Saturday, 29 September 2007

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Tuesday, 25 September 2007


Tuvan throat-singing, or khöömei, is a remarkable style of traditional music where, using harmonics, one vocalist sings with two voices simultaneously. It's beautiful music and anyone who's listened to it rarely forgets the first time they heard it. But for anyone who hasn't yet had the opportunity to hear this style of singing, I'm tempted to post a recording of Bingley's version!

Bingley rarely barks for attention; but recently he's taken to sitting by the baby gate and singing his own version of khöömei, with a deep chest resonance overlaid with a breathtakingly pure high tone harmonic. It really is quite remarkable! I'm a huge fan of experimental music, so I'm used to hearing beautiful sounds appear from the most unlikely of sources: as a consequence poor Bing is there singing his heart out and yearning for a cuddle, and I'm just sitting back thinking: wow, this is amazing!

Of course he gets plenty of attention really, and we've been having some good fun on our walks. I wish that I'd taken the camera along this afternoon if only to capture his blackberry picking skills! We're now having daily off-lead romps on our little grassy hill, and as he's gaining confidence he's beginning to explore more of the area by himself. Today he discovered the blackberry bushes just beyond the hill, and with the expert eye of a practised jam maker he began picking off the ripest berries. So my next training challenge is to get him to drop those berries into a tub, rather than chomp on them with a very satisfied look on his face.

He also dug his first hole and found his first stick. Actually, I think that he dug the hole simply in order to create a pile of grass behind him, because having done that he then promptly spun round, lay down and ate it all up! The stick, which he proudly came back to share with me, he chewed on in the sun for ages. Simple things; and life affirming. Just like Tuvan music in fact, which often deals with basic issues such as the love of a favourite horse. Maybe Bingley’s khöömei is like that: perhaps he’s singing about the breeze blowing over his grassy hill, and his little stick lying amongst the blackberries?

Or maybe he just wants me to go play tug-and-throw with his Wubba!

Sunday, 23 September 2007

The good, the bad & the Bingley

Some of you might be a bit concerned that we're being too timid with Bingley's big wide world adventures, and that we're not taking him out to see lots of new places. But at the moment we don't have the use of a car so we're dependent on the Metro to get us out and about. Going further afield with Bingley is definitely on our agenda, in fact we can hardly wait: but first of all we were keen that he should be walking to heel and not leaping up to greet every person he meets.

Getting him to walk to heel has been coming along splendidly since my breakthrough earlier in the week: I begin each walk as I mean to go on, and he knows who's in charge right from the start. The enthusiastic jumping up is a different matter. Outside I'm making him sit when people approach and most passers by take one look at this rambunctious puppy and quickly realise that it'd be best to keep on walking. Visitors don't escape so lightly though, and when our good friend Eimer called to meet Bingley yesterday we had difficulty convincing him that she really wasn't a rugby scrum-machine!

More socialisation is required (I'm looking into local puppy training classes) and this morning we got up early, thinking that it'd be a good opportunity to introduce Bing to the Metro and maybe even take him along to the river-side walk at Pelaw. How naive are we?!

He heeled politely and enthusiastically all the way to the bottom of the Metro station steps. He can't 'do' steps yet, so we were fully prepared to have to carry him up. What we didn't expect is that he wouldn't go anywhere near them in the first place. His ears went flat, his paws dug in and no amount of gentle pulling would persuade him to get close.

Well, we were going to carry him up anyway so we might as well do it from here, we thought. Once up the stairs we had to cross a footbridge to reach the ramp onto the platform: he padded along the bridge okay, but then wouldn't go down the covered ramp until Jane went first. All of this took time: we didn't rush him or force him and we did consider calling it a day long before we got onto the platform. We should have paid more attention to out feelings!

By the time we got down there we'd already realised that there was no way that Bingley would want to actually get onto a Metro, so once we felt sure that he was comfortable staying there on the platform we stopped to watch a few trains come & go. He didn't seem to be at all phased by that and the only problem we had was convincing him that all the people getting off the Metro really weren't on a Bingley pilgrimage.

Then it was time to go back. Or not! He'd walked down the ramp okay, but would he go back up? No way! We spent about fifteen minutes entertaining the few people on the platform with the various ways we'd discovered to tempt a puppy into doing something he didn't want to do. Nothing would work. There was no way we were going to make him go back up that ramp without carrying him. Which, despite his little whimpers, is what we had to do in the end! We felt wretched, mean and heartless. It’s easy to forget that this energetic little dog is still a puppy, and though he’s certainly gutsy he can still be surprisingly timid at times. The Metro service is part of our lives and he’s going to have to get used to it if he wants to join us on longer walks; but I’ll introduce him to it at a slower pace over the next few weeks.

Once off the platform and back onto familiar territory his tail started wagging again and things quickly returned to normal. In fact the rest of the walk was great fun: we spent a while playing around on Bingley's field, then we took him onto a quiet hilly annexe where he had his first off-lead romp. At last! This is something we've wanted to do for a while, but usually there are too many distractions that would likely have him charging across the field into goodness knows what kind of misadventures. But this morning the area was very quiet, Bingley was pretty tired and we thought it would be a good opportunity to let him off the lead. He loved it! And so did we. He bunched himself up and raced around the whole area, but as we'd expected he didn't wander far and kept stopping to make sure that we were still there. What’s more, whenever we called him he came bounding over! It gave us all such a great sense of freedom, and it was a marvellous uplift after the awful experience earlier.

The Metro can wait a while longer, but off lead romps on this little hill will definitely continue tomorrow.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Tooth fairy

I can't believe how quickly this has started to happen, but Bingley's baby teeth have begun to fall out. Just the tiny teeth at the front, but there are enough gaps to make him look like even more of a lout as he hangs his paws over the baby gate. We haven't actually found any of these teeth yet: the small ones will (I imagine) simply be swallowed; but the larger ones I really do fancy keeping - though if they end up being swallowed as well, then I'm not going to sort through his poo in order to find them. Nevertheless they'd make a nice memento, I think.

In order to help alleviate his now ferocious chewing we've upgraded his Wubba to the next size. It seems massive, though there were even larger sizes in the pet shop; but if this one is even half as successful as the first, I'll be satisfied. In fact he took to it straight away, chewing and making it squeak. It seems hard to believe that when he was given his first Wubba, his jaws weren't strong enough to generate a noise: this new one is three times the size and Bingley just picked it up and squeezed as though it was the easiest thing in the world and he'd always been doing it.

Not many fresh pics, I'm afraid. During the week I've been walking Bingley by myself, and because he's now acquired the confidence to toilet outside of the backyard, I usually end up with a poo-bag in one hand and the tugboat captain in the other: the idea of trying to juggle camera at the same time is a bit overwhelming. The captain tried to stage a mutiny yesterday! And again this morning. Yesterday was the worst attempt: people passing us by actually commented on his stubbornness as he dug his paws in and refused to move. He goes oddly deaf at times like this, and no amount of pleading will make him move, sit, look round, or whatever. Treats and an awareness of his, at times, incredibly useful short-term memory are essential on these occasions; but even then it was still a struggle.

Still, he hasn't counted on the depths of my patience or my higher powers of intellect (though these days, I'm not too sure about the latter!). I generally make him sit and wait whilst I open the backyard gates; I then want him to sit and wait once we're through so I can check for on-coming cars. This afternoon he would do one but not the other, and once we were through the gate he wanted to be off in that tug.

However, this time when he left the yard and tried taking off, he found himself back in the yard staring at the closed gates once more. It startled him the first time - the shortest walk ever! I waited a moment and tried again: no difference. It took, wait for it, 15 attempts...but then it worked. And not only that, he walked to heel for virtually the entire outing. The more experienced dog handlers amongst you will know just how good that feels: after two days of shoulder-wrenching tugboat pulling, to have him quietly trot to heel. Yes!

Not that I think it'll be plain sailing from now on; I'm sure that there's mutinous grumbling taking place below deck. But it's a start.

I bought a dog whistle today.....that's going to be interesting!

Monday, 17 September 2007

Totally lush dog how one of the local children described Bingley recently!

It's been a hectic few days but we've still been managing to take Bingley out for his regular walks. Each day seems to bring new adventures and fresh developments: for example, over the weekend we've had to bin over half of his toys. The reason? Quite simply, his teeth! Labradors are known to be chewers, but some seem to be chewier chewers than others and we appear to have one of the chewiest models available. No structural damage to the house yet, though the skirting board in his dog house is significantly thinner than it was; but his toys have been decimated....actually desiccated would be a more accurate description. And I'm not talking about light weight toys here, I'm referring to dedicated teething equipment made out of hard 'indestructible' (ha ha) plastic. When I go down to check him out during the day, I'm now used to finding a mosaic of coloured plastic around his bed, and I know that yet another toy is destined for the bin.

The daily walks do nothing to alleviate this ferocious chewing, but he always falls asleep soon after our return and he hasn't yet learned to chew in has sleep (though I have to mention, indiscreetly, that I heard him gently snoring this afternoon!). The walks are good fun...on the whole! He's definitely starting to get the hang of walking to heel whilst we're on the pavement; taking him onto the field is a different matter, but I'm happy to give him some leeway there. Not that I have a great deal of choice: some of those smells are just tooooo tempting. In fact, parts of our circuit I've had too start avoiding altogether - he seems to have acquired a bizarre (to me at least) taste for goose droppings. As always, I'm not sure if this would be harmful to him; I've heard that dogs will eat horse manure, and goose manure isn't that different - just smaller and not as easy to spot before it’s too late. Nevertheless, the sight of his smeary tongue after he's chewed a dollop isn't appealing, and I think that I'd rather he didn't. The list of things he does which I'd rather he didn't do is, of course, getting longer; and the list isn't, as I'm learning, likely to come to an end any time soon. Nevertheless, I have to admit that as I stood there this afternoon and listened to him quietly snoring, that list was easily forgotten.

Saturday, 15 September 2007