Sunday, 18 December 2011

Sweet!

We met my Staffy pal Rizza and his master wandering the hills of the Gleniffer Braes, both enjoying the freedom and fresh air. Rizza was finally home after a forced extended stay at his granny's and his master was home after a forced extended stay at her majesty's pleasure. He was still declaring his innocence to my master as they strolled across the heather, the smell of alcohol reminding us both that actually his innocent belief was more owing to a memory blackout than any miscarriage of justice. 

I was dying to hear all Rizza's southside tales but instead Rizza was being uncharacteristically reserved. He seemed nervous and kept eyeing my master suspiciously. Finally I snapped and demanded he explain himself. He only had questions.

"How long has your master looked like that?"

"What do you mean?"

"The pale, gaunt, skinny-faced look."

"I dunno. He's been on a diet."

"So what's with all the boiled sweets he's sucking?"

"What are you getting at, Rizza?"

"Nothing... not sure... have you noticed anything odd about his sleeping habits?"

"He's been telling the mistress about his nightmares but he says that's down to stress at work."

"No unusual bite marks?"

"Spit it out... what's on your mind?"

Rizza paused then stared me right in the eye and declared: "I think your master has become a 'sugar vampire'."

"A sugar vampire? One that only drinks the blood of diabetics?"

"No. It's a creature of the night that's become a slave to their sweet tooth."

"But it's daytime."

"And see how many of those Werthers he needs to sustain himself. How can a man with such a craving have lost so much weight?"

"Diet and exercise?"

Rizza didn't respond. He was watching the two men converse. "I bet he's got a secret sweetie stash in his car. Have you been getting regular walks at Barshaw?"

"Most nights, unless the weather's really bad."

"So he could drive and secretly munch on the way!"

"He does always have a couple of sweets on the walk too. It's funny watching him retrieving the wrappers if they fall out his pocket on a windy night. I always thought he was being litter aware but maybe he was just wanting to avoid detection."

"Now you're getting it. What else have you noticed?"

"He's always hungry."

"That's another sign. We need to kill him. He needs a cake through the heart!"

"Whoooaa... Cake? Who's got cake?" I interject, salivating. "We're not wasting cake on mastercide."

"We could try to save him I suppose. How many teeth has he lost?"

"None that I know of."

"Then we're not too late. Here's what you do: tell the mistress!

"Then..."

"No, just tell the mistress. She'll either kill him or cure him with guilt."

"Sweet! I'm glad you're back. I've really missed you."

"So any chance of some doggy for good times sake?"

"No and, just to be quite clear, I love you dearly, but go near my rear and I'll bite your balls off."

"I've missed you too."

And we ran and ran and ran until nightfall. The masters were furious. It was only supposed to be a short walk, not a couple of hours. Mine had run out of sweets and his was getting a headache, sobering up. I decided not to tell the mistress straight away. She was too worried about the length of time we'd been away. I'd wait and we'd spring the intervention on him later once he'd calmed down from his sugar crash.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Water We Going to Do?

The rain continued to pour down across the west of Scotland in biblical amounts last night and civilisation nearly ground to a halt in our house. It was the master's first day back at work after his illness and he returned a weary man in need of revitilisation. His dinner was cooking but firstly he needed to wash the day off his hands. He lathered up on liquid soap and turned the tap but was surprised to find no water. Instead the tap gurgled and spat and hissed air, the little water that did issue staying brown like his diarrhoea from the previous week, albeit less smelly. 

Looking at his soap-covered hands in disbelief and disappointment, he then turned to the mistress to read-lip her whisper about a burst water main repair on the main road. Wiping the soap from his hands on the kitchen towel he sighed, "How long till dinner?" 

"Go and get changed quickly - 5 min" was the scribbled reply. I was surprised to see her write in italics too.

Upon reaching the bedroom, the master changed out of his suit then entered the ensuite to test the water there. He was too tired to think logically. How could a mains tap work upstairs if it was not working downstairs? Never mind. Another sigh and he emptied his bladder, deliberately. Mostly in the bowl too. Then, on autopilot, he pushed the lever to flush. The water whirled away and just as it reached its lowest point he suddenly realised his mistake and let out a loud curse as the cistern began to cough and bluster and make other noises like it might explode. A breathless mistress then appeared in the doorway to remind him too late not to flush and they both prayed the toilet wasn't broken. Eventually the noises stopped and a brown liquid sedimented inside the bowl. He didn't try to flush it again.

For dinner they had a little spicy cajun chicken on a bed of pureed vegetables. I got to watch them eat it from my bed, where I'm sent at their meal times. I'm occasionally thrown a tidbit by the master when the mistress isn't watching. Not that he'd hear her complain now, what with her laryngitis.

After dinner, the master looked across hopefully at the kettle only to be disappointed. There wasn't enough water left in it to make one cup of tea, never mind two. Another sigh. Parched, with a mouth more than a little burny, I noticed him glance at my water bowl and decided not to share. I slinked out of my bed and lapped up a couple of tonguefuls and made my way to the back door. I was thinking time for some more Cat Attack practice!

When he opened the door for me, suggesting I wouldn't want to go, I realised he was right and backed back inside. No cat would be so stupid as to be out in that. It did give me a thought though. Perhaps the master could put a bowl outside for himself to catch the rain water. He could use this to fill the kettle for his tea. It wouldn't take long with the rain coming down in such torrents. But it turns out he's fussy. One little viral bug and he's too scared in case his immune system can't cope with any rain bugs. So instead, he grabbed a plastic bottle of Coca Cola from the cupboard and drank that, much to the minor irritation of the mistress. This was not a treat day for his diet.

How long would this internal drought go on? They wanted to know if it had been reported. This was now over two hours with no water. When were they going to get their emergency water bottles to wash and bathe with? I didn't care. If I was thirsty, I still had my bowl and, when that was done, there were plenty of puddles in the garden to drink from.

Before they could even locate the emergency number, they read on the website that the issue was being dealt with and within another hour the water was reconnected. Panic over. It stayed browny for a while. When the master showered the next morning it looked like when they bath me after a particularly muddy session, only with less hairs left in the plughole afterwards. In fact I missed a trick. I could have been playing in the mud without fear of an instant bath when they had no water. I'll need to remember that for next time.   

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Week my Owners were Sick Part 2

The downside to having two owners ill at the same time was the lack of exercise. Normally they share the walking duties but with the master laid up in bed and the mistress coughing at the slightest inhalation of cold air my walks were restricted in length and frequency. The wet, windy weather didn't help either.

Initially I was pleased to receive my treat rewards without the need to get soaked. I even aborted one walk when the rain was falling sideways to return to get my Bonio and Dentastix. As the week continued however my frustration levels were growing and grumbling. I needed to burn off some aggression and no one was able to play with me. Fortunately I found an outlet in the form of a new game.

It wasn't really a 'new' game, more a sequel to a game I've played before. "Cat Attack 2" is a variation on British Bulldogs, playable by any breed and gender of dog. The dog has to prevent the incursion across his boundary of any of the multiple cats that want to cross into his territory. This involves lots of sniffing, power running, growling and barking threats. It can be played at any time of day or night as long as there are cats willing to play. There doesn't even have to be cats if you just want to be prepared. 

It was inspired by the arrival of another feline next door, Clifford, a pesky critter who likes to poop on our front lawn. I suspect his owners have been spraying cat litter on our grass because it looks like that area is the only place he goes to the bathroom. There's a new massive poo there every day. What are they feeding him? Or is he getting fed at multiple homes? That's the thing with cats, they can just meiow at a stranger's door and, if they're lucky, end up with a regular meal. If a dog tried that they'd get carted off to the pound and end up on prison rations. Where's the justice there?

Clifford has lots of friends who regularly visit his garden. His older brother doesn't get out much after Niro took a claw to him but this one is quite the charmer with his big cat eyes. He even tried to weedle his way into our house one night. I would have liked that - a confrontation 'doggo-a-catto' on my turf, chewing on him till his squeaker popped then ripping out his stuffing. 

As I said, my frustration level is inappropriately high owing to the shortage of walks.   

I can't let Clifford poo on the rear grass because with both my owners shy on poop scooping duty I'm running short of fresh space for me to go. I've pounded the line of the fence so much the grass has turned to a muddy trench. I return to the house so dirty after a gaming session they've used up all the clean towels. They now have to use the carrot stew bowl to wash my legs before I'm allowed further than the mat in the kitchen.

I hope one of them gets better soon. Or else I'm going to need a pawdicure. I won't show you my nails. They're in quite a state.  

The Week my Owners were Sick Part 1

My owners are not talking to one another at the moment. They've not fallen out though. She has laryngitis and has been left with no voice. One of the plus sides for him is he gets to watch the saucy bits on TV without being told to "cover his eyes". I can see her shaking her finger in disapproval but he can't see her, his eyes transfixed by the screen. At dinner, she's taken to writing him post-it notes. He pointed out if he ever lost his glasses they'd never be able to communicate again. She then mimed she could text him. I thought that would be a waste of time: one - he never checks his phone; and two - he doesn't know how to change the font size on his phone so he'd still be stuck if he'd lost his glasses.

He's not been well either. He came home early from work on Wednesday and went to bed with a hot water bottle and a bucket. I thought I heard him calling me so went upstairs. I discovered the bucket contained a warm, lumpy carrot stew, which I sneakily nibbled at. He got very annoyed. He scolded me and threw it all away down the toilet. He didn't want any of it. A bit of an overreaction I thought. He was so upset he stayed in bed and didn't eat another thing for the rest of the day. Great for his diet though. We made up later when he let me snuggle with him under the covers. To be fair he was too ill to argue. That hot water bottle was really cosy. I want one for my Christmas. I just need to promise I won't chew it.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Children in Need

This year's BBC 'Children in Need' charity appeal is subtitled "Show your Spots". Given the high incidence of teenage acne I find this to be in very poor taste (unless they're collecting Clearasil in those buckets).

We had a young boy at the door wanting sponsored 'per spot' for Children in Need. My master took one look at him and said, "They're not spots, they're blisters," and closed the door. The boy rang the bell again, determined to get a donation. From behind the door, my master shouted, "It's chickenpox, go away! You're contagious." When the boy's sobs began to drown out the fundraiser on the telly, my master took pity on him and reopened the door. The boy's smug grin faded as he was handed a secondhand bottle of calamine lotion. He deserved some credit though. I'd never thought of varicella as a fundraising virus before and at least now he wouldn't be so itchy. 

On our walk tonight a kid ran up to us and demanded money. I never saw where he came from. He was about eight years old and was wearing slippers, pyjamas and a dressing gown. At first I wondered if I had misunderstood the whole concept of 'Children in Need'. Was this a night where children were allowed to beg on the street? I thought, no, that's Halloween! He explained he needed the cash to buy sweets from the ice cream van, which was strumming towards us along the road, playing the Magic Roundabout theme music. My master couldn't hear either the van or the boy's demands over the sounds from his Ipod and walked on, knotted poo bag swaying. This was the only donation being made on our walk tonight and I'd made it. 

Just as well my master was oblivious to the boy's request. He's a sucker for beggars and charity collectors. He'd probably have been too embarrassed to refuse and ended up being blackmailed by the boy's parents, who were videoing the encounter from a first floor window. How would he explain to the police giving cash to a boy in pyjamas on a street corner? Maybe next time, the boy's parents won't over think their plan and just mug him for his Ipod. I'm sure Cash Converters will give them more than ice cream money for it. And he'll never hear them coming.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Death is just a Click Away

Should undertakers now have online sites complete with checkouts? Would it be considered distasteful to load your deceased partner's details into the basket and be one click away from their final resting place: a virtual graveyard for the digital age? GoogleGone. FaceBookedOut. Having picked their favourite sound to accompany this final program task, watch as their ashes are scattered in faux 3D across a specially themed desktop landscape from the emptied Recycle Bin. Would it become the norm to organise an online 'Confunerance', passworded or public, allowing all the elderly relatives to attend without having to travel while wondering if they'll be next?

Warning: during this process do not click 'back' or 'refresh' or else you may create a zombie program to haunt your computer till it's dying pixel. Defrags won't exorcise these living dead and neither will rebooting them remove them. Norton AntiUndead may be one solution but expensive.

That's the future! Just you wait...

Scratch, Scratch, Scratch

No, I've not got fleas. This was the sound coming from the walls of our converted garage. My master was watching the new Ricky Gervais comedy, 'Life's Too Short' on his leather recliner sofa when the noise started to irritate him. No, not Ricky Gervais' voice. He wondered if his expensive in-wall speakers were starting to fuzz distortion (not that it really sounded like that). Declining the recliner, he rose and crossed the room to listen to the speaker. The sound stopped. He waited, ear to the mesh. It started again but not from the speaker. From the wall way below. It sounded like scrabbling. Something was trying to scrape their way into the house from floor level. He had one thought: 'Mice'.

He summoned the mistress, who was lounging in the living room watching a recording of 'Downtown Abbey'. I came along too, as my body heater had annoyingly departed the couch. We all listened and she freaked as the noise returned, this time further along the wall and clearer. Demands were issued to search the cupboard under the stairs, then the kitchen cupboards, then behind the living room sofa. Check for any signs of entry: mouse droppings, nibbled cartons, scurrying vermin. I hoped she was talking to him and not me. If there was any nibbling at cartons to be done I would volunteer, but I would much rather use my time cuddling on the sofa. Her body heat was heaven.

After a quick inspection, revealing no evidence of invasion, the mistress then pondered where might be open to buy a sonic deterrent. Would Asda have any? The master was not keen or approving of such a visit. He doubted Asda would have any anyway, never mind a 'range of appropriate products' ("I've never seen a rodent deterrent aisle in Asda"). B&Q was closed. Could we risk waiting till the morning or would we be overrun?

I sighed. They were mice. It was nothing to worry about. They'd mess up like they always do. Worst case scenario: they'd nibble an electricity cable, get frazzled and the alarm clock radio wouldn't work, causing the humans to sleep in and I'd get a late breakfast. What we hadn't to do was panic and buy (or borrow) a cat. I wanted to be very clear on this. This is a one pet home!

Then I wondered if they was the same mice that had nibbled their way through the cabin central heating pipe. Had they followed our scent all the way from Aberfoyle or hitched a lift in the exhaust of the mistress' 4x4? Were they planning to become house mice instead of field mice? 

Then the master leapt in the air, roaring like a frustrated Hulk, and landed with a massive thump, making me jump out of my coat and bark alarmingly. What was he playing at? Had he crushed one underfoot? I sniffed around his feet and realised there was no mouse (but he may have athlete's foot again - the irony in one so unfit). He shushed both of us and we all looked silly, standing like statues, with only one of us pricking up their ears to signify listening. The noise had indeed stopped and didn't return

He waited up for a few hours just to check and I got some extra time under the duvet before being sent to my own bed. Quite what he would have done had it returned I'm not sure. He couldn't go bouncing up and down all night. He might break the weakened floor boards and collapse into the foundations if he did. Then the mice would have a massive entry point into their new winter home. 

Friday, 11 November 2011

Two Men and a Doggy.

I met an Airedale Terrier called Terry at the Park tonight. We've sniffed bottoms before but never really chatted till now. He seemed a bit emotional. I asked if his perm was too tight. He looked at me, confused. Did he not know what a perm was? I started to explain but he cut me off declaring his curls were all natural. Not a great opener but I've never been known for my tact.

"So what's upset you?"

"My owners are splitting up."

I looked around and could see two men in their late thirties walking ahead. Neither were talking.

"Which one of them is your master?"

"They both are."

Now it was my turn to be confused.

"How can you have two masters?"

"They're gay."

"Oh."

"You don't know what that means, do you?"

"No."

"It's when two people of the same sex love each other."

"So why are they splitting up?"

"They don't love each other any more."

"So they're not gay any more."

"Yes they are, just not for each other."

It made no sense to me. We ran over to them and, ever curious, I gave them both a quick sniff. Terry noticed and barked, "They smell the same as your master."

"So is he gay?"

"That's not how it works."

I got a scowl from both men and Terry was summoned to stay closer. Did gay men not like brindle cross breeds mixing with their pedigree chum? I looked over at my master and realised he was keeping his distance too. The two men started arguing and Terry returned.

"Here we go again."

I asked diplomatically, "So which of them's getting custody of you?"

"They haven't agreed that yet. Neither wants to give me up. Both want to walk me and won't let the other take me out alone."

"That's a shame. If they walked you separately you'd get twice as much exercise and there wouldn't be that air of irritation. It would be good if they could sort things out and split before Christmas." 

"Why?" He raised his eye brows incredulously.

"Twice the presents. No 'joint gifts' anymore. Maybe one could get you a pair of straighteners for your coat and the other a shaver for that beard."

Terry grumped and bounced back over to his owners to continue his formal walk.

"No sense of humour," I sighed. "Which is surprising given he looks like he's running in furry leg warmers."

Argument paused the two men walked apart with Terry running between the two.

I returned to my master.  "It's not just his coat that's tightly sprung tonight!" He had no idea what I was saying but still rewarded me with a tidbit of schmacko, which I inhaled in one. I liked my master. He gave me treats even when I didn't deserve them. Unlike the mistress, who preferred to trick me into accepting a worming tablet then asphyxiate me to make me swallow it. She did have her good points too though. She's warmer than a hot water bottle in bed and spends more time playing with me than he does. If they ever split up I'll ask to be put up for adoption I think. Make it a three way split. They can split the house between them and I'll take the cabin. 

Which reminds me... I wonder where those mice went?

Monday, 31 October 2011

Halloweekend Report

It's been a very wet weekend. The rain was so heavy the down pipes from the gutters at the cabin sounded like they were pounding out a speeded-up techno beat. The weather man said we were to have "showers, heavy at times". If that was the case, Aberfoyle must have been right under the shower head. I know how that feels. I've had to have two baths this week. Nothing for ages, then, as Halloween approached and my attempts at a smell costume failed to impress. I got plopped in the bath tub and hosed down twice. Fox poo caused the early bath on Friday, then cattle splat on the Sunday resulted in bath number two. The mistress discovered it as she removed my collar. She might have noticed it first had my coat and collar not been brown. I think the second bath served two purposes given the amount of dog shampoo she lathered on. She used loads of hand cream afterwards too (on herself, as I don't have hands - do they make paw cream? Probably not. I'd end up just licking it off then wanting more. It would be a vicious circle).   

They needn't have bothered with the baths. I got completely drenched tonight on my walk, or paddle as it more closely resembled. It's been so bad the Ferguslie cricket pitch escalated from puddledom to duchy of pond. The roads were margined with rivulets which drivers took great delight in not avoiding. I'm surprised there weren't dudes out with surf boards trying to catch the waves. 

Another bad thing about the poor weather was that it was a washout for trick-or-treaters. Personally I would have liked to have answered the door to them. I like a good treat and the bags they carried smelled full of sweets. And I don't mind performing tricks either if I'm suitably rewarded. I think the kids should be praised for still wanting to share with us, as the complete lack of Halloween decoration would have deterred many from approaching. Was it really fair to let them stand outside, as their costumes degenerated into wet suits, even those that were wet suits? Maybe next year when the master is not on a diet we'll open our door and accept their generosity.

I may even get a proper costume. There's a website that sells halloween costumes for dogs called http://www.costumecraze.com/. They have many different designs, from butterflies to sailors to movie characters. Two of them, though, in my opinion, are just wrong. Why dress up a dog as another dog (scooby doo), it's crazy! And putting a dog in a 'Cat in the Hat' costume, by definition, should be outlawed. I think my favourites are the dinosaur costumes. The stegosaur (above) looks completely waterproof and the tail spikes would deter unwelcome male attention at my rear and the Tricerotops (below) would just be mental. I'd wear that everyday if I could. Till next time...


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Of Mice and Dogs

The thing I find relaxing about the holiday cabin is the complete absence of cats. I can step outside onto the decking and inhale the clear forest air and not get a whiff of intruding felines. 
The downside is mice. Minus the mouse's primary predator they flourish.


A family of mice decided to nest beneath our cabin. I was the only one aware of them at first, scrabbling away beneath the utility room where I sleep. It sounded like they were going to gnaw their way through the floorboards into my bed. I cried but no one listened. When the mistress did eventually investigate she only uncovered the rain ingress in the boiler cupboard and mistakenly thought that was why I was crying. She scolded me for being such a puppy. With a sigh, I gave up and prepared for the worst. I won't describe the nightmares I had that night.


The mice had been disinterred from their home by the heavy machinery widening the road and removing the fallen trees from the forest behind  the cabins. With autumn in full swing and dry oak leaves falling like cinders, they were forced to find a fresh nest in a safe environment to bring up their babies. Below the cabin, behind the wooden cladding of the base, offered protection from aerial predators like the buzzards and owls that screeched and hooted in the night. In time they would bite their way upwards into the kitchen and that would see them through the winter months. It seemed like a perfect plan to daddy mouse. 


It would have worked too if one of his sons hadn't been overenthusiastic in using central heating pipe insulation as nesting material. Chewing too deeply he gnawed a hole in the plastic pipe beneath, puncturing it, allowing the hot fluid to escape. The boiler failed as the pressure dropped to zero. The master and mistress wouldn't even have been aware of their presence if it hadn't happened. On the recommendation of the site manager, sonic deterrents were installed and efforts taken to dissuade their continued presence. Eviction notices served, the mice moved on again. 


Daddy mouse, deafened by the ultra high pitched siren, wondered if his luck would ever change. Why did his schemes always fail? He blamed that Rabbie Burns for cursing the whole of mouse-kind.  Maybe it was time to leave the country and move to the city. Get the kids into a good school. Cash-strapped councils might take longer to respond. "But what about the cats", asked mummy mouse.  "Don't worry, love. Remember, Jerry always gets the better of Tom. Why should I be any different?" Mummy mouse didn't reply. She could always find another new mate. 


I wonder if the master will blame the mice for all the missing crisps and chocolate during his recent stay.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

She's a 'Very Naughty Girl', Possibly



Dogs live in the present. The now is all we know. Our past gets recorded if we have a pedigree but for mongrels like me the family tree may as well be a stump in the garden to wee upon for all the entries it won't have on it. I don't know where I came from, who my parents were or how many brothers and sisters I have, or had. They may well all be dead or living in Bournemouth. It's not as if I can go back in time and find out.


Or so I thought.


My master was watching a drama on BBC4 called 'Holy Flying Circus' about the controversy surrounding the release of Monty Python's seminal film, 'Life of Brian', particularly focusing on the debate about it on the 70s show, 'Friday Night, Saturday Morning'. It was all very silly, a satire in the style of Python, with men taking the roles of wives and mothers and animated interludes and dream sequences splicing the drama. At about 68 mins in, they showed the rather saucy opening credits of the original program and I couldn't believe my eyes. They were staring back at me from the screen. I was in the opening credits. I was wearing a collar I didn't recognise but it was distinctly me. My eyes, my ears, my nose, my everything. But it couldn't be me. The program was made in 1979. I wasn't alive back then. 


A quick reality check. This is a drama made in 2011. It could be a visual effect.  Perhaps this scene wasn't the original one but a recreation using my image (without permission). I could sue them for royalties. I would need to check out the original program to verify my facts before I engaged the services of a lawyer.


Youtube was my next destination: the repository of every clip on TV. I found it here. But in case you don't have access to this link, here are two screencaps. 





Then I realised what this meant. At some point in my near future, given my youthful looks, I'm going to become a time traveller. I get to go back to the seventies and appear on television. I wondered where else I would end up, or when else. Would I meet my parents? Would I disrupt the present in a 'Back to the Future' style mishap and end up not existing? Would these actors become the actual Pythons? Only time would tell. It was something to look forward to... 



Except there's always the possibility that I've created a paradox and time is collapsing. By discovering that I exist in two time zones the fabric of the universe may be unravelling. What will I do then? What will I do now? How will it all end?


And with that thought, John Cleese suddenly appeared, ending this blog, commenting, "And now for something completely different.... Mice."

Saturday, 15 October 2011

It Wasn't Me!

Police interview: 15th October, 2011, 2.20pm. Saltcoats Police Station.

Good Cop (GC): "Can you confirm you're whereabouts at approx 4pm on Friday 14th October 2011?"

Bad Cop (BC): "Make it easy for yourself and just confess."

figbane: "I was in Ardrossan, at Cruella's. I was nowhere near London."

BC: "We never mentioned London. Why do you mention 'London'. Got something you want to tell us?"

figbane: "I read about the girl, with the facial injuries, the five year old."

GC: "Why do you think we would be interested in you for that?"

figbane: "I saw the dog's description: Staffie bull terrier-type dog, short tan-coloured coat, with white fur under its chin and chest."

BC: " 'With a nasty temper'. Remind you of anyone?"

figbane: "Hey, I only get grumpy sometimes, like when there's an animal near my territory or if another dog tries to mount me, or looks at me in a bad way, or..."

BC (interjecting): "Is that what happened here? Did the girl look at you in a bad way? Is that why she had to lose her face?"

figbane: "I tell you I wasn't there. You're making me very uncomfortable. My heckles are swelling. Do I need a lawyer?"

GC: "Do you feel you 'need' a lawyer? This is just an informal interview. You 'volunteered' to come in."

figbane: "In that case can I at least have a bowl of water please?"

GC looks at BC and nods, motioning towards the door. BC rises, shoves his chair away, exhaling angrily, and leaves the interview room. GC takes out a packet of gravy bones and offers me one, which I gobble down.

GC: "Perhaps if you made a statement, on the record, formally then this could be over a lot quicker. If you were to come clean now, maybe you wouldn't get the death penalty. We could put in a good word with the judge, how you cooperated."

figbane (rising from the chair, bearing teeth): "But I didn't do it."

GC (rising to stand): "Sit down!"

figbane (shaking involuntarily): "I haven't done anything wrong. Am I under caution?"

GC: "Not at this time."

figbane: "This is a colour thing, isn't it. You think brindle-coloured staffy-like dogs are all the same. 'She's a staffy' so she must be a criminal."

GC: "You're not all sweetness and light. We know who your associates are."

Puzzled, I twist my head. "Rizza?" 

GC: "Yeah, Rizza!"

figbane: "But he's a lover, not a biter. Or would be if I let him."

GC: "He's got form. Fare dodging, vagrancy, stealing a wallet."

figbane: "So that makes me guilty by association? I'm not standing for this. If you've got any evidence show me now or I walk." 

BC returns with the bowl of water. figbane sniffs it and looks at BC. 

figbane: "This water is salty. Did you not think I'd notice, with a nose like mine."

BC pulls a guilty look and GC shakes his head. "You're free to go. We may want to interview you further so don't be leaving the country anytime soon."

figbane (to BC): "You do know you're diabetic? There's sugar in that bowl too." 

Cruella was waiting for me at reception. I scowled at my interogators and left.

"Don't ask," I muttered as we headed to the bus stop and she didn't.

15102011FIG
http://www.talktalk.co.uk/news/article/girl-savaged-by-dog-near-playground/23821/

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Shine a Light

The nights are getting darker now and the clocks haven't even changed yet. (I wonder if that's why the Swiss are so rich: everyone buying a new clock twice a year to save daylight.)  I'm having to wear my flashing collar light again for my evening walks in the park.

Tonight in Barshaw Park we had an encounter. I had picked up the trail of a fox and was chasing after it when I stumbled upon a gang of youths drinking at the red brick shelter. My master had shone his torch after me to see what I was chasing and the powerful beam attracted the yobs like moths.

The biggest one shouted over, "Gee'us a shot o' that torch, mate," while the group moved towards him. There were about eight of them in total, six males and two females, wearing shell suits and baseball caps, flashy mobile phones illuminating their faces. My master looked uncomfortable and chose to ignore them. Then another of the crew, a ginger haired boy in a red Adidas tracksuit, made a more direct request, 

"Show us your torch, deefy."

"You show me yours first!"

I couldn't believe my ears. What was my master saying? Was he nuts? I hotpawed my way over to the group, skirting the edges, distracting the less intelligent ones with my flashing light, hoping it might lessen the odds of a bloodbath.

"F*** off, a'm no showing you my d**k, you dirty perv!" the ginger one coughed back.

"That's okay. It's a torch, not a magnifying glass."

My master must have had a death wish. This was a Paisley gang. Maybe his weight loss had muddled his brain. He wasn't fit enough to outrun these guys and I wasn't about to bite any. I had a ball in my mouth and wasn't going to drop it for anyone (unless they had a treat of course).

The first lad stepped forward and muttered viciously, "Show him your torch or I'll show you my f***ing knife."

And my master handed the torch right over. His prized possession was passed around the gang as they played with it, shining it at each other, trying to blind one another with its powerful beam. They didn't even realise it had different settings. They shone it across the golf course and down by the pond and up at the trees at the top of the hill. My master just stood there, trying to get me to come over to him without drawing attention, while still keeping a wary eye on the group. 

And then they just handed it back to him.

"Cool torch mate."

"I told you I just wanted a look."

And they laughed and walked back towards to red brick shelter. I sensed a smell of brown brick coming from my master's pants, figuratively speaking. We took the long way back to the car. I bet we'll be going on street walks for a while after this. Where were the police when you really needed them?

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Food Issue

I'm so hungry.

My owners are both on diets which involve eating lots of protein, so the kitchen is regularly filled with the aroma of bacon, sausages, chicken, eggs and lamb. Having previously bought all their meat from the refrigerated shelves of the local supermarket, they've discovered the delicious joys of the deli-butcher at Aberfoyle. The chicken breasts are plump and not inflated with water, the mince is pure and unbulked with fat, the sausages tender and full of flavour. Pies too have huge chunks of meat and no gristle. So why am I still hungry? Have I not been rewarded with sufficient tidbits from their plate? No! This diet means they eat every little morsel. I get my usual bowl of Burns Chicken and Brown Rice pellets, occasionally moistened with warm water if it's nearing the powdery bottom of the bag, and that's it. It's not fair. I wish I was on their diet too. I might get steak!

I'm so hungry I even ate what I thought was a long string of spaghetti yesterday. It was just on the ground behind me. It was only when I had munched it all the way along its length, in a manner not dissimilar to that scene in "Lady and the Tramp" only involving my own bottom, that I realised it was a worm, one of my worms. Even my worms are starving and want to escape.

The only amusing thing about their diet is I've noticed their clothes don't fit them anymore. The master is now on the last notch of his belt. He'll have to shop for clothes soon and he hates that. I've been whispering to him in his sleep that all he needs to do to avoid this shopping hell is to start to eat like he did before. I would help him with his guilty conscience by sharing snacks with him. It would be our little secret. Unfortunately the mistress overheard me and had to get up to tell me to shush three times in one night. 

Final thought: why do people on diets pain themselves by watching cooking programmes? Don't they realise all those ingredients will end up full screen, in their face, scrumptious and completely unobtainable. Maybe they just enjoy salivating and savouring the memories. Food Masochists! 

Sunday, 18 September 2011

World War RizZa

I hadn't seen my friend Rizza in a long time. I was beginning to think he was dead. I couldn't smell him around and no one had seen him. But I needn't have worried. He wasn't dead, just nearly undead. 

Rizza, a staffy virgin, has had many innovative schemes to get his end away, all unsuccessful. They usually involved raising cash to buy time with a doggy dancer at the elusive Diamond Lap Dog Dancing Club in Glasgow. When he did once find a wallet (his master's) he couldn't locate the club and was eventually caught by a dog warden and returned home. Dejected at coming so close, he almost gave up the dream, until one day he noticed a newspaper article. Hollywood was coming to Glasgow. A new plan was born.  

Brad Pitt was in town to shoot scenes for his new film, "World War Z", a zombie movie, and he had brought Angelina and their brood with him. Rizza's plan was to get adopted by the couple as a family pet for one of their children. All he needed to do was manufacture a way of meeting Brad and make him fall for him. As a pooch of the rich and famous, he'd have no end of 'doggy' offers.

With his owner staying at her majesty's pleasure* (why do they call it that? I'm sure the Queen's not exactly delighted at being responsible for buildings up and down the country full of criminals. Couldn't she just ship them off somewhere else like her ancestors did or is there still an export ban?), Rizza was residing in Mount Florida with his Granny Jean. She was no match for his cunning ways. A scrape at the door and an eager-to-pee look and he was off: under the fence, through a neighbour's close and off to catch the 31 First Bus to the city centre, hopping off at Hope Street, then scurrying eagerly towards George Square to make his break into stardom.

The sight of such a huge crowd initially intimidated him. How was he going to find Brad among all these people? There were security too, and police on crowd control. And why did the square have banners for a Philadelphia museum? And yellow traffic signals hanging from wires across the street? Had he turned a corner too many and found himself in the Twilight Zone? Then a tramp with a bulging carrier bag and an odour to die for wandered by, cursing in broad Glaswegian, attempting to join the throng. It was still Glasgow. As security guided the tramp away towards the police, Rizza took the opportunity to disappear into the mob unnoticed. 

Weirdly everyone was just standing there, making small talk but not mingling, as if waiting. The crowd also had an unusually diverse ethnic mix, with all colours, ages and races represented. Rizza noted, 'not a lot of gingers though'. Trotting along, spying from floor level, wasn't going to find him Brad. He mustn't get distracted. He was going to have to use his nose. Figuring Brad would be the most attractively aromatic actor present, Rizza sniffed around for the most expensive scent he could find and made his way to the source.

Then, just as the scent seemed at its freshest, a loudhailer announced, "Action!" and the crowd starting running and screaming and it was terrifying, so many feet trampling around him. A woman tripped over him, but Rizza didn't pause to be crushed. He belted as far as he could away. A few more tripped in his wake as he belted for the safety of the security barriers. A waiting security guard scooped him up and passed him to a nearby police officer, who carefully dropped him into the back of a police van. Rizza was too shocked to argue. He could have been killed. He watched as the crowd stopped running and shuffled back to their starting positions. From his new viewpoint, Rizza could see the cameras and spotlights illuminating the scene. Men in 'Crew' jackets were moving through the crowd checking for injuries and a body of them had centred on one spot. In the centre Brad stood beside a young woman with a cut on her head. That was the woman who'd tripped over him. He'd been so close, it hurt. (Actually it was the kicks that hurt but he'd live). Rizza watched fascinated until the dog warden van pulled up and he was transferred to the dog cages at police headquarters, same one as before. "The Rizza room," he sniggered.

Next day Rizza was gutted. The incident had made the papers. But there was no mention of the little brindle dog that had been the cause. He wished now he had been trampled. Perhaps then Brad and Angelina would have visited him in the pet hospital and, tinged with guilt at indirectly causing his injuries, agreed to adopt him into their family, making more press stories and fuelling the celebrity machine. It could have been Rizza's photo in the papers. Oh well, there's always the Halle Berry movie coming soon. "I wonder if she likes dogs," he quipped to me with a twinkle in his eye.




* a story for another time.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Empty Child

The mistress has put my master on a new diet. He had asked her to let him know if his belly ever got as big as a neighbour's and it had. She hadn't even finished reading the explanatory book before she started him on it. I joked he should skip to the end of the book to see if he survives. It didn't sound very healthy. Eggs and bacon for breakfast, salad and soup for lunch and lots of meat and veg for dinner. But no bread, cereal, potatoes, fruit or snacks are allowed. 


He's been following it but he's not happy. He's been complaining about being hungry and weak, but really he's just suffering sweetie withdrawal. He's not used to having an empty stomach. He compared his situation to that of being a child again, having to ask permission to get a biscuit but always being refused. "But I'm hungry!" he would whine. 


Pah! What about me? I don't think they considered the full implications of his diet when they started it. I survive on his scraps: crusts of toast, luncheon meat, nibbles from biscuits and cakes. My sad eyes could always persuade him to save me a portion. I was doing my bit to watch his weight. But now he covets every crumb, every slither of fatty bacon, every lick of the natural yoghurt pot. I get nothing. It's not fair.


I think I'll write my own book, the Figbane Diet, and download it onto her Kindle. It will involve lots of dog walking and ball throwing and giving equal shares of your dinner to your dog. The dog won't get fatter because of the extra exercise and as the owner will be on half meals they'll lose weight. Amazon bestseller list, here I come...

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Olympic Torch Bearer... Not!

My master got nominated by his work to carry the Olympic Flame. He'd have got to do it too if he'd just passed the fitness test. All he had to do was run one hundred yards carrying the torch. Unfortunately he's so unfit all his huffing and puffing blew it out. Not good for a supposed health professional. They're going with someone else.

I tried to cheer him up by getting him to chase me around the garden at night. I was sure I could smell a cat in the neighbour's garden. As I bounced and bounded up and down the plant area, barking loudly, he made a valiant attempt at catching me but ended up skidding and falling on the bark, while shushing me and trying to grab my collar. It's important to push him that extra distance. Make him feel the burn. I don't want an unfit master cutting my walks short because he's out of breath. I even help him eat less by begging for the last scraps of any snack he's eating. Every little helps.

But do I get any thanks? No, the ungrateful sod. I didn't get a treat before bed tonight. But it's him that'll suffer in the long run (if you'll pardon the pun). The way he's going, I'm going to outlive him. A dog should never bury his owner. Just ask Greyfriars Bobby. I wonder what he's left me in his will.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Kaiser Chiefs in Riot Prediction Success.

The Kaiser Chiefs wrote a song "I predict a riot!" which won't be getting played on any radio station any time soon. Cities all over the country are on alert following nights of social unrest in areas of London, Manchester and Birmingham. Youths have been looting stores and setting fires to buildings and cars and attacking emergency services and the police. David Cameron and Boris Johnston both had to return early from holiday.

Coincidentally the stock markets were crashing all over the world. But I don't think the riots were triggered by the nation's youth being incandescent over the effect on their future pensions. 


I don't know what started it but I do know it became opportunistic. The police didn't quell the disorder at the beginning so it escalated. Young children and formerly upstanding citizens decided to go late night shopping because it appeared they could do so with impunity.


That's what I'm like. When I sense opportunity for a food snack, I don't hesitate. If my nose can get tongue deep into my mistress' jacket pocket to retrieve the bits of Schmacko she didn't give me on the walk, I'm in there, licking until that pocket is clean and soggy. The only deterrent I respond to is if the master and mistress might catch me. 


I guess the looters are like that too. But I'm an animal. What's their excuse?

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Live Short and Prosper

My master was disappointed yesterday when he discovered that the bread had gone mouldy and the milk was off. Both were within their expiry dates. He was in a grump for the rest of the day.

It got me thinking: why do people pick fresh? What is the problem with long life?

Humans want to live a long life but they prefer not to eat long life.

Is it the taste argument? Fresh tastes better. Scientists haven't found a way to reproduce the naturally nicer tasting originals in a longer lasting form. This could also be down to investment not being put in.

Is it the economic argument? Long life products cost more and this deters the consumer. Less people buy them so production cannot be scaled up sufficiently to bring the price down. 

Is this why pets are so popular? We are all generally fresh, with a relatively short lifespan compared to humans. When we're battery farmed we end up with physical and emotional issues.  

Would long life dogs be less popular? If we lived 30 years instead of 12-15 years would as many people keep us as pets? Would we be regarded as a bad investment?

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Second Coming


I did get to go on holiday but not to Pompeii. We all went up to the cabin instead. Not much had changed, except for the weather. It was hot, boiling hot, at least at the start of the week. I had to scratch at the patio door window to let them know it was my sunbathing time. Latterly they just kept the doors open so I could decide if I wanted heat or cool.

The loony dogs of the dog asylum were still barking their message, "they're coming, they're coming". Then all of a sudden it was true: the campsite turned into a bug dive. The sky darkened as a flash mob of horny winged ants filled the air (and the grooves of the decking), fornicating wherever male could grab female. Mass panic ensued across the camp as patio doors were closed over, windows were locked shut and little children had their eyes covered by protective parents. All around humans were staring out in disgust and trepidation. A pleasant sunny evening ruined by insect life. 

Then after two hours the ants all lifted off and departed for a post exertion cigarette or whatever it is they do. The mistress sent the master out onto the decking to check we were safe again. I didn't join him. I'd encountered a similar event before in the field above the Robertson car park and it was not pleasant. Thousands of beasties carpeting the grass, bursting into the air as you walked by disturbing them. Yuk! I got bitten loads that day. I was happy to miss my evening constitutional that night too though I still insisted on my Bonio. Priorities!


Another freaky visitation happened at dinnertime last night. I was on the decking chewing on my squeaky Kong toy, the red one with the tails, when I was surprised to get a reply. I thought I was imagining it. It wasn't an echo. I'd squeak then hear a similar shrill sound high above me. I looked up and there were six buzzards circling. The mistress laughed as she implied I was mimicking their mating call. These were birds of prey I was duping. I found it funny too and continued to squeak away, until the master suggested that they might swoop down and take me away for their dinner. I didn't want to be a takeaway. I tell you it took all the fun out of that toy. He's a bad man! 

Living in the country can be very interesting. They've got loads of different animals. I've sniffed froglets, followed a wandering grouse and, yesterday, found a hedgehog and I don't mean run over on the verge of the road. What is it with roadhogs that they insist on squishing their hedge cousins? It can't be good for their tyres.

The hedgehog was shimmying its way along the path up from the dog walk area, perhaps returning to its hedge. When it saw me it rolled itself into a small ball. I wasn't falling for it. I may be ball obsessed but even I draw the line at biting a pin cushion. Besides I could see loads of insects crawling between its spines. It looked really itchy. I bet the hedgehog would have loved to have been able to pluck out one of those spines and give itself a really good scratch. Maybe that was why it walked the way it did, a compromise shimmy, enough to soothe the itch without pricking itself. Maybe all the roadkill hedgehogs weren't just unlucky with their road crossing skills but deliberately decided to end it all, unable to cope with the intense itch. Doesn't explain the dead foxes though.

Lastly, I had my second ever experience of 'window bombing' at the cabin. The first time it happened I thought it was an accident. Little did I realise it was actually a dangerous pastime, adopted by bored, young, mainly male birds as a competition to see who could concuss themselves the longest by flying head first into a closed window. Despite advertising condemning the activity by the RSPB, many are ignoring the advice and still ramming into windows, getting off on the dizzy head spin as they revive. But with limited street corners to hang around on in the country setting, it is anticipated this home made entertainment will grow until eventually, regretfully, someone dies. The RSPB have created a series of window stickers in the shape of splatted birds to try to deter these bored bird delinquents. Only time will tell if they've been effective. You can order them here: http://shopping.rspb.org.uk/pages/product/product.asp?prod=Bird_window_stickers&ctgry=BirdAccessories&cookie%5Ftest=1

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Cave Canem

Once again my folks left me in Ardrossan to globe trot. I gave them pelters of abuse upon their return. It wasn't so much that they'd been away but that their arrival coincided with my dinner time. After being fed I calmed down and listened to their holiday tales. 
It was a warm day and I really wanted a post meal snooze but one holiday tale perked up my ears. They went on an excursion to Pompeii and found its ancient streets littered with stray dogs. Rather than destroy these animals the local council have set up a project, '(C)Ave Canem', to look after and preserve the dogs living at the archeological site. They seek sponsorship and potential owners to adopt the many dogs that roam the ancient streets.


The ancient Pompeians loved their canine pals too. One owner at the House of the Tragic Poet went as far as to install a mosaic of his dog in the floor at the entrance. It is this image that is used by the project as its logo. 
Of course when Vesuvius erupted it wasn't just the humans that perished in the ash and pyroclastic flow from the volcano.  
Today dog owners are encouraged to visit the site with their pets, so long as they have a poop scoop, short lead and muzzle. So now I know where I'd like to go on holiday. Gloriously hot sunshine, open air housing and Italian ice cream; what could be better than Pompeii? Maybe I'll be adopted by an Italian family and renamed Figbania. 

With Italy being part of the Euro, do the dogs spend a 'cent' instead of a 'penny'?

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Beware Golfers Bearing Gifts

An 'Indian giver' is someone who gives a gift then takes it back or expects one in return. The term is regarded as being offensive nowadays because it is derived from the native american practice of expecting a gift in return when one is given and we're not allowed to call them Indians any more.

The term came to mind the other night as I walked along the part of the Braes on the Sergeant Law side that runs beside the Paisley Golf course. I'm sniffing along when suddenly one of the golfers shouts something that sounds like "Four". Confused at the sudden loud enunciation of a number, I'm nearly struck by the arrival of a small white golf ball. And then I get it. Snatching it up in my mouth I realise he must have been shouting "For you" and I just missed the final word. 

My master, who up to this point had been withholding the emergency tennis ball, usually reserved for distracting me from getting into arguments with other dogs, starts to jog towards me. It's a sad sight as his sore back and general lack of fitness have left him stiff and ungainly. Still, it usually means I'm in trouble so I leg it.

Next thing I know there's a golfer negotiating the barbed wire fence. I run over to say thank you and he just gets angry. But what did he expect? I'm not one of those dogs that instantly retrieves the ball and gives it back. I like a chew at it first. This golfer was incensed. He remonstrated with my master and the master attempted to bribe me with the aforementioned tennis ball but it was too late. Golf balls are a treat that I love. The insides don't taste great but I love the challenge of cracking the exterior. I wasn't going to give it back.

The golfer threatened me with a golf club, a wedge I think, but I knew how far he could reach and stayed a safe distance. Eventually he gave up and returned to his side of the fence. And then did something that annoyed me even more. He dropped a new golf ball and played on. If he had another one why did he need my ball back?

I wasn't allowed to chase that one, so on our next circuit of the field I ran ahead and nipped onto the course to follow the native american practice of gift exchange. He'd given me a ball so I left him a deposit in the hole on the very flat grass. It was a tricky shot too because the stick was still in. 

My first 'hole in one' and there was no one around to see it. Luckily.  

Monday, 27 June 2011

Season of the Midge

Last time, I mentioned that I'd heard the mad dogs proclaiming that 'they're coming'. This time I discovered who 'they' are: Scottish midges and they're out in force in Aberfoyle. It's like an invasion. I had no idea that they were so fond of camping so I did a little research.
Here comes the science bit: "Culicoides Impunctatus" is a vegetarian species, except after mating, when the female then craves blood. In order to give her offspring the best chance of survival she must get a blood meal within 5 days. Humans and other animals form an excellent takeaway service. 
So midges are the ultimate party animals: dance, shag, feast, repeat. Live fast, die young. 
From the safety of the inside of the cabin I watched the midges spontaneously divide as tiny lovers separated. Their imagined delight was tempered slightly with my thoughts of the impending bloodbath as a thousand female vampire midges sought out a post coital meal. And I was due a walk soon.
Fortunately my coat got lagged with a protective shield of Avon's Skin So Soft so the damage was minimal. My master however forgot to squirt his head and erupted in a thousand tiny bites. I'm sure he's very proud to have donated so much blood in order to safeguard the lives of so many tiny insects. He's not even a blood donor.
He's been having a hard time lately, feeling his age. Firstly, he went to the doctor thinking he had a urinary tract infection. He had pains in lower back roughly where his kidneys are but it turned out the urine sample was clear. His sore back was just an age thing. And this from a locum doctor who was younger than him too. Double ouch!
Then he noticed a couple of hairs protruding from the tip of his nose. Not content with growing inside his nose and his ears, his hair was now poking out of his nose skin. I suppose it has to go somewhere now it's stopped growing on his scalp. He's concerned that he'll end up with a nosetache. I told him if he's lucky they'll grow into whiskers like mine. He could use them to detect the presence of midges before they bite him.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Shushhh!!!

Back at the cabin again for a quiet weekend. My previously deaf mistress has had her ears syringed and is now super-sensitive to sound. I got scolded for shaking myself after a sleep, my collar I.D. tag rattling too loudly. Even my master's music was scrutinized for offending guitars and drums before he was allowed to press play. All she wanted was the John Cage track, 4'33", on repeat.

The only problem with her request for silence was the central heating boiler wasn't listening. It grumbled intermittently throughout the weekend, triggered whenever they ran a hot water tap. When they bought the cabin I'm sure they didn't request a grumpy boiler. It probably thinks it's on holiday and is complaining about having to work. The man from Ariston will have to give it a good talking to.
 

The weather out here in the country is a bit weird. Yesterday it looked like plumes of cloud were rising from the earth between two distant hills. I've never seen anything like it. It wasn't a fire. I've seen plenty of them where the Paisley neds set fire to the Braes. That smoke is grey or black. This was a bizarre white. I wanted to be driven over to investigate (I'm not stupid, I know it's miles away), but they wouldn't take me and, when I remonstrated, I got sent to bed for being too loud.

I'd better be careful and not let it get to me. I don't want to end up in a dog lunatic asylum. I know there's one nearby because I can hear their howling from the dog walk area. The nonsense they're spouting is mainly unintelligible. It's like they're slobbering in tongues. The only phrases I could make out are "Beware the Mount of Doom" and "They're coming". Still at least I now know where the term 'barking mad' comes from: just outside Aberfoyle. 

Maybe life in the country isn't going to be all that quiet after all. I wonder what's coming next.


Additional:
I saw my first deer tonight. Two young does loping up the hill in the forest behind the cabins. They were only yards away but I was on lead so couldn't give chase. It was very exciting nonetheless. I was even standing on two legs to get a better view above the ferns. I can't wait to go back for a sniff. Maybe I'll be able to pick up their trail and it'll be venison for dinner.