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. 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!