Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Jemma and the Angel

Jemma, aged 16, and Missus, not aged 16
Missus sometimes makes comparisons between me, Brunella Labrador, and my predecessor, Jemma Labrador. It's usually after I've done a 'huffing' noise in response to commands such as 'wait', 'lie down', 'go to bed', and 'later', or when I go on strike over an unreasonable request.

Jemma was a rescue dog; she didn't have the same settled start in life as I had. She came to live with Missus and Mister, aged eighteen months, after her previous owners divorced. Fortunately for her, she hadn't been ill-treated which meant she had an affectionate temperament, but she was extremely disobedient and couldn't be trusted off the lead for the first two years after rehousing - not until she met an 'angel'.

According to Missus, what follows is a true story:

On a cloudless day in Spring in the local recreation ground, Jemma did her customary high-speed escape act the minute Missus let her off the lead. Helter-skelter away down a path she went, with her intentional-deafness earplugs in place, forcing Missus to sprint after her. 

From the opposite direction, came an ageless-looking man of about 6ft 5ins in height, with flowing blond hair halfway down his back, and the most gentle peaceful expression on his face. No, Missus wasn't fantasising about the perfect man, or dreaming up a new character for a novel. It just seemed to her this apparition was the equivalent of Adam before he was ejected from the Garden of Eden and the ravages of mortality screwed with his looks.

Jemma stopped running as the man approached her. She went to stand in front of him, as if waiting for a commandment. He bent down, held her face between his hands and spoke to her in hushed tones. After he'd finished, Jemma came straight to Missus, miraculously and permanently reformed in her behaviour. As the man walked past Missus, he exchanged a smile with her, but when Missus looked back over her shoulder only a few seconds later, he'd vanished without trace. 

Missus reckoned only an angel could look so perfect, reform a dog so fast, and do such a spectacular disappearing act.                       

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

'A Star is Born' ........ by guest blogger, Wilbur Mongrel

“C’mon, Max. Time for a walk!”

“Max! Max! I’m not Max, Missy! I’m Wilbur your pet dog. The one you took in from the cold almost eight years ago. The one who  has stayed by your side, loyally, and has supported you through your ten break ups, fights with your mum, job losses, and the one who puts up with listening to your current work in progress, or WIP as you writers call it, for the one hundredth time!  And to set the record straight, it is lousy and badly written but have I ever hurt your feelings by telling you so, have I?

So, why are you insulting me by calling me Max? Helloooooo!  Max is your protagonist, an imaginary figure you give life to through your writing. Wilbur, i.e. me, is your dog. A real live creature who gives you life through its undying loyalty, even when those reading groups of yours come to tea to discuss your latest WIP – a romance of all things.  The one you read aloud almost every second of the day.

Have I ever told you that sloppy romances are NOT my thing as in the dog world things aren’t that complicated? Can’t you just write that the hero loved the way the heroine smelt, got on with it and after a few minutes of delight, it was back to normal business? But no, you and your girlfriends want the works! You want the candlelit dinners, the passionate lines and the great hook at the end of every chapter to make your book a page turner.  Why a page turner, when most books end up as doormats anyway? And what’s all this reference to books as  being ‘dog eared’?  What’s wrong with our ears?

And why are you reading the manuscript to me when you don’t take my opinions into account? When I wag my tail it means ‘pathetic line’, drooping my ears means ‘even more pathetic line’, salivating means  ‘make the scene hotter’,  one bark  ‘good attempt’, two barks ‘ POV has been mixed up’, three barks ‘ where’s my dinner?’  Going into hiding means LEAVE ME ALONE! I’m a dog, not a sounding board!

Have I ever told you that you are not only killing me every time you read that boring WIP to me but also the environment with all the printing up of your draft copies you do! And how many draft copies do you need! Keep the sloppy story simple, a few sentences, tiny dialogue, and hot scenes and get on with it. What is it with you and your elaborating? Why are you bothering with it when you end up cutting it all out? Why are you bothering all those lovely people on forums with silly questions concerning commas and word lengths?

How many times have I told you to make life easy – rewrite Austen in your own words? Plot and characters ready, what is all the fuss about? What’s all this about being unique, a classic, a new voice? The classics are still selling well, in universities, stacked on library shelves and read in formal reading groups – copy them and leave me alone!

All this support from me for a few lousy dog crackers, a short walk and you dare humiliate me by calling me MAX?  I should have you reported to the RSPCA! Cruel woman. A warm bed and thirty minute walk will get you nowhere! Nor will your allowing me on your sofa, bed and in the kitchen. And I don’t give a woof if you shampoo me with Baby Shampoo; I end up smelling like a pansy anyway.”

“Sorry, Wilbur. I’m so tired after all this writing. C’mon love, let’s go get some fresh air. The park should be quiet now. Maybe we can sit by the lake and you can run around a bit. Here, I’ve got your favourite biscuit. There’s a boy. God, I love you to bits. What would I do without you?”

“Probably commit suicide.  Oh, you lovely woman. Yes, these dog biscuits are my favourite – pork and chicken. Wonderful, crunchy, fulfilling. Ah, just you and me. Quality time. No girlfriends, boyfriend, children. Just you and me and lots of love.”

“One moment, I forgot something. Back in a minute.”

“Oh, probably a ball or umbrella. Maybe her purse.”

“There. I may as well read this in the park. It’s the final draft of chapter one.”

“WHAT? No way! I am not going anywhere! I am staying here. Not budging! That’s it! Relationship over! I demand you take me to the dog pound where a really loving person, one that has a normal day job, one that doesn’t write will love me and me only! Boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, children, rejection slips I can deal with but not chapters and drafts especially during our time!”

“Wilbur. What is the matter with you? Get moving! I don’t have all day, you know. C’mon boy!”

“No! I am not going anywhere with that pile of slush in your hands. It’s either me or the slush. Your choice. Stop dragging me. It hurts. I’m not going anywhere! Oh, yeah, got me out have you? Well, goodbye, Missy! Thanks for nothing!”

“Wilbur! Where are you going? Swear to God, I’m going to kill that mutt one day. Crap! Have to get those damn ‘Lost Dog’ flyers out again. What is it with that schizophrenic of a dog? What is it with my life? Can’t write, can’t get an agent to read my previous work, chapters one and two need to be rewritten, tired, boring day job and a psycho mutt on top of it all!”

“I’m off, fair lady. And just for the record I’m the one that trampled all over the keyboard and deleted your last edit, the brown rings on page 254 of your final copy of novel number one aren’t tea stains. They’re my pee! And your external hard disc with all your back ups is in the washing machine! Good luck finding it!”

“God! I’m exhausted. Oh, well, Chapter One, let’s go to the park.”

Three long rainy nights later.

“It’s me! Wonderful Wilbur! Woof! Woof! I’m back. C’mon open the door, my nails are about to fall apart after all this scratching. I’ve thought about it and am willing to put up with the Baby Shampoo and being your sounding board. Taking drafts on walks, we’ll have to discuss.”

“Crickey, Wilbur! It’s three in the morning! Where have you been and look at the state you’re in – what a mess! Quick, get into the bath. I swear, if dog psychiatric hospitals existed, you’d be on the A list of patients.”

“Oh, hi Daniel. Don’t mind me, I’m just the mutt that’s been dragged in from the cold. How are you getting on with Missy, here. How’s your WIP coming along. What do you call it? Non – fiction. Why don’t you just call it ‘facts’? ”

“Why, Wilbur! Good to see you mate. What a  clever dog you are, finding your way home. Don’t know how you do it all the time.”

“Yeah, those flyers are useless, you dumb clout. We dogs have great instinct.”

“Must be in your genes. I mean cross over German Shepherd, Labrador, Terrier and Mutt.”

“Hey, that’s personal information. I would sue you for invasion of privacy, if I were human.”

 “What a great combination. You’re running off for days and getting back with no signs of being hurt. Mmmm, what a great story that’ll make. Elizabeth, where’s your pad and pen.”

“Oh, great, now Missy’s lover boy is going to write about me. Hey, I’m going to be famous, rich, on TV even. Lassie and Scooby Doo, move over! Wilbur the Wonder dog is in town! Now, Daniel, my fine friend, let me start by telling you all about my great, great grandfather. The greatest Shepherd’s dog ...”

* * *

Thank you Catherine for sharing Wilbur's tale, rather than tail with us, translating it from canine into human language, and also for being honest enough to include his complaints.

Catherine Zgouras is an ELT teacher, trainer and owner of Zgouras Foreign Language School in Patras, Greece.She has eight ELT stories for children coming out in December under Compass Publishing and is currently working on course books for junior ELT for a major publisher.She also writes fiction for adults which will be coming out in anthologies this winter and children's fiction.She doesn't have a dog because she was devastated when Omar, her mutt, died a few years ago but has a Canary called Eugene, who thinks he is a soprano.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

'Tripping the Light Fantastic' by Guest Blogger, Fern Labrador-Lurcher

Call me Fern. It’s been a difficult weekend what with the mad poets and mountain climbing. I mean, life is hard enough living with one poet without being dragged in and out of a car just to watch whole clutches of them spilling all over the Scottish countryside. They just wouldn’t listen, or pay attention to my stones – all they can do is rant on about poverty and drugs in Northumberland, cabbage roses and the myth of God. It’s bad enough I have to direct and produce what goes on in my own house but these places she drags me into are saturated with groovy grannies, strange cats and chickens. Yes, I did say chickens…and I heard there were beehives around somewhere but didn’t investigate.

I don’t mind it when she talks to herself and reads her stuff to me – most of it sends me right to sleep but that doesn’t seem to bother her. She’s lovely really. My cat was so relieved that we arrived home safe. Poets shouldn’t be allowed out on the roads by themselves; they’re a scruffy lot but it’s the harum-scarum way they try to fiddle with route-finders while driving that upsets me – they never know where they’re going…and when the voice from the box tells them to turn left at the next turning they shout things like, ‘I’m not turning down that little road…’ or ‘That’s a housing estate – I’m not going in there.’ As if there are no through-roads in housing estates. Daft, honestly…but I am soooo glad we’re home. She’s been drinking wine with those pals of hers for the last three nights, so I’m thinking I might just take her to the docs for a check-up. There was too much pudding, followed by a box of chocolates, which is never a good thing.

Ooh, that’s better. A nap and a brisk walk for afters brings me to full attention. I love to just get at it, run into the wind, but she’s such a slow-poke; all that dragging takes my breath away – she’s going to strangle me one of these days. I don’t think leads are very healthy at all but she won’t be told.

‘Go out and buy a harness,’ I said, more than once.

Words just bounce off her. My friends say I haven’t trained her right and that I should start again, changing small habits and routines. The one about feeding yourself first before your pet is a load of nonsense; I bet some middle-class poodle came up with that one.

Home again with a full belly, fresh air coursing through my thoughts. I’m quite happy to snuggle in and listen to what she wrote on the hillside. It was really funny you know, all these writer types leaning on a fancy stone wall-ring-thingy, chalking words on huge sheets of sugar paper. They were supposed to be inspired by the scenery to draw or write; it was like something from early school days, but, as I’ve said before, they’re really quite cute when they’re all excited and bouncing around each other.

‘Right, Fern,’ she says, ‘what do you think of this?’ and she proceeds to read out the few lines that took her the time it would take to throw three or four stones for me…and I had to hang around during all this production, with nothing to do but watch them giggling and wandering about looking at each other’s work.

‘Watch this hill fall
under my spell, weeping
with hidden blame.
Catch the drops, cup
your hands before a river
cries itself a loch.’

What the hell does that mean? I mean, stuff like this falls out of her head all the time and I have to look intelligent and act as if I understand and approve it.

‘You’ve no idea what that means, do you, Fern?’ she says.

I really don’t but it doesn’t matter because she’ll muck around with it for months, years maybe, and send it to some editor who’ll stick it in a book or magazine. Then she’ll pick it up every now and then and talk to it. Honest, she does; she talks to them just like she talks to me. But, I wouldn’t be without her. She’s mine and I love every inch of her, even the smelly ones.


Fern-the-Dog wishes to extend a special thank you to Irene Cunningham, who is a friend of the humans she 'owns' and organises on a daily basis. As a participant in the mad poets' outing, Irene agreed to act as Fern's secretary in typing up a review after the event and posting it on Brunella Labrador's blog. The least Fern can do in return is to recommend you visit Irene's two blogs, which portray all too well just how strange poets can be.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Unconditional Positive Regard

This is my canine version of a humanist model put forward by psychologist Carl Rogers in 1951:

The development of self-worth begins in puppy-hood. Dogs need to feel nurtured and valued by their four-legged mother, their adoptive human parents, and any other humans of constant importance in their lives. This nurturing involves love, praise, and acceptance - otherwise known as unconditional positive regard, which given freely without conditions, makes for a healthy, well-balanced dog.

Applied to my experience, it meant that as a puppy I had to modify my natural behaviour to live in harmony with humans. Even though I failed sometimes and made a puddle on the floor, or ran in the opposite direction when Missus or Mister called me, I knew they still loved me, even if they didn't like my behaviour. Because of this, I have grown into a confident adult dog who expects everyone to like her as much as her human family does. The upside of this is that I'm extra friendly for people and to other dogs; the downside is that some people and dogs are cranky, unsociable so-and-so's who don't want my friendship.

Yesterday, the whole unconditional positive regard thing had to work both ways. It began by raining buckets, which Missus used as an excuse not to take me out for a walk until 3 o'clock in the afternoon, even though the weather cleared up long before lunchtime. This was so she could draft her idea of a perfect letter to a publisher. She also, for the hundredth time, edited the first chapter of her children's novel. I swear that if she edits it again, it will disappear altogether, having already shrunk down from thirty pages to three. Missus even read it out loud to me before sticking it in an envelope with the perfect letter, just to check if it sounded okay. I loved the bit about Bluebell, the fictional chocolate Labrador puppy doing some major shredding of Noah's horrid stepmum's shoe collection. Of course, I'd never do anything like that, firstly because Kate in the novel is nothing like Missus, and secondly, because Missus has a comparatively modest number of shoes designed for comfort rather than show. 

I did manage to test Missus's patience when finally she took me the park, where I regressed back to puppy-hood  by running off with a football belonging to some boys, then refusing to give it back for about ten minutes.  Missus still loves me, although would have preferred me not to let her down and cause her such embarrassment.        

Dogs are very loyal to their owners and will stick by them in the most appalling circumstances - even if tempted to take temporary leave of them while following the scent of food, cats, or foxes. This loyalty is a canine version of unconditional positive regard. 

In 1870, Senator George Vest represented a man who sued another for killing his dog. He won the case by virtue of a speech for which he has become famous. You can read its complete original version at but I've taken part of the speech and rewritten it to underline my relationship with my family.

Tribute to a Chocolate Labrador Retriever 

The one absolutely unselfish friend that Missus and Mister have in this selfish world, the one that will never desert them, the one that will never prove ungrateful or treacherous is Brunella. She'll stand by them in prosperity (uh, not happened yet) and in poverty (also not happened, but a bit of a juggling act at times), in health and in sickness. She'd sleep on the cold ground where the wintry winds blew and the snow drove fiercely, as long as she was snuggled up between Missus and Mister. She'd kiss the hand that had no food to offer, as long as she could go foraging and scavenging for whatever morsels she fancied, even ones considered gross by humans.  She'd lick the wounds and sores that came in encounters with the roughness of the world. She'd watch over Missus and Mister as they slept, as if they were a princess and her prince. If all other friends deserted them, she would remain. If the recession caught up with them big-time and battered them into the ground, and everyone treated them like garbage, Brunella Labrador would be as constant in her love of them, as the sun in its journey through the heavens. 

If Missus and Mister became friendless and homeless outcasts, Brunella would ask no higher privilege than that of accompanying them, to guard them against danger, to fight against their enemies. And when death took them, their bodies laid in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends deserted them, there by the graveside would the Labrador be found, her head between her paws, her eyes sad, but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even in death.

Boohoo, I don't want to think about this any more, but just used this personalised version of  the great senator's speech illustrate how unconditional positive regard can cement a lasting relationship, based on love and trust between dogs and their humans. 


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Basic Human and Canine needs .... (Part 3): Sleep

I'm quite vocal when it comes to expressing my weariness, as evidenced below:
  • Phhh You're taking too long Missus or Mister.
  • Furrumph It's raining too hard for a walk, and I've got to wait patiently for it to ease off.
  • Humph I was enjoying walking around under the meal table, but I suppose I'll lie down until you've finished gorging yourselves on delicious food.
  • Sigh Why are my humans getting so stressed? They ought to learn the art of inner peace from me. 
  • Yawn with a rusty-hinge squealing edge to it I'm really enjoying my tummy rub at bedtime and want to vocalise my appreciation.
  • Wide yawn that shows off my white teeth If I take in enough air, I might force myself to stay awake a bit longer so I don't miss something interesting.     

Us dogs are so fortunate; we can fall asleep faster than our owners can snap their fingers. One minute we're rushing around; the next, we're lying flat out on our fronts, sides, backs, or curled up in a tight little ball in the corner.

Mister must be half-dog, as he always manages to fall asleep within two minutes of sitting in a comfy chair. It doesn't matter how exciting the book is he's reading, off he goes; he drops the book and loses his page, his glasses slip off the end of his nose, and he starts making clicking or snoring noises with his mouth. He often goes to sleep at the most crucial part of a telly programme, too, however action-packed it might be.

Missus goes mad at Mister for click-snoring during her favourite programmes, or when she's reading a book she's really into. Any amount of sighing, loud comments, or shaking of him won't stir him. At least if I go to sleep on the settee and start making noises, Missus can wake me up by giving me a gentle stroke.

It is a story in itself, as to how I earned the privilege of chilling out on the settee with my family.

When I first came to live with Mister, Missus, and Pak-Bro, they confined me to the kitchen and the garden. This might sound harsh, but at least one member of my family kept me company for most of the day - albeit glued to their wireless networked laptops at the kitchen table, enforcing upon me the rule 'Thou shalt not chew wires or cabling'.

Every time I woke up from a deep sleep, or half-an-hour after my meals, someone would whisk me outside to relieve myself on the grass, which meant I house-trained in a fortnight. As a reward for my learned self-control, Missus decided one Saturday to let me in the sitting room for an hour to watch Doctor Who on telly. She reckoned this would be better than have me disturb the programme with pitiful whines from behind a closed door. Before she allowed me through from the kitchen, I heard her say to Mister,  'Do not let Brunella up on the settee.'  He replied, 'Of course not.' And I thought to myself, We'll see about that.

Doctor Who has to be my favourite programme, as it stands for a particular moment of triumph early on in my life, which laid down a marker for my exceptional comfort thereafter. Within in two minutes of me sitting at Mister's feet staring up at him out of imploring eyes, he was so overcome with love for me, that he scooped me off the carpet straight on to his lap. Missus said, 'But I thought we agreed.' Mister replied, 'But she's so sweet and good.'

How I adore that theme music: D-d-ddd-d-d-ddd-ee-oo-ee-oo and all the swirling patterns on the screen. How I love it every time Missus says, 'Time to watch the monsters on telly?' (which she says about Primeval as well as Doctor Who, or any other science fiction/fantasy programme she happens to enjoy).

This has set a precedence for off-the-ground sleeping places all over the house. I have commandeered a piece of soft furnishing for my comfort in nearly every room - even the south-facing master bedroom, where I stretch across a Queen-size bed luxuriating in the sun. There's another double-bed in Pak-Bro's room, which I look after for him between his visits home from university. In Missus's office I've two dog-cushions on top of each other, as I can't quite get the rocking-chair to co-operate with me. In Mister's office there's a wonderful pink velvet armchair. In the kitchen, I've two vet-bed fleeces on top of each other on the floor. Such comfort; such enticement to fatness and laziness, if I didn't like strenuous exercise so much in between all the snoozing. It's all about achieving a balance in life.

Grooming: now that is heaven. It's the equivalent of a twice-weekly twenty-minute massage and beauty treatment from Missus. We get the unpleasant bit over first, which is the ear-cleaning, then she sits down on my vet-bed and I drape myself across her lap whilst she uses a wire brush to remove loose undercoat. After this, I lie straight out on one side for deep massage with the blue rubber brush. When Missus says, 'Rolly, rolly,' I roll over on to my back and she brushes my tummy, whilst I wear a stupid grin on my face. After this, she repeats, 'Rolly, rolly,' and I go over on to the other side. Sometimes I feel so relaxed during my brushing that I fall asleep and miss some of it on a conscious level.

Dogs dream in their sleep, and humans can only guess at these dreams. The ones involving games of chase are obvious, as my back legs go for a run. There are others that make me whimper, growl, or bark, some of which I prefer not to remember. Missus wishes she could see inside my head to record my dreams, so she could use them for one of her strange stories. I inspired her to write a whole children's fantasy novel featuring a puppy named Bluebell, abducted by some dubious personalities into another dimension. Scary, or what? That was one big dreamscape which I'd rather steer well clear of, especially with baddies such as Percival Poodle around. Still, if Missus makes some money out of this story and others, at least it will keep the bailiffs breaking into my territory and carting off my favourite soft furnishings in their lorry.

In medieval days, before the advent of soft furnishings, people slept on straw pallets in mud huts or in draughty castles, and took their dogs to bed with them for warmth. So far, I've not made any headway in persuading Missus and Mister that our house is icy enough in winter for them to replace their bedtime hotwater bottles with me.

Dream on, Brunella ...                            


Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Basic Human and Canine Needs .... (Part 2): Health

My distant ancestors foraged for their food in the wild and did a large amount of scavenging. I do both, not out of necessity. Scatology and coprophagia are grand words related to poop, the consumption of which is a favourite pastime of most Labrador Retrievers. Missus and Mister think it's not good for my health, but if they can eat Belgian chocolates for pleasure, then I can indulge in a decent bit of confectionery of my own. It is a fact that chocolate (especially with a high cocoa content) can cause major organ failure in a dog, just as eating the leavings of foxes and cats could easily cause major organ failure in Missus and Mister. 

Health is all about balance. As with humans, if dogs eat too much of the wrong food, it gives them digestive problems, weight issues, dull coats, bad breath, plaque on their teeth, weak hearts, creaky joints, and behavioural problems. A healthy diet saves on the veterinary bills, but need not exclude a few interesting morsels.   

Whilst on the subject of veterinary bills, I can think of one that Missus should have refused to pay. I'm referring to a consultation with locum vet,Tim Meanie, in which he gave me my 12-week vaccinations, tortured me by firing a microchip into my back, and then told Missus that, in order to keep me in prime health, she must feed me only on complete food (preferably the expensive prescription variety he sold) and nothing else. I'd like to see him just living on biscuits for his entire life. Fancy charging anyone money for that sort of treatment and bad advice. 

My regular vet, Clarissa, is far more understanding. She even has a tin with tasty snacks in her cupboard, to dispense to her best-behaved patients. Apart from this, I am forever in her debt, as she saved my life when I was a year old, after a dog resembling a large shaggy wolf bit me, and Clarissa had to drain the pus out of an abscess as large as a tennis ball from my tummy. 

Mister once calculated how much I cost a year to feed and keep in good health. I can't remember the exact figure he arrived at, but it wasn't nearly as much as he cost. There's my holistic complete food, which is free of GMOs, additives, artificial flavourings, wheat, and soya, and is half the price of the food recommended by Tim Meanie. Other expenses related to my health include vaccinations, worming tablets, flea treatments, occasional ear treatment, and twice-yearly nail clipping. 

Exercise is also an extremely important part of my health. This involves a walk in the park, where I chase balls and socialise with my friends, working-out in the woods chasing squirrels and foraging, runs up on the Downs, which sometimes includes a swim and splash in the dew pond, mad dashes around the garden and break-dancing off the fences in pursuit of foxes and cats, indoor games with balls, soft toys, and the occasional tug-of-war with Mister or with my adopted brother, 'Pack-bro' when he's home from University. Missus doesn't do tug-of-war; her shoulders and her thumb joints aren't up to such a vigorous challenge, as she spends too much time on her PC for her musculoskeletal system to be in optimum condition. 

Missus isn't so weak that she can't find the strength to give me a vigorous groom once or twice a week. Mister reckons she enjoys carrying out the groom as much as I enjoy receiving it. I sometimes find it so relaxing, it sends me to sleep, and, when I wake up, I find I'm as as shiny as a polished conker. I'll leave describing the mechanics of my groom for my next post, which will be dedicated wholly to the subject of rest and sleep.

But one last thing before I sign out. Returning to the subject of Tim Meanie: he would make a wonderful character in a Science Fiction novel - the man in a white coat in a secret laboratory who plunges needles into aliens, microchips them, feeds them on complete dry food, and then classifies them as a hostile species when they try to defend themselves... 

I didn't tell you that bit, did I?  When he microchipped me, I let out a blood-curdling shriek and nibbled him with my little puppy teeth. And you know what he said? You should watch that dog, it's a biter. Me, a biter? I'm the softest, soppiest, most loving Labrador Retriever that ever walked the face of this earth. So you'd aliens better watch the likes of Tim Meanie, as he's a very bad judge of character.    

Come on, Missus, get writing ...You never know, Tim Meanie might be the inspiration behind a best seller. 



Saturday, 16 July 2011

Basic Human and Canine Needs .... (Part 1): Food

When the famous psychologist, Abraham Maslow designed his hierarchy of  human needs, he forgot to mention that the first three levels of his pyramid were also applicable to dogs.

If you live with an author, it is your absolute duty to make sure she attends to the first level: her most basic physiological needs of health, food, and sleep.

With regard to the subject of food, making sure your author eats is not an entirely altruistic act on your part. You need feeding, too, and everything of an edible nature in a house is locked up, shut away, or put out of reach of dogs.

My author, named Missus, has a tendency to become one with her computer - so much so, that I'm afraid  she may one day disappear into one of the fantasy worlds she's creating, and not return. Mister and I have two things in common, we both like our food and we don't like being ignored for too long.

My various ploys to getting fed have varied over time:

As a puppy, I used to scrabble at Missus's legs, whine, and, if all else failed, get under her office chair and wheel her across the wooden floor to her door. On a few occasions, I even managed to depress the lever under the chair's seat and let it down. This last one wasn't popular with Missus, as it nearly caused her to  wipe some important work off the computer. 

Now I'm older, I start staring at her back very hard when I think it's feeding time. Unfortunately for Missus, as I was born during British Summertime, my dog clock is set to that time, which means that in winter I begin staring at her an hour earlier than I should do. If she fails to sense my eyes upon her, I wait until she looks away from the computer to pick up a reference book, or answer the phone, and then I dash across the room to nudge her elbow, leap up and down, thump her with squeaky toys, and generally hassle her. Quite often she says, 'Wait a minute' or 'It's not time yet', and proceeds to keep me hanging on in there for another hour or two.

If all else fails, I make sure to tell tales on her to Mister the moment he walks in the door. I run around him in circles, as well as backwards and forwards between front door and food cupboard. He is most sympathetic and asks me if Missus is starving me.

It is particularly hard persuading Missus to eat lunch when Mister isn't at home to nag her. She completely forgets about the clock, or just doesn't want to leave off what she is writing - not even to give me my lunchtime biscuit and, if I'm lucky, a tomato or a tiny square of goat's cheese.

Sometimes she eats lunch so late it's nearly teatime, and she makes do with a slice of toast to keep her going until she has her cup of tea and home-made cake an hour later with Mister. Home-made cake is one of my allowed treats: a small corner off Missus's flapjack or Victoria Sponge. There are other treats, too, but I'll dedicate a whole post to that subject later.

One advantage to belonging to an author - or, rather an author belonging to you - is that she works from home, so at least that puts a dog in with a chance of food during the day. An added plus for me is that Missus hates going out shopping. This means that she orders all our food on line. A big box arrives once a month containing all my supplies, and a delivery arrives from the supermarket every week containing all the other supplies. I've even discovered that one of the delivery men has dog biscuits in his pockets. 

I always assist Missus putting the food away in the fridge and cupboards, just so I can check out which of my favourites are amongst them. I also assist Missus in the kitchen when she's preparing food, an activity which I'll enlarge upon during my promised post about treats.

But enough for now, as I see we're in danger of slipping past lunchtime - and on this occasion it's my fault...