Do it till you’re dizzy

A shitty Monday and hard to choose a song that makes me smile. When someone had kind of similar musical tastes to the teenage you, and even signed off letters as “Billy Duffy”,  I hadn’t really realised how much some music reminded me of one of those teenage friends. Even Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ reminds me of one friend… though INXS, Terence Trent d’Arby, Simple Minds, The Cult and Aerosmith remind me more of them. Music, like scent, is one of those things that transports me right back to the moments that I treasure the most.

A song that I hope would make my friend smile as much as it does for me.

I know I spend a lot of time reminiscing about the past. I loved it back there (and I love it here now) but school was good to me. I met a lot of women who inspired me greatly (Miss Dawson and Miss Mullineaux, that’d be two!) with many teachers who genuinely cared about their students – hand-copied poems from my English teacher and an RE teacher who soaked up the sadness on more times than I could count – and teachers who, if not causing you to write missives to the headteacher about how very terrible they were, were casually allowing you to squander your time by doing dictations so very slowly that you could quite easily converse with your friends in copious note-passing sessions. We had crappy teachers and mean teachers, teachers who didn’t understand teenagers and teachers who were so very geeky that it hurt, teachers who treasured us and teachers who inspired us.

But what really made school were the friends that I made there – so many of them have gone on to do such amazing things. Lots of us live in far-flung places, from Canada to the US, to Dubai, to Australia, to New Zealand. There’s a bit of the Class of 89 in many corners of the globe, and every single time I see a photo of a friend’s family, a holiday snap, a wedding, a birth, an achievement, it gives me such a burst of joy. In many ways, these are the people who knew me the best, who knew me when I was becoming who I am, who made me what I am. They’re people who shared my teenage passions for A-ha and Wham, who remember Live Aid and field trips, the bridge and the Interchange, and who can still make you laugh when they remind you of gym lessons or swimming lessons, or sneaking off for a fag on the bridge.

Facebook is a marvellous thing in many ways for me. I get to share a bit of the happy ending for many of the people who meant so much to me when I was young. But there are many people who I lost touch with too – and who seem lost forever. Some of those friends are very much missing in my life and I wish I saw their faces in my daily Facebook feed. I can’t tell you how much I miss Laura and Anna who are very much missing pieces in my friends-of-the-past jigsaw.

I suspect the coming weeks will be full of school memories and remembered joys of teenage life… sometimes those memories are the only way to offset the shittiness of the universe that means some of those endings are not so happy at all. Big, most massive love to all my friends in the UK.

As a matter of fact

Bit of 90s Britpop for you this lovely Monday with the Longpigs and She Said

I’ve been mostly enjoying the sunshine this fine week, and cramming in all the lessons I missed the week before because of the filthy diseases that are doing the rounds. Amigo is wheezy and raspy, but he loves to be outside. We’ve been doing a lot of proprioception exercises to help him get his balance back, and he’s much better now he’s off the medicine. I’ve been teaching him signs too – not so easy to get dogs to do stuff when they can’t hear you.

I also had a very exciting offer last week, which is a little on hold until I finish the course I’m doing, but I was delighted to be asked and I was really happy to be asked. The coursework for the unit I’m doing currently is ‘Emotional Issues’ and I’ve picked up a few dogs with issues. Like I don’t have a house-full to study myself. Still, spending a couple of days talking to people about dogs is never time wasted if you ask me. Modern life is often very hard for a dog, and we ask so much of them. I’m reading the very excellent Behaviour Adjustment Techniques book by Grisha Stewart, and it’s validating everything I’ve done with Heston these past few years. She talks about the triple whammy of reactivity: genetic – picking up those reactive genes from mum or dad, pre-natal – picking up on mum’s stresses during pregnancy, and social – inadequate or inappropriate socialisation from 5 – 13 weeks. I love it when I read some authors of canine books – John Bradshaw, Jean Donaldson, Grisha Stewart, Alexandra Horowitz, Zazie Todd, Linda P Case, Brian Hare, Ian Dunbar… they have me underlining so much on my Kindle that I might as well underline the whole flipping book.

Apart from that, I was trying to make progress with a little fiction, but it’s not happening. I was reading The Echo Maker, but I got halfway through and lost the impetus. I know it won awards and that, but it’s not floating my boat. I’ll try to finish it, because I feel like I should, but I suspect it will only be in the wee hours when Amigo has got me out of bed for a 5am pee and I’m struggling to get back to sleep that I’ll be using it as a soporific.

This week, the schools have broken up, but I’ve picked up more lessons – somehow, and I know not how – as some of my students are off skiing next week. Bit of a busy one. Happily, the evenings are growing longer, the snowdrops are drooping and there’s actual light in the sky around 8am.

This week I’m also picking up some knitting, which I’d put down on account of thumby arthritis, and digging out a super-cute pattern to get some knitting done for a very special birth in June. There is not a single thing that can make me smile more than thinking of a little baby due in the family on the 27th June. That leaves me with some very short months to knit an enormous amount of comical outfits and to come up with a range of inappropriate names to suggest.

Anyway, have a lovely week and may there be a little spring warmth in your heart this week too.

Kick me to the floor

Bit of late 80s pre-grunge indie-pop for you this fine Monday with the Wonder Stuff and Don’t Let Me Down Gently

If you listen carefully, this song will zap you up and dump you in a student union somewhere in some Northern industrial city, I promise.

What kind of week was it after all that? I can’t even tell you. Some of us are in need of a very early night and some extra zeds. It seemed to just disappear, last week. I can’t account for my whereabouts, not one bit!

Sunday was mostly spent coaxing scaredy hounds into my car with cat meat. Cos that’s how I roll these days. In a stinky car with cans of cat meat to lure any unsuspecting hounds back with me. Luckily, her owner appeared by Sunday evening and they were reunited. He didn’t need to tempt her with cat food, let it be known. She’d got out the night before when the owner got in a car accident, and then she’d run off. The high winds last Saturday night can’t have helped.

Monday, I finally got to go for lunch at the Jardin de Kashmir in Angouleme, which does Indian and Pakistani dishes. I can’t tell you how in need of that I was. France’s Indian food is all a bit weak in general, and my sinuses were very thankful of the very lovely vegetable biryani. I didn’t manage to get any Indian food last summer when I was in the UK, so by my reckoning, it’s possibly some two or more years since I last tasted the delights of a good naan bread. The kashmiri naan bread was just…. waah. I’ve missed that so much. I think it reminded me how deprived I’ve been. When you spend 13 years living in Bolton surrounded by great takeaways and restaurants, you get a bit complacent. If that got a bit stale, we’d sometimes go to Curry Mile in Rusholme for a night out. Shere Khan was always a favourite. How I miss you, Curry Mile. How I miss you, St Helen’s Road.

Thursday, I started preparing for my next ISCP canine behaviour diploma…. I got my Intermediate Certificate on Monday, which was also pretty cool. I don’t have to tell you how much I’m enjoying doing it.

Everything else passes in a bit of a blur. I had stuff on my to-do list from Tuesday for five whole days, which I hate, but there you go.

Amigo had his final check up on Friday night – he’s got the all-clear to stop the cortisone, but I’ve got some here in case he has another episode. His ears have cleared up as well – probably the infection that triggered it, bless him. He has noisy lungs, so we have to be extra careful with kennel cough and upper respiratory infections, as it could easily turn to pneumonia. Mauve thinks that his lungs are becoming fibrous in his old age – hence the difficulty breathing, the coughing from time to time, the panting. Thankfully it’s not his heart, and everything else is good. I hope he sticks around for a while yet.

I also spent Saturday afternoon trying to catch up on my 1000 Mile challenge. Between my own hacking, wheezing cough (which is now into its fifth week!!) and the icy wind (which shifted yesterday morning) and Amigo’s illness, we’ve not been racking up the miles like usual. Even so, I’m pleased that I’m only five miles behind.

Heston and I did a lot of miles on Saturday hunting for a golden retriever that had escaped. Unfortunately, the smells he picked up outside the house were obviously neighbouring dogs, since Heston took me on a 3-mile circular trek that ended up with a black cocker and a boxer who came from the neighbouring houses. They were quite astonished to be discovered. I think there are a lot of dogs that just take themselves off for their own walks around here. I’m sure people think it’s a bit crazy to have a dog who can find other dogs, but it’s very useful. Unfortunately, he doesn’t always distinguish between competing smells if dogs share bedding or pee-spots, and I can’t direct him to the right one. There’s also an awful lot of boar activity round us at the moment, and something that all my dogs keep picking up in a cement drainage pipe. God only knows what it is, but something’s tried to dig in from the top. Heston does his Curious George head, so God knows what’s in there. Still, Tilly and Amigo are all very interested in that one drainage pipe. The Feff doesn’t give a stuff. He’s not interested in smelling.

A busy week this week with a few double lessons or catch-ups from last week. Half-term holidays start in France next Friday, but given my client base and the number of students I’ve got this year doing exams, that tends to end up being more hours for me during the holidays, rather than less.

Have a great week, and cross your fingers for a warm south wind for a few more days.

My tongue still misbehaves

Thought you might like a bit of Snow Patrol today

I think we all keep hoping that hearts open, don’t we? I’m sorry to say that I find it hard to see so many closed minds and closed hearts at the moment. Closed boundaries too. Incredibly sad.

The week didn’t start off with people’s hearts open… it’s always tough when you get a distress phonecall about a dog, but when it ends with an ultimatum for the dog if you don’t take the animal yourself, it’s heart-breaking. I can’t understand how anyone could ever say, “if you won’t take my animals, then I’ll…. ”

I understand desperate situations, oh how I do, but cries for help are different from emotional blackmail. Would you believe I got two such phone calls and messages last Sunday? I was trying my best to come to terms with Amigo’s health issues and navigating other people’s dramas. It makes me sick that both the people who threatened me in this way had Facebook pages filled with posts about how important animals are, and how they would never abandon them in their old age.

Tobby in those last months got insecure and bitey. His separation anxiety was such that he was never left alone for one single minute past the first two weeks. When he didn’t want to eat, I coaxed him and tried all kinds of different things. He looked handsome and shiny right up to the day he died because I spent time with him and groomed him, massaged him. I spent every spare penny on supplements and things that might make his pain a little less.

And last Friday, I spent the night with Amigo right next to me, neither of us sleeping much. I couldn’t bear to go to sleep not knowing if he would have an attack whilst I was asleep.

But I understand how hard it is when you are unprepared or over your head. I know how it is to be unable to cope any more. I like to think that a lot of people forget that I am just here, on my own, working as much as I can, trying to squash in all the things people ask me to do, trying to do as much as I can. Sometimes it is beyond me to smile sweetly when people moan about one thing or another in their lives. I wish for one minute they would step back from their self-pity and see how blessed they are. I feel very lucky I’ve got a couple of people who always listen to my moans and make me feel like I can do a bit more again. I love those friends who rally you and make you realise you can keep going when you feel sad. Stepping through the doors of reception on Saturday, the refuge was full as it usually is with people coming and going. So much shit and illness and misery, but there’s not a time when I don’t feel revived by five minutes of chaotic chatter, a piece of brioche, a beaker of coffee and the laughter of people who have had much crappier weeks than I have, who are much more ill than I am, who have also had the “if you don’t take this dog, then I’ll….” phonecalls too. In five minutes, I get fifty stories that uplift me and demoralise me. Adoptions, fosters, dogs who’ve overcome illness, dogs found after a long time on the run, dogs who’ve returned, people reunited with their animals… and the crappiness of the week falls behind me. Those five o’clock coffee breaks are a real revival of the spirits.

Benji, the little scruffy dog who came here on foster two weeks ago, is hopefully going to his forever home this week. I’m sure they’ll be in love with him. He’s such a sweet soul and a chatterbox. Gaven, who went to my dad’s on a short foster, has also got a potential home. For the thirteen oldies who faced a cold two weeks at the shelter, several have gone on foster or gone to their forever homes.

Some weeks, it’s harder to remember that the sun is still up there, doing his stuff, when there are so many big black rainclouds in the way. It makes it all a bit harder to find the sunshine, but it is there. I know it’s there somewhere.

This week, I’m mostly hoping I stop feeling so flipping yuck. I seem to have picked up everyone’s bugs and germs. It’d be nice to be able to talk without a five-minute coughing fit. I’ve been keeping the local beekeepers in cash and draining their reserves trying to self-medicate. France isn’t a good country for self-medication unless you are very rich. Gone are the days of a bottle of Night Nurse and some Benadryl over the counter!

Have a good week wherever you are, and try to open your hearts as much as you can… there’s a lot to be gained by it, and little to lose.

heart

Stop dreaming of the quiet life

Thought we might as well have a bit of the Jam this morning.

Well, why not?

I’ve been suffering with a cold for the last two weeks – not to mention the fact that I can’t seem to get warm. I can’t remember the last time I felt warm – and with this week’s temperatures due to hit -5°C after last week’s -8°C, I’m not looking forwards to it. Thermals out once more. It’s not going to be that lovely blue crisp wintery cold either – just a miserable, grey overcast one.

If last year was the year of photoshop, this year has been the year of monkeying about with dog stuff. By the way, I ended up doing lots of fun stuff on Photoshop, just playing about. Usually, I use Picmonkey for a bit of touching up because it’s so quick and my work process is short, but it does make me giggle with the things you can do on PS.

 

Anyhow, I’ve moved back from messing around on PS to dog behaviour stuff. I just finished Barbara Handelman’s very excellent Photo Ilustrated Guide of Canine Behaviour, which kind of combined photos of dogs and a dictionary of behaviours. I spent a lot of the week staring at Tilly’s whisker bed. Like I need to see her whisker bed bump up to know she’s pissed off. That dog is very good at making her feelings known to the world, the diva. My last assignment was on aggression – can’t believe I’ve done ten assignments. I’m one away from an intermediate diploma and about half the way through the course. I got a bit sidetracked by a series of lectures from dog guru Ian Dunbar, which have been entertaining to say the least. Yesterday, it was a lecture about canine aggression and he made the very valid point that if cats had the same size range as dogs do, we’d be in a lot of trouble. Can you imagine using punishment or aversion on a 50kg cat? We’re very lucky that dogs are as restrained as they are.

This week, a couple of investigations for the shelter to catch up on, and then a few other work tasks to keep me busy in the freezing weather. Mock exams are all finished and I have a reasonable timetable again… until it gears up for the next round! I think in between times, I will be staying in bed as long as possible and trying to keep warm! Not always possible, I know. I have a little foster here for the winter and I really, really need him to find a home…

benji22

He’s a very sweet little dog but doesn’t like being alone. Luckily he has the other dogs to keep him company here, but – to be frank – I’m in need of a break from fostering and constant changes. I’ve not had my own dogs here by themselves since back in July. Most of the time I’ve been at six dogs minimum for the last seven months. It is exhausting.

Plus, Amigo had a stroke on Friday night. He shot out of bed like something had bitten him, then was staggering around. His eyes were flicking left and right and he couldn’t stand up. He had a calm moment, then another one, worse this time, with convulsions. A third happened a couple of hours later, then a fourth in the middle of the night. Luckily, I was here for them all and I never left his side, but it’s horrible not being able to stop it. The vet was really reassuring and he had a full panel of blood work on Saturday, which showed no underlying problem other than age, which is a good thing in itself. But only two months after Tobby died, I’m not ready to go through it again.

Anyway, have the most marvellous of weeks and remember that it is 57 days until spring starts on the 20th March. I’ll be counting down the days, I promise!

A wild nobility

Because we all need a bit more crazy in our lives today … Here’s my favourite nutbag Adam and his famous Ants

When you’re an eight-year-old girl, your passions run deep. My only real passions were ballet, my teacher Mr Parks, Adam Ant and palomino horses. No wonder my life went so wrong. It set an early pattern, that. When you like crazy men in make-up and thigh boots, your life is never going to be normal, is it?

In 1981, it was a choice between Shakin’ Stevens, Bucks Fizz and Adam and the Ants. A little band called Hanoi Rocks might have also been making music, Punk might have had some last gasps with The Exploited and Siouxsie and the Banshees, but a girl only had Top of the Pops to go off. Could have been worse. Joe Dolce’s Shaddap You Face kept Ultravox’s divine Vienna off the number 1 spot. There were some good songs in 1981… Under Pressure, Ghost Town, Stand and Deliver, Prince Charming, Vienna, Happy Birthday. Happy days indeed. 8 was definitely a good age for me.

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I had this poster on my wall, and I’m pretty sure there is no love like the love of an 8 year old girl for a pop star. He was followed by George Michael. That’s how it went in those days. From crazy men in thigh boots to big-haired boys in white shorts. The follies of youth.

Anyhow, a bit of a blast from the past will keep me going this week – still catching up with extra classes. Mock exams in France and the UK mean that everyone’s trying to cram as much in as possible. Today it’s a lot of chasing around and hopefully a bit of Hagrid time as I’ve got to drop some paperwork off at the shelter at lunch. Someone else had taken him out already on Friday, and though it pissed me off they only took him for a ten-minute jaunt instead of a proper walk, I felt a bit rubbish taking him again when other dogs hadn’t been out, so Linda and I took out Duchesse and Lucky instead. Both Linda and I are walking 1000 miles this year to raise money for the shelter. Much, much love for Linda and her enthusiasm. Mind you, when she meets you at the gate in a fury, you know something’s afoot in the global zeitgeist. It’s usually me who’s been battered by misunderstandings and miscommunications. I’d reached my fill over Christmas so I had no emotion left for anything else. Old people turning up unannounced wanting puppies barely raised my pulse past mild irritation, or people who want a cheap dog but not an old dog. Much and massive love for the volunteers who helped me get seventeen sets of photos on Friday afternoon. Puppy-sitting had left a massive list of dogs needing photos since I’d not been able to get to the shelter for two weeks. I’ve still got another eight to go, but at least it’s headway. That calm certainly extended to the dogs… not often you can get puppies in one shot!

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Other than that, I had a late start to my 1000 miles challenge – managed to catch up a bit. Sunday was fun – went out the door and it was gunshot everywhere. Plus, Effel has taken to trying to get into the food when left alone. Usually he’s okay if I leave him with a Kong, but it’s not always easy when Heston’s super-excited, I’ve left all the leads in the car, Amigo’s barking, there’s rifle fire 50m away and you’re trying to manage your own Sunday morning grrrrrs.

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We’re early birds. Well, I say that and Effel likes to be up at 6am, like a flipping Swiss alarm clock. Heston likes a walk as soon as it gets light. Most days, that’s not until 8.30 at the moment, and it’s always hard to negotiate hunters, who seem to be everywhere this year. It’s been so icy that it’s not been worth defrosting the car, so we have to negotiate all the dogs left in yards as well, or the farmer’s dogs who just roam about wherever they like.

This week, it’s all catch-up, catch-up. Oh to be eight again when the only things that mattered were so very simple.

In the hands of these erroneous fools

The first Monday of 2017 and it’s about time we had The Guillemots with Trains to Brazil

Time definitely seems to be going faster than it ever did. I didn’t ever really get used to it being 2016, let alone 2017. I was in bed by 9.30 last night – puppies were all wormed again yesterday and it zapped them a little bit. They have a big burst of energy from about 6.30 til about 8.30, a bit of a sleep and then some more playing til about lunchtime. And yes, it’s the Feff who’s up before any of us, excited to start his day – or, more likely, giddy for breakfast.

It’s back to work for me today, and I’m hoping I can tire the puppies out this afternoon as I’ve got some Skype lessons this evening. Nothing like puppies barking at each other to put you off your Macbeth. Funny to think that this time last year, I just had a little Rocky kitten other than my own dogs – it is still strange not to have kittens in the bathroom. The puppies have been much noisier than the kittens, it must be said. By the time breakfasts are done, my dogs are walked, I’ve cleaned up the puppies and visited the other dogs I’m looking after, it’s usually lunchtime. I’d stupidly thought I’d be able to get some of my assignments done for my canine behaviour practitioner course. I’m at unit 9 out of 16 – and although that might seem good to you, I’ve still a way to go. Trying to get them out of the way before June will be the challenge so that I’m free to do all my marking duties.

2017 will see me back in the UK much more than I ever had to be before. New jobs and contracts mean more visits will be necessary, and probably longer ones too.

Last year, I had no real resolutions as such. I tried to do a 366-day photo challenge, but it proved too much and I got up to about 100. That’s not to say I didn’t take a lot of photos (9,900 to be exact) but that I didn’t spend much time on Photoshop once spring kicked in. You can kind of understand that, I guess. I got to April and it was all kittens.

hestonsnow

I got more experimental by the end of the year. This snow process was actually really straightforward. Can’t remember how the hell I did it, but it beat real snow for sure.

If 2016 brought me anything, it was a love of that super-duper 50mm lens. My nifty-fifty didn’t leave my camera.

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It is a marvellous lens.

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Between Photoshop, Picmonkey and my nifty fifty, I really fell in love with photography all over again.

I did a lot of reading as well in 2016. Alright. A lot of it was dog reading. I even managed to get through a whole 28 books! Mind you, there were endless science reports as well that I read – I don’t suppose they count!

books

Some of those books were absolute crap that I didn’t finish. That High Pyrenees book needs burning it was so bad, and likewise for I am Pilgrim. Winter in Madrid and All the Light We Cannot See made me weep. Prisoners of Geography and Outliers were great. In fact, I’ve probably got quite a few more I need to add to this list.

I only have one real plan for next year: I’m doing the 1000 miles challenge, which means walking 1000 miles before the end of the year. It’s the equivalent of just over 38 marathons. I’m doing it to raise a bit of cash for the refuge – with budget cuts and vans breaking down for good, all money is needed.

You can contribute here if you’d like to help us. All money goes directly to the refuge.

Although one or two of my responsibilities have ended, I’ve still plenty to keep me busy in 2017, not least the assistant principal examiner post which will see most of my summer spent in dark rooms, carrying right through to re-marks and November marking. I have really, really had a lot of success from a couple of my blogs this year – Madame Anglaise just never fails to surprise me given how little I invested in it. Last year, knowing the syllabus was changing, I decided to aim for a post a week – and saw my great stats triple, which was really, really cool. Woof Like To Meet also went viral, with one post getting over a quarter of a million reads. It’s at that point when you think “I should monetise this!” but I’ve always thought that if you give stuff away free, people are generally pretty grateful and happy to pass you on to someone who will not mind paying for your services.

Losing Tobby was the saddest part of my year – sad that I only got to have nineteen months of him, which was eighteen more than I expected, but even so. Shepherds connect with you in ways other dogs don’t, that’s all I can say. Or maybe I spent so long thinking it would be my last week with him that I truly, truly treasured him. Tilly trotted on, infection after infection, treatment after treatment. I’m sandwiched between Tilly and Amigo as I write – and there is no greater joy than being sandwiched between two old giffers. The Feff is still here – his German adoption fell through. He’s on the market once again and leaving me whether I can really manage with four dogs. We will see.

Here’s to a marvellously successful 2017 for everyone. Who knows what the year will bring in France – we can’t even begin to speculate. This marks my seventh year in France, and wondering whether I’m feeling the seven year itch. Normally I’m so ADHD that I manage three years before deciding it’s time for a change! All I want these days is a bit of stability!

Have a good week, anyway, and remember that Spring is one day closer.

All I ever knew

A bit of the lovely Alison Moyet for you this fine Boxing Day morning

Well, Boxing Day if you’re British, anyway. The French don’t do Boxing Day. I don’t know what that’s all about. When are you supposed to visit all the other members of your family? As far as I was concerned, Boxing Day was just like a Christmas Day Do-over, just more casual.

I’ve had a lot of trouble getting myself into the Christmas spirit at all these days – and not because I don’t want to. I love Christmas and all things Christmas. If nothing else, it’s the only time of year where I don’t have as many clients (though I still have some – I’m sure they’re not so happy about the January mock exams!) and I can actually catch up. I spend most of it trying to do a bit of advance writing and getting things filed away for future reference. I’m constantly amazed by how much traffic my teacher blog gets – up til 2016, I really didn’t deserve that much traffic. The fact that it has tripled and I’m now Google’s number 1 choice for a lot of GCSE poetry stuff is always quite amazing to me. I even got 60 hits on Christmas Day, bless them all.

The same is true of Woof Like To Meet, too, and both of them take a bit of work. Both reap rewards though, and that’s all that counts. To be able to inspire people’s understanding of poetry is fabulous. I get a lot of nice feedback that makes it very worthwhile, and a good few clients, which is also a benefit. I love teaching GCSE Literature. I’d do it all day long if I could.

And Woof Like To Meet might not be my most natural niche, but it’s good to be able to share advice that helps adopters get to grips with some of the issues they may find in adopting a dog. With sixteen under my roof tonight, I’m pretty sure I know a thing or two about dog stuff, but to be honest, I have done a lot of revision. Like a stupid amount. It’s all just so flipping interesting! Like did you know homes with a single owner are more likely to have a dog with separation anxiety? Infinitely interesting. Mind you, shouty madame mummy who is here with her babies has a bit to learn about household rules. She’s like a high-maintenance version of Tilly, and that’s saying something. You can see her thinking all the time – something I never see Tilly doing!

Bless my dogs though – they’re so accepting of waifs and strays who turn up for a night or two, or even more. I’ve barely seen Heston and Bandit since the puppies arrived though – it reminds me of that time I went to a festival as a 29-year-old with a load of 18-year-olds. I felt very old and went home early. I know we did all the exact same things they did but when you’re no longer 18, you just don’t find it funny anymore. I think I’m right to say they spent most of the weekend repeating lines from comedies just exactly like we did with Vic and Bob lines, or Fast Show lines. It definitely dates you. I still use a lot of them now. I very nearly introduced the Yazoo track as Vince Clark and his Bontempi organ, which is only funny if you ever enjoyed Vic Reeves Big Night Out. And that’s how it is here. Heston’s all Vic Reeves Big Night Out and these puppies are all Cartman and his Cheezy Puffs.

Also, Much Love this fine Boxing Day Monday for all the friends who mucked in last week – people bringing me puppy pens at 7.30 in the morning and going to pick me up biscuits, flea treatments and wormers are friends indeed. A couple of very kind people have also come over and sat in with the pups to help socialise them and also give me time to walk my dogs and nip out to feed a friend’s. Feff is not good in the car – well, when you’re in a hatchback with a goodly number of other dogs, you’re not likely to be your most calm. The good news is (and cross your fingers) that The Feff may have a permanent home to go to. Fingers crossed that we can make it work out, but it’s the best real offer I’ve had for him in a home I know will suit him perfectly. Okay, it’s in Germany and it’s only a 1000 km away. Only. Anyway, watch this space.

I have to say I will most massively miss having a shepherd in my life. With Tobby gone, Feff took over the following about and the general supervision of stuff. I will find it quite strange no doubt to be left with three dogs who couldn’t give a monkey’s what I’m doing. I know for sure that my next dog will be a malinois or a beauceron. Heston is a most marvellous dog, but he’s very independent. Amigo loves petting and is the cuddliest, sweetest dog of all, and Tilly scutching up to me with her warm little bum is very lovely indeed, but shepherds are different. They are so connected to you – they’re definitely a dog apart. Plus, they’ll do anything for you. All they want is a connection to a person. No wonder they pine so when they’re left at the shelter. You’d think it’d be collies or sensitive souls like setters that would find it the hardest to be abandoned. No. It’s the shepherd and mountain breeds. A shepherd without a flock to manage is a sad dog indeed. They’re like best friend bodyguards. A shepherd is the dog who sleeps all night by your bed, never asking to get in it, never demanding more. They don’t move, because their place is next to you. It’s not Tilly on the bed because it’s warm and comfortable and she doesn’t rightly care where you are, or Amigo wandering around to find the warmest, comfy dog spot, or Heston doing whatever it is he does in the night, looking for places where he can be on his own away from other dogs and sneaking in to bed for a cuddle before dawn. No, a shepherd just wants you to be in your spot and them to be in their spot. If that can be at the foot of your bed, or outside your bedroom, the happier they are. Closeness is a real shepherd thing, and I miss it. I probably miss Tobby more than I ever thought I would. They really are a constant companion. It reminds me of that line in Everyman where Knowledge says to Everyman, “Everyman, I will go with you and be your guide. In your need, I will stay by your side.” That’s shepherds for you. I think this is why I love Hagrid so much at the shelter.

You may wonder why Feff is going to a new home instead of staying here – but to be honest, he needs more than I can give him. He has never learned to play and I wish I had the time to teach him fetch, to teach him to focus that running, stalking energy in a positive way, to take him to agility training and proprioception and get him aware of his massive long legs. He deserves someone who works less than I do and has fewer dogs, who can begin to fill in the socialisation gaps he has. Plus, and it’s not horrible, don’t get me wrong, but there is a tension between Heston and Feff and neither feel relaxed enough to get over it. Had I adopted him, I’d live with it. But I think Feff deserves better.

So fingers very tightly crossed.

Other than the lovely people who did a lot of dogsitting and puppy fondling, wormer taxiing and pen constructing, there are a fair few people out there who have made it a better Christmas than I would have had myself without them. It has been a week of relying on friends, and I’m very glad I have them to rely on. Not least because my Christmas lunch would have probably been soup if I hadn’t had a very lovely hamper of deliciousness dropped off.

Anyway, here’s to the next post, which will be 2017. How on earth has another year gone? Let’s hope globally it’s less shit of a year than this one. Fingers crossed for that too!

Shimmering and dirty

With the release of Trainspotting 2 just over a month away, I thought it was time for a bit of a throwback to the dirty nineties.

If The Lost Boys soundtrack was the soundtrack to my early teens, Trainspotting’s sound track was the sound to the last months before I properly grew up and did things like getting a mortgage and a car loan, buying vases from Ikea and thinking about kitchen cabinets. I can’t tell you about surreal nights which seem just as vivid as they ever did. I can remember those nights as clearly as if they were only two months ago, not twenty years. This was such a great soundtrack as well. You’ve just got to hope that Sickboy’s comments about getting old and not being able to hack it aren’t self-fulfilling prophecies for this film.

Anyway, nothing makes you feel old like Trainspotting being twenty years old. What I love most are all the people I knew back then – still living as big as ever. Not a one of them is conventional. I love that. I feel like I need a bit more ‘big’ living. I keep seeing all their photos of mountain biking in the alps or hiking in Scotland and not only does it make me realise that they live life as hard as they ever did, but that I’m so very, very tired by comparison. I need more excitement! I think 2017 needs more adrenaline again. I forgot how good adrenaline feels. Sadly not everyone from back then made it through to 2017… you carry some people with you every day in your heart.

Truth be told, I don’t really know where last week went. It was my birthday, and I celebrated by babysitting two cute puppies until their new homes were ready for them on Saturday. I made the mistake of waking up at half four on Friday morning, which was a bit painful. Why it was painful was that when standing outside with the puppies waiting for them to do a bit of personal business, there was obviously a bit of barn owl activity. Have you ever heard a barn owl? It seriously sounds like people being murdered in their beds. I’m never going out in the dark ever again. Between the dogs howling and the screaming barn owls, it was quite terrifying. Who’d live in the country?

Anyhow, the puppies went to their new homes on Saturday, which is great. I’m so glad there are people who still want to take on a puppy. I’m at that point where I’m so past puppies. Even Heston, who used to spend hours rolling around with puppies attached to them was not enamoured. He even growled at one. He is now at the grumpy old git stage. The Feff was also not enamoured. He was a bit like that scene in the Empire Strikes Back with the AT-ATs. When you think tiny small bitey things might bring you down to your knees, life can be a bit worrying. Amigo sat on the couch and ignored them. Tilly sat on the other couch and watched them suspiciously. Life is hard when you are a puppy surrounded by grown-ups.

More puppies are arriving this week for the Christmas break. They can’t be vaccinated until the first week in January, so they’re sitting it out here. I think it’ll be February school holidays before I get a day off and a lie-in once again. So much for big living! I’m too tired for that! In those intervening twenty years, gone are the days when I used to stay up til five or six, or forget sleeping altogether. Now, all I can think of is my bed. I think the last time I had a night out with the Trainspotting soundtrack, we all slept on the floor in some house in Bolton. I can’t function without sleep any more. I wonder what happened to me?!

Anyway, have a great Christmas week and I hope you’re rocking all around the Christmas tree. All photos of ski trips in the Alps gladly accepted… I’m living life vicariously these days!

Heartbeats, intimidation

Bit of Alien Ant Farm for you this December Monday, with Smooth Criminal. 

What I love most about Youtube are people’s comments. I was watching a comedian talking last night about how his comments on Youtube were funnier than his videos, with the bickering going on between the people who liked his video and those who didn’t. I can’t work out if people really think Michael Jackson covered this song, and they think this is the original, or they are just having a laugh. Either way, it made me laugh. Especially when you are dealing with Michael Jackson fans who don’t see that this is in itself a great tribute (as well as a bit of a pisstake). If you’re at the point where you’re correcting people who may or may not be joking about who recorded this first, you need to find something else to keep your fingers busy.

I know it’s not very Christmassy, but I’m way past the point where I could get myself amped up for Christmas this year. I got out a solitary Christmas candle yesterday. Pretty sad if that’s all you can rattle up, if you ask me.

Last week saw a bit of wrapping up of projects and even lunch in the sunshine. I’ve eaten so badly these last three or four weeks that I’m putting myself on a vegetables, fruit and pulses mission over Christmas. Another reason for people to stay away from me! It’s not good when you feel all yuck.

This week, I’ve got a few miniature visitors coming for a bit of a stop-over. It will be strange indeed to have puppies about and not have an alarmed Malinois wondering who’s going to bite his ankles, then choosing to run away. My other dogs had their Tobby-versary sausage baguettes today – it was our first time without Tobby. I’m really missing him at the moment. If nothing else, he was the dog whose nose I kissed the most. Amigo may be cuddly and Heston may love to be by my side, but I miss kissing that Tobby nose.

Brief today – for which I apologise. Too much to do and none of it worth writing home about! Have a great week, all ❤