Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Saffron Duvalier

Another week, another doogy guest. Let me introduce Saffy, or as I quickly named her, Saffron Duvalier.

Saffy is a six-month old cocker spaniel with a gorgeous personality to match her looks. She stayed with me three nights over this past weekend, and I loved every second of it!

She got on very well with Ellie who seemed to take very well to her too. Talking of Ellie, we're having quite a lot of snowfall here in the UK at present and, like most dogs, Ellie loves the snow! I shall try to grab some photos before it vanishes again.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I've had a baby...

Firstly, I have to mention my lack of updates again. Alas, the will is strong, but the time is lacking of late. My hope is that now the winter months are with us, I will have more time for tricks, photos, and stories of Ellie and our boarding guests.

However, let me tell you about my guest this weekend, Baby. She's a twelve-week old Chiweenie (Chihuahua and Dachshund cross). Naturally, I had to grab my camera.

Everything was right about this boarding. The owners were just some of the nicest, most down to earth, and friendly people I've ever met, and clearly genuine dog-lovers. I haven't met people as nice as these since I first met Max and Becky. The dogs, of course, always make boarding a reward, but when you gel with the owners too, that just makes it all the more pleasant for everyone.

Their dog, Baby, well, gorgeous isn't the word. I just adored every second of boarding her, even when she decided to cling to the bottom of my trouser leg as I walked around. Utterly, utterly gorgeous, and she looked even more so being carried around the field in my jacket.

Ellie, well, she's doing just fine. She continues to get better and better with the parade of dogs that come through our home. She's still a naturally jealous creature of course, but that's to be expected as she is used to having me to herself for much of the time. There are no new tricks to report but I can feel the urge to teach new ones biting at my backside.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Eddie the Babe Magnet

Some dogs steal your socks, while others steal your heart. Eddie (or Edward Woodward as I call him), does both!

You know how you see some dogs and just instantly fall in love with them? Eddie is one such dog. The pictures don't do him justice but he is a lovely honey coloured puppy, has crimped-looking hair on his head, ears to die for, and seriously, the most cute paws you will ever see on a dog. And to top it off, he spends as much time as possible pottering around on his back legs as though he thinks he is human.

I've just had the pleasure of boarding Eddie for a sixteen night stay. It's funny, when I walk my own dog, Ellie, nobody even seems to notice me with my plain mostly black dog walking dutifully beside me. But when they see Eddie enthusiastically thrusting forward, oh yes, then they want to know me!

Now, I know I know, the picture to the left looks a little, how can I say, rude? But that's Eddie - happy to parade himself around for all to see. In fact, he seems quite proud of his equipment! And come on, it's a funny picture!

In other news, not that I dare to imagine your lives are affected by whether I post to this blog or not, but I do feel a little guilty for not posting as frequently of late. All I can say in my defence is that the summer months are always my most busy and so the blog sometimes has to take a back seat. Please be assured that it will never be deserted.

Oh yes, my own dog, Ellie... She's doing fine and has been enjoying the summer walks, though I've also been trekking around the Peak District without her. Much to her dismay, I'm sure.

P.S. I see from the dog blogs that I follow, I'm not the only one who hasn't posted much lately. That's dogs for you - all the best shows and events are in the Summer.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

This Boots was made for swimming...

May is proving to be an incredibly busy and hectic month here at Barkingham Palace. Aside from dogs coming through for boarding, my photography is also starting to take quite a hold, with three potential weddings in the pipeline. Add to that, the end of year accounting, and I feel as though my calendar is starting to bend under the weight. If I were less of a maths dummy and didn't have the attention span of a house-fly, I could perhaps do the accounts myself, but that is why the good lord put accountants on this earth - they like sifting through numbers, invoices, and receipts, I hate it! Me, I like dogs. Talking of which...

I recently boarded another Border Collie. I say in another in the context of in addition to my own, Ellie. Boots stayed with me eleven nights, while her owner went on holiday. I've known of Boots for quite some time as her and her owner, Barry, take part in the same canine display events that we take part in, or I go along to photograph. But I'd never really interacted with Boots as such. In fact, the only thing that I did really now about her was that she had an excellent recall.

As it turns out, Boots is probably the most Border Collie Border Collie that I have met. You can just see the working parent stock running through her. She gets obsessed with moving things like the hoover, mops, etc. She'll occasionally even try to launch herself after a car if they drive past her on the walks. She is very timid but oh so loving too. In terms of her temperament, you just can't fault her. Around the house, you just don't know you've got her. Take her out and she's a powerhouse of energy, with a particular penchant for water!

I love water-dogs. Just love them! It's taken me the best part of three years to get Ellie confident in the water, (more on that later.) but Boots, at just twenty-two months of age, just propels herself into it like a speedboat. Lucky for us, we have a medium-sized pond in our local playing field.

Boots and Ellie seemed to get along fine and built a mutual understanding that if either of them were to 'Collie Nip' the other, then it would be responded to in kind.  (Most Border Collie owners will know exactly what I'm talking about here!) As both Boots and Ellie come from farm dogs, then they both have have strong natural BC instincts.

Now, more on the swimming. My best-friend Sue and I have been taking Ellie and her Rottie, Teal'c, to various locations over the past few weeks. As part of that, Ellie has been exposed to more and more water. She's never been a fan of water at all. There was a brief period about a year or so ago where she got brave enough to wade in to her belly, but never to swim. However, through the exposure we've been giving her lately, I am amazed and very proud to see that she will now swim as readily as any other dog. In fact, I believe that she would happily swim across a river now. I did take a great video of her new found skill but it's on my phone and the Nokia software I use to get it off doesn't seem to like Windows Vista. Still, there will be plenty more opportunities.

There will also be more photos soon as I have just purchased a new 'snappy camera'. It's great having all my professional camera equipment, but when we walk, we often take our rucksacks for food and there just isn't the room for my hulking great camera to come too. So I've just bought a handy pocket-sized camera that seems fit for purpose.

And finally... My dad doesn't care for dogs, and my mum really doesn't care for them either, and my brother was actually scared of them for many years. So where does my undying love of, and interest in, dogs come from? I now have the answer. I was recently given a large collection of old family photos, with a great many of my Granddad, now deceased. In almost all photos there is a dog, and, quite interestingly to me, never once is one of his dogs on leash, even in the more recent photos. The latter tells me that he either loved training his dogs or he just had a natural affinity with them. I do remember him through growing up, and I know he always owned large dogs as opposed to little ones. And I remember that he used to let them share his cups of tea from his saucer. My granddad did raise me for some time in my childhood and so it's likely that is where the love of dogs imprint came from. So there you go... I really hope to get some of the old photos scanned and posted soon too.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Swiss Army Knife of Dogs...

It's that time of year again; the boarding dogs are coming through thick and fast. Currently, as you can see in the picture to the left, it's the return of my most frequent boarding guest, Monty the pug. Only this time, Monty is not alone - he now has a new playmate, Cooper the Boston Terrier.

Though they both have entirely different personalities, they get on incredibly well. Monty is like an older gentleman; he likes his sleep and creature comforts. He's confident and sedate. It's really not unusual for him to be the last to wake up in the mornings. Cooper is entirely different; Cooper is a nervous play-machine. He's incredibly timid at times, but he loves nothing more than running around and jumping up at Ellie. Much to Ellie's dismay I should add.

I have them both until Saturday 8th. However, on Thursday 6th, I also have a Border Collie coming to join me. Am I mad? Just ever so slightly - I find it helps when looking after dogs. :)

In other news, I have to tell you why I am so exceptionally proud of Ellie this morning. I took all three dogs around the local farm fields for their morning walk. Half way around my walk I began to get a little warm. I decided to stop and remove my jumper. I placed the leads and my sunglasses on the ground, removed my jumper and tied it around my waist, before picking up my bits and competing my walk.

As I approached my home, I noticed something was missing; I had left my sunglasses on the ground where I took my jumper off. As it was so far away, I decided to drop Monty and Cooper off at the house, and then do the walk again with Ellie.

As I stepped onto the farm fields with Ellie, I thought I would just try something. Sometimes, around the house, I will hide a tennis ball and tell Ellie to "Find". She then methodically searches high and low for the ball, and generally always finds it. Would she do it for my glasses, I wondered? I said "Find" and watched as she ran through the beaten tracks. She dutifully returned with something in her mouth. "Good girl", I cried. "Good Girl!". I was presented with a stick! Not quite what I had in mind. I decided to make one more attempt. "Go find", I asked. Sure enough, she ran off again. She returned two minutes later. I could see the sun reflecting off something in her mouth. Hoozah! My sunglasses! And that, dear reader, is why I am so damn proud of my dog. She's like the Swiss Army Knife of dogs. :)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Going.... Going.... Gone....

Sue and I took Ellie and Teal'c to Beeston today. We walked along the River Trent, enjoying the Bank Holiday sunshine.

More important, Ellie finally learnt to swim; yes swim as in properly swimming! She's always been a bit wussy over water, preferring just to get her feet wet and letting Teal'd do the grunt work of wading into the deeper water to fetch the ball.

However, today Teal'c went on strike and so Ellie had a choice to make - swim herself or lose her precious tennis ball to the current of the river Trent. The lure of the tennis ball won. Sue and I threw the ball into progressively deeper water until Ellie was swimming around like a pro, even diving in at one point!

Then came the return home. Teal'c may not have been the best ball-retrieving device today, but she still made for a great pillow for a weary Border Collie...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sometimes it just works...

As part of the home-boarding, I regularly meet people as they come to the house and drop their dogs off. I even walk with and meet with some clients outside of any boarding arrangement. But sometimes, as was the case last May with Max and Becky, I get to meet people who really do stand out for just being so damned nice, down to earth, and full of good humour. This weekend I boarded a GSD named Taz (who I naturally renamed to Tazmaria Olmalero), and a Collie Cross (I think it's crossed with a Staffie) named Wilf (who I naturally renamed to Wilfred Bramble), owned by Graham and Lisa.

From the very first moment I met Lisa and Graham, I just knew I liked them. They were open, funny (believe me, I can't even own a toilet brush any more), and sociable. Their dogs were an absolute credit to them, and their GSD, Taz, has reminded me just how much I miss owning GSDs.

You see, before Ellie, I'd always owned GSDs, but grew disheartened as a result of the sheer number of them that have developed fear-aggression through the lack of nerve caused by the reckless over-breeding in the UK in recent years. Taz, while still only a few months old, seems set to be representative of the breed as I once knew them to be - courageous, loyal, steady in nerve, and with gorgeously rich and deep colours.

Having Taz for the weekend certainly reminded me just how much I miss the traits of the GSD - the laying in doorways to watch both the exits and the entrances, the leg hugging, and the constant look of alertness.

Ellie took to both of them without any issue. Wilf is quite a timid wee thing, though he also has a devilish side in him that likes to wind Taz up from time to time, while Tax is a typical young dog - always experimenting and finding out where the limits are. She did put herself right in Ellie's face at one point, but a quick growl and snap from Ellie quickly made Taz realise that's probably not the right way to behave.
Once they sorted boundaries and space out, they were all just fine and dandy.

I really do love watching how dogs communicate their feelings. They are so much better at it than we humans. They don't hold grudges, are always consistent, and are absolute masters of subtlety. Touch wood, despite all the dogs that have come through, we've never once had a fight yet. I believe this is because as each dog has come through, I've learnt more about their sometimes very subtle signals and how to interpret them. But I digress.

On Wednesday, Teal'c the Rottweiler arrives for a couple of nights! Teal'c is my surrogate Rottweiler. I see her just about every week as her owner, Sue, and I take dog walks together. I guess she's the dog that I never really allowed myself to have. :)

This afternoon's challenge, to teach Ellie to put herself onto the weighing scales. That should be an easy one to do. I don't see why I should be the only one who has to be reminded how much weight I am putting on as I get older!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Kizzie Whizz Bang

"I can't believe you've read her blog and still want to board her", "I think you're mad". There were just some of the lines that the owner said to me as she delivered her much-loved Labradoodle, Kizzie, to me for a weekend of home-boarding.

Kizzie is a five-month old Labradoodle, and, like all Labradoodles I've ever met and boarded, she is a live-wire. On her first night I decided to sleep downstairs with her as she is so young. I left the door of her crate open and figured that because I knew she was there, I would only sleep lightly anyway. I woke up to a really quite unique sound that, I hope, needs little more explanation than the next line gives; poor Kizzie had raging diarrhea. I got up and cleaned and disinfected the floors. This happened several times throughout the night. By early Saturday morning, after seeing the world through extremely tired eyes, even I was starting to thinking that maybe I was mad.

However, then the day moved on and I have to tell you, I really fell in love with Kizzie. She had been with me long enough by then to work out that standing by the back door would see her get let out, which helped with her runny tummy timing issues. But more importantly, I had learned that she's a really very inquisitive dog that would be just perfect for heelwork to music, trick training, or for assistance tasks. She has a natural curiosity and eagerness. When I washed my hands at the sink, she jumped in the bath, placed her paws on the sink edge, and began to lap the water. When I polished, she wanted to take the cloth, when I took my shoes off, she wanted to take them. With both the latter things, I encouraged her by briefly letting her hold each item before taking it from her. (The owners had stated that I was free to teach her new things.)

You see, to me, a behaviour is only a bad behaviour if you can't find a use for it. If a dog will take your shoe then you have half of a "Fetch my shoes" routine. If a dog will steal your duster, then you have half of a "Do the Dusting" routine. You see my point? It's all about how you channel these behaviours. But I digress. My point is that I see Kizzie as one of those special dogs that has all of the enthusiasm and the intelligence to really be quite a remarkable dog.

I've boarded many dogs where I've fallen for their charms, and loved having them around. However, Kizzie is the first dog that I've thought, "you know what, I'd have that dog". Such is my belief in her capacity for excellence.

As it happened, I ended up sleeping downstairs with her each and every night of her stay as she just wasn't able to go all night without the diarrhea. The difference though was that she was now wise enough to wake me and let me know she needed to go. Another sign that she's a really smart dog. This morning, I woke up to the sight of Kizzie laying by my side, on her back, with all four paws in the air. Her nose was tucked into my ear, snoring away without a care in the world.

You can read more about Kizzie in her regularly updated blog.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ellie Sings the Blues...

Here it is, by popular demand... Ellie Sings the Blues!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Things can only get butter...

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of home-boarding a new guest - Charlie. You know, I don't know what it is, but the dogs I am receiving for boarding lately just seem to be getting better and better. Charlie is an eight year old with the spirit of a three year old. He would happily run and play when I took him out, but he also just loved to lay on my chest as I laid on the sofa to watch television. He got on very well with Ellie and with all the other dogs we met on our walks too. Seriously, how can I not love what I do? I wouldn't swap it for the world. It's dogs like Charlie (and several others I should add) that remind me why I love the company of dogs as much as I do.

In other news... Who knew - Ellie can sing! I discovered this by accident the other morning. I was laid in bed and Ellie was laid on me as she tends to do each morning. I began to call her name in a somewhat high-pitched tone "Ellie Bellyyyyyyyyy", and before I knew it she was singing at me! I tried again and, sure enough, she repeated it. I've now done it several times in different contexts and she is quite happy to sing along to my high-pitched screeching! So there you go, another unknown talent tapped into!

In one of my previous posts I mentioned how Ellie is changing insofar as she's getting more courageous, more willing to take risks, and more ready to try her luck from time to time. The other night Jan was preparing a bacon sandwich for herself. She buttered her bread and then returned to the living room while the bacon cooked. After a few minutes there was a slurping sound coming from the kitchen. Jan went to investigate. The buttered bread had become - how can I say this - unbuttered. Ellie had put her front paws on the worktop and carefully licked every trace of butter, leaving the bread in perfect condition and unmoved. Well, perfect except for the shallow valley that was etched into the bread where her tongue had run along it. I love dogs with spirit! :)

I took Ellie to the grounds of Belton House the other day with my good friend Sue, and her Rottie, Teal'c. Despite it only being about fifteen minutes away from me (if that) I've never actually walked Ellie around it. There are plenty of deer in the park, and so I was curious to see how Ellie would be around them. While she never really got that close to them, she seemed completely oblivious to their existence. Me however, I couldn't resist getting as close as possible to them in order to snap a photo. This week, weather permitting, we're taking Teal'c and Ellie to the beach at Anderby Creek! Ellie and I haven't been there for ages and I can't wait.

Friday, April 2, 2010

New Design...

Yes, it's that time of year again when Ellie's blog has to represent the change in the weather. With that in mind, Ellie has knocked up a little spring design. We hope you like it!

In other news, it looks like Ellie will be taking part in this year's canine display event at Belton again. More to come soon...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Sunday Stroll for the Ladies...

Ellie and best-friend, Teal'c, decided to take a Sunday stroll earlier today. I decided to go along too, you know, just to see if there were any photo opportunities...


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring is in the Air...

There are always two sure signs (three if you count the rather blatant calendar stating the fact) that spring is approaching here at Barkingham Palace. The first is the speed at which dog-walkers walk their dogs. During winter, it can be a mad dash to get back into the warmth of our homes and dip our toes in a cup of warm soup. We do all do that, right? However, come spring, we move more like old tortoises, each happy to just enjoy the sunshine and fresh warm air.

The second sign is that my home-boarding calendar starts to rapidly fill up as people begin to plan their annual holidays. As I write this entry, I have a Black Labrador named Barney, who previously joined us a year ago in March 2009. I absolutely love receiving repeat bookings, as it tells me that I'm getting things right and that the owners are happy with the boarding I am providing for their dogs. Of course, repeat bookings are made all the more pleasant when the dog is as well-behaved and has such a well-rounded temperament as Barney does. I don't think I know of a single dog who is more accommodating to other dogs than he is. He just seems to embrace each of them equally. He will play with them when invited, but is also happy to do his own thing when not invited. In terms of off-leash walking, you can't really ask for better.
Barney leaves us on Thursday evening, which gives me one day before another regular client (in fact, the most regular client of them all) arrives for a weekend stay. Yes, it's time for Monty the pug again. However, this time it's Monty and his new 'brother', Cooper - a Boston Terrier pup! Yes, there's now double the trouble! :) Of course, I've already met him and he's just adorable! I think we're reaching the point where we should perhaps be building a 'Monty wing' in recognition of his custom!

So there are things on the boarding front. But what about Ellie? Well....

Since the spaying, I have noticed a gradual and pleasant change in her physique. She has certainly filled out and is no longer the skinny border collie that she once was. She has quite the voracious appetite now. But more importantly than the physical change, is the change in her personality. I've been noticing a change in her for some time now. It started as quit a gradual change, but it seems to be accelerating a little at the moment. Others have certainly noticed it too.

I can think of no better way to describe the change than to say she seems to have found her 'collie gene'. A walk doesn't seem to be a walk these days unless she can herd up whichever dog we happen to be walking with. She will bark at them to try and get them to run. If they run, then she does what Border Collies do - herds them up. If they don't, she gives up of course, but for her to even attempt it is quite a significant change.
She's also much more alert for more of the time. Don't get me wrong, she can still be that oh-so-timid Border Collie that we all know and love, but there are just many more periods when she isn't. She is more willing to try new things, a little more affectionate, and a little more vocal at times. Most people who see her these days are commenting on the changes they see in her, so it can't just be me noticing them.

She's also getting much more confident and relaxed around other dogs. It has been a remarkable sight for Sue and I to witness Ellie, Barney, and Teal'c all fall into a deep sleep in close proximity to each other, not once but twice this week. My guess is that the home-boarding is helping her significantly in this area. I don't imagine it's easy for any dog to have a near constant flow of different dogs enter their home month after month.

I welcome all of these changes in her. Boy, do I welcome them! I am doing all that I can to try and foster the increased energy and enthusiasm, and even ignoring the bad bits such as when she jumps up at me on the walk to try and get me to throw the ball for her. I know what you are thinking, that I am creating a future problem. However, we'll have to agree to disagree. I think it would be too easy to push Ellie back into her reserved state again. It's a case of needing to take the rough with the smooth for now, while I encourage her to grow her confidence and energy levels. There will come a time to start weeding out the pushy behaviours, but it isn't just yet.

And now for the shameless promotion bit: The Don't Blame the Dog forums are growing but we always need more dog-lovers to join up and participate. So if you or anyone you know are interested in talking about dogs, particularly about positive training, then we'd love to see you there!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Operation Rolo Concludes

It's not very often that we get a dog staying at Barkingham Palace that requires military-style planning.

A short while ago, I received an email from a potential boarding client wanting to know if I would consider boarding her Chocolate Labrador, Rolo. I don't think his owner will mind me saying that she didn't sell the prospect very well. To her credit, she was brutally honest about Rolo's past antics, in particular, his passion for destruction. After reading her initial emails I decided that the very least I could do was offer to meet him at my home and go for a walk with he and Ellie to see how they got along. Besides, I was so intrigued by then that I just had to meet him!

On Rolo's initial visit, Jane, his owner, stood for almost the entire length of our meeting, obviously deeply-concerned that Rolo was going to break something. Me, I just kept my eye on my XBOX that was standing precariously by the much more valuable flat-screen television. Rolo was, it is fair to say, like a tornado. Like all young Chocolate Labs, he has an extremely high level of energy, and like all young dogs (he was only seven months of age at this point), he was blissfully unaware of his rear-end, let alone the trail of destruction that it can leave behind.

He ran in and out of the room and bounced on and off the sofas as though moving was about to go out of fashion. Ellie did as she always does. She watched for a while, then began to try to herd him up, and then nipped him to stop him bouncing around her. Rolo took it all in his stride.

Anyway, after watching him for a while and walking with him, I decided that he was okay to board. However, let me tell you, it really was like a military operation. Because he is such a handful, you have to make sure that you watch him for every minute. It's not that he's a bad dog; he is just young and, well, a Chocolate Lab! If it looks like it will fit in his mouth, he'll try it! We very nearly lost a laptop from the dining table as he decided to walk through the cable that was between it and the socket, and the plant pot is a little lighter since he helped to relieve it of some soil, but all in all, we got off lightly!

And now for something completely different...

You may recall I mentioned a project that m'colleague Lucy and I have been working on. Well, it's our new dog-related website. www.dontblamethedog.com It's entirely devoted to positive dog-training. Of course, like all new websites, the easy bit is the designing and the building. The hard part is getting people to visit, participate, and stick around. If you would like to visit, please do, we'd love to see you. If you know of anyone else who is mad about dogs, please let them know too. We're doing our best to grow it all the time, and the more people join up (it's free) then the more motivated we are to keep working at it! It's still not finished as such, but it's complete enough to unveil it.

I hope to see you there.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Saint Valentine Visits Barkingham Palace

You know, it comes to something when the dog gets more Valentine's cards than the owner, doesn't it?

Yes, Ellie has received her first Valentine card. The message reads as follows:

"To Ellie. A Valentine wish that's just for you, and lots of love comes with it too."

And whose heart is that Ellie has captured, I hear you ask? Really, you need to ask? It's the one true love of her life, Hoolie, of course. Yes, if there were any doubts about the blossoming love affair between Hoolie and Ellie, this surely casts them aside. Now, whether Hoolie sent it to her because of true love, or because he was riddled with guilt over robbing her of her virginity and then casting her aside, is another matter. But she seems delighted all the same.

And, as if that wasn't enough, they're even going on a date together. Yes, they have arranged a day at the beach together in March. I tell you, I think it's time to start picking out your new hats....

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Filthy Romance Strikes at Barkingham Palace

As any dog-owner will tell you, walking in the autumn and winter months can be challenging. Aside from the chilly temperature, howling winds and downpours of rain, there is the challenge of keeping your home free of mud-soaked dog paws. Even with the most strategic planning, it always goes awry, as my living-room carpet will reflect.

The living-room carpet here at Barkingham Palace has seen more than its fair share of muddy paw prints over the past few weeks. I can't even begin to tell you how bad it looked after our walk of today. I took Ellie and my latest boarding dog, Hoolie, across the fields with me. That was my first mistake as it had been raining overnight and the mud was incredibly thick under foot. My second mistake was to let Hoolie and Ellie play in the stream along the way. If there is one thing that mud sticks to more than dog hair, it's wet dog hair!

Ellie and Hoolie then decided real fun could be had if Ellie were to play the part of sheepdog - something that she isn't altogether bad at if the sheep happens to be a dog - and Hoolie were to play the part of a sheep. Unsurprisingly, Hoolie is very good at his role too, if the sheep happens to run around like its backside is on fire while plugged into a never-ending mains for energy. So now, just close your eyes and imagine a big black Labrador which, I swear, seems to be the size of a small pony (A Labrapony perhaps?), and a rocket-fast Border Collie running through large open fields of thick thick mud and rain. Got it in your mind's eye yet? Okay, now double the mud you have in your imagination and you'll come somewhere close to how both dogs looked. And they did this for almost an hour, let's not forget.

Being the softie that I am, I allowed them to just get on with it. Between you and me, I love to see dogs playing together in the open air. It's how things are supposed to be in my mind. Anyway, I figured that we would have some walking on pavements to do on our way home, and then I would towel them both off in the hallway when we got home.

As we got home, I made them wait at the door and towelled them both. The towel, quite literally, went from a pale green to a deep dark brown in just seconds. (See exhibit A to the left.) However, I thought I had got all the loose stuff off. I let them into the house. BIG MISTAKE. Only when they hit the living room carpet did I see just how much mud was left on the dogs. It was really bad! I can't wait to get my carpet cleaned but really, there's no point in this weather. It is cleaned every quarter anyway so it'll be due around the end of March, by which time I hope to see some dryer weather.

And you know, even if you manage to wipe the mud off the dog, then there is the customary dog shake. When Ellie shakes, it's not really a big deal. She's a small spindly dog who could barely make a candle flame flicker with the output of her shake. However, Hoolie is another matter. When he shakes, the national TV channels issue severe weather warnings! He can splatter an entire wall in less than two seconds, and move along to complete another in the blink of an eye.

But you know what, for all that, I still wouldn't stop home-boarding in a million years!

In other news, I think Ellie and Hoolie are forming a little romance. Every evening, Hoolie will jump on the sofa with me and lay down my side. Ellie then jumps on top and she goes to sleep with her head resting on Hoolie. I'd love to get it on camera, but it's hard to move without disturbing them. Trust me when I tell you that it looks so cute. Yesterday, however, Hoolie decided that their relationship needed to move forward a little faster. He figured that he'd done the foreplay bit. He'd let her sleep on him and whisper sweet nothings in his ear. It was time to, you know, cement the bond a little more firmly. And so he did. In the blink of an eye, he was trying to have his evil way with her. What was more surprising was the Ellie seemed more than happy to let him. I thought about splitting them up, but watching a dog the size of Hoolie trying to mount a bitch the size of Ellie does provide a certain degree of comedy. Besides, it lasted only a few seconds before he gave up and decided he needed a rest. That's my boy!

P.S. It struck me, after I published this entry, that Hoolie is still trying to make his carnal intentions clear in the first photo! :) Dirty Berty!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bathtime at Barkingham Palace

The UK has been blessed with quite a bit of snow in recent weeks. Ellie, like me, loves snow. Afterall, what's not to like? However, as is the way with snow, as it has melted it has left us with several flooded areas along our walk route. That wouldn't be so bad if it was, say, a nice urban route full of tarmac walkways and trees that blow in the gentle sun-kissed breeze. However, it isn't. Our walk route is desolate farm land, with ditches to navigate across, large dips, and a hill that, I swear gets higher with each year.

Now, as any Border Collie owner will tell you, if there is one thing that a Border Collie loves more than a ball, it's running around in mud! The wetter, the gloopier, and the stickier, the better!
After today's walk, Ellie was just a little too filthy for me to be able to ignore it. She had to go in the bath! It was that, or I follow her around the house with a scrubbing brush and towel all day long.

I've bathed Ellie since she was a pup as I didn't want one of those dogs that panics when they see bath. It's fair to say that she's pretty good in the bath. You have to watch her and comfort her, as, I feel sure, given the opportunity, she would jump out and do a runner, making sure to shake the muddy water along her route as she did so, but overall, she's happy to stand there and let me shower her. But her face. Oh, the face! I swear, you would think that I had stolen her first-born from her and fed it to her! She looks an absolutely misery while being showered. And if that isn't bad enough, I then have to blow dry her. By this time, according to her miserable face, I've started feeding her the entire litter!

However, at the end of it, I have a lovely clean Border Collie, complete with dazzling white 'paint-pot' paws and tail. Until tomorrow...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Just a Couple of New Tricks in the Making...

Things are picking up at Barkingham Palace. The illness that has been with me since late November has just about gone, thanks to new medication. For the record, it turns out that I probably had swine flu in Nov/Dec (though I thought it was just a bad cold) which left me with something called GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). I don't recommend it! However, I'm very firmly on the mend and that means that training Ellie is picking up again.

Inspired by Silvia Trkman's newest video, I've been knuckling down for the past couple of days and teaching Ellie to tap at the keyboard and wipe the floor. The video at the start of this entry shows progress as of day two. She seems to have really found her mojo again and is being so responsive to training!

We've also been training with my friend, Lucy, and her three dogs, Ash, Indie, and Trent. We've been putting a video together, but weather has prevented us from getting it finalised for this weekend as we had hoped. You may need to wait another week or so now to see that it in all its glory. It's going to be a good 'un!

Enjoy the video, and Silvia's video link is also well worth a watch, as always!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow at Barkingham Palace...

I hope all readers had a good Christmas. Aside from the routine infections and germs that tend to go around at this time of year, we had a good Christmas period. It was, of course, the first since the passing of Mavis, and so we had Jan's dad over for a few days. The dynamics change after someone passes away and that can take quite some getting used to. I've never known Jan's dad to be at our home without Jan's mum and it's amazing how different that makes things. But onto brighter things....

On the 29th January, my latest boarder came to stay. Maddie, is a Golden Labrador and was scheduled to stay with us until today. However, due to the snow, the owners flight has been cancelled. Ergo, I have Maddie until they can get back to the UK, whenever that might be. Maddie is a lovely dog. She's quite timid, though she's not afraid to stick up for herself when the need arises. Ellie disturbed her as she slept once and so Maddie was quick to tell her. It's been great having her during all the snow and she seems to love running across the snowy fields, playing the part of the sheep, so that Ellie can round her up. She is very much a people dog who just thrives on attention. She is one of those dogs that you just don't know you have. She rests during the day, rarely barks, and is just a pleasure to have around. I think, of all the dogs we have had stay with us, Maddie has become Jan's favourite. What I can happily say without any fear of doubt is that Maddie is a dog who is welcome back at Barkingham Palace any time. I really can't give any higher praise than that about a boarder dog.

Towards the end of January, I have Hoolie coming to stay. I can't wait. I just adore Hoolie. He's a great mix of being well trained, but with just enough cheek and daring to appeal to my sense of adventure. I just love having him stay!

I also learnt that Monty (the Pug), our most frequent guest, now has a playmate - Cooper! I believe he is a Boston Terrier but I've yet to meet him. I'm sure that I will soon enough. :)

As the picture to the left should suggest, we've had quite a bit of snowfall here at Barkingham Palace. Ellie just seems to thrive in snow. She loves it. Though, with all this cold weather, it means I seem to have been ill since the last week of November, all tolled. I have a terrible sore throat and cough to the point where I struggle to breathe. I perhaps should have gone to see a GP before today, but I really don't like troubling them for what I consider to be a cold. However, due to the longevity of this one, I think it best. Aside from that, I'm not overly keen on not being able to breathe! :) So doctor's tomorrow for me. Maybe antibiotics, who knows...

So what about Ellie? Well, she's well and truly over her recent spaying and dew-claw removal. Though, to be honest with you, she was over it the day after it happened. I always suspected she might be one of those dogs who just didn't care and she turned out to be just that. The scar along her belly has all but gone now, with just a thin trace of it remaining. I believe it will be just about invisible in a couple more weeks. I think both Ellie and I are eagerly awaiting the warmer weather and the longer daylight hours now. My clicker finger is really itching and Ellie is much braver now than she was last summer. I want to see just how much braver she is. I also want to take a video of her taking the wheelie-bin out with me. That's her latest trick.

I was also interested to watch Horizon on BBC2 last night, which showed a dog recognising 340 different objects by name. (As well as being able to recognise and retrieve objects just by seeing a photo of each one). It's got me wondering just how many different ones I could teach Ellie to recognise. Hmmm, I wonder.... More to the point, how much would it cost to amass 340+ dog-friendly objects! :)