’s deaf, and it was an interesting walk. She responds well to small twitches in the lead telling her which way to go, and a quick pat took the place of “Good dog.” She adores a fuss, and is a beautiful dog. I doubt she’ll be at Bleakholt for long before being snapped up. I considered her briefly myself, but the deafness would require a fair bit of hard work – how would you tell her ‘No!’, for example, if she decided to chase one of the cats? It’s probably for the best if she’s somewhere without cats around.
Oh, and I saw FLACK with his ‘interested couple’ again. I do so hope that works out for him.
After a couple of weeks off due to (a) bad ankle and (b) a glorious time in Scotland, I was back at Bleakholt this morning crying “Let’s walk some dog!”. People look at me funny when I do things like that, but I don’t give a tuppenny toss. First out of the blocks was ROLO, a lovely snuffly feller who was a joy to walk. We had a big tummy rub on the grass after his walk (he did I mean, not me sadly). I could only manage a naff pic of him due to sunshine preventing me from seeing what I had taken, sorry.
My next client was the superstar that is BETTY SPAGHETTI. Spag did not want to go for a walk round the lanes. Oh no, Spag wanted very much to go in the field, thank you very much. Her being such a strong dog, that’s exactly what we did. We had a splendid time throwing (me) and chasing (her) balls. Her only fault is that she refuses to give any ball back, so that you have to have two balls in your hands at any one time. (Insert your own dirty joke here.)
And KEETO. A lively pup who wanted to grab everything he came across. Within ten seconds he grabbed Michael’s hose pipe (insert your second dirty joke here), which I managed to get him to drop by offering the other end of his lead. This he held until we came across a manky old ball, which he proceeded to rag and chew all the way round ‘the square’.
Aaah, it’s good to be back.