Wednesday, December 29, 2010

To meat or not to eat

Frank and I now walk to work and back every day.
This is a good thing.

I feel fitter, and Frank chases more squirrels.
I compensate by eating and drinking more. Frank compensates by eating less.

We're still struggling to find food he likes which is not food we like; namely hot, tender, preferably marinated, meat. And to this end I continue to initiate discussions with other whippet owners in the park.

To our horror we discovered that Lupin's otherwise charmingly down to earth owners make her a batch of steamed vegetables to accompany daily menus of the meat we like, mostly steak.

It's no bother, said one.
One batch lasts a few days.

The expense? I fought not to exclaim. Jess is better at hiding her emotions and simply laughed as if she were being told a farcical fib.

I'm not buying frank real meat, he can eat elbows and feathers like the others. Or he'll go hungry. He's a dog, and he must learn. When he's hungry, he'll eat. All of which I said or thought or repeated.

He heard all of it. And ate nothing for 24 hours.
I panicked, as he knew I would, and bought a chicken.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Day Frank Went Bonkers

I'm fuming.
Usually, where the dog is concerned it's delight, love or laughter.
Today it's fury.

I have no evidence. It could have been Murphy, Nancy or Sid. But really, I know it was Frank.

As I toiled this afternoon, upstairs in the office, down in the kitchen Frank knocked over a plant pot, threw the clump of soil around several rooms, then laid into the carpet and then, more violently, the newly exposed underlay.

Finally, and not until the soil and underlay were everywhere, he pissed on the lot. And Murphy's bed.

Mischief complete inside, when I angrily evicted both hounds into the garden (to begin clean up) I looked back a moment later to see Frank disappearing into the neighbour's yard, after scaling the wall and tiptoeing along a thin rear fence.

Please can I have my dog back?
Your ball?
No, my dog.

I smacked him on the nose. More than once.
Dad claims this is ultimately a necessary evil with dogs who step out of line.
It felt horrible.
Frank sulked. For a split second.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wash day

There is little as soul-enhancingly comical in our lives presently than the dismayed sight of Frank post shower.

Jess and Frank

What the hell is this stuff?

The temperature plummets outside, the wind whips up and the air grows whiter. It's wild. No weather for Whippets.

What the hell is this?
With Nell on the Downs

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rabbit puzzle

Last night Frank had a dream.
He crept into our bed, put his head against mine, and shared it with me while we both slept.

I saw him standing in a field of wild baby rabbits.
His coffee cake icing colours were complemented by pastel greens, grays and blues and we dreamt in soft focus.

He pranced deliriously, then ran and hundreds of bunnies scattered like a zip opening.
He stopped to look at me for a moment, both of us smiling.

To my knowledge he's never seen a rabbit. But I think he instinctively knows, like Shane Warne did when he was first flung a cricket ball.
Ah, I've been waiting for you. This is why I was made, I just know it.

Earlier in the week a part of the rabbit puzzle slotted into place when he discovered squirrels in Gildredge Park.

Initially there was confusion. Initially there is always confusion.

But where as cat encounters have variously ended in cuts to Frank's hard to miss nose, squirrels presented him with an entirely different instinctual conundrum.

I don't think I want to play with it, Frank pondered, head tilted in curiosity at the creature.
I don't want to sniff it's bottom.
I don't even want to frolic.

But I am suddenly quite hungry..?

It was written across Frank's expressive exterior about as enigmatically as graffiti.

Fuck me, I want to sodding kill it.
He looked at me for a split second, and we both knew there was nothing to be done.

He ran at the pea-brained rodent as fast as he'd ever run at anything, faster even than his favourite Frisbee Jess cack-handedly lobbed over a park-adjoining garden wall last week.

Squirrels can give a nasty nip, I'm told; and aren't prone to letting go either.
But there was little fear of success on Franks side, even when the squirrel put in the species' signature pause into its otherwise rapid departure, just to keep things interesting.

For all Frank's speed he is yet to learn anticipation, even to the extent where the lolloping Murphy (pictured), can corner him in the garden with ease. And the animal dropped its shoulder a couple of times, altered course and was up a tree for some just-out-of-reach taunting, lickerty split.

I'm just going to hang around by this tree for a bit, Dad.
No reason. You go on.

Maybe he thinks rabbits will be easier to catch.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Dogs in burberry blankets

Amongst the things I didn't know about Whippets before inviting one in for 15 years was that they get cold, because they're skinny and wimpy. They actually need clothes.

This news arrived to an audience of regret and disbelief on my part and profound joy on the part of Jess who'd been desperate to Google Brightly Coloured Wooly Whippet Warmers since it had dropped below 10.

If you know Jess, and I'm sorry if you don't, you will know that written into her DNA, next to the strand which says breathe often, is one which says there is no such thing as too much colour.

(...Our sofa is aubergine. The cushions which litter it are variously pink, hot pink, orange and pink, brown and pink, red and pink, purple and pink, off pink and pink and yellow. They feature motifs from the abstract to cup cakes, Chiwawas, floral union jacks, owls and flowers. A lot of flowers. Amongst the other items visible from where I sit are a pink flower pot with a yellow chilli plant in it; a pink and orange clock; pinky purple flowers with LEDs inside them draped over the telly; a headless, legless paper mache mannequin which has been covered in multi-coloured, multi-patterned tissue paper; a purple throw; two benches, painstakingly hand-covered by Jess in thousands of stamps; a light blue, spotty table cloth; a black board wall with a pink clock on it, endless plastic flowers in shades of pink; bright green, orange and pink candle lanterns and, another, multi-coloured, clock made from solid square blocks, each its own bright tone. 
Frank and I are always the dullest things in the room, by a long way.
It works, in the inexplicable way the universe is both chaotic and uniform. 
It is madness and beauty in one. 
I am not involved in its creation or maintenance and it is far better for it.)

When Frank walked in for the first time, eight weeks of age, he looked rightly startled.
And at six months, those same eyes, still struggling to adjust, looked at me this week, saying, Adam, stop her from adding that to our basket. Please. It's pink.

Actually, I want to choose, he continued.
Neither of you two are up to it.

Everything Jess owns is pink, and I've no idea what your shit looks like because it's not allowed out of the loft. I can only imagine it must be worse.

Not pink, I said, speaking up for the dog.
And not burberry.
And god, not whatever that is. Not that.

What do you mean we'll have to have the wax jacket with the wooly inside then? There must be other options.

Whippet Warmers-r-us (or similar), in its own way, was polarising the English class system before our eyes. This winter our dog, it seemed, was to present as posh, chavvy or pink, or remain naked and quivering at the Wreck.

You chose the only breed that has to be dressed up like a doll, Jess thought, as I moaned.

I'm fucked, Frank muttered.
Even Rossco will laugh at me, and he looks like a sheep on the outside.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Heal fail (like he always does)

What happens when it gets dark?
This is a question we are asking ourselves with the sudden arrival of Daylight Saving, for the first time.

Oh, damn, the seasons. We just didn’t really think about that in May.

The park is out of bounds, unless you’re one of the neighbourhood’s 12-year-old smokers, so where do all the dogs go?

No time like the present to revisit that Walking To Heal failure of a couple of months ago.

Right boy, we’re going for a walk on the lead, I said tonight, aware of doubt in my voice.
It’s like the usual walk, but without the good bit in the middle. Not so much as a chuckle.

Heal. Heal. Heal. Heal, heal, heal, heal, heal-heal-healhealHeal. Frank, HEAL. Heal. Heal. Frankie…heeeeal. Heal? HEAL! FRANK, STOP pulling you little sod. Frank. FRANK!

By the corner at the end of our road we were making somewhat artificial progress.

Through no fault of his own (rather a considerable reduction in lead length), Frank is walking closely and looking up at his master, eyes bulging.
End of the next terrace and I’ve given up.
Frank, heal. Heal. Hea… please? Oh, common. Frankie?

Look, I say bending down and waving a treat in front of his not insubstantial nose in the way the obedience trainer had shown us during our first and only visit. Treat.
He responds.
I guide him around to the start position (on my left) and he hovers just above sit, hoping I’ll not notice. No, Frankie, sit!
Have you any idea how cold this pavement is?, he projects, before momentarily touching the ground with his bum, snatching the treat from my fingers and standing bolt upright again, looking crossly along the street.
Ok, heal now boy, I say, taking a step. He’s off, yanking at the lead.
Cumon you old git, it’s freezing and my arse is cold.
Frank, come here; heal, heal. Treat?
Another one?
I’ll get piles.
I leave the treat in front of his nose and begin to try and walk, stooped, along the road. Discomfort and boredom overwhelms me.
Frank jumps at my ascending hand, before giving up himself and continuing his pursuit of the thing just ahead of us.

Occasionally, as we continue, he walks alongside me for a few paces by accident and I immediately reward this with a completely unmerited treat and accompanying enthusiasm. I’m not sitting down again, he says.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Poo chase

Today Frank belted in from the garden, as part of a game he had devised, carrying poo between the toes of one paw. He grinned widely.

How long will it take them, he pondered, bouncing off the new sofa and me in a tour of his territory... how long, how long, how long?

About half an hour.

I can smell poo love, can you? I asked Jess.
Not really. What's that on your collar?
Um, you've got poo on your collar.

So began a nasal comb of the entire ground floor, in search of the remnants.
Apart from me, and a smear on the throw, the rest of the poo had been left in quantities big enough to smell but not see.

Frank followed me around, licking my ear. Warmer, warmer, hot, hot, really hot, cold, he whispered. This is more fun than I hoped.

Monday, October 18, 2010

There are bastards on the Downs at dusk

They won't hurt, said the horrible woman.

One of them ate Frank, while the other watched.

He spat him out because a six-month-old whippet isn't even big enough to count as a meaningful snack to Great Danes. Or because Frank had farted. Or because he was choking on Frank's body warmer.

It definitely wasn't because of me or the distant, largely disinterested owners.
I panicked and bellowed at them. Control your dogs please, they are eating mine.

Don't worry, they won't hurt you.

It occurred to me they may not even be able to see Frank from where they were. It was dusk, and the speaker had her back to me.

It's not me I'm worried about, I said, semi accurately.

Frank remained pinned to the ground, whimpering, contemplating his short life.

Later, as we hid over the other side of a hill, our hear rates decreasing, Frank wined at the silhouettes of two sharp corner roadsigns in the distance, which looked to both of us like the same Great Danes, after eating their own heads.

I inspected his injuries. A nick to the ear, all told. But can one really measure the psycological scars? Mine or his.

Although it was dark we went to the wreck in search of friendly hounds and confidence.
I told the first owner, whose name I do not know so we will have to call him Oscar, of our ordeal.

Beware of the bastards on the Downs with unruly dogs, he growled, through the night. I've stopped taking my Japanese Fighting Dog up there, altogether.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lick it better

I just took a scab off under my jeans. Filth exited my mouth.

Frank wondered in, looked at me, walked up to my knee and started to lick a wound he couldn't see.

He's been licking his bum, Jess said, too late.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Food chase

Frank's been off his food.
Not off food, just off his.

William's is delicious.
And William, who must be wondering when this invader is going to stop growing, no longer puts up any resistance to the theft.

Frank knows he's not supposed to do it - but the animal in him, which admittedly might be a substantial part, can't help it. He sprints through the house, conscious we're soon to be tailing him, and dives into the bowel, mouth open, saliva at the ready.

William is not stupid, he can hear the approach. The speed of paw on floorboard, it's distinctive sound, is enough on its own. He leaves it until the last possible moment, and then springs back, exactly like a cat shitting itself.

The race begins. I'm usually no more than five seconds behind him, but Frank's speed eating is world-class now.
We rely on the speed of sound.
The deepest sound I can muster (I'm informed a deep voice is essential - and although I do not possess one, if I try really hard I can approximate manliness), is my first offering. 'NOOOOOOOOOO, FRAAAAANK!,' I instruct.
I may as well be saying, 'Dear boy, did you see XFactor last night?'
So I stamp - which comes more naturally, thanks to an appropriate weight.
I've seen Jess go through the same routine. I can say with certainty that we look and sound stupid and it has no affect.

The jaw movement is frenetic and primal by the time of arrival.
Bowl bounces around off his massive nose as he attempts to get into those hard to reach places.
He's prized away, chucked onto the floor, and as he struts off (past his own, brimming, bowl of dog food), arse in our face, continues to ignore threat and instruction.
'I've no idea what you're talking about, and it almost certainly wasn't me who did it.'

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Crating havoc

Frank's agility has never been in doubt.
Today, for example, he was found by the neighbour walking along her wall, cat like, the wrong side of our fence, as well as numerous other barriers.

I'd gone to work with him left locked in doors.

Gill gathered her cats up for fear they might eat him, and plonked him back on the right side of the boundary.

Later Dad arrived to feed and walk Frank, and he was back on the sofa, chuckling.

This evening Gill came over to tell us - otherwise we would never have known.

Later the puppy trainer informed us we were heading for trouble.
A combination of letting Frank sleep in our room and sit on the sofa, followed by shutting him in the kitchen for a couple of hours, is not, apparently, reconcilable.

Back to square one with the crate training, she said, not even trying to cover her voice.

Fuck off, Frank said, almost loud enough to hear.
I'll move out first. Gill's place is a possibility.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wrong end friend

Today a Chiwawa humped Frank's head in the park.
He looked up at us through the randy midget's legs.
His expression needed no interpretation. It was the end of a long day.

Earlier I found him in he kitchen amongst blood and broken clay.
Finally, I thought, the shocking and unexpected proof.

On Monday morning, inexplicably, the kitchen tap had been on when I came downstairs. I'd been cross with the cat all week.

It turns out it was Frank all along.
Today, in an attempt to lay claim to the stunt, he'd jumped onto the work-surface, knocked his bowel onto the floor and somehow cut his hind leg open in the process.
A small flap of skin, but the amount of blood indicated much worse. For a moment I thought the cat may have bought it, and was considering how I could help Frank with an alibi.

Franks following attempts to escape the kitchen were illustrated with red smears and splatters on Kitchen and back door as well as the window behind the sink.

While he was being head humped, the Chiwawa's owner said she's known an Italian Greyhound once, which could jump as high as her.
'They are very springy,' she warned.
If only we'd known a little earlier.

You set this up, Frank was clearly thinking as he looked at us laughing. This is my punishment.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Rain pain

It's raining.
Frank is not a wet weather dog and this suits me. I am not a wet weather owner.

It is September though. Our first Autumn with the dog. Damp, cold and dark are on the cards for a while. So what's the plan?, since outside is unappealing to all of us in here.

Things are OK as long as you're frank.
There are cushions to fray, a cat to torment, this stupid chewy rawhide thing dad bought back from the last costly trip to Pet's Pantry which turns into mush and looks like a decomposed, muddy and publicly discarded item of once sanitary purpose, to drag all over the new sofa. The wood floor isn't bad for skidding across on claws either.. leaves tracks like a Scalextric.

I'll wee inside too if you don't mind.

If it could stop raining that would be great.

Friday, September 03, 2010

The fall

We have a cat, called William.
I wouldn't have chosen him, or any other cat. But he came with the girl, and it's almost the only thing I wasn't keen on.

I've tried to oust him. In my way.
But cats only like people who don't like them - they relate to default distain - so he's all over me at any stationery moment.

Frank thinks William is a dog. Just like he thinks I am a dog and even Jess; who anyone can see is actually a rather exceptional human being.

But he can't get why he doesn't play.
Frank tries every day, in his way.

He crouches, growls his practice growl and then belps, which is like barking only much more like a girly yelp. William is not down with this.
But, to his credit, he's not one to back down.

I was here first. She chose me before you, or you, he projects, firing me a glance of hateful adoration. I will not be intimidated. And where's my supper?, it's close on four.

Frank is ill equipped for this, or any, level of emotional warfare. Belps turn to wines. Often accompanied by a paw over the snout gesture, and eventually, ruefully, Frank fakes interest in the nearby floor and sniffs his retreat. William watches, tuts silently and plods away.

Today the aforementioned self assurance kept Frank all up in Williams grill.
You do know I did battle with a Toy Poodle down the wreck, don't you Willy? I almost won too.

So, yuknow, what YOU gonna do about it th....
Shit. Will. That's my nose, that is. Cheap shot, it's sodding massive. Aw, frig, blood and everything.


Frank's for a fall

But sir, I don't think you understand, said the man with his foot on my chest and Frank in his arms.
He is without doubt the most beautiful hound I've ever seen. You must submit.
Oh my, his cappuccino colours.
See how his tilted head woos.
Dear, shall we take him now?

This is getting ridiculous.
I'm alternating walking routes, looking for quiet paths, mutt-less cuts where normal dog owners fear to flounder. But escape, there is none.

Another corner another cooer. Each more heartfelt, impassioned than the last. He's so beautiful. I must have him and not any other.

And how does this affect Frank?
Whippets are sensitive, and you must be careful not to impart your own emotional baggage on them, for fear it shall be reflected back; so goes the threat of the expert.
Frank offers no argument to the contrary, as his tiny, nose-dominated head swells with self assurance for all to see.

He's due a fall, that one.
You can see it in the eyes of the dogs we meet as their masters fall to their pathetic knees.


Out on the bike last night. First time in a while. It was rather good.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Death threats on the Downs

Today the wind nearly blew Frank off it as we strode along one of the many paths over Wilmington's tallest chalk dead body outline.

He was all cautious on the way up. But with already scented path guiding us back, plus perhaps the promise of a packet of something naughty at the Ox, he got all self assured. Maybe the steep decline helped, but he kept on trotting ahead, back legs faster than front.
And then, all of a bluster, whoosh, and sideways he went, over the lip of the path and down the grass slop a little.

He can tell when I'm laughing at him... plenty of practice I guess.
Just like wind tells us when he's happy, or relaxed. Or awake.

He looked back and spoke loudly to himself. Sod off. If you weren't so fat you'd be down that hill and they'd need some more chalk.

He's getting heavier, but not much.
We've found some food he likes, so at least he's eating a bit now. At least the vet hasn't got in touch with social services like she planned after our last visit.

You shouldn't be able to see its ribs, or this back bone which is sticking out, or these hind leg bits. Feed him a bit. And maybe let him walk on his own some, she finished, as Jess gathered him up to leave.

But he's loved too much. Sometimes we forget about the food.

Back in the Ox Frank farted appreciation for some cheese and onion crisps. People bent down to stroke him, glancing up at us wondering if we couldn't just have held it in. He never gets the blame.

So, yeah, maybe I did laugh a little.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Frank the first

We first met frank when he was four weeks.
He looked like this.

When we look back now we think it's hilarious.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Leading question

Under no circumstances should Frank be allowed off the lead, ever.

If a puppy has ever more repeatedly been told it's loved, I will eat our Cath Kidston dog basket.
And we mean it. He will just have to stay close to us, lead length, forever.
Sorry and all that, lad.

Only his mate Rossco is, already.

So maybe I'll try it today, I thought.
Fuck it.

Shit me, Frank thought.
Er, hang on a minute. Where are you going and why doesn't my neck hurt? Wait up.
That's sheep shit, that is. I'm going to eat it. There, see?, I've eaten it.
No neck pain. Odd.
I'm gonna trot now. I'm trotting. I'm bounding. I'm bloody bounding. I'm going to turn it on on, here I go. Here I go. I'm only bloody running. Earrrrs, back!

What's that? A whistle. That'll be Dad, that will. Better turn around. Better go back. Back, back, I'm coming!, might just bend down here a sec for a bit more dung, and there, I'm back. Watcha!
He does seem pleased.
Must be the poo eating.
I'll do that more then.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Petiquette and losing the sofa

Frank the whippet arrived a month ago.

He moved in with Jess and I suddenly. One day he wasn't there, the next he was.

The next, a line I am pretty sure I'm pinching from another Whippet owner Terry Darlington, he had my slippers on.

Right now he's sleeping in the best spot on the sofa with my girl. There's no getting on there.

I’ve also noted a whiff of routine about the development, so I decided to start blogging again.

Things I've learned since Frank arrived:

1, I'm not ready to have children

2, Petiquette isn't in any of the books I've read.

What do you say while your dog is sniffing another's arse, to the other person holding a lead? In particular, since the dogs decide the length of the encounter, how do you end the conversation swiftly and cleanly, at literally any moment?

'Bye' seems too short, too flippant given the intimacy you've both witnessed; in a way, shared.

So far, 'Have a good day,' is all I've got.

It's not enough. I'm not pretending it is.

Also, Frank is pretty.

There's no point denying it.

Eventually he'll look scrawny and lopsided like all whippets, but right now, at 12 weeks, he's a delightfully subtle light browny grey colour with white markings on his legs and bum. He's got blue eyes and tilts his head at all the right moments. So people tell him, relentlessly, in the park, before he sniffs their dog or them. And, I'm sorry, but I've got in the habit of saying 'Thank you.'

I know this can't be right. It sounds wrong as I say it - which is probably a sign.

But what's the alternative?

'But you're too kind, sir. For your dog is the infinitely more beautiful.. My what a looker.' (?)

Anyway, today I also started reading a book about looking after your dog, perhaps belatedly.

Skipping the chapters on choosing your breed and pet, which we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed about, I’m on to ‘the first few weeks’.

I’m, er, dog-earing the pages Jess should read too. Which is a lot.

Tonight I’m going to put him to bed the way I should have done since we had him. That is to say, not carry him across the room and poke him through the crate door before rapidly shutting it, pulling down the cover and running out of the room before he starts yowling.

Odd how I thought this could be the right way.

But tonight Frank will be ‘led to the crate with a toy or treat, and settled down quietly with stroking…’ etc until he doses off.

Cesar Millan makes it sound so simple.