Monday, 28 January 2008

Bing bling

We recently bought Bingley a new Red Dingo collar and lead set from the wonderful shop Kyruba, but it was only yesterday that we had the first real chance to get Bing to model them.

He’s a dishy dog for sure, but certainly not a natural when it comes to modelling. Oddly enough I don’t think that he cares what he’s wearing, and yesterday he was certainly more interested in discovering what temptations might be waiting for him in those bushes behind the photographer.

By this stage of course, he’s beginning to realise that off-lead time is his time; so why on earth should he sit still just to have his picture taken?

But despite the gusts of wind blowing us all to one side, we managed to get some photos. Bingley might not be bothered about which collar we use, but I think that this orange really suits him. We almost chose a purple version, but then thought that it might look a bit too regal and end up giving him an even bigger ego! We also wanted to get him the flower or heart name tags: lovely, but a bit girly perhaps? However, since he isn’t that bothered himself we might go for those next time.

And there will be a next time, I’m sure. We’re already building up quite a collection of leads and collars…well, three leads and two collars (ignoring the ones he’s grown out of). I bought him a terrific slip lead a while ago, but then realised that until Bugsy McTugsy stops trying to lead the way using it was a bit uncomfortable for him.

Bugsy is beginning to behave himself actually, and for significant parts of most walks he now heels very nicely. It’s not locked down tight yet, and if he loses concentration or gets distracted I still find myself being tugged along. But a firm ‘steady’, brings him back to heel…usually.

Unfortunately though, he’s still inclined to do a convincing impersonation of a boxing kangaroo whenever we meet anyone; and recently he’s even started adding sound affects. This jumping up is the only major training issue left unresolved: sit -stay / leave / give, etc are all shaping up nicely. But please don’t jump up at this innocent person who’s approaching us doesn’t have any effect.

Still, I’m working on it and I’m sure that we’ll get there eventually.

Until then whenever he’s wearing his Red Dingo collar and lead, I have a head-turning dog walking politely to heel…for most of the time and as long as there’s no-one else around.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Where did our puppy go?

Bingley is now 8 months old and rapidly heading towards the 40 kilo mark, with little indication that he’s going to stop there! Not that he’s overweight; there isn’t an ounce of fat on him (just to mix my units of measurement!). But we really are starting to get an idea of just how big he’s going to be: I reckon he’s got another 10k in him.

However, the puppy is still there: often in the way he looks at us, regularly in the way he sits (back legs sticking out to one side, looking very ungainly), and always in the way he behaves.

But browsing through the early files in our Bingley photo archive came as something of a shock. Just where did that little puppy go? All this growing seems to have happened far too quickly and looking at some of the early photos we can hardly believe what we’re seeing.

Though it’s tempting, I’ll avoid getting too elegiac; but what wouldn’t I give to go back and have even just half an hour more with little Bing.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Friday, 18 January 2008

Junior Bing

Bingley was back to the vet today, and it turns out that the little lad has a minor ear infection; it's nothing serious and hopefully the medication will sort things out over the next week or so.

I called him little lad, but of course that's less and less the case these days. The time when I could work out his weight by easily picking him up and standing on the bathroom scales, before deducting my own weight from the total, is over. So whilst we were with the vet we had him weighed.

She reminded us that he's going to be a big dog; but she also officially confirmed that he's no longer just a puppy.

We now have a 35 kilo junior!

Maybe that accounts for some of his recent teenage behaviour? And more about that, no doubt, later.

But just how much bigger is he gonna get? The way things are heading I'm going to have to build an extension to his dog house!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Sleepy slippers

Jane's slippers might be under constant threat from the mighty Bing, but somehow my own feet have continued to command respect. Assuming of course that slippers being used as pillows can be interpreted as a sign of respect. And if not then I don't care, there's something wonderfully endearing about it anyway!

Bing's never been a lovey-dovey dog, and any attempt to elicit a cuddle has usually been met with a squirming, gerroff response. Just recently though he's started to mellow a bit. After we return from our lunchtime walk, and after I've wiped down his paws and undercarriage (I can't believe how dirty he can get! Neither can I believe that we've only just begun this post-walk wash routine; before then we just let him back in and left him too it. No wonder everything downstairs now looks second hand!). But as I was saying, once I've finished all that I'm now used to feeling a paw nudge me as Bingley slides onto his tummy. Then he lifts back his head with a go on, scratch me look in his eyes. So suddenly (and at last) I have a dog snuggled in my arms, I'm scratching his chin and neck and he's reaching up and licking my nose. Magical. The only thing that spoils this halcyon scene is the memory of where that tongue was half an hour ago!

Bingley still spends much of the day sleeping, and I guess that he always will. He has two walks a day, one in the morning with Jane and one at lunchtime with me; then he'll sleep solidly for 2 or 3 hours after each. We have a playtime just before and after his evening meal, following which he'll crash out for the evening; there are also some brief play sessions during the day. None of these last for more than a few minutes, and if things start to get out of hand then a gentle 'settle down' almost always works. But if that happens to fail then ‘Bingley's Sleepy Song’ always does the trick! That's right, I haven't forgotten the words and whatever he's been doing, if I start singing his song he gets sleepy: he'll instantly stop all his shenanigans, start yawning, slide down onto his tummy with his muzzle on his paws....and go to sleep. I have no idea how or why this works, but it does! Every time.

I'm looking for a career change; maybe I should hone my skills and take a course in hypnotism? Or maybe I should record the song and sell it to Holland & Barrett for their alternative therapy section. Better still though, I think that I'll keep it secret: Bing's very own little lullaby that always long as I'm wearing those slippers!

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Oliver Twist

Well the panto season might be over, but here at Bingley HQ but we have our very own in-house version of Oliver!

Bing has developed a fascination with pockets and with whatever is in those pockets; especially handkerchiefs or, even better, a tissue which can be turned into an instant snowstorm. In the morning when I sit down on the kitchen sofa with my first mug of coffee, ever optimistic Bing wanders over hoping that dad isn't quite wide awake enough to notice that his pockets are about to be picked. Of course, ever vigilant I'm usually aware of the little brown muzzle heading for my pocket like a small cruise missile; and if I miss that cue then the intense snuffling push for the hanky grabs my attention.

The always useful 'ah-ah' normally works in this case, though only when I've noticed what he's doing. He's becoming quite adept, and there have been a couple of times when I've walked into the lounge and wondered what he's chewing on the rug only to realise that he's caught me unawares and nabbed my hanky after all.

Handkerchiefs aren't the only item of clothing which he's determined to nick: he's also acquired a rugged determination to collect all of Jane's slippers - especially the one's which she’s wearing. If he fails to pick my pocket in the morning, he then moves on to Jane's feet. But with this target he tries much harder and is really quite cunning! He'll wander away, to all intents and purposes looking for a toy to play with, but all the while surreptitiously glancing at Jane's feet and weighing up the chances of success. If Jane has her legs crossed with one slipper hanging loosely, he knows that it's just a matter of timing. He has two classic approaches: the toe grab and pull, or the more sophisticated heel and catch.

With the first move he just wanders past minding his own business, but then quickly turns his head and grabs the slipper by the toes: one pull and he's away. The second tactic requires Jane to have forgotten that this sort of thing has ever happened before: the slipper is hanging loosely with a nice tantalizing gap at the heel. Bing comes along, flips the slipper upwards with his muzzle, catches it and runs.

It doesn't end with clothing of course; he's also got a taste for dishcloths and has managed to grab four this week. The first time this happened I thought that it must be a fluke and that I'd left the dishcloth lying over the front of the draining board, within Bingley's sight. It's easy to tell when Bing has got something which he knows he shouldn't have: he either hides under the kitchen table and won't come out, or he runs into the lounge and spins round to face me with his chin on the ground and his bum in the air, tail wagging furiously. ‘Ah-ah’ definitely doesn't work at this point.

As I was saying, I thought that the first dishcloth was a fluke; but 2, 3, and 4?! I'm sure that I'd left those at the back of the draining board and out of his reach. I know that he can now lift his paws onto the worktop, and he gets a firm telling off if I catch him doing it; but surely he isn’t big enough to reach all the way over to tiles at the back? Well...I was hosing down the back yard yesterday afternoon; I had the back door open with Bingley shut out of the way on the kitchen side of the baby gate. I've done this many times before, he knows I haven't gone far and every now and then I'll look in through the back door and we’ll wave at each other. Yesterday I was brushing around the back gate area and I happened to look at the kitchen window, and there, resting his paws on the worktop, was this great big dog looking back at me. It was one of those moments: I suddenly realised that little Bing isn’t so little any more. But then, trying to get a higher view and see if I was brushing away all those nice leaves, he went on to do a wonderful impersonation of Tigger jumping which I wish you'd all seen, and he reminded me that he really is still just a puppy.

Hankies, slippers, dishcloths (and it’s amazing how soggy a tea towel can get after a few minutes chomping). But it doesn’t end there. He now regards anything left on the kitchen table as fair game. Yesterday it was the invoice for the coal delivery; earlier it was a card that came with one of his gifts. Last week it was the plastic ring-binder in which I kept his training notes: he left me in no doubt whatsoever as to what he thought of my carefully worked out schedule, and ‘ah-ah’ was definitely not the phrase I chose to use that time!

So until we manage to overcome this particular hurdle, Jane and I have to train ourselves out of leaving anything lying on the kitchen table or on the worktops.

Bing's a quick study though, and I’m confident that we’ll get it sorted. Meanwhile I'm currently trying to turn all this to my advantage by teaching him to identify five & ten pound notes. That way the next time someone makes a fuss over him on one of our walks we might be able to quietly make a canny profit.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Saint Bing

Saint Bing, for sure; but he's definitely a dog with a wobbly halo.

From the outset Jane & I decided that Bingley was most definitely not going to be allowed on the furniture. This wasn't anything to do with, I'm now beginning to realise, the increasingly outdated theories of pack leadership or having a dog know his place; it just wasn't something we wanted. He's hairy, sometimes smelly and he's not going anywhere near the sofa. There was no ambiguity about it.

Has anyone else noticed how reality has a way of thwarting our expectations and resolve?!

As long as I'm not leaving the house I now usually leave Bingley to wander around, whilst I get on with whatever it is I'm doing elsewhere. I can pretty much trust him not to get up to too much mischief when he's by himself. But when I first discovered him curled up asleep on the kitchen sofa, I found myself facing a real dilemma as all my determination and resolve disappeared in the blink of an eye: he looked so comfortable, how could I possibly make him move!?

Jane felt the same way and I think that if one of us had said that they thought it was ok after all, then the other would have given in as well. I know that I would have! But we decided to stick to our guns and discourage him, though in my case there's definitely a degree of compromise: if I'm upstairs and Bingley wants to curl up in the armchair then so be it - I'm not there so I can ignore it! As long as he gets down when he sees me I'm satisfied.

At first getting him to relinquish this incredibly cosy location was difficult. In Lirael, the second book of Garth Nix's wonderful Abhorsen trilogy, The Disreputable Dog can grow suckers to help her gain traction when crossing the rim of a waterfall or sitting in the prow of a boat. The first time I tried moving Bingley off the sofa it felt like he was doing the same thing himself: he seemed to defy gravity and become instantly heavier, gluing himself to the cushion like a syrupy magnet.

But as with much else Bing's a quick learner, and I'm now used to hearing the thump of paws hitting the floor as I walk down the stairs; the only evidence that he's been sleeping on the sofa is a warm dimple in the cushion, because Bingley's usually curled up on the floor looking at me with sleepy eyes that say 'I've been here all the time, Rob'. And if I do catch him by surprise, then a gentle 'ah-ah' is all it takes to get him moving.

'Ah-ah'! What a useful little warning bark that is. Though it doesn't always work, as I'll tell you next time.

Thursday, 3 January 2008