Sunday, 26 December 2010

The Big Chill (Part One)

This week I caught a chill.

At first I thought I was just a little under the weather. I had a temperature, a strong thirst, a very sneezy nose and I felt tired. Then I felt this very urgent need to pee. It was so embarrassing as my owners had just gone out without mentioning to me when they'd return. What was I to do? I lay there trying to forget about it, wondering what Santa Paws might be bringing me for my Christmas. But it was no use. After an hour I just had to go. I rose from my bed and, as I did, I sprayed my bed, my duvet and the kitchen wall. The relief and shame were in equal measure.

My master was the first to return and was quite shocked by the smell. He sniffed around like an amateur and ended up removing the bag from the kitchen bin, thinking it was the wasted food that was giving off the unpleasant odour. I suppose I should be pleased that he didn't think it could be coming from my bed, especially as I was still lying in it. 

He did eventually twig when he returned to make his lunch. A bed washing later and the smell was gone from the kitchen, as the bed lay drying on a concertina tubular clothes airer upstairs. He thought he was going to get a pat on the back for showing such initiative. Possibly he would have had he used washing powder. I don't think he'll ever be fully house trained. The mistress despairs.

I had to sleep on a spare duvet. So did he. It would have been funnier if she'd made him sleep on my bed before she washed it again. I suppose though they train humans not to rub their noses in it when they've been bad.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Night Encounters at Barshaw

Third week of the Freeze. The Snowmen have surpassed themselves this year. Even Santa is going to be delayed this year, according to retailers, unless you got your list away before last Friday.

In this cold weather I can't believe the generosity of some people, leaving free food for the dogs at various points around Barshaw Park. I thank all concerned. I found whole slices of bread near the play park area and more at the pond, some embedded in the ice. Then there was popcorn at the red brick shelter. Makes the walk in freezing temperatures all the more rewarding. Munch, munch, then munch a little more, until my master catches me in his torch glare. It's funny watching him slip and slide towards me in an attempt to put me off my snacking. He should know by now four legs are better than two for staying upright. He's never going to catch me.

I saw a notice beside the pond stating "Danger: Thin Ice". The swans obviously hadn't seen it as they continued to swim around the remaining ice-free area, oblivious to the inherent dangers surrounding them. I barked a warning but they ignored me, as usual. They're so full of themselves in their posh white gowns. They think they're the special ones, the beautiful people, above the rules. Well I hope the thin ice gets them. Then they won't be quite as aloof.    

I wonder, if thin ice is dangerous, what about fat ice? It's probably not quite as nimble but being heavier could pack a better punch if it caught you. It certainly wouldn't crack under pressure. If Scotland was a colder clime, I'm sure we'd be very proud of our fat ice. "Feel that. Pure Scottish Fat Ice. You could dice that and stick it in your whiskey for breakfast. Beats your namby pamby English thin ice any day."

I nearly got into a fight with a man this week. He was cutting through the park in the dark, on his way home, and was walking at pace as it was so cold. I was running about to keep warm and thought I recognised him and ran over, hoping to get a dog treat. His hood was up so I jumped up to have a closer look but it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. I was about to apologise when the blighter kicked me. Like I deserved it. I was shocked. Not the 'treat' I was expecting. I ran over to my master and remonstrated at the man's behaviour, hoping he'd take up my case for me but he seemed undecided. The man was quite beefy. So I ended up taking him on myself. I chased him up the path to the pond and bounced around him, barking threateningly. "You want a piece of me? Try that again and you'll see what you get!"

My master was livid. With me. He called me, then got angry and shouted for me to return immediately, while I persisted with my expression of outrage. The man knew what was good for him though and continued on using his feet to walk not kick. Just as well. If he offered a foot in my direction again I wouldn't have let him have it back. One up to me I think. No one messes with the figbane!

I rewarded myself with a lick at some yellow ice. Mmmmn... salty!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

"Freeze. Nobody move!"

The Snowmen got their revenge this week. After I mocked their abilities, they in turn showed what they could do, managing to bring Scotland to a grand halt with their wintery weather. Every Snowman on the estate grew stone smiles as wide as their big heads would allow.

On Monday, although the day began with heavy rain, washing away the previous night's grit, it soon gave way to sleet then heavy snow and it didn't pause for over three hours, dropping inches of snow on top of already thick ice. A lot of unlucky motorists on the M8 were stuck in their car as the roadway clogged up and halted. It seemed quite unbelievable that the main road dissecting the country could be affected in such a way but it happened.

Then the freezing fog descended and iced up the snow, making it even more treacherous. All in all there was eight inches of snow on the grass in my back garden and I was much troubled. When I ventured forth for my afternoon constitutional I ended up looking like baby Bambi, legs embedded in the snow at awkward angles. I thought I was going to get stuck. The icy snow seemed to grip my legs and wouldn't release them. Latterly I could only walk at the edge of the house where the snow was at its lowest, only going further where the humans had left foot prints for me to step into.

Because it was so cold (minus double digit centigrade) the mistress insisted I wear my overcoat when I was taken for my evening walk. The pavements were too dicey to risk so we ended up parading down the middle
of the street along the tyre tracks. On either side Snowmen giggled from the gardens and mocked me as I slunk along, my head dipped in shame and embarrassment. I hurried to complete the walk but we'd only just started. I considered all the replies I should have given the Snowmen, but ended up just bitter from the freezing cold.  

When I crossed paths with a gentle collie cross, who remarked that she "liked my coat", I was in no mood to distinguish sincerity from sarcasm. I exploded in a fit of festering rage. The mistress was quite shocked by my apparent unprovoked outburst and scolded me. I felt like biting her for making me wear this stupid coat. I didn't care that it kept my body warm. My paws and legs were still frozen. I just wanted to get home and hibernate under the bed covers until spring. I never wanted to see snow ever again.

The big freeze lasted for almost the week. On Friday, a fast thaw developed as a pocket of warm air covered the country offering a welcome reprieve. Only melted stubs of snow remained to remind me of the recent Snowmen invasion. How long would it be before they returned for good? 

Today the temperature plummetted... 

Sunday, 5 December 2010

sNOw Joke

The pain of being rejected last week has given way to numbness. Probably because it's freezing. 

Britain has been in the grip of winter this week with freezing temperatures and widespread snow. It got so bad that motorways were closed and supermarkets and petrol stations ran low on supplies because their delivery trucks couldn't get through. It felt like the end of the world the way some were speaking.

When I say 'some' I specifically mean the 'Snowmen'. They've been rolling up again in gardens across the estate, swearing blind (pebbles for eyes, you see) that this time they're here to stay, that their 'grand invasion plan' was going to succeed. They peddle the same scare story every year but every year the rain returns and they all melt away. They're a bit of a joke. I don't find them scary at all.

For one thing the plan is hugely flawed. It's all very well hypnotising the children into building an army of snowmen for you but what's the point if they can't move. As soon as Private Snowman tries to roll, gravity takes over and his giant head smashes into the ground. How about adding a pair of legs into the design to add a little balance? And did no one at Snowman HQ ever stop to think that wearing warm hats and scarfs are a bit silly when you're made of snow. Not cool.

Their weapon of choice is the snowball. I get confused by snowballs. I keep thinking they're real balls. I get all excited and bouncy then disappointed when they land in the snow and disappear. Or if I catch one, it dissolves in my mouth and I get brain freeze. Not much flavour either, unless it's rippled with yellow snow.

I love it when the Snowmen start to thaw. The look of shock on their faces is priceless. Their noses and arms fall off and I get a choice of snack: root vegetable or stick.

I've not been able to get back to Barshaw this week because of the snow. I've been getting taken on local walks instead. The grit and ice have been getting into my paw pads, making it painful to walk and I have to pause with my leg in the air till it melts or I can lick it away. Not very dignified. Sometimes I have to walk slowly and delicately. Passersby think I'm an old maid. It's so embarrassing.

You pick up some great smells in the snow though. The scent trails are really strong. I followed a fox with my nose for miles the other night. I knew it wasn't Freddy. I just followed it for the sport. Rizza thinks I should forget Freddy. He thinks that I need to have an inconsequential fling with the next guy I meet to help me get over him. A rebound kind of thing. He even winked at me as he said it. I didn't know what to say. He took that to mean permission was granted and went round the back for a sniffy. I snapped at him and he backed away.

He was right though. It did help. It took my mind right off Freddy. Rizza's a good pal.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

First Love Dashed

I can't believe I've been so foolish. He didn't love me after all. I can never go out again. Why does it hurt so much? I feel as if I want to die. Send me to the vet now and lets get it over and done with. One last prick to end it all.

His comments make me want to support fox hunting. Let loose the horses and the hounds. The golfers might object though. And the green keepers. Hoof prints everywhere. And horse poo.

Those were nasty comments, Freddy. You could have let me down gentler. You're not a nice fox. It just goes to show you should never judge by appearances.

Foxy Lady

Apologies for failing to blog last weekend. My head and heart have been elsewhere. You see I am in love. It's an extraordinary feeling and I've never felt this way before.

Our eyes met one evening at the park and I knew instantly he was the one. Unfortunately I was on the lead at the time so could only strain and pull and make embarrassingly frantic noises. He was obviously shy and maintained a distance, watching me from afar. He couldn't take his eyes off me.

He was different to the other dogs. His face was gorgeous with an adorable nose and dreamy eyes. He possesed a cool grace, his body sleek and athletic, his winter coat pale red. His tail was amazingly bushy with a white tip. In every sense, he was a fox.

It's not so strange that I should be attracted to a fox. We both like to run across fields and fairways and both forage for scraps around the food dispensers. We both chase small animals and pounce when we think we can catch them. We're even the same height. What's so wrong with a dog falling for a fox? We're perfect for each other. 

The following night we crossed paths again. I could smell him before I saw him. I ricocheted back and forth across the grass following his trail determined to find him. He'd been watching me, sitting still behind the fence at the mini railway. When I discovered him, he ran, like a shy boy. I lost him in the woods. He's even more nimble than I am. 

On our third meeting, he was still crossing the golf course. He wasn't expecting me yet. Off lead and ready, I dropped my tennis ball and charged towards him. In my head I heard an orchestra play Tchaikovsky's Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet. He saw me approaching fast and his eyes nearly popped out of his head. He took flight at a tangent and the chase of love began.

We ran up over the fairways, into and through the trees then over the hill and round to the bramble of the thick border rough. He darted this way and that, never pausing. I maintained the distance, matching his speed, my heart pounding faster and faster. He glanced back from time to time to check I was still with him, which spurred me on to greater speeds. Eventually he ran through some foliage and disappeared down a hole in the ground. He'd led me to his home. Unfortunately, before I could follow, his mother appeared and took an instant dislike to me, suggesting quite fiercely that I should go away. She was not a woman to be argued with, teeth bared and vicious. I thought she might rip me apart but I sniffed around awhile, panting, hoping she would warm to me but it wasn't to be. She was adamant I should leave. It was the last time I saw him. 

The following night I visited the foxhole again only to find it deserted. The whole family had moved on. I attempted to follow the trail but they had done a good job in disguising it. If only his mother had given us a chance, I know I could have won her over.  

I'll find him again one day. Hopefully not squashed at the side of the road. He'll never forget me either, I'm sure of it. 

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Remembrance of Times Past

In the UK today it is Remembrance Sunday, commemorating the end of the first World War and remembering those who died in action serving their country. They mark it with Remembrance services and a two minute siIence across the country at 11am. I've never been in a war and have never lost a comrade in battle. I do know, however, how lucky I am to be alive.

As a puppy I was a stray, roaming the streets, desperately hungry and lonely, cold and tired and scared. In February 2006 I was caught by a dog warden who took me to a local Ayrshire farm. There I was nursed back to health before I could be transferred to a rescue centre. I was only two months old and was extremely thin. They weren't sure if I would survive. I was only supposed to be there for seven days but the rescue centre was so full they kept me on a little longer. First an older man, then a couple came to see me. As my original owners had not come forward to reclaim me, this couple were allowed to rehome me, once I'd been chipped and the vet said I was healthy enough to leave.   

I was so lucky. I was given a warm home and regular meals and toys and a bed all of my own. They spent time with me, reassuring me, training me and playing with me. They had a large grassy garden which I would race around and they took me on walks around the area. I didn't care which county I was living in. I got used to the different accent of the local dogs, eventually picking it up myself. I made friends (and enemies) but always I knew I was safe with a home to return to.

I remember sometimes misbehaving if the walk wasn't long enough or when I got soaked in the rain. I would refuse to come back to my master and he'd get angry with me. But eventually I'd let him catch me and all was still well. I got locked in my cage a couple of times as punishment but they still fed and watered me. They never threw me out. They still loved me.

What brought these memories into sharp focus this week was an experience I had on Wednesday night at Barshaw Park. It was after eight on a cold but dry night and there was a pack of us dogs and owners walking round the park in the dark. When we were passing the golf club, I wandered away, as I do, in search of foxes and/or discarded food. Soon I was racing across the fairways up the hill and into the woods following a fox. My collar light had grown faint with both distance and low batteries so I couldn't be seen from the park. I eventually lost the fox trail but sniffed and searched the woods, spending some time leaving my scent and acquainting myself with the location. I hadn't been up this far before. It wasn't until I returned to the golf club car park that I realised my master and the pack hadn't waited and were nowhere to be found. They were gone.

In human terms I was lost for twenty minutes. In dog time this felt like over two hours. When it sank in he was gone, my heart started beating faster and faster as panic gripped me. The night air seemed colder, the park much bigger and darker. I ran blindly, searching everywhere. I followed one noise to the pond and another across the mini railway line, running towards shapes that weren't my master.

Why hadn't he waited? Where had he gone? What if I didn't find him? I didn't want to return to the life of a stray. I had to find him!

I was so pleased when I heard his whistle call and saw his bright torch scanning the putting green. My tail was spinning so hard as I rushed towards him I thought it would turn into a propeller. I scurried around his legs bouncing against them to confirm he was real and leapt to lick his face. He crouched down and hugged me to settle me and clipped on my lead, then scolded me in a relieved fashion. I think he was equally frightened. He was puffing, out of breath himself, from running around the park, an exercise his body wasn't used to. We marched back towards the car, where the remainder of the pack had gathered, having split into search parties to cover all corners of the park. Everyone was pleased to see me and laughed in relief that I'd turned up. Typical figbane! They all wanted to know where I'd been (and so did the owners). My master thanked everyone for their help. Eventually everyone went on their way and I was taken home in the car. I still got a Bonio and lots of tickles. 

I like living here. I don't want another life. I wish every dog could share my happiness and this king size bed. Every dog deserves this. 

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Spare a Tree some Change?

Sorry about the quality of last week's blog. I was guising as a hack writer making obvious connections in search of a cheap laugh. I'll pick a better costume next time.

After Halloween its traditional for the kids of the Morar estate to extort cash from passers-by for their 'guy'. I was all too glad to spend a penny on his behalf. They weren't amused at his leg getting soggy though. They cussed vociferously and threatened to stick a banger up my bum if I did it again. I growled and they backed away. No one touches my bottom without permission. They were really stupid kids. The fools had used foam from a fire-retardant sofa to pad him out. I wish I had been there to see the bonfire light on their faces as he failed to burn.  

The Robertson Car Park at the Gleniffer Braes looked today like Baghdad both before and after the Americans had 'liberated' it from Saddam. Charred rocket shells and the detritus of a prolonged firework campaign covered the grass while the car park itself was strewn with the remains of pizza boxes and takeaway wrappings. I was in smell heaven. It didn't look like all the trees had survived though. Many looked scared stiff, bare of leaves and standing rigid, despite the wind. That's the winter coming. Not all the trees know that though.  

Did you know that trees can suffer from dementia? It's really sad but becoming more and more prevalent as they live longer. In the spring and summer they flourish, living in the moment, unaware of what lies ahead. When autumn hits they become highly distressed as their leaves start to turn yellowy/brown and fall off. They don't remember that this is all part of the changing of the seasons. They believe they're going to die. When the high winds blow, they end up standing in a bed of their own dead leaves, swaying in disbelief, mourning their increasing baldness. Sometimes in high gales they give up altogether and fall to the ground sobbing, never recovering. But the biggest pity of all for such long-living entities is that they forget and go through the whole painful process year after year. All except the conifers. But no one thinks to do any research into sharing the elusive cure that could save these deciduous trees from this annual pain. And why? Because money doesn't grow on trees. How would they pay for it? That's the world we live in now.

Me, I like to pee on them and chew their dead limbs. But then I'm a dog, although in this picture I look more like a mouse. 
Till next time...

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Trick or (Dog) Treat

It's Halloween. The night when children turn into beggars, demanding sweets or money in return for a joke or a song or some other equally pathetic entertainment. I would imagine paedophiles up and down the country are rubbing themselves in anticipated glee. "Come into my home, little one, I've got a treat for you."

If they were especially devious, they might borrow someone else's house, decorate it to the max in horrible Halloween paraphernalia, disguise themselves in costume to prevent identification, then let the party begin. They'd have their own joke.

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"Paedo who?"
"Paedo Phil, the kiddy fiddler." (Phil not being his real name obviously.)

Scary thought.

Still, seeing all those kids wandering the street with bulging carrier bags full of treats got me thinking. Why couldn't I do the same thing? I can be a scary monster without a costume. Imagine the surprise of the householder when their bell goes and they open the door to see me sitting there, doggy bag in mouth, demanding food. They'd think what a fantastic costume, so life-like, and such a convincing doggy voice. They'd give me lots of sweets because if they didn't I'd poop in their garden as a trick.

Isn't that the true spirit of Halloween?

Friday, 22 October 2010

(Unusually) I Don't Want to Play a Game

Bad news: no more night time snacks for me at Barshaw. My master did get a torch for his birthday. It's a very good one apparently - 700 lumens. He says it's so strong he could make the moon full every night if he wanted.

"Why would you want to do that?" I asked.

"So it wouldn't be so dark."

"Then you wouldn't need the torch!" He didn't have a response to that. Circular logic makes him dizzy.

He's been on holiday this week, which is great for him and me. He gets to laze around and watch movies, like the 'Saw' series, without the mistress grumping at him. They're a wholly gruesome series of movies, with blood and gore and limbs being lost. Too horrible for me. I hid behind him on the couch. However he did make up for all that torture by taking me on some extra long walks in the afternoons. We've been to Mugdock country park, Loch Lomond, even up to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park near Aberfoyle. It's been a blast.

I should really have shown more appreciation for all the extra attention I got but misbehaving, well, it's in my blood. I was a bad dog this week. Firstly, I chased a mountain biker - three times. I couldn't help it. When I see those woolly socks spinning on the pedal it's compelling. I must stop them. Then I chased a cat in the street. My master was upset but everyone else was very nice about it, stopping their cars to watch. And finally I let the world know that there was a hedgehog in the garden next door. It was big news. It needed sharing. I wanted Autumnwatch and David Attenborough to know. Did my master make the call? No. He made a dash for me, still in his slippers and dressing gown, in an attempt to shut me up and get me back into the house, just because it was 6.30am. Silly man! If he thought I was going to stay silent when a woodland creature was a plank-width away from my garden he was sadly mistaken. 

There is always a price to pay when you've been bad. And this is where I question the influence of Hollywood over impressionable dog owners. My master introduced me to a new lead and collar. Not just a normal one. No, this was a 'Dog Whisperer' lead and collar. And to me it looked like one of the traps made by Jigsaw, the twisted anti-hero of the 'Saw' series.

At first it just felt odd, tight straps at the top and bottom linked to a cord lead looped around my neck. However, once adjusted, it was surprisingly comfortable. Then he took me for a walk. I noticed the cord getting tighter as I pulled but it wasn't until we met that growly Shih Tzu on the main road and I jumped towards it that I felt its full, choking effect. It's difficult sounding tough when your wind pipe's been throttled and all you can do is cough. The master just smiled. I played his walk-nicely game from then on, praying my head didn't explode or get sliced off.

Justice was served. I learned and survived. I'll behave from now on. I don't want to play another game. Next time it might be an exploding muzzle or I might wake up chained in a dirty room with a full food bowl just out of reach, requiring me to chew through my own leg to get dinner. I don't want that. I promise I'll be good.

Of course that's not the end of the story. The 'Saw' films always finish on a twist. I wrote to Cesar Milan, of 'Dog Whisperer' fame, explaining my position and he wrote back. He explained in almost all cases there is nothing wrong with the dog. It's the owners that need training. Cesar has promised to teach my master a lesson. I can't wait to see the contraption he locks him in to mend his ways. Cesar is the new Jigsaw. You heard it here first folks.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Humans Never Listen

I've been getting evening walks in the dark at Barshaw Park this week. There are pros and cons to this. Cons: I don't get a ball as often because my master goes nuts when I forget where I left it and he can't find it with his torch. Pros: I'm off lead and find a lot more scraps of food because he doesn't notice them till it's too late. Yum! I really hope he doesn't get a better torch for his birthday.

The other night I was approached by a beagle, who was in a right mood. His owner had wandered off. He told me he'd expressly told his master to wait while he chased the fox but when he returned there was no sign of him. "Humans never do as they're told. They should be the ones going to obedience classes."

I said I'd heard someone whistling near the pond but that was a while ago. He thanked me and hurried off, sniffing insistently for a hint of a trail of his master. I wished him luck. He was going to need it. In the dark his master was probably terrified, running blindly all over the place. Silly man! Even with a beagle's nose he would be leaving a difficult path to track. In his haste I forgot to ask the beagle what his owner's name was in case we came across him. We didn't anyway so it didn't matter. I hope the two have been reunited. It's never nice having to go to the dog pound to wait for your master to show up.

He was right though: humans never listen. Take the case of the Staffy who shook the cat to death at Morar. He gave ample warnings to the cat's owner. But did she listen? No. Now he's up in court for not being under control. Where's the logic there? These humans and their stupid rules.

I'm forever telling the woman over the back to keep her cat inside, especially when he's up at my fence. It's for his own protection. Maybe she doesn't hear me at 7am because of her double glazing. I shout as loud as I can but still she allows the cat to roam. It won't be my fault if it comes to harm. She was well warned. Not every dog is as considerate as me. I thought I was getting somewhere when the intruder light came on but it turned out it was just a burglar. I scared him off. With no thanks, I may add. My master gets annoyed at me when I share my early morning thoughts like this. He's only thinking of himself. I don't know what he's worried about. An ASBO is a badge of honour in some parts of Paisley.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Mad Cat and Glory.

I finally found out what happened the other night when Percy was terrorising me from outside my door. It seems he hasn't been telling everyone the entire truth about himself and that rather annoyed Niro, the psycho cat that lives down the street.

Now I've known Niro all his life and he's more than a little nuts. It seems he was allowed to watch too many 18 rated films as a kitten and it twisted his mind. For example, the first time I met him I barked at him, because he was a cat and that's what dogs do, and his response was not to run away but to rush towards me, claws raised, hissing, "You talkin' to me? Well I'm the only one here. Who do you think you're talking to? Oh yeah? Huh?" Not the reaction I was expecting. My master dragged me away by the lead as the wild-eyed cat followed. He was scared I'd get my eyes clawed out. I was too. I was in shock for days. That was not supposed to happen.

I wasn't alone in being on the receiving end of a Niro tirade. Mitchell the collie once asked him a question and got the reply, "What am I doing? I'm talking to an empty street. 'Cause there is a dead dog at the other end of this f***in' garden." Mitchell had a breakdown after that and was in counselling for months. We all agreed it was best to leave Niro alone. He was to be allowed special privileges. 

The crazy thing is Niro lives with a dog and they get on fine. Granted, little Glory is younger and a bit dopey and doesn't realise the natural order between cats and dogs because she's not known anything else. As far as she's concerned it's normal for a cat to jump on your back and demand to be carried around the room. She just laughs. She thinks it's fun. Luckily she's got a really thick coat so Niro's claws don't break her skin. Niro has always been top cat in the household, and the street, if truth be told, and I guess that was what prompted the attack on Percy.

Percy had been telling lies when he said he was Cat Intelligence Agency. There is no Cat Intelligence Agency. He was just bigging himself up as the new boy, asserting his authority in his new surroundings, which was fine until he took it too far - he tried it on with Niro. The night he was terrorising me just happened to be the night that Niro caught up with him. 

Glory got the actual post fight report directly from Niro and passed the gossip on to me. She told me the fight was short; that Percy wasn't used to such cat aggression and was in tears even before the first claw struck his face. After failing to outrun Niro, he lasted just one scratch before making a dash for his cat flap and hasn't come out again since. She said Niro's actual words were, "I made him an offer he couldn't refuse. I told him, 'Mo-mo, if you make one more move on me, you motherf***er, I'll f***in' cut your f***in' balls off and shove 'em up your f***'n' ass. I'll f***in' bury you!". Percy has elected to become a house cat for the foreseeable future, while he reassesses his position. 

I'm glad it's all over, even if I didn't stand up to the bully myself. But that's the thing with bullies. They always get their comeuppance. There's always a bigger one around the corner. If it ever happens again I'll take Niro's advice:

"Better to be a king for a night than a schmuck for a lifetime."

Sunday, 3 October 2010

4 A.M. Thursday : Fight Night

I'm awake in my bed in the kitchen and my mistress and master are upstairs asleep. They've got work in the morning and don't like to be disturbed. I'm a bit cold and hungry. Outside it's dark and quiet. I haven't seen or heard anything from Percy since Monday when he menaced me in song.

Then I hear a noise. There's something at the back door. I sit up and listen, ears raised in anticipation. There it is again: a scratching at the foot of the door. I rise and pad quietly across to listen more closely, head tilted for maximum hearing capacity.


I sniff the edges of the door. No smell. Not through the door.

I wait.

Still nothing.

Then there's a whisper.

"I can hear you, figbane," followed by another claw at the door. I erupt in a fit of barking. This is it. It's Percy. He's making his play. I alert my owners with a repeating ruff.

I pause as Percy continues, "Tee hee, I'm coming to get you." He seems quite pleased with himself, like the cat who got the cream.

I'm worried and scared and angry and why haven't my masters woken up yet. I bark louder and more frequently. They're probably deciding who's turn it is to get up. I hope it's my master. He'll let me out on the extending lead. Then I can have this out with Percy once and for all.

I'm not in luck. The kitchen door opens and dressed in her pink pyjamas and slippers is my half-asleep mistress. I run over to her in excitement then back to the door again. I scratch the door to remind her I want out. She puts on the light and looks blearily around for signs of distress (poo, sick or pee) but failing to find any, asks sternly, "What's wrong, figbane?". 

I explain that if she loves me she should open the door so I can face this cat interloper and put an end one way or another to his threats. She doesn't understand me. She's not amused.

"Get to your bed. NOW!"

I attempt to persuade her to change her mind by scurrying around her and bouncing up before skipping back towards the door. I give her my cutest look with the whites of my eyes showing like crescent moons. She's not having it.


I slope back to the bed, sniffing at my food bowl as I pass (just in case) then slump down, huffing, but with ears still alert to the likelihood of further outside conversation. 

"And shush!" The light goes off and she closes the door behind her. It opens again and is slammed a little harder shut. I hear a soft push at the door as she satisfies herself that she's shut it properly and she returns upstairs. 

"Chic-ken!" Percy is still outside the door. The glee in his voice is overflowing.

"You'll get what's coming to you next time, don't you worry. Next time!"

Then something strange happens. I hear a squeal and a commotion and a wheelie bin gets knocked as two consecutive objects bounce off it. I can hear 'two' cats fighting. The sound grows fainter. I rush to the door to listen and I can hear them still going at it. From the echoes it sounds like they've moved onto the street at the front of the house. I hope Percy is losing. 

I hear someone moving upstairs. My master has probably gone to the bedroom window to see what's going on. I wish I was able to watch for myself. No picture, no commentary: it's worse than the Radio Clyde Superscoreboard. At least they've got Davie Johnston making quips between goal announcements. Here, I'm totally in the dark about the result. I'll need to wait till walkies to sniff out what went on.

The Cat is Out of the Bag

After reading my last blog entry, some of you may have noticed the major flaw in my plan to eliminate the cat from next door. And by this I don't mean the impossible methods by which I intended to proceed. No, the major problem was in posting my plan to the world, including Percy, before I had even begun. 

I found Percy the following morning sitting atop a post on our dividing fence, looking smug.

"Found any suicidal canaries for me to swallow?" he smirked. The smile faded as his back rose. "Did they teach you nothing at dog school? There's an old cat saying, 'Forewarned is four clawed'. You'll be getting better acquainted with this" he hissed, presenting his front paw, claws extended. The sinister smile returned as he began to sing out of tune his own version of 'Santa Claws is Coming to Town':

"You'd better watch out,
You'd better be-ware,
Percy the cat is out of his lair,
Pers-e-us is com-ing for you".

Then he leapt back down to his side of the fence and over to the cat flap. "Better watch out for the guillotine, hadn't I?" he giggled as he slipped through the opening into his house.

"Your singing still sucks" I retorted from the safety of my kitchen. "And technically you've just gone back into your lair so the song is factually inaccurate."  

I slumped over to my bed and let out a long sigh. What was I to do? I'd lost the element of surprise. It would take a miracle to pull this one off now. I closed my eyes and worried about my imminent nightmare.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

How to Kill a Cat - A Plan in Nine Parts

Plan 1: Flat Cat -  Trap a mouse by its tail under the tyre of a car. When Percy pounces on the mouse, reverse the car over him; 

Plan 2: the Cat who Swallowed the Canary - Poison a canary with chocolate, antifreeze and Regaine hair restorer (all toxic to cats) and get Percy to eat him. Requires a suicidal canary;

Plan 3: Fat Cat - Overfeed him until his heart can't cope with the extra weight;

Plan 4: Scaredy Cat - find a ghost to haunt him until he dies of fright;

Plan 5: Cool cat - lock him in a freezer;

Plan 6: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - also known as the 'cat burger without the trimmings' plan;

Plan 7: Death by Cat Flap - replace the flap with a guillotine.

Plan 8: Let the Cat out of the Bag - only don't.

Plan 9: Hire Curiosity.  

At last! Percy would go the way of the pigeon and I would be safe. What could go wrong?

The Dogs of War

If I was going to survive the machinations of the C.I.A. (Cat Intelligence Agency): black cat ops division, I needed my closest friends around to defend and protect me at all costs. I called a meeting at the hill of the Brandy Burn Walk for Sunday afternoon. From this vantage point no one would be able to sneak up on us without being seen. However, only two turned up: Rizza and Guido.

We waited a while, hoping others would show. Rizza told me to never trust a beggar. He'd been stiffed on his commission by Lainie, when she paid it to his owner instead, who then spent it at the off sales. Guido didn't say much at all at first. He was still panting, recovering from the climb up the hill. Undeterred I called the meeting to session and asked for suggestions about who else to ask to join the pack.

Guido: "Could we get that woman who dropped the cat in a wheelie bin? She's got previous in this department."

Me: "I think she's on probation at the moment, but we could pencil her in for later. Anyone else?"

Guido: "How about the dog that ripped the sheep apart at Barshaw? You used to hang about with him didn't you?"

Me: "Harvie? Yeah but we lost touch after the trial. He's probably still mad at me for not giving him that alibi he asked for. Better we don't get back in contact, if you know what I mean."

Rizza: "figbane?"

Me: "Yes?"

Rizza: "Do you really want to die a virgin?"

Me: "Rizza this is the inaugural meeting of the Dogs of War pack. We're not discussing 'doggy' just now."

Rizza: "You see that's a problem. I'm more of a lover than a fighter."

Me: "But I need you beside me, not behind me. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder."

Guido: "Doesn't our height difference cause a problem with that? And with my hips I'm not going to be much use in a scrap. I could carry the bandages though. Wrapped around me like toilet tissue. I'm good at that."

Me: "This is serious. I need to kill that cat. I need a plan."

Guido: "Actually, you need nine plans. A cat has nine lives."

Me: "What? Are you sure?"

Rizza: "I'd heard that too."

Me: "We'd better get our thinking caps on then, hadn't we? And I don't mean that literally, before either of you says anything. How difficult can it be? After all, there's more than one way to skin a cat..."

And with that we started to plan Percy's demise.

Pack Attack

Is it too early to post a Christmas wish list? Cos after tonight there's a whole bunch of things I want from Santa.

Firstly, I want leg extensions to make me taller. Secondly, I want bigger teeth to make me look meaner. And, not lastly, I want to bulk up so I don't pass for a play thing to be teased and toyed before being worn down and ripped apart. That's not the end of my list but I think I'd better explain what happened.

I got pack-attacked.

I was at Barshaw Park minding my own business, sniffing around, when three dogs erupted from the back of a 4x4 in the car park and set off at a sprint across the grass, chasing each other in a noisy game of tag. I love tag so rushed over to join in but wasn't allowed to play as they snarled at me whenever I got close. They were quite rude about it. When they forced me away I showed off my pace and ripped a big circle around them. I could tell they were impressed because the biggest one called me over and introduced himself as 'Tyson'. He was  a black Alsatian/collie cross and the oldest of the three. His adopted cousins were Bodie and Storm, both mongrels. The younger pair continued their game, pouncing and wrestling with each other, attempting to lock upon each other's neck, while Tyson insisted on receiving my introduction. I slumped down to protect my identity. All three dogs were lean and muscular and had four to six inches in height over me. Their roughness was slightly unnerving.

Three adults got out of the car, an older woman with a walking stick and a couple in their twenties. All of them were smoking. They called the trio back, using language I cannot repeat here. They sounded like they were from a bad part of town. I have no idea what my master thought he was doing going over to say hello. 

Tyson knew he was top dog. He stood tall, chest out, tail erect. The other two showed deference to him. He led, they followed. He was also a total ned. I don't mind when Rizza jokes about indulging in some 'doggy' with me because I know I have the final word on the matter, always "No".  When Tyson made rude comments about sex acts that I'd enjoy he made me very uncomfortable. I wanted to get away but was scared of showing weakness. But still our respective owners walked on together. What was he doing? He doesn't even like smokers.

When we got to the pond, Tyson made a show of scaring the swans. With front paws dewclaw deep in the water he barked vociferously at the birds, who hissed and rose up, wings flapping. I joined in too, slightly further back, and that was when things turned nasty. Tyson turned on me, raising accusations, like a mad dog gone wild. "What was I doing? Who did I think I was? Did I want a piece of him?"

I bared my teeth back at him, readying for the tussle. He wasn't the only one who could flip the 'mental' switch. If he wanted a fight he could have one, despite his size. I backed off onto the grass, matching his growls. I was totally unprepared for what happened next. Suddenly from out of nowhere, Bodie rushed at my flank. I spun round and deflected the blow, just as Storm weighed in too from the other side. They were making runs at me from all directions. My angry protests faltered, replaced by yelps of panic. I was trapped, the predators strafing me repeatedly from all sides. I couldn't turn fast enough. No matter which way I faced, the third dog always had a clear run at me. I couldn't stop them. I couldn't get away. It was hopeless. I was helpless.

The younger owners and my master pitched in to separate us but with four dogs, one was always free to attack. Finally the girl grabbed me and lifted me onto her shoulders before passing me back over to my master. I shrieked and wailed and wriggled to see what was below, terrified I'd get a chunk ripped from my rump. I couldn't help but cry aloud as my heart raced in my mouth. When it was safe, he lowered me to the ground, gripping my collar while he clipped my lead back on and I whimpered pathetically, shaking. The other three were being scolded by the woman with the stick, swinging it threateningly enough to make them wince. Their stares still lingered on me, looking for an opportunity for round two. My master checked me over for bite marks and offered me a gravy bone, which I snaffled up between whimpers. We headed for the car. 

The girl apologised from a distance, declaring they'd never done anything like that before, but I knew she was lying, not that the apology was addressed to me. As I scurried away, Tyson howled a final comment, words that chilled me to the core.

"Be careful!"

The same phrase and tone that Percy had used a week ago. It didn't sound like coincidence. Who was this cat and how did he get friends like these?

So continuing my Santa list...

I want my own pack - the 'Dogs of War'.
I want 24hr protection.
And I want Percy out of my life one way or another.

If you can deliver all that, I promise I'll be a good dog till Christmas.

figbane xxx

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Rizza's got a brand new bag lady

I was still confused about my new neighbour's confession. To hear he was 'Cat Intelligence Agency', not a cat burglar, explained his comings and goings at all hours of the day. Cats can hear frequencies that even dogs can't so maybe when he gets the call he has to go, like an old man with a dodgy prostrate. But then he could have been lying to throw me off the murder scent. I still wasn't sure what had happened to the pigeon.

Luckily, my owner decided to take me on a long street walk into town. I saw plenty of pigeons, who verified there was a war and one day they would have total urban domination. They cooed with puffed up confidence that victory would be swift now they had an alliance with the sea gulls. I wondered whose side I should be on in this war. Traditionally dogs hate cats, but pigeons eat scraps and they account for ten percent of my snacks. It was a dilemma. Perhaps I would stay neutral, then resume hostilities with whoever won.  

When we reached Paisley Cross my nose twitched with the smell of a familiar friend, Rizza, my schemie Staffordshire bull terrier pal. I dragged my owner closer so we could chat. He wasn't happy but went along anyway as my tail was wagging furiously. He didn't recognize Rizza owing to the fact he was tied by a rope to a homeless woman, not his regular owner. I was confused too but Rizza didn't seem too bothered and bounced to his feet when he saw me.

"How's it goin', Figgers? Fancy a bit of doggy?"

I hate that nickname. And no way was he getting any. For one thing the smell was awful coming from his handler. I ignored his request.

"What's going on with the beggar?"

"She's paying me. I'm on ten percent of her takings. She gets more sympathy if passers-by think she has two mouths to feed."

"But you hardly looked starved."

"Which just shows what a good owner she is. Besides I get the odd scrap thrown to me from the occasional animal lover."

My ears pricked up. "You get food from strangers, just for lying there?"

"Yup. One woman yesterday left a tin of Pedigree Chum. You interested in taking on a franchise? I could hook you up with dirty Boris, the Big Issue seller."

I considered it momentarily but decided against it. What if it rained or Boris tried to sell me? I didn't want to take the risk, even if scraps were at stake. I moved the conversation on.

"How long have you been doing this?"

"A couple of days. Lainie here lives up next to us and begs til her next money comes in from the social. Her kids are at school so she we have this agreement for weekdays."

"So she's not really homeless?" 

"None of them are. Dirty Boris lives in Glenburn. The beggar over at the entrance to the Paisley Centre is from Renfrew. And the Polish bint outside the bank has a mid terrace villa in Ferguslie."

"How much have you raised towards the Grand Plan*?"

"Not sure yet. She's going to settle up at the end of the week? Anyway better get back to business. Is your bloke going to donate or what?

We both stared up at him as he pretended to be checking his pockets, Lainie lifting her polystyrene foam cup at him.

"No change, miss, sorry," he lied, before dragging me away from my friend.

Rizza barked at him, then winked at me. "See you up the Braes on Saturday. Unless I'm at the Lap Dog Club, getting busy with the ladies."

"Sure. Good luck."

And with that we headed back home.

* see July: "Rizza's Hair of the Dog"

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Pigeon est mortuus

On my walk on Thursday night I noticed an unusually large number of pedestrians carrying fold down chairs. They were returning from the Pope's visit to Bellahouston Park. I wondered why they needed chairs. Had they been expecting bad news? Had the Pope's sermon started with "You may want to be sitting down for this" before going on to describe the atrocities committed by the priesthood, like some open air confession. I doubted it very much. Then I heard what he had to say in London and began to wonder.

I got a shock myself on Friday morning. In the garden, during my morning constitutional, I found pigeon feathers strewn across the grass and could smell blood around the site. Immediately my hackles were raised. We had a pigeon assassin operating in my garden. And it wasn't me. 

There was no sign of the body. This would normally indicate a fox but my garden is totally fox proof (and dog-escape proof too unfortunately). Surely a cat couldn't have killed a pigeon and carried it over a six foot fence?

I patrolled the borders, sniffing delicately. My worst fears proved founded: cat scent. But which of the clutter of cats in the street had committed this offence, in my garden?

All my instincts suggested Percy, the cat from next door. He was new to the area, disrespectful towards my superior dog status and had the fearless audacity of a sociopath. He also still had to learn that this garden was my territory and not to be trespassed. Later that day we had words.

To the untrained ear, the exchange would have sounded like a barrage of barking. I'll admit I did raise my voice. It was understandable. I was angry, made all the more so by Percy's smug grin and responses.

"Why do you think it was me?" he smirked.

"It's got your claw marks all over it."

"Ridiculous! Where's your proof? You've got no body, no witnesses and the pigeon ain't talking."

"I can smell your presence. I may not be a bloodhound but I've a bloody good nose for these things."

"Could be a copycat. Another cat impersonating my smell."

That threw me. I'd heard the term before but never in a literal sense. Was it possible? Could one cat mimic another?

"You're bluffing, I've never heard of such a thing."

With a gentle shrug of his shoulders, Percy unexpectedly relaxed. He leaned closer to the fence and whispered, "Look it was nothing personal. It's what I do. It's my job. You've heard the human phrase, 'putting a cat among the pigeons', well I'm that cat. You may not be aware of this but there's a war going on out there. Pigeons are planning to take over the world. They are mass producing themselves at such a rate that soon they'll not only control every city centre but every town, village and hamlet across the UK." 

"I've never heard this. You're making it up."

"I've got better hearing than you," Percy smiled. "And better connections. C.I.A. - Cat Intelligence Agency. We hear things. Be careful." And with that he leapt over to his kitchen door and disappeared through the cat flap.

Be careful? What did that mean? Was it a threat or a warning? Was he really in the C.I.A.? Did it really exist or was he lying? Oh, too many questions and not enough answers. And I never did find out what he did with the body. I just wanted a nibble.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Paisley - No Parking Allowed

Why, my incredibly sensitive ears hear you cry, am I bothered about car parking? It's not as if I drive. Indeed I'm more used to being chauffeured around. Well the reason is this: there's a big hooha near my home in Paisley about the change to the parking arrangements at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have introduced a managed car park system at the RAH where parking is free for up to four hours, thereafter a fine of £40 will be charged (reduced to £20 if paid within two weeks). Only 460 parking permits were issued to staff out of a workforce of 3000. Hospitals workers are outraged at not being able to park for free while they work and have taken to parking in the local area instead.  The locals have reacted furiously to this with angry windscreen notes and car vandalism. One sixty nine year old man is currently "helping the police with their enquiries". How stupid is he? If any of the staff caught him, they'd thump him. And where would he end up? In the RAH, being 'looked after' by the people who put him there. Is he hoping he's assaulted so badly he qualifies for a disabled parking bay outside his house? Then he could sit in his wheelchair at his front window and laugh at all the nurses spotting his space then moving on, disappointed. Silly parker!

This parking problem is nothing new but it is growing. The Council have recently extended the parking tariff zones in town, meaning free parking can only be found further away from the town centre in residential areas. Residents of these previously quiet streets are upset at workers leaving their cars all day outside their homes. They complain to the council who in response extend the tariff zone even further. If it continues the whole of Paisley will end up entirely tariffed. There will be a sign at the Paisley boundary that will read "Paisley welcomes careful drivers - unless they want to stop!" The Robertson Car Park will be designated a Park and Ride site and extended to cover the entire Gleniffer Braes. And then where am I going to be taken for my long walks? Ayrshire?

The Council has a clear remit to make sure the roads of Paisley are safe. They seem to have a strange but audacious plan for achieving this:

1. Constantly amend the one-way system so strangers and locals alike end up leaving, having been unable to work out what lane they should have been in to reach their destination;
2. Pedestrianise the town centre and extend a tariffed parking zone around it. This drives shoppers elsewhere, e.g. Johnstone and Braehead where they have free parking, so less people come to Paisley;
3. Allow more businesses to collapse and fail to attract new business to the area. Even less people come to Paisley. Less demand for parking, so less complaints about it;
4. Roads are used less so need less repair. Deserted streets need less cleaning. Council saves money. Which is good because there's less revenue coming in from business and car parks to pay for these services;
5. Cut other services like education and health. Anyone not on benefits moves elsewhere;
6. Make driving a car so expensive that anyone on benefits cannot afford it.

Plan succeeds. Empty roads means safe roads. And they say my ideas are crazy.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Barking Up the Wrong Tree - Part Two

Photo Copyright Jason Alexander's pet Collie, Jessica

I was at Barshaw Park sniffing around the trees, as I do, when I was hit by a falling chestnut shell. Immediately I was alerted to the presence of a squirrel. I studied the branches of the leafy canopy above, listening intently for movement. Those critters are like irresponsible daredevils leaping from tree to tree without a safety net but occasionally they slip up and plummet to the ground. That is the best time to catch them, while they're still dazed, but you have to be ready because they recover fast. 

I have a love/hate relationship with squirrels - I love to chase them, hate not being able to catch them. We once had a regular squirrel visitor to our garden. He always escaped unscathed if perhaps a little frightened. From the bird feeder he would scarper towards the house along the top of the fence, moving like a furry wave. From the fence he would jump to the drain pipe then climb up to the temporary safety of the first floor. Here he would pause and assess his escape route. It was an amazing spectacle watching him crawl a horizontal path along the brick work, gripping the thin edge where the bricks were separated by mortar. When he lost a paw hold, I was sure he would fall. I even barked reassurance that I would catch him - catch him in my waiting jaws, that is. He just ignored me, concentrating on hanging on, until he reached the corner of the wall and then leapt across to the wall of the house next door and away, his cheeks full of nuts from the mistress' bird feeder. She removed the bird feeder shortly afterwards.

Anyway, something odd happened at the Park. The squirrel had been deliberately attracting my attention. He wanted to talk. He climbed down the tree trunk within squeaking distance and, when I had finished my barking, explained his proposal. The park had too many squirrels and not enough nuts to go round. He wanted my help to thin out the population. He wasn't the biggest grey squirrel I'd seen so I could understand his predicament - he couldn't take on the big boys and would go hungry and die in the winter. His plan was to lure the competition to ground level where I could pounce, ripping them apart. It sounded like a great plan.

I was to stay at the foot of the trunk out of sight and wait. He bounced away in search of our first victim. I looked around and noted he had offered the same deal to a number of dogs who were all standing alert at the foot of their trees, front leg crooked, poised for attack. Minutes went by, Everything was silent. Anticipation grew. Drool descended from the jaw of one salivating Boxer. Everyone simultaneously shushed a passing Afghan who, having pooped, scraped the leaves behind him. The tension was massive.This was going to be a massacre.

Suddenly a breathless Labrador pounded down the path by the Nursery Corner. He was exasperated. "Come on lads, quick! There's a million squirrels sweeping up all the fallen nuts over the hill." By the time we rushed over, the ground was bare and all we could hear was squeaky giggling coming from unseen full mouths in the trees above. We'd been conned. 

I post this as a warning to fellow dogs everywhere. Never trust a squirrel, especially when it comes to nuts.

Barking up the Wrong Tree - Part One

Olusegun Aganga
I have been known to get things wrong, occasionally picking up the wrong end of the stick. I always apologise, especially if it is an actual stick and I've accidentally bitten my master's fingers. So when I read today on the BBC news that Olusegun Aganga, Nigeria's finance minister, has predicted their country's economy will grow by 10% this year, I thought to myself what an audacious scam. Normally I just get an email from a Nigerian official asking me to send my bank details to him so he can wire me an inheritance of millions of dollars. Now they're on the national news, appearing all legitimate, saying, "Come invest in my country, we're doing really well." But is it true?

My first thought was perhaps the Nigerian scammers have stepped up their game. If they had the finance minister in their pocket, they could reach governments and large financial institutions to achieve a huge payout. Then I thought, if the scammers have been so successful, then maybe the Nigerian economy is booming as they spend their ill gotten gains. Maybe we 'should' invest heavily in that country. Who cares if it's an economy based on fraud and deceit? Think of the profit.

Which is what they want you to think: the hook that it might be true. Luckily, I'm a dog and have no bank account. Until they start sending me emails promising me pounds of Bonios I'll continue to delete them. But is there a lesson to be learned?

If more British people sent out scam emails about lottery wins and inheritances to suckers in other countries then that would bring more money into the country to boost our economy. The other countries wouldn't be expecting it. Maybe Cameron and Clegg should persuade Vince Cable to launch a scam initiative to get more foreigners investing in Britain. He could go on Nigerian news saying Britain's economy is going to grow by 12% this year and they should invest all their money in us. Might work. What's he got to lose?

Sunday, 29 August 2010

The Latest Gadget for Dogs... in my dreams

Last night I dreamt I was playing with a prototype gadget for dogs - the Apple iPaw. It was fantastic! A computer for dogs. It looked like an iPad coated in a super strong rubber case (like KONG but less intellectually protected). It's unique feature was its "scratch-and-sniff" interactivity. Every point on the screen had odour releasing cells capable of mimicking the image on display. It could send and receive e-smells and had a built-in Woo-Fi connection. It allowed you to chat using messenger Ya-howl and keep up to date with your friends using social network site 'Fangbook'. Instead of apps, the iPaw had 'pets', which stands for 'Press Everything To Smell'. iTunes carried 'pets' games, movies, even recipes which came to life in amazing olfactory genius. I licked the bowl screen clean many times, hungry for more. 

When I woke up I wondered if I'd had a vision of the future. Was this something that could happen? Where had this idea come from? I considered if I'd already heard the concept subconsciously on the dog radio. I listened intently to all the adverts on the ultrasonic airwaves but heard no mention of an iPaw. You may not be aware of this but many companies use ultrasonics to advertise to animals. Humans cannot hear them because the sound frequency is too high. You'll be sitting watching telly and suddenly your dog will sit up, ears erect, listening. They may even bark. If they do then they're demanding to go shopping. Don't take them. It'll just be for an impulse purchase. 

Of course, if it's not an advert then you may have a burglar in your garden. And don't think you're safe if you live in a flat. The odds may be reduced proportionately to the height of the building but there's still a chance. Just because you have the added protection of a dog does not mean you are safe - it may be a cat burglar. And then it's personal. A challenge.

Your dog may suddenly hear a noise in the darkness, run to the window and erupt in a volley of barking. He's trying to tell you there's a cat burglar at large. You dismiss your dog's warning because you can't see anything. Meanwhile Leonardo DiCatrio is breaking into your house at that very moment. Stealing your iPaw idea. 

Could this happen? Am I still dreaming? Do you follow where this is going? Please tell me because it's not making much sense to me. I think I need to lie down. Was that "Inception" on the telly last night or did I dream it?

We've had a cat move in next door. He may or may not be a cat burglar. What I do know is he comes and goes at all hours of the day and night. Very suspicious. Even has his own tiny door, with a gadget that only recognises him. He's called Perseus, shortened to Percy. He introduced himself to me by screeching the 'Florence and the Machine' hit, "Dog Days are Over". I asked if that was supposed to be a threat. No, actually, I asked him what the noise was then, after he told me, I asked if that was a threat. He thought it was funny. I thought it was awful. He should invest in some auto-tuning software like they use on X-factor. What a caterwaul!

I haven't decided what to make of young Percy yet. I admire his cheek. And his rump. Next time I'm asleep I'll flick through the cat recipes on my iPaw. Decide what tickles my nostrils. I'm sure I haven't seen the last of young Percy.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

What's in a Name?

Another follower, wow. Welcome to the pack, Carol. A few more and I'm going to have to come up with a name for you all. "Followers of figbane"? I'm sure we can do better.

I'm fascinated with names. Guido has an interesting story about his name. All his brothers and sisters had names beginning with the letter 'G'. If he'd been born one litter earlier he'd probably be a Francisco or a Frederico.  It's a guide dog policy. The Guide Dogs Association needs to maintain accurate records of the origin of each dog. This then lets them select the dogs with the best traits for breeding so that, ultimately, they can create a master breed for leading the blind. I don't think they put it that way on their literature. Sounds a bit Germany 1940s to me. So long as they don't try to eliminate the other weaker breeds I'll be alright. Maybe we should call him "Guido, the product of semi-eugenics", instead of "Guido, guide dog retired".

The origin of my name is shrouded in mystery. I'm not even sure it's a girl's name. Being a rescue dog, found with no tag or chip, my new owners got to rename me. I have no recollection what my original name was. Probably something simple like Coco. The only name I can remember being called from that time was 'Little Runt' (or something like that) and that was by the dog warden who caught me. I was even more nippy back then.

Pedigree dogs have unusual pedigree names to help identification. Rizza's pedigree name is: 'Pizza Delivery Boy of Twisted Melon Man'. This gives you a small insight into his origin. His stud sire was a champion dog called Twisted Melon Man and his breeder was a Paisley junkie with a side line in expensive dog breeding. Rizza's not registered with the Kennel Club though because his breeder didn't want to risk the Benefit finding out. Rizza rues this every day when he thinks about all the 'doggy' he could have had with his lineage. "I could have been a stud, if only I had the paperwork." He tried using a photocopier but none of the ladies were falling for it.

There's a funny story about how he came to be called 'Rizza'. When he was a pup, his owner was still married, with two children. The kids, upon hearing his pedigree name, united in glee at shortening the name to 'Pizza'. This was a source of great amusement around the home, the family chuckle, until one day Pizza managed to escape. Then the joke faded. Dad searched for hours all over Foxbar. All the locals came out looking for pizza. Not the dog, though. Calling out, "Pizza, Pizza, here, Pizza!" can have that effect. Dad became the butt of many irate comments and one head. When 'Pizza' was eventually found, the old name lasted only as long as it took to hit a chisel with a hammer. Pizza became Rizza with a single blow to his name tag. And then the drinking started and the marriage dissolved. And his owner has never ordered pizza again.