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

With the clocks gone back

Now that the clocks have gone back, the nights truly are drawing in. Here in Somerset, the sun sets well before 5pm now and it’s pretty much dark by six. Which means that, for the days when I’m working at home, we’ve had to switch to our ‘winter’ evening schedule. But, to be honest, I’m struggling. Continue reading

Being a dog (A book review)

Anyone who has a dog will know that their sense of smell is far superior to our own. But how does their nose work? What is it capable of? And what can we learn from our dogs about the world around us?
Being a Dog - Book Cover

In ‘Being a dog: Following the dog into a world of smell’, psychologist and animal behaviourist Alexandra Horowitz sets out to answer these questions.

She learns from experts in all things scent and scentwork, from perfume creators to truffle dog trainers. And she observes her own dogs in their scent-based world.

Horowitz also works to improve her own sense of smell, engaging with ‘scent tours’ around the city, participating in experiments and training herself to be more aware of the smells around her.

I really like this book, with its fusion of scientific investigation and personal experiences. Sure, it does go off on a bit of a tangent at times, but overall it’s a highly enjoyable read.

It also provides an excellent overview of the different ways in which dogs can be trained to use their sense of smell, from search and rescue to the detection of explosives, cancer and (my personal favourite) Orca scat (yes, that’s Killer Whale poo).

There are lots of books about how the sense of smell works. And there are plenty about the different ways in which dogs use their sense of smell to help us. But there are very few that explore both. And I have yet to find one that does it as well as this one.

You can find the book on Amazon, but I’d much prefer you ordered it from your local independent bookshop. Or order it from my local bookshop, which is Books on the Hill in Clevedon, Somerset.

An unexpected day of rest

Having been away for a couple of days during the week, I started the day today with a long list of things I wanted to get done. A bit of work, some projects in the garden, a good long walk or two with the dogs, perhaps lunch out somewhere, catching up with some reading, and a training session or two with Ozzy*. But I think we all know, of course, that was never really going to happen. Continue reading

The ten paw tango

We’ve had Ozzy, our Labrador puppy, for six months now. And it’s over a year since I started Googling ‘getting a second dog’ and poring over the advice on how to make sure an existing dog and a new dog get on well. But on reflection, the internet only really gave half the story. So here’s my battle-scarred contribution to the great ‘second puppy’ debate. Continue reading

‘No deal’ planning starts here

Today I started with my preparations for a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario, in which the United Kingdom leaves the European Union and, absent an agreement setting out our future relationship with our continental neighbours, heads off into the wilderness to do its own thing. (Which is known, in the parlance, as ‘taking back control’.) But my preparations didn’t involve stockpiling food or securing a supply of medication. Oh, no. As with most things around here, it was the dogs’ fault. Continue reading

Someone to watch over me

It was my mother’s birthday at the weekend and a formal family gathering had been declared. So Molly (my older Labrador) and I headed down to her house on Saturday afternoon, to join my mother and siblings for the celebrations that evening and the next day. Natalie and Ozzy (our five-month-old puppy) stayed at home, the latter not yet ready to face the full force of my family. Continue reading

Taking a moment

I read somewhere or other that our lives are a series of moments. Now, the physicist in me is quick to point out that this is a statement of the bleeding obvious. But my philosophical side would counter that, in any life, there are likely to be some moments that have greater salience than others. They just might not be the ones we’d expect.

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The song of the paddle

One of the things that I don’t do enough of in my life is canoeing. Which is to say that I’ve been perhaps once or twice. Over twenty years ago. But I absolutely loved it and have been kicking myself ever since for not having done more. It has that rugged outdoorsy-ness to it that many sporting activities seem to lack. And, unlike kayaking, you don’t have to worry about whether your eskimo rolling skills are still up to scratch.

So it was with considerable enthusiasm that Natalie, Molly and I actually got our acts together sufficiently to take a short canoeing trip down part of the River Wye. It’s one of the best places in the country for canoeing and (I’m ashamed to admit) it’s only about an hour’s drive from my front door.

There was also a certain trepidation to the escapade, though, as while Natalie and I have both canoed before and know that we like it, nobody was quite sure about Molly. Do Labradors canoe? Or would we end up taking the shortest canoe trip ever, followed by an extended swim and a hefty damage bill?

Molly canoeing 1-2

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