For those of you who find interacting with your new puppy a dull and boring process here is a little game you can play in the snow. I guarantee it will brighten up your day.
Sit your puppy 2m away.
Form snowball and toss gently towards puppy to allow it to catch
Puppy ignores snowball which then hits puppy on head.
Form snowball number two and toss gently towards puppy to allow it to catch
Puppy ignores snowball which then hits puppy on head.
Repeat the process until hysterical laughter prevents further tossing of snowballs or until men in white coats arrive to return you to the home.
It’s funny how one’s world can change in the space of a few months. It seems years since Maisie and I marched (maybe hobbled and stuttered is more accurate) our way around the four Glen Lyon Munros at Invervar…it was only nine months ago! That day we crunched upwards to 3000′ along frozen trails with the temperature hugging zero, amazed that we could still handle a trek of that size. It was to be our last Munro round.
Today was a similar sort of crunchy day with a high of minus one as myself, Cap’n Jack, Great Uncle Murphy and Little Miss Mabel began the long process that, in the Spring of 2014 will hopefully see the pups (Mabel and Lottie) tackle their first substantial hill. Yep…we’ve a long way to go before then. These are days of teaching and learning for both myself and Little Miss Mabel. As she expands her horizons on a daily basis I study her reactions to sounds, objects, people, animals…and to my commands. Our daily ambles are one big training session for the day we progress into Scotland’s wilder terrain. We will know each other very well by then.
Today, our destination could not have been more different from those winter wilds of Glen Lyon. This morning we would take a stroll around the grounds of The Pineapple, an 18th century summer house folly near the village of Airth on the south bank of the River Forth.
At last we have a decent week of early winter sunshine. The seemingly constant rain of the past few months has vanished and sunny mornings have been the norm. It won’t last…but we’ll make the most of it while we can.
The Pineapple was built by John Murray, the 4th Earl of Dunmore, in the latter half of the 18th century, having recently purchased the estate from the Elphistone family. The Earl was at one time Governor of New York and Virginia and one arguement is that he had The Pineapple built on his return from that posting. Pineapples were grown here, below their giant sized masonry counterpart and glass houses once covered the entire south facade of the building (seen in the photo below). Apparently The Pineapple was, at one time, painted! I try to imagine this but wonder how kitch and hideous it must have looked. These days it has a more natural, but still whimsical, appearance. The grounds of the estate are never blessed with huge numbers of visitors. It is a sad reality that the environs of the nearby village of Airth have failed to appeal to tourists from the 18th century through to the 21st, meaning this novel fruit construction has been bypassed by mass tourism ever since it was built.
Great Uncle Murphy crunched across the frosted lawns in front of the over-the-top summer house with Little Miss Mabel hot on his heels. I should probably have said snapping at his heels. The old fella is like a magnet to the diminutive thug who feels it her duty to routinely provoke a grumpy reaction from the inoffensive soul. Sometimes Murph decides to remind his little charge that he has the larger set of gnashers. Little Miss Mabel is slowly learning the benefits of a hasty retreat.
Leaving the old fruity folly behind…no, not Great Uncle Murphy, the Pineapple…we headed northwards along the old track that once linked The Pineapple to the main house, now derelict. The giant Redwoods guarding either side of the track are further testimony to an estate once lavished with ideas from “foreign pairts”
Part way along the track and some 30m up a slight rise from the River Forth flood plain lies the ruins of Elphinstone Tower. Built in the early 16th century for Sir John Elphistone it would have had, in those days, a commanding view down the River Forth. In the 1800′s it was relegated in status and around 1836 became the family crypt of the Murray family who had bought the estate in 1754. What is astonishing about the structure is its more recent structural decline.
I’m guessing that the black and white photographs were taken sometime between 1910 and 1950. They show not only the tower but the impressive St. Andrews Episcopal Church. The church, apparently demolished in recent years does not appear on the aerial photograph below. The ground is now much more overgrown than in that photo which would suggest that it was taken…possibly pre 1980(?). Have a look at Google Earth and make your own guess.
As we dodged through the bushes and brambles on our way up from the main track to the old tower we would never have guessed the extent of the site, the church having vanished completely. Given the near collapsed state of the tower I have to admit to having been astonished to discover, on my return home, how well preserved the buildings had been as little as 100 years ago. There may be a repeat visit to see if we can find more evidence of what still remains on the site.
Little Miss Mabel, the most adventurous of the party, shot straight through the partly open door into the menacing darkness of the crypt beyond. This resulted in panicked screaming from the more cautious of the group. As both myself and Cap’n Jack ran out of scream Little Miss Mabel trotted back out, oblivious to the wide eyed horror on both our faces. Great Uncle Murphy harrumphed and was about to give the tiny miscreant a good old telling off…when she sunk her teeth in his tail and bolted back down the slope with the old boy in hot pursuit.
And that brings us to the end of the first of our new “Tails”. Not, perhaps, the most awe-inspiring expedition in the history of the FBC but a grand couple of hours in blue sky winter sunshine.
It was the usual mad rush to get out the door. I have come to the conclusion that we are either experts at timing our exits…or very lucky with our ability to arrive on time wherever we are going. This is not necessarily a good thing as my stress levels rise with each passing minute. Today I had not only J with whom to contend but also The Bleating Sheep, both experts at leaving the house 15 minutes after my sanity declares it wise to do so. Today was a rather special trip for us and I was determined we weren’t going to be late. They both smiled sweetly at my scowling face as they passed me in the hall heading for the car. I staggered behind with Mabel and all her paraphernalia.
The Chocolate Clock, having lurked unobtrusively in the corner of the living room for the past couple of months, suddenly leaped out into the middle of the living room floor.
We all turned and stared.
“We know…we’re just going…ok?”
It’s hands drooped to 8.20. Two months of waiting quietly in the corner – all for this moment and all they can say is “we know”. Muttering to itself about humans’ total lack of style and sense of occasion it slouched back to its corner in an old fashioned cream puff.
The Fatdog Broadcasting Corporation is currently undergoing an unavoidable transitional phase with staff restructuring high on the agenda. Sadly The Fatdog has gone off to scrounge Bonios on a far higher plane and Cap’n Jack’s new job means our midweek rambles are no longer feasible. As a result we’re in the throws of an intensive recruitment drive and an even more intensive training programme as we bring new recruits up to scratch (if you’ll pardon the expression).
I’m pleased to say that Little Miss Mabel is doing particularly well and will soon be able to cope with a few minor assignments. As well as the normal doggy training stuff she has put extra hours into building a portfolio of those eccentric photographs of which “Where The Fatdog Walks” is made.
Anyway…talking of recruitment…it was felt that, while Little Miss Mable will bring that solid and steady “Fatdog” personality to the FBC, we needed to bring in a bit more wackiness and downright silliness to liven up the new “Tails”. Hence today’s excursion…and the very agitated chocolate clock. Today we’re off to interview our latest acquisition. All going well and, at great expense, we’ll be bringing to The Fatdog Broadcasting Corporation the incredible…
…or as she will be henceforth referred to…
Ah…oh dear…I see we might have a few “teething” problems.
Here’s a couple of more conventional pretty puppy poses…to lull us all into a false sense of security.
In 3 weeks time she will join us here at the FBC and my sleepless nights will become even more sleepless.
I do apologise for the lack of posts these days (and my absence from others blogs) but I’m generally separated from my computer by a flight of stairs and a demanding puppy. I find I don’t have as much free computer time as before. Hopefully this will all settle down once Lottie arrives and they both settle down…sometime around 2015 .
No…wrong…not a reference to the film of that title. This is the length of time Little Miss Mabel takes to demolish her bowl of food. It’s probably not as long as that, in fact probably half that duration but I didn’t want to make her out a complete piggy. Anything lying on the floor is considered edible. I forsee future problems when cleaning up as she considers the vacuum cleaner her main competitor. Thankfully she’s wary of it at present and has not as yet seen fit to sharpen her teeth on it.
Sadly I’m not able to say the same for Great Uncle Murphy who has shown great forbearance while being ruthlessly savaged by his young charge. The old fellah is remarkably restrained even with a snarling pup suspended from his lower lip. I took them both for a “walk” on Antonine Wall earlier this week. The photo below gives you an idea of what happened.
Having said all that Little Miss Mabel is proving to be very well behaved with other dogs, humans…and even children. Yes, I didn’t classify children as being human. I defy anyone to contradict me on that score! She’s currently the belle of Plean Country Park. It was there I took her for her first walks at the start of last week. Here she is at Plean pretending to be cute and cuddly.
After a break of 9 years we felt we needed at bit of an update on puppy training so it was off to class for Little Miss Mabel. There were only three puppies at the first class and when they were allowed a minute or so free play off the lead they all stopped at looked blankly at each other.
“What are we supposed to do now?”
“No idea…any suggestions?”
“Em…maybe if I run you could follow…maybe growl a bit for effect?”
“Sounds ok to me…ready?”
It took a minute or so before they got the hang of it.
A couple of days later I found the hand out from class firmly clamped between puppy jaws. Little Miss Mabel had obviously seen what she was supposed to do for homework and was about to shred the evidence.
“Honest Miss…my human chucked it in the bin!”
On a totally different subject I heard that a new catholic primary school had been getting the cold shoulder from local residents. It wasn’t clear whether this was on sectarian grounds or whether they didn’t want any sort of school on their doorstep. Anyway, as part of the outdoor play area the school had decided to erect a number of totem poles, I assume to give a bit of interest. Complaints flooded in about crosses being erected in the school playground. Only in Scotland…eh.