So over the rain

Today was International Dog Day. It was established 11 years ago and I’m amazed I only know about it now. Still, better late than never, I guess.

It was started in 2004 by an American Pet Therapist called Colleen Paige. She has also proclaimed National Cat Day and National Puppy Day, which is somewhat excesive. I mean why isn’t it just International Pet Day? That way it can include snakes and chipmunks, spiders and ferrets as well.

It was (naturally) first proposed and ‘celebrated’ in the US but it seems we do it too now. The online UK newspapers were full of poeople’s dogs being cute or naughty…or both. I don’t know about analog papers as I don’t read them (shut up, Jack).

In order to celebrate the day properly, here’s a few photos I took of Emma and Freya.

It was Freya!

It was Freya!

These were taken during one of the brief periods between thunderstorms today.

That's MY plastic bone!

That’s MY plastic bone!

They spent a lot of time wrestling over possession of this brown plastic bone, which to be fair, was originally bought for Emma.

It's MINE I tell you!

It’s MINE I tell you!

One of the benefits of being older is the height advantage…especially when it comes to jumping onto things.

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I managed to catch Freya trying to lap water out of the water feature (the rain has filled it to the top making it accessible for her) but she darted away too quickly to photograph. Instead, here’s Emma trying to fnd her.

Where is that little pest?

Where is that little pest?

Around one side of the water feature is a line of golden heather. Emma had a jolly good chew on them when she was a small puppy and now, it seems, Freya is doing the same. At least we know it’ll eventually stop. Anyway, this is her totally innocent look.

Who, me?

Who, me?

And, of course, here’s one of Day-z.

What?

What?

As I said, the day was abysmal. I spent most of it moving furniture and washing floors. Thanks to Freya, they were getting pretty gross. Spraying Dettol and wiping it up only goes so far. And then, of course, Freya would go to the toilet on it as soon as it was clean. To be fair, this was mainly because it was pouring down with rain most of the time and I refused to take her outside.

There was a window of a couple of hours from about 4pm when the sun came out and the sky went blue. I quickly grabbed the girls and set off for the park. And it would seem that a lot of other people did the same thing. There were dogs and owners everywhere. So, lots of fun and doggy frolic on their special day.

Baby steps

Freya managed to climb the stairs this morning! I was upstairs collecting laundry when she started crying. She does this whenever Emma and/or Day-z are inaccessible. Naturally they’d both followed me upstairs and Freya was left at the bottom. It then went quiet. I popped out of the bedroom and looked down the stairs. There was Freya on the fourth step. looking determined, her front paws on the fifth step almost willing the escalator to start up.

Emma was about halfway up the stairs, taunting her. I sat down and encouraged her to go higher. Setting her tiny jaw with coiled determination, she hauled herself up until she’d reached me. Naturally, it wasn’t just the height she had to contend with. There was also the matter of Emma continually trying to dislodge her footing.

But she made it and received a big hug from me. Of course she couldn’t get back down again so she was carried in the laundry basket (an indignity that Emma also had to experience).

A little later in the day I couldn’t find Freya. I called and whistled. She wasn’t in her usual spots and Day-z and Emma were hanging around me like I’d waved a chop bone in their faces. Finally I found her. She’d climbed up four steps and was sitting there, confused because she couldn’t get back down. I think this is going to be a problem for a while.

They all seem to like sitting up high. Way back when we lived in Shottermill, the poodles just adored sitting in front of the big plate glass windows in the bedroom, watching the street. Then, here, they would sit on the window sill in the loungeroom, particularly when Mirinda wasn’t home, ready to dash for the front door at a moments notice.

Well, Emma is no different. She likes to sit quite high up the stairs so she can see through the glass in the front door and, today during my Skype with mum, she decided she wanted to sit on my desk between the amplifier and the printer.

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This is where my mouse and coffee go so, naturally, they had to be moved to make room for Emma’s bum. I was forced to use the track pad on my laptop and drink my coffee with my left hand.

Of course, after a while, sitting is just too much effort so Emma had a go at lying down.

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It didn’t take long for her to tuck her head in and fall fast asleep.

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And she stayed there for the length of the Skype call.

While the weather was fine while I Skyped, most of the day was spent inside as the weather was, again, appalling. I’m sick of this rain. Perhaps it means we’ll have a dry February. Tonight I heard an Irish weather forecaster who uses the Moon, cows, birds and fungus to predict what will happen. He said the rest of the week (and next week) will be changeable. Really?

The weather didn’t put off Sue and her extended brood from visiting and meeting Freya this afternoon. She’d asked if I minded her niece coming round with her. Then she asked if her sister could also come. When she turned up, she was accompanied by her son, her sister, two nieces and a nephew.

The niece she’d initially mentioned loves Emma. She’s obviously been at Sue’s on a Friday (or holiday time) and has become attached to our teddy bear cocker-poo. And Emma is quite attached to the niece.

Anyway, the whole tribe sat cross-legged on the floor in a big circle and passed dogs between them. There was quite a lot of nose burying in Emma’s velvet coat and going gooey over Freya. It was all a bit surreal.

Then, as suddenly as they’d arrived, they were gone – they had to drive home and wanted to miss the peak hour traffic.

Sadly there was no walk today as the rain forgot to let up just after lunch. Fngers crossed for tomorrow.

Karma?

Something that has just occurred to me given the refugee crisis at the moment is, what would have happened if everyone in France had left when the Germans turned up during WWII? Presumably, it would have made the invasion of Britain a lot more likely.

Why are all these people moving away rather than standing and fighting? And at what point will there be too many people in Europe? Most importantly, how can Greece afford to look after so many of them?

Actually, quite a few of them want to go to Germany. One chap I heard on Radio 4 this morning, said he was off to Germany and, when the interviewer asked him how he was getting there, the chap said “Walk!”

I rather like Slovakia’s move to not take any Muslims because they don’t have any mosques in the whole country and their Muslim population is minute. Of course, they are merely concerned that any refugees feel welcome and surrounded by friends.

But, returning to the radio…there was a rather bizarre story on the radio this morning concerning a marriage that was disrupted because it was between a Sikh and a non-Sikh. Apparently most Sikhs have a problem with non-Sikhs being married in Sikh places of worship. Really? One of the tenets of Sikhism is that “Everyone is equal before God.” Maybe this does not cover marriage.

They also believe in reincarnation and the effects of karma on their rebirth. I would have thought that disrupting someone’s wedding, traditionally one of the happiest days of someone’s life, would not be looked on kindly by who or whatever has the power to determine whether you come back as a cockroach or a prince.

Mixed marriage between Sikhs and non-Sikhs are ‘tolerated’ but, basically, it’s not liked at all. This is rather odd given how much the Sikh religion seems to be about caring for others and doing good. What does it matter? Surely if the Sikh god is cool with the union, he will bless the couple and move on. If he’s pissed off, he’ll damn them and they’ll return as dung beetles. Isn’t that the point of having a god? To take care of the ever after while we look after the refugees.

Mind you, if IS is correct then how come there is any refugees? Surely they should all be on their knees in celebratory prayer for the coming of the glory of…well, pre-civilisation I guess. We all know how much better off we’d be if we just destroyed everything.

And god has set the bar pretty high when it comes to destruction: the flood, Sodom & Gomorrah, his own son, all of everything at the end of everything, etc, etc.

But then, surely, if gods were real, humans could stop abusing each other because the gods would do it instead. Like they did today.

What an awful day! It only stopped raining for about two hours, the rest of the time chucking it down. At least we managed a walk.

Freya meets Hankley

It didn’t look like we’d be going anywhere today. It started grey and very forboding. I managed to get wet walking home from the shops as the rain started. It all looked pretty much set in for the day.

Warm and dry in the extension, Mirinda had a lovely long Skype with Bob and Fi while I pottered around.

I decided to make a peach torte and prepared the peaches by peeling and de-stoning them. Peeling a peach is the same as peeling a tomato. They have to be plunged into boiling water. The skin then just slides off (more or less). The de-stoning, however, is not as simple. Peach pit removal is easy when the skin is still on the fruit as it gives you something to grip. Remove the skin and you’ve removed the grip. Still, I managed it, albeit making a mess.

I made the torte after lunch and we had some for afternoon tea before heading out to Hankley because the sun had come out, the clouds had gone and the day had turned beautiful.

It was Freya’s second big walk after yesterday at Frensham and she walked almost the entire way. In fact, she disliked being picked up, preferring to trot after Emma. Hankley is a long walk for us let alone little Freya. She was nicely worn out by the end. She curled up on Max’s back seat and was asleep before the engine turned over.

As usual, Emma covered herself in sand while Day-z was extremely well behaved, spending most of the walk between us. It was a delightful walk, empty of the crowds of Frensham – we only saw about six other people.

There was no roast this week. We had warm lamb in minted salad followed by a delicious slice of peach torte, which, if I do say so myself, was excellent. For the second time this weekend, we ate outside on the terrace. What a delightful idea.

Gremlin

Today marked Freya’s first big walk. We took her to Frensham Little Pond…along with 30,000 other people.

It was a glorious, if overly hot, day so we decided to wait until late in the day to set off. We thought it would be cooler and, perhaps, there’d be fewer people. It certainly was cooler. The population at Frensham Little Pond, however, was excessive.

I don’t think we’ve ever seen so many people. They were swimming, screeching, running around and, generally, being like a summer crowd of Brits at Bondi. You’d think they’d never seen water before. Mind you, it was nice to see the normally risk averse English, letting their kids swim without the presence of a lifeguard. (I know this is a major concern with most parents in this country. In Australia we just teach the kids to swim really well and avoid sharks.)

It would be fair to say that Freya thoroughly enjoyed herself. She was almost universally admired and cuddled and fussed over.

freya01

I say ‘almost’ because we passed a group of about five adults who completely ignored her even though she trotted up to them for a pat. It’s not that it bothers me one way or the other but when I seem to spend most of my time with Freya explaining to people what she is, how old and where she’s from, I get a surprise when she’s ignored.

The most memorable meeting has to be the woman with the magical power over dogs. Apparently, because she works with disabled children, dogs automatically go to her to be fussed over. It’s her caring nature that dogs can sense…apparently. Now I’m the first person to insist that dogs can show a seemingly high level of intelligence at times but it’s ridiculous to assume they have some strange form of wolf ESP. Also, knowing dogs, if they spot some sort of weakness in you, they’ll exploit it for all it’s worth.

Of course, what we consider intelligence is merely what we’ve taught them. Dogs are very easily trained which is why they were domesticated so successfully so many millenia ago.

As evidence against dogs being very smart, I might mention the Leg Licking Dog we met. The dog’s owner was very careful to give us, and anyone else near us, fair warning about the dogs strange habits. This would explain why she had it on a lead. The girl in the bikini bottoms steered well clear.

Still, enough of that. We had a lovely walk around the Little Pond with Emma getting lovely muddy legs…

muddyemma

…Day-z showing that she still jump onto a high narrow wooden seat…

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…and Freya learning to fly like a baby elephant.

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Freya has an amazing amount of energy for such a young dog. While she tends to collapse in a heap, it doesn’t happen until she’s well and truly run and jumped and played with as much abandon as possible. She wrestles with Emma to a frightening degree. We sometimes think Emma is going too far but then Freya just leaps at her and tries to pin her down. She does this while growling like a gremlin. (If you want to know what a gremlin puppy cross sounds like, there’s a video of it on Flickr.)

While I’m not a big fan of crowds when we’re out walking (or at any other time, really), the crowds didn’t bother me that much and there were huge swathes of time that Freya could actually walk and run around. We discovered that Freya hunts out humans. Unlike Emma, she’ll find as many of them as possible and attempt to make friends with them. So, Freya clearly didn’t mind the crowds.

And, finally, for Bob. Just to prove people can Mess About in Boats at Frensham Little Pond.

Lost Boys? And girl?

Lost Boys? And girl?

Saved for the Nation

After a week confined to the house on puppy watching duty, it was with a great sense of freedom I left for work this morning. I wished Mirinda luck and strode off to the station without a care in the world.

I felt a bit like the Campbell sisters, all carefree and happy.

Who, I hear you ask, are the Campbell sisters. Well, they were the daughters of Lady Charlotte Campbell, the sister of the 6th Duke of Argyll (George William) and when the family holidayed in Florence, back in the early 1800’s, they asked a chap called Lorenzo Bartolini to knock up a statue of the pair of them waltzing.

In those dim pre-technology days, there was only a couple of choices when it came to holiday snaps. You had someone draw or paint you or, if you had the dosh and wanted to seriously pose off, you had a marble statue made. That’s what the Campbells did. For around £500, they set Lorenzo to work.

Bartolini loved Napoleon. His early patron was Napoleon so I guess that would explain it. He made no secret of his admiration for Bonaparte, even after the emperor’s death. When he moved to Florence to start teaching, it was not a popular position to hold and, because of it, commissions were a bit hard to come by. I’m thinking, he would have been happy for the Campbell cash. He also decried the style of the master Canova while teaching at a school that was very much into the classic Canova…which didn’t help.

So, the young Emma and Julia Campbell turned up to Lorenzo’s studio and, probably after a few preliminary sketches, he created a beautiful life size statue of the two of them.

I’m not sure how they managed to get it home but they did and, eventually, the statue was on loan to the National Galleries of Scotland, where it has sat for yonks. Then, as these things go, the family decided it needed some ready money (I guess) and set about selling the statue.

They sent word to Sotheby’s (or Christie’s, I can never remember which…) who rubbed their hands with glee and dutifully auctioned it off for £500,000 (which is a hell of a profit on the original cost of around £21,000…in today’s money) to, probably, an American with a spot in the entrance hall of their ridiculously ornate trailer park house. Or maybe an Italian

When ‘important’ works of art are sold to overseas buyers, they have to have an export licence to leave the country. The government tries to stop them leaving the country by postponing the granting of the licence in case anyone else can come up with the money. And so, the call went out. The nation really, really needs this statue because it shows the British presence in Florence in the early 19th century. (Which makes me wonder why it shouldn’t be in Florence.)

Anyway, the reason I’m writing about this is because the money was raised and the statue is going to go back to the National Galleries of Scotland but, for a short while, it can be seen in the Sculpture Gallery at the V&A, where I saw it today.

It is very beautiful. And it’s there until November 20.

Sisters Dancing

Sisters Dancing

It says a lot that I can walk into the Sculpture Gallery at the V&A and immediately know there’s a new piece there.

Mophead massacre

It should take me around 20 minutes to walk from home to Kate’s place.

Kate is the puppies’ hairdresser and she lives on the other side of the park…more or less. While Kate usually picks the girls up and drops them off, she was a bit hard pressed to leave the house today so I said I’d walk them up. All I have to do is follow the all-weather path to the top of the park then hit the back lanes of Upper Hale. Simple. Well, ‘simple’ is a relative term.

The 20 minutes did not take into account the Freya Factor.

Naturally I couldn’t leave her at home so the three of us set off. When we reached big, open spaces, I’d put her on the ground to run around after Emma and have Day-z ignore her. She still has a week to go before she can socialise with other dogs (other than our two that is) so I had to pick her up every time someone came close. And that was the problem.

Every time I started carrying her, the person passing us would stop and coo and cluck and generally go all gooey at the sight of her. I couldn’t believe how many people passed us. I didn’t count them but, suffice it to say, it took us 40 minutes to get to Kate’s place.

I left the girls with Kate and started back for home with the same result except this time people assumed I only had Freya and I was taking her for a ‘carry’ because she was too small for a ‘walk.’ And all of this was repeated later on when I went to pick the other two up.

Apart from the joy at having two beautifully trimmed puppies, I experienced the lows of having a mop head disintegrate on me. Toilet training proceeds very, very slowly. Our tiles are very good but, obviously, they need a good mopping. With Day-z and Emma away, I popped Freya into her creche (yes, we have a dog creche though Emma thinks it’s actually a wrestling pit), mixed myself some high strength cleaner with boiling water and dunked the mop into it.

I started mopping only to find there was suddenly more sponge on the now soaking wet tile than remained on the mop. This was very irritating…not least because I didn’t have a mop to clean it up.

Is that ironic? Or karma?