Thursday, December 10, 2009

All is Well at Barkingham Palace

It's now been ten days since Ellie went to the vet to be spayed and have her dew claw removed. This morning she had the single stitch removed from where her dew claw once precariously dangled. She has also been given the all-clear by the vet. Ellie can now return to doing all that she was doing before the operations. Go Ellie!

We went for our maiden walk on Tuesday evening with my good friend, Sue, and of course, Ellie's best friend, Teal'c the Rottweiler. As I was unsure how well Ellie's healing was doing we just took a leisurely stroll around the local playing field. I am sure that Ellie failed to get the memo telling her that she has had an operation. All she wanted was for me to throw the ball for her. Of course, I refused, much to her disdain.

I must say, she really has done remarkably well. She hasn't once been seen licking either wound. In fact, she really does seem completely oblivious to the fact that she's been operated upon.

In other news, the home-boarding is continuing to grow and I was delighted to receive an email this morning asking if I was free to board Hoolie again! If you have forgotten already, Hoolie is the black labrador that stole my heart on his first stay with me, and is competing with 'The Doodles' for the place of my favourite boarder dogs.

We will shortly be starting a dog trick challenge with my friend, Lucy, and her far-too-smart dogs, where we will both start teaching our dogs a new trick. I've been planning this particular trick for ages but it's always more fun if you're doing it with someone else, and Lucy is as competitive as I am. We just need to purchase the right props first! Watch this space for videos! Talking of which, dogs, websites, and videos is a damned good hint at my next big project for 2010, and that is all I shall say on that for now.

On a final note, I am amused at how easily my chance 'Barkingham Palace' tag has taken off. When people email me these days, they so often refer to it. I'm even thinking of having a house sign made with it on! :)

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Operations

There's a sniff of anxiety in the air here at Barkingham Palace. Today is the day that Ellie has been taken to the vet for her spaying and for the dew claw that has loosely dangled from her leg since she was a puppy.

I'm told that both operations went well and she is, as I write this, currently trying to stand up after the anaesthetic. We can collect her at about 15:00hrs. She has a single stitch on the dew-claw wound, and will need to wear some sort of sock to stop her nibbling at it for a few days.

Although I felt sure that the vet would do a good job, and despite knowing that both operations are, in the grand scheme of things, quite routine operations, I hated leaving Ellie at the vet this morning. Ellie and I are very much a team and we have been since day one. I work from home and she is with me all day. When I go out, she comes with me. When I do things, I involve her too. That's how it's always been and anything else is really quite alien to both her and to me. I felt that I was letting the team down a little this morning. If I could have stayed there with her, I would happily have done so but alas, that's not how it works. But anyway, it's done now, all but the healing. Something tells me that Ellie isn't going to be one of those dogs to want to sit and heal for long. That should be fun!

This morning before the operation, I swear, we watched as she went to fetch the phone. Jan joked that perhaps she was urging us to cancel the operation! No chance of that. There's only so many phantom pregnancies that anyone can handle!

In other news, Monty has been to stay with us again, this time for a week. He left us again on Saturday night. I managed to snap the above photo of the three - Monty, Ellie, and Teal'c the Rottweiler - all together in the living room. Now that is a blend of breeds that you don't get to see together every day!

It will be a quite time here at Barkingham Palace for a few weeks now as we give Ellie time to recover from her operations. However, I do have a couple of new dog-related projects that I am working on which I hope to be able to reveal to you guys shortly. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Spaying is Booked

There is progress at Barkingham Palace. For me personally, I am delighted to report that the issue with my fingers has gone. I went to bed one Tuesday night with them hurting as they had been for weeks and weeks to an ever increasing degree. I awoke the next morning to find them completely fine. Answers on a postcard to the usual address for that one. Suffice to say that I have cancelled the hospital appointment. It would have been nice to know what caused it, but frankly, I'm just pleased to have full and painless mobility back in my hands.

As a result of this, and with Mavis now having passed away, I've been able to spend time processing the backlog of photos taken from various events.

Here is a slideshow from the Hougham Fun Day in August. Photos are available for purchase from my photo store.

I've also purchased brand new uber powerful computer equipment to make processing much more fluid and less taxing too. It is amazing how much more quickly I can process the photos now.

In other news, Ellie is getting spayed on November 30th. I was a little staggered at the price quoted from our vet: £175+ any additional costs of dressings etc that 'may be required'. Then we had to pay an additional £23 just to have her checked over to make sure she was fit and healthy - that took all of three minutes. After returning home, I checked with friends of ours who recently had their two Border Collie bitches spayed locally. They used a different vet. So I called their vet and am having it done for £118.20. Much better!

So, after the 30th, she will be in recovery at home, banned from exercise for at least a week I'm told. Poor ol' Ellie. All together now....

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Spending Time with Hoolie...

When you're a dog person as I am, dogs punctuate certain moments of your life in a similar fashion to how particular songs do. Hoolie, the black Labrador that you see in the photo to the left, will, for example, always be the dog who stayed with us throughout Mavis's funeral. He was a real comfort to have around.

Hoolie is the latest dog to have passed through Barkingham Palace as a home-boarder. Having stayed with us for eighteen nights, he's also the dog who has spent the most time with us in one stay. At the risk of reading like a sycophant, I absolutely loved having him stay. Again, similarly to the case of 'the Doodles', some dogs just take you by surprise with their charm. Hoolie is, for me, an almost perfect blend of energy and calm. He can have moments of incredible energy which makes for great walks. He certainly loved running around the fields with Ellie, and even allowed Ellie to practise her herding on him. But then, in the house, he just relaxed and you barely knew you had him. Though I did consider calling the Guinness Book of Records to see if he could take the title of world's fastest eater. I swear that it took longer for me to put the food down to the floor, than it took for him to swallow it!

It didn't take him long to learn what a soft touch I am, as he managed to join me on the sofa after just a few days. That is one area where he most certainly does differ from the Doodles. Having two JRTs on a sofa with you is nothing like having a dog the size of Hoolie on the sofa with you, let me tell you! Don't tell the Doodles, but I've had to put Hoolie in joint first place for the title of my favourite boarding dogs.

Ellie got on really quite well with Hoolie too. There were several times where she just laid her head on his chest and went to sleep. Isn't romance a wonderful thing... And then, to tell you what a charmer Hoolie really is, a day or two after he left, he sent us some flowers to thank us for the stay! Hmm, thinking about it, maybe he sent them to Ellie? Regardless, they were a lovely gift, though we do wonder what other trouble he's been getting into with his online credit-card shopping!

As Hoolie left on the Wednesday, two pugs, Bert and Ernie, joined us on Saturday (Yesterday.) They are now with us until next Saturday. They have come at a good time really. We believe Ellie was entering into a second phantom pregnancy. She was showing all the signs again. However, Bert and Ernie seem to have distracted her, which is a good thing as we want to get her spayed next month.

So far, they are proving to be good dogs. An occasional bout of energy, but they spend most of their time sleeping together. They really are very cute when you see them together....

In other news, Ellie is doing well. As mentioned already, she is on the cusp of another phantom pregnancy, but we're hoping that she will through this one as we so desperately want to get her spayed next month. Aside from that, it can't be nice for her. The discomfort in my fingers has now turned to bouts of pain as opposed to just discomfort, which is not helped, I suspect, by the cooler weather we are experiencing. I shall be very glad to get to the hospital at the end of November. There are already certain tasks that I am finding quite challenging and it is this that I want to remedy more than anything. Luckily, I can still operate my camera, but the time spent at the computer to process the photos, is just too much at the moment, due to my fingers being locked around the mouse for prolonged periods. I am shortly purchasing a brand new professional camera so that the time needed to make post-processing edits is minimised. That should help me incredibly. (Not to mention those who are waiting to see their photos, I suspect.)

My brain seems to have dried up in regards to thinking up new tricks for Ellie to learn. Maybe it's just because we've had quite some time of having Jan's mum's illness to deal with, as well as the problem of my fingers. Jan's mum is now at peace and hopefully things will start moving on my fingers after the hospital visit so that we can get back to normal at Barkingham Palace.

Finally, both Jan and I would like to thank everyone who helped us both during the illness and passing of Jan's mum, Mavis. Whether that help came by way of cards or messages of support, offers of dog-sitting, company, or anything else, it was hugely appreciated. Thank you.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Tribute to Mavis....

Mavis Portrait
At around 20:30 tonight, we received the terrible news that Jan's Mum, Mavis, passed-away after her cancer. It is common to read of people passing away after 'losing their battle with cancer' but that wouldn't be the right statement in this case. Battle infers some sort of struggle and she never once struggled. Mavis never really battled with cancer. She lived with her illness courageously, with dignity, and without one word of contempt or self-pity. She took the available treatments, even the experimental ones, but always accepted, from the day she heard the news, that she had to be positive and live on as normal, as though she never had it. In fact, she once told me, when I asked her how she dealt with it, that she didn't have cancer. She just had 'something' and that is what the doctors were treating. What it was, she didn't need to know.

It is fitting that I write this entry in Ellie's blog as Mavis loved Ellie so very much. She never tired of seeing the new tricks she was learning on her many visits, and she constantly told anyone who would listen what a good dog Ellie was and how many different things she could do. When on the phone, she would always ask how Ellie was. Ellie, in turn, rewarded her fondness with her usual enthusiastic licks and wiggles. We will remember, with great fondness, the times that Ellie and Mavis shared together. Indeed, only a week before her death, Ellie enthusiastically jumped onto Mavis's bed to make sure she got her goodbyes in too. We all perhaps like to think that our dogs know things in such circumstances, but what I will say is that seconds after I received the news of Mavis's passing, Ellie jumped onto my knee and just laid there. Maybe she just reacted a change in my mood, who knows. Draw your own conclusions, as I will.

From a personal perspective, I have a great deal to be thankful to Mavis for. Around five years ago, I was seriously ill and, without her selfless support, in so many aspects, I probably wouldn't be alive to write this piece now. She gave so much of her time and helped in so many ways throughout those many many months. And that really was the essence of Mavis - selfless and giving. My own life has been such that I was never really able to experience normal family life. Mavis gave me a decade of real motherly love, caring, and affection, and for that I shall remain so eternally thankful.

Both Mavis and I were avid snooker fans and she would come and stay with me each year to watch the televised events. Something that I always looked forward to. Before she died, she told me, "When you watch that snooker, remember, I'll be there." And you know what, I reckon she just might be. Though I suspect that watching those events might be a little tougher for a while.

Mavis, if you're reading, thank you, and let's hope for a Mark Selby win this year, eh? Love you always.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It must be love, love, love....

It's a busy time for home-boarding here at Barkingham Palace. I now have the rest of this week free, and then it's dog guests pretty much all the way through October, with half of November potentially booked up too already! Still, that means we must be getting something right.

For the past two weeks and a few days, we've had Caesar and Cleo, a pair of wire-haired Jack Russell Terriers, staying with us. They've stayed with us before, but never for that length of time. It was an absolutely amazing stay.

Because they stayed with us for longer, we got to see more of their personalities this time. They are just two of the most charismatic dogs I've ever known. Cleo has a habit of always sleeping under her blanket, but she forgets that she is under there when she wakes up. Ergo, you just just see a blanket hovering across the floor. Caesar, now he's a one dog laughathon from start to finish. He loves to be the centre of attention and will do almost anything to make sure that he is. Caeasar and I gravitated towards each other from the very start. He is everything that I love in a dog - he's cheeky, he's energetic, and just so full of spirit! He could also sleep for England. I don't think we have ever laughed as much as we have with these two. I did consider keeping them but I think their owners, Max and Becky, were onto my plan pretty early on. Foiled again!

I was supposed to be enjoying my regular walk with (whisper) my favourite dog (end whisper) Teal'c the Rotweiller, yesterday evening, but Jan's Mum was taken into the hospital the night before. I think I have mentioned before, but if not, Jan's Mum has terminal cancer, with only an expected few months to live. However, she's a tough ol' Northern gal, and keeps on defying the odds. God bless her. All being well, she should be out of hospital again today.

Anyway, I naturally cancelled my walk with Teal'c but am trying to squeeze one in before the end of the week when we take another dog in for over two weeks. I have to get my regular Teal'c fix, you know. And secretly, going by the way that poor ol' Sue (Teal'c's owner) gets dragged to my door when she arrives, I think Teal'c likes to get her Maz fix too. :) What can I say - I'm a dedicated Rottie fan through and through...

Then, in between dog stays, we've been trying to decorate and get some bits done around the house. We have to try and make things dog-proof as much as possible so it's always quite a challenge, but I think we have a decent enough balance.

On the issue of my ailing fingers, blood tests have now ruled out rheumatoid arthritis and gout. (Gout was never really an option but it had to be ruled out before the next stage.) The latest theory is that my immune system has gone a little crazy and is attacking my own joints because it doesn't recognise them as belonging to me. Apparently, it's not as uncommon as it sounded to me at first. I also believe this is essentially what arthritis is anyway. So it's a referral to the rheumatology department at the hospital now for further tests. Suffice to say that my fingers are still immensely painful at times, particularly when they get cold. I'm having to use my laptop for much of the time now as resting my fingers over the mouse for prolonged periods seems to make them much worse too. But I'm confident that we'll get to the bottom of it and get rid of the problem as easily as I seemed to encounter it.

Oh yes, and then there is Ellie. Remember her? A Border Collie? :) She has been doing great. It's fair to say that her training has lessened of late, because of other things going on, but that will get restored in due course.

She's being amazing really, considering the number of different dogs that come into her space. She seems to get much more bent out of shape over bitches then dogs. When the two JRTs come, for example, she obsesses over Cleo but barely notices Caesar. It must be a woman thing. :) That said, she always laid down with Cleo, not Caesar.

Our latest game is that I drop the ball surreptitiously as we are walking. Then, at some random point I will call 'Ellie, find it!' and she has to find the ball. She's really very very good at it! I'm going to start doing it with other objects soon I think. I'm very impressed that she never gives in searching. I've also become better at not giving any clues away as to the location of the ball. I try my hardest to stand like a statue. Not easy on these colder morning I can tell you!

So there you have it - a busy but fine time at Barkingham Palace. Until the next time...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Confined to the Barracks

It's not been the best of times lately here at Barkingham Palace. Ellie has been confined to barracks because she's in season and the discomfort in my fingers continues to plague me. We have now ruled out rheumatoid arthritis (which is some relief) and I have now had x-rays done on both hands to see if that reveals the cause. The theory at the moment is that it's some sort of reaction to my recent staph infection and that it could go away by itself in, wait for it, a few months! All I know is that it isn't getting any better at the moment. As a result, my photos and my work are suffering more than I would like and I know people are still waiting for photos from me and I have other projects that I have fallen behind on too. All in all, just not a great time right now.

So, while Ellie has been a little miserable at her lack of activity, I've found some relief in my second favourite dog in the world, Teal'c the Rottweiler. Sue, (Teal'c's - that's a tough name to add apostrophes to - owner) has come over to Barkingham Palace a couple of times in the last few days and I've joined her and Teal'c on nice walks on the local farm fields. It's been quite a relief to have an excuse to get out and walk. (Thanks, Sue - really appreciated!) Walking around on your own, particularly as a man, is no fun and, such is the paranoid way of the world these days, it often meets with some rather suspicious looks.

However, going by Ellie's reaction to Teal'c when she has come in the house, I think that Ellie will be over her season by the end of next week. Hoorah! This season has been, by far, the worst ever in terms of her being grumpy and snappy.

There is good news on the horizon - the Doodles (Ceasar and Cleo) are coming for just over two weeks next Friday. You know how some dogs just grow on you really effortlessly? Ceasar (who I have personally renamed Maxamillion, though I am having a hard job convincing his owners of the merits of such a change) is one such dog.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Illness Strikes at Barkingham Palace...

It's been a busy and challenging time here at Barkingham Palace. Aside from Jan's Mum's deteriorating health, I too have had some recent health issues of my own. I am currently getting over yet another staphylococcus infection that has resulted in many sleepless nights and quite a degree of discomfort. I also had to have a blood-test yesterday to test for rheumatoid arthritis in my hands and fingers. Over the past few weeks, I have developed an increasing degree of discomfort and immobility in my fingers, particularly in my right hand where even holding a full kettle has become quite a challenge at times. And so, I'm currently on antibiotics for the staph infection, and anti-imflammatories for the suspected arthritis. My only real concern is that, if it worsens, how will it ultimately affect my photography and my weight-lifting? Both are pursuits that I enjoy very much. In fact, photography has started to become a part of my living of late. We'll know whether it is arthritis on the 28th of August. This is the date we're also looking to see what, if anything, can be done about the recurring staph infections. As a result of this, I'm now way behind on photo processing and things just aren't as organised and as fluid as I normally like them to be. I'm really not very good at all at not being organised! I am ruled so much by organisation and structure. But it's not really me you are interested in is it? It's Madame...

Before illness struck the household, we'd been to a fun-day held by our training-centre manager. It was a hot and sunny day but a fun day. I guess the clue is in the title for that one really - fun day. Alas, Ellie didn't win a thing all day long. We have complained to the management, of course, and wished them all the best despite their obvious bias and blindness to real Border Collie beauty. :) I have several photos that I need to wade through from the day, but the reasons stated above, they are still in the queue.

Ellie is in season again. She's in the first stage at the moment. That means she is clingy, a little bit more grouchy than usual, but oh-so loving. Assuming there is no phantom pregnancy this time, she is getting spayed after this season, for sure!

As I write this entry she is nudging my leg to try and win an invite to come and lay on my desk. It's her new thing - she waits for me to lay a blanket on my desk and then she just comes and lays on it while I work. It's a hard life isn't it? For the record, I didn't even get to complete that sentence before she'd won me over and was laid on the desk looking smug and self-satisfied.

I'm not sure what new things she has learned since my last entry. I know for certain that I taught her to retrieve my shoes for me. She loves retrieving objects and it never ceases to amaze me how well she can differentiate between the various objects that I ask for. She will also now pass items of clothing from the laundry basket into your hand as you are ironing. She seems especially proud of herself as she does that one!

Guess who we had come to stay with us over the weekend? The Doodles! What? You can't remember them? Shame on you! They are two Jack Russell Terriers, Ceasar and Cleo. They converted me from someone who didn't much care for JRTs to someone who loves them. Well, these two at least. I can't promise to feel the same for all of the breed!

In terms of home-boarding dogs, they are the near perfect guests. They pretty much leave Ellie alone, are fun to have around, but also know when to just chill out and relax, and well, I think I've taken to Ceasar in a big way. From the first day we had them on the previous visit, he and I seemed to naturally gravitate towards each other. I think it's because he's quite pushy in his own way. Cleo is a little more reserved and cautious. Ceasar? He doesn't give a damn. Because I wasn't feeling my best when they came to stay, I kept falling asleep on the sofa in the afternoons. It must have been quite a sight with all four of us taking up the sofa!

Talking of the doodles, they have their own website now. Yes, they even write the entries themselves! (I believe Ceasar does this on his personal iPhone.) Please do drop them a visit and say hi.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Photos and Attacks

After being invited along to take photos of the dogs and owners, I spent this weekend at the CLA Game Fair at Belvoir Castle where our training group was holding another canine display event. If I've done things correctly, you should be able to see some of the resulting photos in the corner of this post. If not, you can view them (along with others) at my new gallery. You can now purchase my works from there too.

Ellie was unable to attend as, with it being a game fair, there was a lot of gunshots. That is a sound that she just can't cope with.

It really was a great weekend. The weather held out for us, there were plenty of people to watch the events, and just loads of dog-related stands to visit and displays to watch. From my perspective, it was a dog photographer's paradise. My dog photography seems to be more and more in demand and that is obviously something that I am delighted about.

I really love the challenge of photographing dogs. It's not like portraits or weddings where you can, to some extent, take your time, arrange the subject, set up the shots and set the ideal lighting. At dog shows, you have to wrestle against thousands of people walking in front of you, dogs moving from position, changing weather, and a whole raft of other challenges. Getting that one shot of the dog or of the dog and owner sharing time together makes it all worthwhile. I can't imagine another avenue of photography that I would or could enjoy more. That people are impressed enough to want to spend their hard-earned money on my photographs is just the icing on my cake.

On Sunday, Ellie was attacked, quite savagely, by a terrier. We were walking to the park as we do most days. We turned a corner and there was a terrier bowed in the middle of the road, off leash, and with its owners walking behind it. Instantly, the owner looked at me and said "Sorry", as the dog launched itself right into Ellie and began to attack. The only thing I could do is use my feet to try and keep it off her. I just refuse to pick a dog up and cuddle it during a fight as that can only serve to (a) get my hands bitten, and (b) encourage Ellie to be scared. As we all know, that is something she does perfectly well without my assistance.

I continued to use my feet to push the terrier away and break them apart. All the while, the owner was trying to get hold of his dog but kept getting bitten, making me glad that I didn't use my hands to break them apart. All tolled, the attack lasted for about three to four minutes. Aside from receiving a few choice words from me, I also managed to kick the stupid owner. It wasn't on purpose, but I had my foot under his dog ready to launch it off again. The dog moved as the owner knelt down to try and get hold of it once more. Because the dog had moved, my foot landed clean in his face very firmly. I felt quite glad about that after the event. What really angered me was the response I heard the woman owner say as we walked off. "That's because that dog was on a lead." Oh yes, how stupid of me! Your dog is out of control because my dog was on a leash. Excuses, excuses...

Once we got onto the field, Ellie was clearly very different, very distracted, and very nervous, particularly when she saw a white bag blowing across the field. All I could do is try and carry on as usual. This continued for the next few days and it has taken her a few days not to jump into alert mode each time we turn that same corner. Apparently, Ellie was fine at training with other dogs last night and this morning she seemed more like her usual self (though she now stops if she sees other dogs in the distance). I am sure I can get her back to her old self in time. It certainly could have been much much worse. There was no physical damage to Ellie.

In other news, I am currently finishing off a new website that I have designed and developed for a UK dog trainer, and then I will be starting to build a new website primarily for UK dog lovers and dog owners, which I shall be running with a friend. Watch this space for more news on that...

Ellie's training is going well, and I'm currently reading The Dog Rules by Kyra Sundance. Watch this space again for my review when I finish it. Usually, I read a book in just three hours or so. I'm so busy at the moment that I have to keep reading a few pages before I go to sleep at night.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Great End to a Perfect Week...

My week has been one of immense pleasure. If you recall from my previous entry, I was home-boarding Teal'c, the Rottweiler, from Sunday through to Friday. Would it be melodramatic or unfair to say that I have felt more 'at home' and at ease this past week, than I have in a long time? There is just something about the Rottweiler breed that makes me feel at home in their company.

In some ways, you perhaps have to know Teal'c to fully appreciate the situation. She is not a well dog all-tolled. She has a heart condition, and has had a torn crucial ligament in her rear leg resulting in her having an almost permanent limp, and I think it fair to say, she has gained a few pounds as a result of these things. Her medication routine is certainly not for the faint-hearted, and I am damn sure the monthly vet bills would be enough to reduce many of us to a catatonic state! Oh, and she 'growls' profusely when you stroke her. (It's just her 'talking' and she does it when she gets excited as far as I could tell.) But you know, someone forgot to tell Teal'c all of this. She has the spirit of an adolescent dog that just will not acknowledge that she should be taking things easy, and I love her dearly for it.

As I walked her one morning, it must have seemed like a demonstration of the evolution of man as we trekked across the farm fields. There was Ellie, who at only two years of age, was rushing out in front, oblivious to the ravages of age and constantly looking back to see what was taking us 'old timers' so long. Then there was me. I keep fit as much as I can, but I have to accept that I'm forty now, and so running is not something I do on such rough terrain, and then behind me, there was Teal'c limping along. I found myself talking to the dogs more than usual. "It's alright for you bumface, running off ahead. You wait until you are her age. Won't be so funny then will it? We won't see those amber eyes glowing quite so brightly then, will we?". Ellie, of course, just looked at me with her famous amber-eyed gaze and ran on ahead. Not a care in the world, that girl.

Teal'c II
For Teal'c, I found myself uttering words of reassurance as we walked. "Don't worry, gal, nearly there", I would say as she limped along. Though something tells me that 'woe is me' limp effect might all be a cunningly crafted ruse. A little later, as I walked along a street to return home, two squirrels crossed the road in front of us. Limp? What limp?! It was like trying to hang on to a wild stallion, I tell you!

I also learnt some things about people too. There was a woman who, since having Ellie for two years now almost, I have routinely spoken to on many occasions. She has a small spaniel and we have frequently been on the same playing field together. She has even complimented me on my training and how well I handle dogs, before today. So, I was a little put-out when, upon seeing that I had a Rottweiler with me on the field, she quite literally turned on her heels with her dog and went home, even though both dogs were clearly focused on me and in no way a threat in the least. Good grief, she could probably have outrun Teal'c if she'd stopped to learn a little more about her instead of pandering to preconceptions.

Suddenly, teenagers want to talk to you when you have a 'Rottie', and you hear conversations behind your back about how someone once knew a dog who bit a neighbour, and it wouldn't let go. It looked like that one. These things sadden me deeply. If only they could see what I, and clearly Sue and many others, can see in the breed. It really is a crying shame, particularly with a dog like Teal'c. I believe, such is Teal'c nature, for example, that she is one of the adult dogs on the puppy socialisation walk today.

Now, in other news... The book is here! The book is here! Finally, it is in my hands. I am very very pleased with it. There is only one photo that I am not happy with the quality of and that is the one of me, so I shall change that before people are able to buy it, but that can be done in a minute. So, expect to see those permission forms at training class soon! I'll be passing my copy of the book to Lorraine and Christina so that people can view it at class as soon as possible. Until then, here are some photos...

My New Book
My New Book
My New Book
My New Book
My New Book

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Eight hours and fifteen minutes to go..

Teal'c and Me (Photo by Lucy)
As I depress the first key on my keyboard to write this entry, it will be eight hours and fifteen minutes before I am in dog heaven. Yes, Teal'c, the Rottweiler, is coming to stay with me for four nights. I make no secret of my love for Teal'c. She's the 'rottie' that I didn't allow myself to have. Whenever I see her, I honestly to try to hold off from stroking her for at least a minute (it seems only polite) but nature just pulls me forward and my plan goes out of the window.

The truth is that Rotties are, by far, my favourite breed and I nearly opted for one before getting Ellie. However, I had to weigh several factors in, and it's really about me, not the breed. You see, I carry more than my fair share of those indelible scars of misspent youth, tattoos. I have what those who have been unfortunate enough to have to see me personally might call quite a serious face, I train with weights, and I have short spiky hair. Now, never mind that I'm really quite well-spoken, am competent in more than one computer language, and, even if I say so myself, much prefer humour to conflict (age prevents me from running away too fast these days) I do have to accept that, at first glance, I look like what some wrongly consider to be the stereotypical Rottie owner. I had to ask myself if I really wanted to perpetuate that myth.

You might reasonably argue that had I have taken on a Rottie then I could have shown that it's not always the case. I agree with you. But let's say that my lovely Rottie did just happen to bite another dog, even if it was to defend itself, or just issue a cautionary nip even. People would look at that situation completely differently to how they would look at my scrawny Border Collie defending itself and fighting in the same situation. They wouldn't just see the contextual fight, they would see the tattoos, the dog, the fight and on the myth goes... It's wrong, but it's a sad fact. So that is why I didn't get a Rottie. Maybe when I'm a little older and look a little more ravaged by time. (Anyone who tells me that is not possible is going to be immediately scrubbed from my Christmas card list!)

But maybe even that won't happen as, of course, we now don't dock the tails do we? Charge up your hate mail generators, but I just happen to think that the Rotties look better with docked tails. I do. I've only seen one with a tail so far and I have to say that I didn't think it looked as good as those with docked tails. For people much younger than me, of course, it will soon make no difference as that is what they will be used to seeing. I have spent the past forty years seeing them only with docked tails. It is that complete package of line and form that I fell in love with. Yes, yes, I appreciate it's only superficial and it doesn't change the breed, but when you fell so deeply in love with something so specific, it's very hard to adapt to it again when it changes, even when that change is so relatively small.

But anyway, now you see why I love Teal'c so much. I get to play Rottie owner without feeling guilty about perpetuating the unreasonable myths. She has so much character and is so so gentle. And can you believe, they pay me too!? So if I'm not around for the next four days, you know why, I've died and gone to heaven!

P.S. It's now seven hours and forty-nine minutes... :)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Two Years

Two Years Today
It's official, Ellie is two years of age today! Yes, that timid wee puppy has grown and we've purchased her a new bandana to mark the occasion! I've wanted one for her for ages, but Jan wasn't so keen. I won, for a change!

So where are we at two years of age?

I have noticed quite a shift in the past three months. It's not a huge shift, but it's a shift regardless. Ellie seems a little more bouncy, a little more willing to test limits, and has more prolonged bouts of energetic enthusiasm. If you didn't know her, you'd still think she has low motivation and low energy (particularly for a Border Collie), but I, as her everyday walker and trainer, can see the differences. If I had to put a figure to it, I would say that she's about 20% more energetic, responsive, and 'buzzy' than she was about three months ago. On a good day, that can be raised to about 33%.

She still gets on with other dogs, though, as we planned and wanted, she doesn't really mix with other dogs as such when walking. The home-boarding has really helped her become more accepting of other dogs, and to this date, we've only had to turn away one dog. That was because Ellie was entering into her phantom pregnancy, thus elevating her hormone levels and making her far less tolerant of the visiting dog. When dogs do visit, she likes those dogs which leave her alone, but is capable of issuing a growl, or even a quick reprimanding nip, if the visiting dog doesn't stop pestering her, or behaves a little too energetically around her. Like many young Border Collies, she can tend to fixate on moving dogs, giving them the 'collie eye' and trying to force their path. I think she thinks they must be sheep!

She now weighs 14.2kg, which, as you might expect, is at the lower-end of the Border Collie weight range for bitches. (12-19kg), and is still on a Burns dry food diet.

With regards to training, she's now getting to the point where higher energy activities are becoming more commonplace, such as repeatedly jumping over my arms in a circle, or 'relaying' where I run and she has to run along at my side and place the ball into my outstretched hand. She seems to particularly like this activity.

She still isn't a food-motivated dog, preferring instead to work for her beloved tennis ball. Ideally she would have been spayed by now, but this time, her phantom pregnancy got in the way of the ideal time to have it done. So, once again, we'll need to wait until after her next season.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Beware the Doodles...

Cleo & Ceasar
I hope that I don't upset anyone when I say that I don't naturally gravitate towards Jack Russell Terriers (JRTs). I think we all have our own preferences when it comes to dogs, and that is what makes dogs such a success - there really is a breed for everyone. I just happen not to be a natural 'small dog' person.

Given the above, you can imagine that I wasn't particularly looking forward to home-boarding not one, but two JRTs (Ceasar and Cleo) at the same time. Don't get me wrong, you only have to spend ten minutes in my company to see that I love all dogs and communicate with them far more happily and confidently than I do with humans, but again, we all have our natural choices and JRTs just haven't featured on my radar before.

Well, they've been and gone, and do you know, I loved every minute of having them here. Everything about their visit just went so well. Their owners, Max and Becky, were two of the most down-to-earth, warm, and friendly people that I think we've ever met. (Jan and Max seemed to be in iPhone heaven together, while Becky and I were left to do the adult stuff.)

We realised that their dogs featured centrally in their lives and that they had the same loose regard for canine rules and regulations as we have. The dogs can sleep on the bed, jump on the furniture, etc. What's important is that the dogs feel part of the 'family'. Obedience has its place, of course, but let's not forget, our dogs are first and foremost, bringers of huge joy and happiness. Being allowed on the sofa and bed from time to time seems a small price to pay for that.

For two dogs that live together, they are quite different to one another in personality. Ceasar is the more confident and out-going, while Cleo is the more reserved. She's still confident, but just seems to appreciate and be happy with her own company. Suffice to say that Ceasar staged a silent revolution and stole my heart in just a few hours. It wasn't long before he was falling asleep on my knee at the computer desk, and on the second night, he went to sleep with me on the bed. Resistance was futile, he was such a charmer. Cleo was happy to come and get some attention from time to time, but was happier still for Ceasar to hog the limelight.

All in all, two of the nicest dogs we've had come to stay with us, and certainly two of the nicest owners. We have them again in September, for two weeks, and, who'd believe it, I'm actually looking forward to a JRT! :)

Tomorrow, we have the return of Monty, the black pug. He's our most frequent guest by far. I think he deserves his own parking spot by now. :)

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Busy Season

As most dog owners will tell you, this time of year is always the busiest, and it's no different in this house. The warmer weather and longer days means that we get to venture out to different places, see some shows, meet up with fellow dog-owners, and train new behaviours. It also means that, in our case, we get more dogs coming to stay as people go away on their annual holidays. Shown in the picture to the left, is our most recent visitor, Sally.
At Bourne Woods
We also met with John, Sandy, and their dog, Barney a few weeks ago. We took our dogs around the local Bourne Woods. Now, usually, I'd publish dozens upon dozens of photos from such places, wouldn't I? So why not this time? Numpty that I am, I forgot to switch on the anti-shake system on my camera. When I got home, I noticed that all of the photos were quite blurred. It still didn't occur to me what had happened, and I just presumed that, as I'd been running quite a bit, that perhaps my breathing was making more movement in the camera than usual.
The next day, the same thing happened, only that time I hadn't been doing any running. I was actually starting to question whether I was starting to get shaky hands in my old age! It was then that I noticed I hadn't turned on the anti-shake system. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Sorry John and Sandi, and of course, to Barney who did his best to show us all that he is over his fear of water.

Regardless, it was great to catch up with them. We've home-boarded Barney before. To this day, he's still the only dog that has managed to get Ellie to cave in and play with him! That's quite an achievement I can tell you!
In other news, we had to home-board Ellie over the weekend, as we went away to Jan's Mum and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary. It is the first time that she has been away from me overnight. In fact, the longest she has ever been away from me is about five hours I think. All in all, she did very well I'm told. A bit 'stressy', watching at the door but overall she coped well. When we were reunited, the first thing she did was thrust a tennis ball into my hand. I get the feeling I am little more than her personal ball-launcher. :)

This coming weekend we have two dogs being home-boarded. This will be the first time that Ellie has had to cope with two dogs. They are both JRTs, comically nicknamed 'the Doodles'. They seemed to get along on the initial visit and so it should be fine. In fact, May is pretty much fully booked with dogs! And let's not forget, it's Ellie's second birthday this month too! Wow, that has come around quickly!

In training terms, I'm currently working on the Silvia Trkman Heel method with Ellie. We're at the very first stage. She is now going around and getting clicked when she touches my leg. Though I don't yet see that she has put the two together. It seems to me that she hasn't quite registered it's the touching of my leg that is bringing the reward, not the moving around. She's also much better at going one way than the other. But we'll get there. This was always going to be a hard one to teach as Ellie gets very nervous and timid in a heel position. We've no idea why, but think it's my height. It will probably, therefore, do her good to be receiving frequent treats to be touching my leg.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Silvia Trkman Heel

Regular readers will know that I worship at the church of Silvia Trkman. I love her natural and relaxed training methods, her seemingly effortless approach to training, and how she conducts herself in terms of just getting on with training her dogs. She is confident enough not to have to join the pointless arguments over which training methods works best and which television dog trainer is best and why Ceasar Milan shouldn't be on TV (Yawn). Check any dog-training forum for endless examples of these things. I can also say, having emailed her before today, she is also extremely generous with her time and her sharing of knowledge when asked.

Such is the dedication to my genuflecting idolatry, I'm almost able to spot a Silvia Trkman influnced dog within a minute, particularly when the dog is performing heelwork. However, I've never known how she teaches her heel. Until now...

Barbie demonstrates the Silvia Trkman method with her new puppy, Tani.

And in case you are wondering why Barbie is demonstrating the method, she is taught by Silvia. Makes sense now doesn't it? :)

Friday, May 1, 2009

ICC Dogs - The Book

A wee surprise for those who attended the Belton International Horse Trials. Owing to the overwhelming (and very flattering) response to the photos that I took over the event (including offers to purchase individual prints which I am unable to provide on this occasion) I've decided to have a book printed.

Regardless of whether people who attended are interested in purchasing the book or not, I am having one printed for myself anyway as I just happen to like the photography.

The book will contain upto 80 pages and will feature the best photos that I took from the weekend. It will measure approximately 7"x7" and be hardback with a printed photo-sleeve.

Of course, there is an issue of permission to work through first. I need to obtain permission from those who will feature in it, particularly from those whose faces will feature within the pages. I will be working with Christina to find the best way to achieve this. My idea at the moment is that I will issue some release forms for people to sign at their next training class. Individuals would then need to sign them in order to grant permission for their image to be used in my book, and for them to state their understanding that they are not entitled to finanacial compensation for doing so.

Rest assured that if I do not get your permission then no photo(s) featuring your face will appear within the pages.

Naturally, I'm eager to find out the level of initial interest and so have included some images below which show exactly how the book will look. Feel free to comment or ask any questions you might have here, or email me at


Front Sleeve (Inc Spine and Inner Leaf)
Sample Book Shots
Rear Sleeve (Inc Spine and Inner Leaf)
Sample Book Shots
Sample Internal Pages

Sample Book Shots
Sample Book Shots
Sample Book Shots
Sample Book Shots
Sample Book Shots
Sample Book Shots
Sample Book Shots
Sample Book Shots
Sample Book Shots
Sample Book Shots

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Still Growing...

Getting Ready...
Members of the ICC Canine Display Team will be pleased to read that the number of photos in the ICC Dogs & Events set is still growing!

I'm now adding the more generic photos that were taken during the events. Forgive me if they are not as endearing as the more personal 'portrait style' photos, but that's just the nature of things and I'm afraid that I am much more of the 'arty-farty' type when it comes to photography.
Christina and Ruach
Again, there are still loads more to wade through so bear with me. As before, if there are any you would like me to email to you in full size, please do just ask via email: young.maz@googlemail

I'll keep adding a few more each day until I've added all the decent ones, or until I've dropped dead from exhaustion. :)

There are some photos that need the names of dog and/or handler filling in. If you are able to tell me who they are, please do let me know.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Alas, no Teal'c

Teal'c and Me (Photo by Lucy)
Firstly, I must say a thank you to Lucy for allowing me to use her photo of Teal'c and me that she took at Belton. Please do drop by her blog and see what her super-smart dogs are up to. Between you and me, I am thinking of stealing her dog, Trent, for my own selfish trick needs.

As readers will know from a previous entry, I was going to be home-boarding Teal'c the Rotweiller for a few days from tomorrow. Alas, I received a call today to say that she has suspected kennel-cough. Aside from the risk this could pose to Ellie if we took her in, we also have Jan's Mum staying with us from tonight, who has a compromised immune system, through her cancer treatment. Ergo, there's no viable way that we could home-board her. I'm gutted. I've been looking forward to home-boarding her for months now!

I really hope that she gets well soon. She's in my top three dogs that I just love to death.

Now I need to dedicate some time to Ellie. She's been a little neglected over the past couple of days, due to me processing videos and photos and decorating the spare bedroom. Next time, I'm training Ellie to do the painting!

Belton Videos are Done...

Phew, the rough uncut videos from Belton are off my camcorder and on YouTube at last. I've looked at that much video and that many photos my head is spinning.

The videos on YouTube are obviously of a much lower quality than what they were recorded in. This is for two reasons: 1. YouTube limits the maximum size and duration of each video, and 2. YouTube compresses each video as it is uploaded in order to save bandwidth costs. It is this that chiefly reduces the image quality.

However, fear not, I am working on a solution. Bear with me. I won't reveal it just yet as it many not even work yet!

In the meantime, I hope everyone gets at least a glimpse of themself in at least one of the videos. I tried to feature as many people and as many dogs as possible!

Back to editing photos for me...

I've added all the videos below so that they are in one handy spot...

Main Display Event

Puppy Socialising

Advanced Canine Obedience

Gail & Kez (Heelwork to Music)

Tricks Display

Christina and Team Encore

Belton Horse Trials - Christina and Team Encore

Final video showing Christina's routines and the final encore from the full team. Can I take a break now? :)


Belton Horse Trials - Canine Tricks Display

Members of the Icthus Canine Display Team perform some simple tricks for the crowds at Belton International Horse Trials, 2009.

Notice how my own dog, Ellie, moves much more slowly than the others? She's built for comfort, not speed. :)


Belton Horse Trials - Gail and Kez Heelwork to Music Routine

Gail and Kez, from the Icthus Canine Centre Display Team, perform a heelwork to music routine for the spectators at the Belton International Horse Trials, 2009.


Belton Horse Trials - Advanced Canine Obedience Routine

Here is the rough-draft video of the Advanced Canine Obedience held by our training centre, Icthus Canine Centre, at Belton International Horse Trials.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Belton: Puppy Socialising Video

Here is the rough-draft video of the Puppy Socialising demonstration held by our training centre, Icthus Canine Centre, at Belton International Horse Trials.


First of the Belton Videos

I've managed to edit a rough draft of the main canine display event that we took part in at Belton International Horse Trials. This is the first video. There are three or four others to follow, showing the puppy socialising, heelwork-to-music, etc.

Ellie is in there, though I've tried not to make it all about Ellie!


Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Belton Trials are Over...

We made it through the Belton Horse Trials without any real problems. A couple of the routines went a little wrong for one or two of the dogs, but not enough to spoil anything for the spectators. Overall, it went really well. I've got thirty minutes of fantastic video footage to get through and edit. Watch out for that in the next couple of days.

I have to say that I've loved every second of the last three days. What was there for me not to love? I was surrounded by a plethora of the most gorgeous dogs (especially Teal'cy, the Rotweiller who I am boarding next week), met some exceptionally nice people who were very patient with while I shoved my camera in their faces, and the weather was hot and sunny. In terms of photographs, it wasn't ideal taking photos in the midday sun, but I can't complain at all.
For the last day, I made a special effort to try to focus on the dog owners and the dogs, as opposed to just the dogs.

I hope that those who I captured will forgive me for my sometimes glaring errors, but I do hope that you are at least somewhat pleased with the final result, and that I've managed to do you and your canine friend(s) some justice.

Of course, I will always wish that I'd done x, y, or z a little better, but that's the artist in me.
Lucy and Ash II
I've lost count of the number of photos that I have to wade through and upload to my Flickr pages, but I took over a thousand. (Obviously, only the best few will see the light of day in the end.)

Ellie seemed to enjoy the outings and it also seems to have cured her of her fear of horses. Hey, if anything was going to solve it, I'd have put my money on it being her attending the Belton International Horse Trials.

You can view a slideshow of the dog photos, or view them individually.

Again, bear in mind that I'm still working my way through them all and so the set will grow each day for a while.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I Think I Died...

Give me a dog for a day and I'm likely to dribble excitedly in its company. Give me a camera and I'm liable to talk complete gibberish for hours at a time. Give me dogs AND a camera and I'm like a puppy that has just discovered that a toilet rolls rip when it sinks its teeth into it...

Yesterday was the first day with Ellie as part of the ICC Canine Display Team at Belton International Horse Trials. She, like all the other dogs that formed part of the team, behaved perfectly well, and performed her part of the routine as expected. Come the day and come the hour, all dogs did remarkably well.
Teal'c II
However, I have a confession to make... The event took second place for me after the sheer love of being armed with a camera and enough dogs to keep me snapping pictures all day long. I was so spoilt for choice that I returned home with a staggering 350 images on my camera. After throwing out the obvious poor ones, I'm still left with 180, and that was just from Friday. I then took another 100+ on Saturday, though I took quite a few of the horses and some from Woodland Waters, where we visited on the way home. Lord help me, I still have Sunday to go yet!
It's going to take me quite a few days to filter through the images, though I do have a few already in my Flickr album. I have created a dedicated ICC Dogs and Events set of images so that people can find their respective dogs more easily. You can also view them in a larger format slideshow, which I think is preferable.

Please bear with me. I'm adding images as and when I go through them. I'm adding the individual dog images first, then the photos taken during the routines. Also bear in mind that I don't have the email addresses of individuals from ICC, so if you happen to know someone else, please do point them to the album too, as they may well want to see their photos too.

If anyone is able to help me put names to any of the dogs (and handlers) shown in any of the photos, that would be great. I hate leaving my photos without proper titles. You can contact me at if you can name any of the dogs. You just need to provide the current title number (example: DSCF7761) and the names of those shown in the corresponding photo.

It was great to meet so many 'dog people' at the event on Friday and Saturday, and I look forward to seeing them all again for the final day, tomorrow. There are so many talented dogs...
Incidentally, the Rottweiler (Teal'cy) featured in the photo above is the one who is coming to stay with me for a week next week. I shall be like a child in a sweetie-shop! I so love that dog! She's like a big gentle bear and it's just my favourite breed.

And finally, the images shown online are a lower-resolution and much smaller size than I have on my computer. I have to do this in order to reduce upload times and enhance download speeds, etc. If anyone would like an original full-size and hi-resolution copy of any pictures shown in the album, please do let me know and I shall e-mail you an original copy.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What a Week...

There's been a smell of cheap chicken wings and gristle-filled sausages wafting through the streets of Grantham lately. It must be quite a refreshing change for the local dogs. After months of walking along the pavements with their noses pressed to the cold concrete pavements (presumably to help avoid walking into one of the many 'puppy puddings' that seems to be increasingly prevalent lately) they are now each adopting a more snooty pose, as they stick their noses in the air, as though fitted with the latest canine must-have, the Sausage Positioning System.

This, of course, can only mean one thing - barbeque weather has fallen upon us. I know this because not only are the dogs walking along while constantly looking towards the clouds, but because, as I write this, I am fighting the urge to itch my shoulders, back, arms and legs. Yes, as predictably as a Brit heading straight for a British pub once he lands on a Spanish runway, in my desperate attempts to appear like a Moroccan labourer, I have overdosed on sunbathing.

Because of the sun we're eperiencing at the moment and because I'd rather not stay as red as an embarrassed lobster in a Soho shop window for the next week or two, I've taken to walking Ellie only in the cooler mornings and evenings. Much nicer and much more relaxing. Well, you would think so wouldn't you...

We live quite close to where Virgin release their air-balloons. People apparently pay Virgin good money so that they can see what they see every day but from a different angle. I'm actually thinking of planting a tall tree in my garden and inviting people to do pay me to climb it, but I digress...

The other evening I was walking Ellie. All was right with the world. Ellie was cheerfully chasing the ball through the long grass of the fields, the cooling breeze was massaging my shoulders and arms, and I was my pointing my camera at the spectacle of the overhead balloon that was gently sailing through the air. Mr Disney himself would have struggled to improve the moment. All was right with the world until the balloon wafted directly overhead and filled with gas at the same time. Have you heard the noise it makes? No? Neither had Ellie. She scarpered and I had memories of last year, when she almost ran home after hearing her first crow-scarer.

After finally coming back to me, she then ran up to every person she saw, begging them to shield her from the overhead ogre (which had actually left us some time ago).

The next evening was not quite so pleasant. I have a very firm belief that when I walk Ellie, or any of the home-boarding dogs that I take on, my responsiblity starts and ends with the dog I am walking. I am not there to take charge of other dogs, use my dog as a plaything for their dog, or to share my time with their dog. In the case of home-boarded dogs, I am paid to spend time with them and I take that very seriously. Nobody pays me to not focus on their dog when walking. I may say hello to people on my way around the fields, but that is generally it. I prefer to focus on my dog(s) and keep them out of trouble. So far, it has worked very well for me.

A few nights ago I was walking Ellie along the local fields. They are farm fields and go on for miles. We were happily playing ball when suddenly I felt a German Shepherd Dog around my legs. The owner, a Polish woman who I have encountered before when her GSD kept perstering Ellie, seemed to make no attempt to do anything. I continued to walk as I always do. (Again, I will not alter my plans for another dog and dog owner.) A few minutes later, I turned around, ready to show my disgust at the dog-owner, to find that she had vanished. Just walked off. The GSD pestered us for at least ten minutes along quite a distance. By this time, I had believed that the owner had left her dog and I was beginning to formulate my plan for an exit. How was I going to get both dogs to my house with only one leash for a start? I just knew that I couldn't leave it alone in a field.

After about fifteen minutes I saw a dot on the horizon. The owner had finally made an appearance. I watched as the GSD went running back to her. Was she delighted to be reuinited with her dog? Was she pleased that, despite everything, her dog went back to her in the end? If she was either of these things, she hid it very well. I was forced to watch from the distance as she forced the dog to the ground, beat it twice with her hand, and then whipped it with the leash several times. It stunned me that I could hear the dog yelping from the mammoth distance that was between me and them. To be honest, I wish she had never returned and that I'd taken the dog home with me...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Belton Horse Trials Update...

Further to my previous entry, regarding Ellie being in the canine display team at Belton Horse Trials, here are the times for the display.

Friday 24 April at 12:30

Sunday 26 April at 12:30

Please note that there is also a display on Saturday, but we will not be taking part in that one.

Ticket details can be found on the official website.

Going by the information that I have received, look for the James Wellbeloved stand and we won't be far away! I'll be the one clicking my camera like a mad-man. Here's hoping that all goes well on the day...

Hope to see you there...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ellie Helps to Combat the Global Recession...

During a global recession, everyone, including the dog, needs to do their bit to help save money.

Here, Ellie does her bit by putting aside some coins. You know, for a rainy day...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Book Review: My Llife With George, by Judith Summers

There is always a fine balance to be struck when writing a good 'dog book'. It's too easy to write exclusively about the dog and fail to allow the reader to appreciate the entire context of the story.

This title avoids that trap by carefully weaving between the author's personal life - in particular the men who she attempts to integrate into the life she shares with her son, Joshua, and her troubled Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, George.

For me, there is no doubt that the author is responsible for many of her dog's personality issues, but no more so than the thousands of similar dog-owners who, rightly or wrongly, treat their dogs in the same anthropormophic manner as she treats George. However, in terms of the physical ailments and accidents that George suffers, that is just bad luck - something which runs throughout the story in many different ways.

The story provides a fascinating glimpse into a life where the dog is king, and where all subjects must ultimately bend to the king's will. It will make you laugh, it may even irritate you at times and perhaps, when dealing with the issues of the loss of a loved one, make you sad, but there is no doubt that, one way or another, it will leave a lasting impression on you, if only to leave you fretting at not having adequate pet-insurance cover. A fascinating read!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Ellie at Belton Horse Trials

I am pleased to be able to confirm that Ellie will be attending the Belton International Horse Trials this year, as part of a canine display team. We will be there on two dates: 24 and 26 of April.

The synchronised routine was practised for the first time last night and includes around thirty or so dogs and their handlers. The actual routine is only three and a half minutes long. However, there are then agility, heelwork-to-music, and trick displays. I heard a whisper that Ellie will also be taking part in the tricks section, but I haven't had that officially confirmed as yet.

Jan will be doing the handling on the day as, believe it or not, I'm quite the wallflower when it comes to publicity. So I shall be team photographer and videographer. That, I can do! :)

Thankfully, she's coming out of the phantom pregnancy. The only time she was a little unlike her usual self was when expected to weave between all the dogs. I'm sure that will calm down over the new few days, as her hormones return to normal.

So, if you happen to be a reader of this blog (and I know there are several who choose not to comment), happen to live in the UK, and are able to get to the Belton Horse Trials, we'd love to finally meet you!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Book Review: A Home for Rose

This is the second Jon Katz title that I have read. The first, A Dog Year, left me quite unimpressed. With that in mind, I wasn't expecting to enjoy A Home for Rose.

During the first three chapters, I felt the familiar disappointment, that I had felt in Jon's previous work, creeping up on me once more. I decided to stick with it regardless. I am so glad that I did.

Like digging for gold, there's a some hard grinding to get out of the way before you get to the real valuable material, but once there, the rewards are rich.

I loved the detail he gave throughout the book, particularly when referring to his new farm, Bedlam Farm, a place which I'm sure many of us Border Collie owners dream about in our sleep.

Jon purchases a farm so that he can give his dogs the life he always promised himself that he would give them, and let them herd sheep as they were intended to do. Little did he realise the work involved in maintaining a farm (complete with donkeys, sheep and three dogs) and surviving the harsh country winters.

The story is as much about Jon as it is about his beloved dogs. It's about Jon learning to accept help from new friends and neighbours, learning the real meaning of bonds (both canine and human), it's about him learning the harsh realities of living within a farm environment, and about making tough decisions, as he is forced to do with one of his dogs, Homer.

I really enjoyed the book (past chapter three) and was quite sad to get to the end. Defintely a book to curl up on the sofa and relax with. Just let Jon do the work of painting the pictures for you. Great book!

Have the tissues ready around chapter seven!

An Inspiring Video

Thanks go to Owner of Storm Glory and Rascally Jack for pointing me to this particular video. It shows a Border Collie going through around fifty different tricks.

I really loved the suitcase one! Enjoy...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

We each get the dog that we want...

Two heads are better than one...
They say that we each ultimatley get the dog that we want. Whether that is wholly true or not, I'm not really qualified to say. What I do know is that it's becoming true with Ellie.

Many people want a perfect dog. They get frustrated when the dog irritates them with its quirks and its bizarre behaviours. Me, I love these things. I always wanted a cheeky dog. I wanted a dog that would not be afraid to cajole me into giving attention, one that would dare to push the limits a little in order to see what she can get away with. Sure, I love the obedience and, I must say, I'm very proud of Ellie's obedience, but as she's getting older, she's getting a little more confident and it's this which brings me the most joy.

Recently I taught her to go and grab the telephone when it rings, or when she hears the word "phone". It's a great trick and skill. However, so delighted is Ellie with her new skill that I find myself being presented with a phone at every opportunity. Late evening, I can be laid on the sofa watching television, only to find Ellie sat on her hind legs, like a meercat, holding the phone in her mouth, right in front of me. She seems to appreciate that I can't see through her and so she's sure to win eventually. Her 'prize' is to get the tennis ball that is always in my pocket. I've tried ignoring her, but it's impossible. Impossible because, secretly, I don't really want to ignore her anyway. I think it's funny that she has the cheek to do it in the first place.

The other night, we seemed to have a contest. She grabbed the phone and brought it to me. I returned it as I hadn't asked for it. This continued for what must have been about ten times in succession. I gave in!

So do we really get the dogs that we ask for? I really do hope so!

In other news, I've finally managed to teach Ellie to bark on request. For some people, this is so easy. I've found it incredibly hard to master. Mainly because Ellie is rather a sedate dog and hard to excite. In the end I used a cheeky little method to get her frustrated. I taught her right and left a while back so that I can steer her at distance down different dirt tracks when we're walking, or, as has proved more valuable, to steer her towards the ball when she loses sight of it in the fields.

I began to thrust my arms so quickly that Ellie couldn't understand which way I wanted her to go, left or right. Eventually she got so frustrated that she began to bark. Bingo! I then took it from there and she now, finally, barks on command! Will I regret that? Some tell me that I will, but hey, when have we ever been confined by convention. :)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Book Review: Kate and Gin

The latest title to join my collection of dog-related books is 'Kate and Gin'. Many Brits will recognise the names from the UK talent show, Britain's Got Talent, where Kate and her Border Collie, Gin, wowed the audience and the judges with their doggy-dancing skills. Sadly, as good as the dancing skills may have been, the ability to author a worthwhile book is sadly lacking. The problems start right at the front cover and continue to the very last page. Let's start at the front cover:

LearN to DaNCe aND
DO tRiCKS WitH Kate aND GiN
StaRs Of

Yes, it really is written like that. Clearly, Britain doesn't have a talent for grammar or presentation. I don't much care for the style of the London 2012 Olympics logo either, but I'm assured that it is all the rage. So I'm happy to put my lack of appreciation for this particular style of typography down to my age or lack of good taste.

Don't get me wrong, after spending £9.99 (reduced from £12.99) on this title, I wanted to like it. I wanted to learn something from it, no matter how small. The reality is that I didn't. Aside from the book being poorly designed from cover to cover, it is so lacking in worthy content that even the slightest of breezes would send it wafting away.

A major criticism has to be levied at the colour photography; it's just awful throughout the entire book. Aside from the photographer being seemingly unable to get the subject to relax enough for her to ever look as though she's enjoying the experience, it's just poor quality, particularly when you compare it to titles such as '101 Dog Tricks' by Kyra Sundance, in which the photography really sells the book. The photos in Kate and Gin are dull, grainy, and often lacking in any sparkle or contrast. In many of the photos, the majority of the Border Collie seems to consist of just one big black shape with no muscle or definition. I know from personal experience that it's not easy to photograph black dogs, but from a professional photographer, I'm sure that more effort could be made.

The second criticism is of the page layout and design. Almost each page has a seemingly random and unexplainable mottled design running though it. It was perhaps added to make the content appear more exciting (perhaps to compensate for the lack of excitement shown by Kate in the photos) but it ends up just being supremely distracting and even a little irritating in places.

My final criticism is aimed squarely at the content. It's just too light. The publishers seem to acknowledge this too by having entire double pages of the dog, Gin, anthropomorphically writing her thoughts. I can't begin to tell you how irritated I got, having paid £10 to read the words of a dog so frequently. Perhaps if I was twelve I may have appreciated this a little more. As a forty year old, it was completely wasted abd unappreciated.

If you omit the basic obedience exercises, there are about 15 moves that Kate attempts to teach. Again, the minimum of effort seems to have been put into this area too. For example, in teaching one trick, you are advised: 'Throw one of your dog's favourite toys. He will most likely run to pick it up.' So what if my dog doesn't? What then? Again, this is where the book falls over completely when compared to titles from more confident, experienced, and able authors. There seems to be a lot of assumption from Kate that all dogs are like her own dog, Gin. The reality is that they are not, and this needs to be considered in such how-to books if they are to be worthy of their shelf space.

It may be that this book is aimed at children (though there is no notice of that) and if that is the case then many of my criticisms could be easily ignored. However, for an adult who is looking to teach their dog anywhere near to the level that they might have seen Kate and Gin perform, it is next to useless, and far too expensive for what it provides.

The book feels cheap from cover to cover and I suspect that there was a rush to capitalise on the Britain's Got Talent appearance. Like many of the talents on this show, I felt that this book was far more about turning a profit for the creators than giving the author any degree of respect or professionalism. Extremely disappointing book that I just can't recommend on any level, even to children.