Sunday, October 26, 2008

Now I'm a Proper Dog...


Regular readers of Ellie's blog will already know that Ellie is, it's fair to say, a bit of a wuss. Her gentile nature would, I suspect, appeal to many cat-lovers. As a puppy, she was never one to chase toys, chew socks, or hide poop in shoes. As a seventeen month old adolescent, she is almost nothing like people expect a Border Collie to be. There are no mad dashes of energy, no excited barking, no jumping onto the kitchen worktops, and no running away in order to herd anything that moves. No, she never runs away. Or does she?

As is often the case on a Saturday, Jan decided to walk Ellie across the local farm fields. It's a lovely walk that regularly attracts the attentions of dog-walkers, photographers, and twitchers (bird watchers) alike.

In the warmer months, the acres of sprawling farmed fields glow with tides of sun-kissed wheat swaying in the summer breeze. Occasionally the view will be punctuated by the sight of a dog tail frantically wafting over ears of wheat, as the dog searches for a ball, or chases vermin, with its nose to the ground, completely oblivious to anything that is going on outside of its own sphere of desperate searching.

In the colder months, the dogs become much easier to spot as they seem to delight in gathering clumps of wet mud from the ploughed soil beneath them. The more rebellious dogs prefer to roll around in the muddy puddles just because they can. I have no doubt that these same dogs return to their handlers only because they can't wait to get home and redecorate the walls and doors by shaking their mud-filled coats in as many rooms as they can before the effect (and therefore the fun) wears off. 

Reglardless of the season or the temperature, it's a walk that offers a leash-free blessing for any dog and an opportunity for reflective peace and tranquility for any dog-owner. Any season except for firework season that is. Firework season is universally loathed by almost all dog-owners, and many will go to quite extraordinary lengths to protect their dog from having to endure it. I even know of one dog-owner who confesses to getting into the dog's crate with his dog on Guy Fawkes Night in an effort to comfort the dog. Such is the effect that fireworks have on dog-owners, let alone on the dogs!

Jan and Ellie's usual peaceful and tranquil Saturday walk was interrupted by the sound of a firework in the distance. For some of us humans, fireworks are no big deal. Some of us even brave the cold damp and miserable evenings to gather around a bonfire and strain our necks to view the colourful effects and fill our ears with the wide array of sounds that they produce. However, to Ellie a firework is not just a firework. No, to Ellie, a firework represents the booming march of a murderous squad of Border Collie killers that have a particular penchant for smooth-coated border collies, especially if they happen to be named Ellie. This was no time for hanging around. The life of a Border Collie was at stake!

She instantly turned and began to run home, ignoring all of the desperate pleas and whistles from Jan who was trying to encourage Ellie to return to her. For a dog with such big ears, she can have incredible selective deafness when it suits her. Only she didn't quite make it home. You see if you are Ellie, life is a cocktail that consists exclusively of worst things and best things. Fireworks are the worst thing, in fact the sound of them can kill, thus they need to be avoided at all costs. Whereas being stroked by people who you've never seen before is the absolute best thing. It's like a magic potion that can cure all ills, including the sound of fireworks. And so it was that despite Ellie's best intention to navigate the mean streets of Lincolnshire and run home on her own, she couldn't resist interruping her journey by introducing herself to someone who she had yet to be stroked by. As far as Ellie is concerned, all people are in love with her and want to stroke her. Running up to them with a wagging tail is her way of lessening their pain of not knowing her. The woman kindly held onto Ellie and was about to call our telephone number from Ellie's collar, when Jan finally caught up and claimed her. Fireworks eh. Who needs them! Still, that was it for the day. Wasn't it?

A few weeks ago I decreed that Ellie would no longer be allowed in our bedroom whenever she wanted. She is now only allowed in it at night. To ensure this, her crate is in the spare room, and the door to the spare room is left open all day and night. The idea is that eventually she will spend the night in there too. As a result, I won't have to sleep in the small square patch of bed allocated to me by Ellie while she sleeps fully stretched out at the foot of my side of the bed. Thinking about it, I must look like a piece of ravioli. She's been getting the idea and she's now quite happy to retreat to her crate in the spare room during the day and in the evenings. Perfect.

Yesterday evening, I thought I heard her doing something upstairs but with Ellie being Ellie, I just presumed that she was chewing her claws, or rattling around in her crate. A while later, after she had come downstairs to lay on her bed, I noticed she was chewing something and pointed it out to Jan. Upon investigation, it turned out to be a toothrush head from my much-loved electric toothbrush. I wasn't too concerned as I presumed that it must have been one of the spare heads that I must have left around. Then I remembered that my toothbrush was recharging in the spare room. Even then, I couldn't believe that Ellie would have taken it from my toothbrush. It's just not Ellie to do that, she's too wussy. Jan went to investigate. Her silence confirmed to me that it was the head taken off my toothbrush. Not only that, but she had destroyed the fitting on the toothbrush so that no new heads can be affixed to it.

Jan came down and showed me the wrecked remains of my toothbrush. I looked at it and I looked at Ellie. She seemed really quite pleased with her efforts. 'See, I can be a proper dog too', she seemed to say. I couldn't help but laugh and actually feel a little proud of her for finally having the courage to chew something that didn't belong to her. Aside from that, it wasn't her fault. Firstly, I left it charging on the floor, and secondly...

I've been encouraging her to get nearer and nearer to my brush as I clean my teeth so that she will learn to like it. I figured that I could just use one head for her teeth and another for mine. So, in a way, I've encouraged her to fall in love with the minty freshness of toothpaste. As the saying goes: be careful what you wish for, you may just get it...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ellie Meets Mia

Mia II
As you will know from previous posts, we've been providing home-boarding for dogs. This entails looking after other dogs in our home while their usual owners go away. Sometimes it can be for a week or more, and other times it could be for only a single night. Regardless of the duration, as dog-lovers it's sometimes hard to believe that we get to spend time with more dogs, and get paid for it too! Not only that, but as a hobbyist photographer with a particular penchant for photographing dogs, I get a steady stream of subjects on which to practise upon. What is not to like about home-boarding?

The most recent addition to our list of home-boarding dogs was Mia. She was a seven year old GSD x Border Collie. Mia, for me, was the perfect dog. She was at the age where she is content with life, and is happy to sit and watch the world go by her. Though, Im must add, I've never met a dog that moans and groans so much in all of my life. She's a character through and through, down to the "woo woo woo" sound that she makes when she tries to initiate some play. She was also the perfect dog for Ellie. Not only was Mia a calming influence with her naturally laid-back nature, but she just wasn't interested in being with Ellie. That is how Ellie prefers things.
Ellie now seems to be getting used to having different dogs come and go, and in that respect it's good education for her. It also provides us with opportunities to train her in the company of other dogs, and improve her focus.

The next interested party is apparently a Daschund. If all goes well, that dog should be with us around the end of October for a couple of days. By the way, Ellie will be eighteen months old next month, so you can expect a big blog post then! :)