Dark days and the black dog

At this time of year, when the days are short and the weather is almost uniformly grey, like many people I can succumb all too easily to a touch of the black dog. Not full-on depression, because I’ve been there and I know what that’s like. More a slight listlessness. A difficulty in finding my usual motivation. A certain lack of, for want of a better word, va-va-voom. Continue reading

Everything travels down the lead

There’s a saying among dog trainers and handlers: Everything travels down the lead. Because working with a dog is about much more than the commands that we give them. It’s about the way in which we give them. About our tone of voice. Our body language. Even the mood we’re in. To work effectively with a dog, we need to be in the right frame of mind. And we need to put everything else aside. Continue reading

Why it’s good to be mortal

Whenever Natalie reads something in a magazine that she thinks I’ll find interesting, she leaves it out somewhere obvious for me to find. And so I stumbled this morning upon a review in the Guardian of Swedish philosopher Martin Hagglund’s book ‘Why mortality makes us free‘. It’s “a sweepingly ambitious synthesis of philosophy, spirituality and politics”, apparently (the book, not the review), which argues that it is not believing in the glorious afterlife promised by many religions that makes our lives on Earth so full of meaning. To be honest, though, this benefit of what Hagglund calls “secular faith” is far from news to me. Or to my fellow humanists around the world. Continue reading

The control subject

While we had Molly out with us for Ozzy’s training yesterday, we decided to do a bit of an experiment. After we’d finished Ozzy’s searches, Ozzy and I wandered off to hide in a pre-agreed area and Natalie unleashed Molly to come and look for us. Would she find us? Would she find us before it got dark? Would an untrained but energetic and highly enthusiastic Labrador be able to do what Ozzy (with all of her three months of training so far) does seemingly without a second thought? Or would it all go terribly wrong? Continue reading

Training time

It was a lovely sunny day today, and I’d managed to get my various chores done by lunchtime, which left time for a nice lunch and a trip to nearby Leigh Woods for some search dog training with Ozzy. It was the first sunny weekend day for some time, though, so we were far from the only people who had chosen this particular destination. Which made for some odd looks as Ozzy and I charged through the undergrowth. Continue reading

The Labrador-a-saurus

As far as Labradors go, Ozzy can be a bit of a snuggler. All the more so after a busy day of training, running around and generally being a bit of a puppy. And especially as the days – and evenings – get that little bit nippier and the nights draw in. But thanks to Natalie and her crochet talents, we have the answer. And so I’m proud to present… Continue reading

It’s mud-time. Again.

As Ozzy gets older, I’m increasing gradually the distance that she comes running with me. She’s just gone eighteen months now, and we’ve worked our way up slowly to a little over three miles. Well, I run just over three miles, but she races around so much she probably runs about eight. But that’s not the problem. The problem is something a bit less Strava-friendly. The problem, as per usual at this time of year, is mud. Continue reading

Minimalism and me

It was pouring with rain on Saturday afternoon. Natalie had some work she needed to do. And I didn’t much feel like doing anything except hang out with the dogs. So I propped myself up on the bed, a Labrador lying along each leg, laptop balanced on my knees, and watched a movie I’d downloaded a few days ago. It’s called ‘Minimalism: A documentary about the important things’. And it’s incredible. In fact, it’s probably changed my life. Continue reading

Dog tales

As we enter the ‘cold and windy’ part of the rainy season here in Somerset, it’s welly boots all round whenever we leave the house. Especially if we’re walking the dogs, as all of our normal walks are now several inches deep in the boggy stuff.

Pulling on my wellies for this morning’s trundle, I was reminded of a recent visit to one of my consulting clients, an agricultural college with a thriving community of farming and equestrian students. Arriving a little early for a meeting, I popped over to the campus cafe.

I was greeted by a huge pile of welly boots stacked up outside the door. Inside, a horde of students, clearly having just finished their early morning chores around the farm and stables, was drinking gallons of hot chocolate and steaming up the windows with their excited chatter. Continue reading

So I have this theory…

I received a lovely email today from an editor for whom I write from time to time. He has an idea for an article that he’d like written, and he thinks I’m just the person to write it. And knowing that I’m quite busy, he’s even suggested that I provide him with a deadline that would work for me. This sort of email is what writers love. But this particular one reminded me of a theory I’ve been working on. Continue reading