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Snow dog, Tooting Bec

It's been almost a year since I moved back to London. It seems like a year unusually blessed with snow. This morning, it was coming down thick and fast, and we had a freshly carpeted common, almost entirely to ourselves, aside from a handful of other dog walkers.


Snowballing a dog never loses it's appeal. He constantly appeals for you to throw one. The most fun is lobbing them skywards, in an easy parabola, giving him plenty of time to position himself below the descent, for an ariel catch. These are accompanied by a loud grunt, then a rough landing, wildly shaking the snow from the face. Then straight back into appealing for another.

posted Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 12:53 by cms in dog | Comments Off on Snow dog, Tooting Bec

My dog is spoilt

How can I tell ? I've bought him his own duvet.

I'm heroically committed to a program for keeping the dog off the majority of the household furniture. My strategy is thus; I have one (wipe clean!) sofa I don't actively discourage him from clambering on. The majority of the time, he sleeps on this overnight, even though to my eyes his basket seems as if it would more comfortable.

When the wintertime arrives, and the nights get colder, he's not so keen on an unadorned sofa. I can tell this because he starts to seek out nesting opportunities in more upholstered regions. The way that I combat this is to pile up a few cheap throws or blankets on the permitted sofa, which gives him something to nest in. Of course, the actual, correct, dog-basket is padded, upholstered, lined with welcoming cushions and blankets, and positioned in front of a good radiator, but somehow none of that seems to matter. It's all about perceived status with dogs, and so far as he's concerned, sofas are extremely swanky real estate.

To try and keep the winter sofa throws looking less manky after a couple of nights, I've tended to buy woollen ones. Light coloured rough wool doesn't show up the dog hairs so badly. In my heart, I think that I'll source them from local charity shops, but in practice they never seem to have anything suitable, so usually I end up buying them from shops, as cheaply as I can manage. Every once in a while, if they're looking particularly tired, I recycle the blankets in the rag box. The rough fibres are a too successful hair-trap; I wouldn't consider letting them near my washing-machine's expensive German filters, and I'm too lazy to clean them by hand. Then I buy some fresh ones, and restart the whole cycle.

Which leads into the current ridiculous state. IKEA is a particularly useful source of very cheap and fairly durable blankets, and it's only a few minutes walk down the road. This time I was wondering about experimenting with something a bit more sustainable, a fabric I could more easily clean, using our wonderful new VAX, with it's miracle pet-hair removal tool (which is actually the stripped floorboard tool I think, the 'pet' edition of the same cleaner was more money for the same suction).

I strode around a spookily empty IKEA (daytime, recession, Christmas panic shoppers busy elsewhere, wonderful!) trying to decide between a handful of different less-than-a-fiver options. I was suddenly flummoxed to encounter pile of somewhat rudimentary, lightweight double duvets selling for £2.78. A preposterous new plan quickly formed.

And so I bought a duvet for my dog. We put a cover on it from our store of past-it's-best bed-linen, and arranged it on the sofa. He seems very happy with it, but I can't help feeling some sort of key principle of domestic husbandry has been roundly subverted.

posted Friday, December 19, 2008 at 09:02 by cms in dog | 3 Comments »

Man's best friend

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Something extraordinary happened during a routine walk last week. The walk itself was hardly unusual, aside from the unseasonably fine weather. The route was a well-rehearsed number from our small repertoire of standards; out along Fishponds road up to Eastville park, follow the river to the park's end, then reverse your way back for the return.

It was early in the evening as we set out, and before we had reached the end of our street I realised that I'd left my mobile phone and wallet back on my desk. Although I don't like to leave without either, I reasoned that I didn't particularly need them on this day, and I didn't feel like nipping back. We had the house to ourselves that evening, nobody else would be home until late. Shopping opportunities are fairly limited in Eastville park, so we could probably get by on the couple of coins I had in my pocket.

The dog was having one of those spells when he feels that everything has to be inspected with great care. Every so often this mood catches him and he needs to patiently smell and catalogue things we pass in far greater than usual detail before we can continue. I'm not really sure of the cause of this. It sometimes seems to be precipitated by a change in the weather. A sudden cold snap is certain to bring it about, for example. This evening was not cold at all, although it was unusually humid. So we proceed, at a very leisurely pace, him dawdling with his forensic investigations, me idly speculating about the effects different atmospheres might have upon his primary perception.

One of the more successful methods I've managed to install for regaining his attention, is an ordinary whistle. Over time, via the usual methods of reward and repetition, I've taught him to associate a particular sequence, three short pipes on a whistle, with a food reward. It works well enough to use as an effective recall signal. One of the advantages conferred by a whistle is it's neutral tone; dogs are great readers of context and tone-of-voice can convey a lot of subtext about the caller's intent. Not so the mechanical whistle.

So I keep a selection of whistles bound to my keyring, and on evenings like this, where I am likely to keep striding ahead of the hardworking nasal detective, they can see a lot of action. Even so, we maintained our slower than average pace, we had no reason to hurry.

My fetish for luggage had led me to recently acquire a small Crumpler shoulder-bag, discounted in a shop-sale. I love Crumpler gear. Despite a tendency towards the garish and zany, I think it's well thought out and robustly constructed. I suppose this bag is intended to be a roomy camera case, but I've put it to use as a carry-all for the dog-walking equipment. Recently I had realised there was enough room to stow a tennis ball alongside the rest of the usual baggage, and so when we reached the quiet meadow at the far end of our route we amused each other by throwing a ball around and chasing it for ten minutes.

The dog seemed to have exhausted his investigative enquiries, for on the return route he stayed close to my heel. It was only when we approached the start of the riverside path that he chose to wander into the bushy borders, causing me to reach for the whistle, and realise that I no longer seemed to have it in my possesion. Not only the whistle, I'd managed to lose my entire keyring.

It was one of those moments of precise clarity that can be germinated by a stab of sudden near-panic. All the doors and windows at home were locked, and nobody would be home until perhaps midnight. No telephone, and it's been years since I bothered to memorize any phone numbers. No money either. I was mentally chasing through my limited options.

The best bet would be finding my keys. A large, silver bunch, assuming I'd dropped them shortly after digging out the whistle, I might be able to find them still close to where they fell. Luckily, I'd not strayed from the path, and the park was quiet, I ought to be able to retrace my steps quite thoroughly without rushing to get there before somebody else spotted them.

And so we proceeded, this time with our roles reversed; myself intent, studying the floor and poking into vegetation, him following, curious about my peculiar, unfathomable ways.

As we lucklessly progressed, I did my best to not dwell upon the negative outcome. Slowly we headed toward the end of our searchable area. We'd spent a while arsing about in the meadow, the wilder grass there was eight or more inches long. If the keyring had dislodged as we capered, nothing short of a fingertip search would turn anything up. The keys would lie there, probably undisturbed until the field received it's annual trim, probably next spring. There is a path bisecting the unruly meadow. If I was lucky, they'd have fallen on or near this, and there would be a chance of spotting them

It was not to be. I made a couple of half-hearted sweeps across the grass, roughly in the areas I imagined we'd been running through, maybe an hour previously. I scanned for reflections, or hints of depression that might indicate a dropped weight. It was a hopeless task. Gathering my thoughts, I tried to come up with a scheme to keep myself and an unfed dog occupied and outdoors for the next seven or eight hours. I couldn't be sure that it wouldn't rain.

And then a desperate idea seized me. I looked at the dog, sitting close by, extremely taken by my unusual behaviour. He seemed to be expressing curiosity as to my motive. I dug into my pockets and retrieved the keys to my other house and showed them to him up close. "Find the keys!"

He stuck his nose on the floor and zig-zagged aimlessly across the grass for a couple of minutes, before coming to a halt about twenty yards away. As I went over to collect him, I could see that he was wagging his tail, and staring at the floor.

It wasn't until I was standing right next to him that I could precisely tell that his nose was directly indicating my lost keyring, where it lay hidden beneath the long grass. I was amazed. For his trouble, I emptied out the entire stash of biscuits from my bag, making a small pile.

"Best dog in the world", I say.

posted Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 15:40 by cms in dog | 1 Comment »

All grown up

It's been a while since any dog updates, so here's some brand new shots. For some funny reason, it's only when I'm looking at photographs that I find it really shows how grown up he is now. There's barely a trace of the puppy to be found here. Of course, the fact that he's enjoying some late summer sun, not capering like a loon, assists with this new found air of maturity.

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posted Tuesday, September 19, 2006 at 23:19 by cms in dog | Comments Off on All grown up

Going back to his roots

Q: How do you get two whales in a car ?

A: With a dalmatian.

Jack originally hails from a breeder based in South Wales, and so a holiday cottage weekend in that region makes for some kind of homecoming. Extremely lucky with the weather, randomly selecting a furiously sunny weekend immediately following a washed out Bank Holiday. Fun time for all, although Jack didn't seem too settled with the sleeping arrangements.

We managed a couple of exciting excursions. A wildly optimistic walk through what turned out to be some managed wetlands; escorting a strong excitable dog held back by a thin cord across rickety walkways suspended over bogland, like some super-hazardous Crystal Maze task. Later, the closest thing to mountaineering myself and Jack are ever likely to manage – in essence, strolling up a very large hill, a forty-five minute affair to the summit at best. In fairness to the dog, he did actually indulge in some of your actual climbing, with rocks and verticals and what-not. Myself, I kept to the handy path provided.

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posted Monday, June 5, 2006 at 03:12 by cms in dog | Comments Off on Going back to his roots

Snow Dogs

Perhaps somebody up there is listening. Following on from yesterday's post, we awoke this morning to a Bristol lightly covered with snow. After investigating the garden in detail for about half an hour, we decided it was time for a walk.

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In answer to my question, it seems that Jack quite likes snow, but you have to sniff every square inch of it extremely carefully

posted Friday, November 25, 2005 at 17:01 by cms in dog | Comments Off on Snow Dogs

Dalmatians in the mist

Very seasonal weather we've been having lately. Unshifting clouds of fog, and frosty mornings. Myself and Jack both have been making the most of it.

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All the weather forecasts predict that there is heavy snowfall on the way for this part of the country. I look forward to finding out what he'll make of that.

posted Thursday, November 24, 2005 at 22:54 by cms in dog | Comments Off on Dalmatians in the mist

Salty sea-dog

We recently spent a long weekend in a holiday cottage down in Cornwall. Jack came along too. One afternoon we took him down to the coast near Par to walk along the beach.

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Previously he'd indicated that having sand underfoot was the main point about beach walks, the sea only provoking minimal investigation. He seemed quite interested in the sea this time, enough to indulge in some fairly enthusiastic paddling. Perhaps the abundance of weed and rock pools drew him in. No swimming though, he still draws the line firmly at armpit depth.

posted Sunday, October 2, 2005 at 18:03 by cms in dog | Comments Off on Salty sea-dog

Back to one dog again

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Sadly it didn't work out with Charlie, I had to return him to the shelter.

He'd settled in well and improved in behaviour in almost every way, apart from one significant lingering problem. He developed a growing tendency to bite people, quite unpredictably and increasingly without offering any warning prior to the strike. It was a difficult decision to finally make, as aside from this most anti-social and hard-to-treat of dog misbehaviours he was good company, and I miss having him around the office in the day.

Jack has taken it in good spirits though. I rather get the impression that he views this as some kind of promotion.

posted Monday, September 5, 2005 at 03:03 by cms in dog | Comments Off on Back to one dog again

Two dogs

Meet Charlie.

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The idea to get a second dog was inspired chiefly by Jack's fervent enthusiasm for dog company. He'd act deflated after returning from a spell in dog hotel , and sometimes after meeting any dog pals on a walk. Rather than another pedigree, an RSPCA rescue dog this time. And something in a smaller size. Charlie immediately caught my eye on touring the Bristol dogs home.

A blend of terrier, he came with a warning. Twice rejected by adopters for aggressive or defensive behaviour. A couple of trial visits worked out well enough, so he's now a permanent resident. He does suffer from anxiety, and has demonstrated a tendency to snap and snarl defensively when feeling threatened. Most of the time he's fairly affectionate, although still a little stand-offish around people. He's improving all the time, I think, as he becomes more familiar to his new home.

The pair of them have adjusted to each other's company well, and keep each other busy throughout the day. It's quite remarkable how much exercise they seem to offer each other. Prior to Charlie's arrival Jack really required two or even three longish walks per day; anything less and he'd be an awkward bundle of nervous over-activity. Now the pair of them are content staging day-long Greek Wrestling contests, a single walk in the early evening suffices. It may be counter-intuitive, but in some ways it seems two dogs are more easily managed than one.

posted Friday, August 12, 2005 at 23:25 by cms in dog | Comments Off on Two dogs