Bosco being surprised by the fact that the window is transparent.
He's more than four years old now, this silly pooch of ours. You'd think that the world would be settling into understandable and predictable patterns for him...but apparently it's not that simple.

Bosco seems to be the dog most likely to be surprised by pretty much anything - anything at all.

He's surprised to see me arrive at the bottom of the stairs even though he's just heard me walking down them, and even if I've been talking to him (as, I admit, I frequently do in a sort of invented-conversation kind of way) as I approach. He's surprised to see me or my lovely wife even though he's watched us walk up to the front door, and he's run (well; I say run - more of an enthusiastic amble, really) to the door to greet us.

He's surprised to be given his dinner even when he's watched me (pretending to not care at all whether or not he gets any food) making it from out of the corner of his eye. He's surprised by every single noise he hears when out walking, every noise outside the house (usually imaginary - he's obssessed with Raccoons and those pesky Squirrels and will move heaven and earth - or the glass in the window in the picture above to try to get to them) and everything he sees through the window.

Basically, he seems to live in one of two states; either torpor or shock. It must be quite stressful for him, but he seems to enjoy himself and occasionally the surprises are fun as well as...surprising. Travelling in the back of the truck (under a canopy, people; relax) to or from his daily walk in the local countryside, everything is new and wonderful, his ears shooting up to the top of his head every few seconds as things come into view (I just accidentally typed 'thongs come into view', and I have to admit that my ears shoot to the top of my head if that happens).

The thing he most likes to be surprised by is a squirrel - squirrels appear to be the things he would most like to get to know, mostly from an omnom-omnomnom perspective, closely followed by the aforementioned raccoons, although since he's never even got within fifty feet of a raccoon, I suspect that if he did, things might be...well...surprising. The thing he least likes being surprised by is a snake. If he comes across a snake - let me start that again; if he comes across a snake AND realises it's a snake, he rapidly levitates about a foot, darts away looking mightily alarmed, and then stands off with an "I don't like the look of THAT!" expression on his face. I should mention that the snakes around here are typically harmless garter snakes, at most the thickness of my index finger and about two feet long...oh dear.

Oddly enough, the 'surprise' stuff doesn't seem to work if anyone walks into the house unannounced. If that ever happens (one of our kids' boy/girfriend for example), he tends to react with a level of complete indifference and calmness that I find a little unsettling. Anyone could stroll in and he'd probably just give them a dirty look for waking him up. We are clearly on our own in the event of trouble, and at the mercy of the zombie horde.

Sometimes I think he's just toying with me.

A quick rant about the trend for 'fur babies'.

I'm not sure if it's a sign that society in the west (I don't know if this goes on elsewhere) is devolving or that simply some kinds of people are regressing to their teenage girly personas, but the idea of having apet which is your 'baby' is really rather strange.

No; really - it is. I mean; come ON! Dogs are NOT babies. They're animals. They do NOT think like people or even baby people! Who decided that they do?????

I see so much stuff online - and of course in TV commercials which deliberately exploit the delusion - telling us that our pets 'love' us (and - for example - so, therefore, we must buy them brand X dog food, to show our love in return, because otherwise who knows how bad the animal might feel???). I wonder where this delusion comes from? Could it be human wishful thinking, perhaps? Of course it is - we shower affection and attention on our pets, we love them, and as sentient, emotional beings, we hope for that love to be reciprocated. In the case of dumb (unable to speak) animals, we invent the meaning behind their responses. Let's just be HONEST about our pets.

I love my dog - which itself may be a little strange, but I know that I'm not alone. Whenever I've lost a pet I've been devastated by it, because of the emotions that I - not the animal - have invested in the relationship. Dogs are pack animals by instinct - they are most comfortable when not alone, and their behaviours are geared to living in a pack.

When Bosco approaches me for a stroke/a cuddle/ a play, he's doing so for two reasons: firstly because he enjoys it (play is a major part of a domestic dog's psyche, since they rarely get out of the puppy phase of mental development) and secondly (and this is circuitously linked to his own enjoyment and feeling of safety/security within the pack) because it emphasises his lesser status in the pack (he does as I direct him to do) while ostensibly pleasing the perceived pack leader. He does not play with me because he 'loves' me, for goodness sake!

The tendency for people to turn their pet animals into baby humans is disturbing and contradictory. After all, if the animal were indeed as sensitive and emotional as a human, would you really put a leash around their neck? Feed them from a bowl on the floor?

There is SO much wrong with the whole 'fur baby' idea and the industry that exploits it - honesty about animal instinct and behaviour seems to have been thrown out by such people. It can only lead to trouble and increasingly weird lives for the dogs we choose to be our companions.

You may need to be on facebook to view this, not entirely sure:

Just when you thought it was safe to stop following, I'm back, like a bad smell (which of course, Bosco would love).

I find it hard to believe how long it is since I last posted - time has flown, mostly due to a busy time doing other things (not much of huge significance, except...) and pushing my online activities to the back burner.

This last weekend we have returned from a vacation in our home country which necessitated putting Bosco into kennels for two weeks. It's the first time he's been in boarding kennels on his own (he and Buckley had their first kennels experience together about three years ago) and while we were a little uncomfortable handing him over to comparative strangers, our previous experience with Mission Country Kennels gave us some confidence.

We picked up Bosco as early as we could after arriving back home - somehow the house feels very different without him there; there is a certain energy missing from it. At just after 8am we were there, collecting his blanket, his bowl and his favourite toy (one of my old leather slippers), but most of all, excited to see him.

A 100lb puppy bounded over to us, jumped in and out of the old Volvo tailgate several times, whined and sort of grunted a bit, and rubbed himself against our legs in what appeared to be his version of excited bliss. A dog that is pleased to see you is one of life's wonderful little treats, and we both basked in his very obvious joy while we heard how he had behaved himself and seemingly enjoyed the company of his kennel-mates. His habit of scratching himself a little too hard seemed to have not manifested itself, and his sore shoulder (a recurring injury) also seems to have almost completely healed.

Within a few minutes we were headed up the road to one of our favourite walking trails, and just as if nothing had happened (well, almost), we were following the big daft dopey mutt around while he checked on our progress just a little more often than usual. The tension we had both felt about collecting him and potentially hearing something unpleasant drifted away as he galloped, lolloped and scampered about in the bushes, in puddles and through the forest.

Once back home we were sure to follow the old routines of towelling him down (he gets wet during almost every walk) and playing the 'towel game', followed by his morning meal, a sleep (him, not us, despite the jet lag) and then what I think is his favourite part of the day; a small bone to chew, worry and consume. I could almost watch him relax into his old familiar patterns; the things which make him feel safe and part of the pack.

We were back, and until we retrieved our faithful companion we hadn't felt properly home.  Our thanks to the folks at Mission Country Kennels for looking after and keeping safe our pet in an idyllic location and with genuine care, and for giving us such complete feedback about his stay. We know he will be safe there if ever we need to have him cared for again.

Back in the groove...
'Humane' is a word that we habitually use to describe something that is merciful, moral, ethical - the best way to do something unpleasant.

Perhaps, in the light of this story (link below), it's time for us to abandon this word, since what we humans do to the animals with which we share this tiny dot is clearly in many cases none of the above. Perhaps it's time we stopped thinking of ourselves as the most principled beings on the planet...

The root of the broken-off tooth: it's only a little thing really, but it caused him to pull his "Nobody knows the troubles I've seen!" face for two days.
Yes, above is THE offending broken tooth which was removed a short time ago...requiring of course a general anaesthetic and a full day's care in the hands of our favourite veterinarian. Strange; every time I cast eyes upon this object I hear the sound of an old fashioned cash register in the background...I can't think why.

Bosco had barely recovered from the dreadful torment of having a tooth extracted (his woe-ridden form was to be found in strategic locations for fully two days, his expression one of "What have I done to deserve this suffering?"), when he decided to yet again strain one of his shoulders.

He's a big, powerful dog but we think he is not very aware of his physical parameters, and with a regularity that suggests that this is becoming a hobby, he seems to strain a muscle in his left shoulder.

Bosco doesn't really believe in suffering in silence...or alone. This means that he has been very vocal in telling us when he has twinged his shoulder getting up, lying down, coming upstairs or going downstairs...in fact when he's doing just about anything. He will yelp loudly and then come over to me for comfort and reassurance, shortly before springing silently (and presumably, therefore; painlessly)out of the back door to try to catch the birds on the bird feeder or the mice which seem to enjoy this part of the world.

Similarly, he is apparently utterly without discomfort when out for a walk - funny, that. We think that he tweaks something while in the act of picking up a thrown stick - his technique usually involves stopping very suddenly from top speed and pivoting around his front end. Sticks, therefore are currently not being thrown - unless into water, where he can't injure himself that way. It's a little bit sad to watch him stand hopefully next to hisi heart's delight, pleading with his eyes for me to throw it for him, but thankfully he generally has the attention span of a toddler, and so is quickly and easily diverted - for example by a truly fascinating piece of Coyote scat.

Now, Bosco is thankfully if slowly healing through the emotionally painful process of denying him his favourite game; I'm not sure who this is harder for; him or me...
This week has so far been dominated by the persistent arrival of droplets of H2O by way of our friend gravity. It's soggy out there, especially after another heavy dump of snow on Sunday began to melt, making the paths and trails less fun to traverse than usual. I thought I'd cheer myself up with pictures from last week, when cold bright weather was gracing us...
Yep; one of THOSE kind of days, when the sun seems to get in your eyes no matter what you do.
The only answer is to seek cover in the trees!
Or, as in this example, travel back in time to a point in earth's history when the sun was more yellow...
With the wind blowing in off the river and right up my sleeves, it was every bit as cold as it looks...
Did I say 'river'? Oh yes; it's the bit between the grass and the mountain...mostly.
Bosco was, of course, there all the time...
Posing for his close-up.
And finally, just making sure we got his best side/end.