… and a very warm welcome to my dog blog. I’m so pleased that you’ve found me. I do hope you will enjoy reading about the trials and tribulations of my great adventure. I would love it if you joined in the saga by dropping me a line in the comments box. As you will see I’m going to need all the support I can get.
this my v. v. v big tail!
I started my blog in 2015 as a young orphan puppy, from West Cumbria in the United Kingdom. It records how – by walking over 1,000 miles and climbing the 282 Scottish mountains over 3.000 feet (The Munros) – I aim to raise £32,000 for two v. v. v good causes. I have promised not to use any of the dosh for even a tiny morsel of a treat, how hard is that? Me, an agile young collie and my person – a creaky aging thing (called B) – aim to complete the task by the time I am 10 and she is 70. We are to spend many hours in some of the most wonderful and remote parts of the UK: walking, camping, eating, drinking, writing and growing ever closer and closer.
The money we raise will be spilt between a charity for search and rescue dogs, and Canine Partners, which trains assistance dogs to support disabled people. These dogs are sooooooo clever. This is Bumble and Sandra’s story. I am in love with Bumble.
There are film clips of the clever canines at work below. If after watching them you think what amazing creatures we dogs really are, and you wanted to support their work, you could always drop me a penny or two for my fundraising, just here :
Thank you so much for coming to visit a dog poet. My poems for Colleen’s weekly poetry challenge are a take on life from a canine perspective. We poet’s write one of the structured poems permitted and have to integrate, as synonyms, the two words given as a prompt. For the first poem of each month we poets choose our words. This week I have chosen the words meaning and passion.
Thank you so much for coming to visit a dog poet. My poems for Colleen’s weekly poetry challenge are a take on life from a canine perspective. We poet’s write one of the structured poems permitted and have to integrate, as synonyms, the two words given as a prompt. For the first poem of each month we poets choose our words. This week I have chosen the words vulnerable and pause.
Thank you so much for coming to visit a dog poet. My poems for Colleen’s weekly poetry challenge are a take on life from a canine perspective. We poet’s write one of the structured poems permitted and have to integrate, as synonyms, the two words given as a prompt. This week the words are slow and work.
As I left you at end of my annual review, part one, the old girl was hanging in there, just. I was being all care and understanding, and I even gave her my ‘find your treat’ puzzle game, to help distract her from her demented troubles. It worked wonderfully for a little while and the head work needed sent her, after she found all her treats, into a lovely peaceful sleep.
However, on 2nd September, the balance was disturbed, the see-saw tipped and went with a big bang on the floor. We came home from our caravan and phoned the vet the next morning. I was kept in the bedroom just in case, despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to keep my ADHD tendencies under control. I could tell what was going on though, all too well. There was a lot of that sweet talking and I heard the whirr of that machine that blows hot air on your fur, meaning the old girl was getting a shampoo and blow dry. It wouldn’t do me, I’m terrified of the thing, but the old girl seems to love it. Next Andy, our favourite vet, arrived and there was a bit of talking, then some sobbing and everything was calm and quiet. It felt very peaceful, as if a struggling spirit had been set free.
How was I to know that I would miss her soooooooooo much. Getting back on the soft furnishings was no compensation AT ALL. I could smell her everywhere: in the house, in the garden, in the car, in our caravan, in our forest. It was only in wide open spaces, with a fresh wind bringing a myriad of smells, that I got any relief. After my walk and back at home she was all over the place again. Us dogs don’t have big frontal lobes, to rationalise everything and know all about a ripe old age, or a wonderful life; we rely on our senses to understand our world and all I knew was the old girl should have been there but wasn’t. I would just curl up and go into a v. v. v low mood. Apparently, if it wasn’t for the fact that I was still eating my dinner my people would have been consulting Andy.
Eventually, the bi-peds started talking about getting another dog sooner than they had planned, as a companion for Ben to help make me happier. Now, please don’t think I’m ungrateful. I know all about best intentions and things like that but I had mixed feelings on the matter. A new pal and a young one that I could play with would be brilliant but, how could I replace the old girl with a new model? After all, I have grown to love her over nearly four years.
Nothing came of it in the end because my topsy turvy year did a double somersault when David did a big fall down while we were out hill walking. It wasn’t one of those skidding slides they often do, or a quick down and up trip, that are frequent too. This was more of an out of control crash onto more rocks – ouch. I was out in front, of course, so didn’t actually capture the moment, but I knew there was a bit of drama going on by the faces of the three women coming down the hill towards us. We did lots of holding on to each other and trying to walk but it wasn’t any good, something major had gone wonky. I didn’t like the noises that accompanied these efforts at all. In the end we settled for sitting on a rock and getting very cold. It all seemed a bit pointless to me because we were a long way from home and my dinner time was getting a bit pressing but, in all honesty, I didn’t have a better solution to offer. The women who had see the moment of crisis hung around and did lots of talking into those machines that freak me out when put to my ear. I’m not very good with strangers so my anxiety enzymes started out on a swim around my internal tubes. They were very nice and gentle people so it was just a bit of doggy paddle really until eventually, a big tribe of hulking bi-peds – carrying god knows what on their backs – came in waves over the hills ahead of us. My enzymes went into a fierce race of butterfly stroke in my tummy as 34 of them came towards us and I knew I had to defend my pack; it wasn’t a pretty sight.
B seemed ready to desert David while she tried to pacify me but I wasn’t having any of it. In the end she had to remove me from the scene altogether, leaving David’s fate in the hands of the marauding gang. B tried to reassure me, saying they knew what they were doing, but I wasn’t convinced. I didn’t like walking away one little bit. The worst part was when this terrifying bird, all roar and thunder, with scary flapping wings came down and stole my person.
B wouldn’t stop and just seemed intent on going back the way we had come at a rate of knots. I didn’t see David that night, or the night after, or the night after that. His smells were added to the old girl’s and I was beside myself with grief. I did manage a little bit of dinner every night but otherwise I was distraught.
Then, on one of those days when I had been for a long drive with B, followed by much sitting around waiting for her to come back, I spotted two figures coming towards the car. I had to look and look and I didn’t want to get it wrong and be even more disappointed but… I was right. Oh what joy, the best day of my life, EVER. There was David in front but, oh deary me, he was being pushed in an ugly wheelie thing. It wasn’t very becoming. When he eventually got in the car and he turned around to stroke me David smelt a bit like my vets. Perhaps Andy had been to see him and tried to make him better. It seemed to me like it was only a job half done. In fact, whatever had been done, or left undone, necessitated a whole cacophony of equipment, much of it ending up on top of me anytime we went out in the car. I really didn’t like all this alien stuff in my house, it made me scared, all those awful wheels and David spending an age to get anywhere with that awful cage thing he pushed along in front of him, and B never sitting down like she used to do all the time. Life had just become even more awful. Ben doesn’t do change well.
It was a very different type of routine too. B and me went out in the morning and I had a run with my ball in a new forest, instead of with David at our Mabie Forest. Then I went to work with B and had to sit in my soft crate all day long; It was soooo boring. Later, on our way home, I had another game in the forest and then went home to see David but he was like a different person with that cage thing as an appendage, always in front of him blocking me out. I did meet lots of lovely people at B’s work and I had been on my v. v. v best behaviour except for just one day. I got really scared when someone came in our office and I let them know it, in no uncertain terms: barking and lunging and getting a bit of skirt. Then I was in disgrace and not allowed to go back again, so we all just had to make the best of it.
At the end of November I began to think about how my review of the year was going to shape up. It had been a year to test the moral fibre of a young dog and I had done my best. All the time I just had to keep the old girl in my mind because she coped with any changes that were thrown at her and never seem to mind. Even so, I really couldn’t say my life had got better and better, like I had been able to say in the previous three reviews. That is until….
My people had been thinking of me all the time after all. They couldn’t wait till Christmas to give me my big present. I was beside myself with happiness at last. Actually, I didn’t know what the funny thing was but, where there are balls there is light.
Apparently, despite all my poetry writing, I’m not such a smart Border Collie after all. I just could not work out how to make the whirligig thing fire. I knew where the balls came from, right down next to my nose, but I had no idea how you got them there. My people did all this strange hand clapping in the air, to make me lift my nose from the ground but it was no good. As far as I was concerned it was just a magic machine, nothing I could influence, my job was to run after the balls it launched and catch them. I was v. v. v good at it too.
Seemingly, it was meant to be a DIY toy for me, so I could exercise myself because David couldn’t take me to the forest and I couldn’t go to work with B anymore. We managed OK though, because David’s frontal cage had gone and he had progressed to hobbling about with a couple of sticks. He could pick up the ball with my thrower and make the magic happen. It was safer than doing the throwing too, while trying to keep upright on one stick. A big wobble at this stage and we could be back to square one. Mind you, standing up must have been hard work because we were never out for long at one time, just in and out like yo-yos – with a little rest in between times – to make sure my exercise was up to date.
David disappeared overnight shortly after my ball machine came and B was busy all night transforming our living room. Lots of lights went up, holders for candles were dispersed, a tree decorated and other bits and pieces arranged about the room; we were getting ready for Christmas; it all had to be ready for David when he came home the next day, smelling of the vet again.
After this the atmosphere lightened in our house. Two sticks gave way to one stick and then no sticks at all. There were still lots of painful squeaks from David, but they were less frequent and lower in volume. There was also more activity going on about the place, with packing up of some Ben essentials: food and bowl, toys, wrapped Christmas presents and, of course, my balls. David and B put one or two of their things in the car too. We drove away for our Christmas holiday. Me and B were able to get out on the hills every day, and I was beginning to get back to my old self. I learnt that David was doing his best to get fit so that he could take me to Mabie Forest when we got home, and that made me deliriously merry. Life would get back to normal at last. On Christmas Day, I had so many parcels to open and I got so excited tearing the paper off. I had lots of soft toys (some that seemed uncannily familiar) and new balls with squeaks that I hadn’t destroyed yet, as well as loads of yummy treats, lots of dog beer and a special dinner. We were all cuddly happy again. It had been a long year.
After our holiday a funny thing happened. We didn’t go home at all but went away on roads without any smells I knew. We arrived at a house I’d never been to and I met people I had never known before. They were lovely because they smelt of dog and gave me treats. I also made a special friend called Buzz. We are soul mates because of our shared passion – balls, of course.
We went out for evening walks together and went to the park together. I bet you can guess what we played ⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗. Buzz kept pinching my ball but he is just a little boy being mischievous, so I let him away with it. Anyway, I knew I would get brownie points with my people if I didn’t make a fuss and they go along way in the treats department. We also went to the beach and there were five of us playing about, having fun. Merry, Mimi and Kera were there and I have corresponded before. It was so lovely to meet them at last. Their people are helping me raise lots of dosh for clever helping dogs, through my Munro Challenge, and I really should have done more of a really big thank you but someone had a ball in their hand at the time so I was somewhat distracted.
I had never stayed in a house with other people before, so we were all a bit nervous about the whole venture, with my anxiety enzymes ready to jump into action at the first sign of Ben’s imagined threats. I didn’t get much freedom, but it probably saved me from myself and when we came away Ben had done reasonably well; it’s even possible that I might even be invited again. I was allowed to stay up to see in the New Year, when there was lots of that hugging and kissing stuff that bi-peds go in for. They also had glasses of fizzy stuff and, I thought to myself, this sparkle is for all of us, for the coming year. Here’s to 2019 – Cheers.
Then, with that profound thought in my head, I fell fast asleep.
I concluded last year’s review by looking forward to doing more of the self-actualising stuff – through walking on mountains and writing about it all – having established that all my other needs were being met, according to this big cheese called Maslow. So let’s see how it all worked out.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
To make sense of my life in 2018, I have decided to take a tour through the unfolding seasons.
To be quiet honest with you, not much was doing in the New Year and I found myself joining in with that down-in-the-mouth trend that is so catching in January. What, with lots of slouching about, lying in front of the fire and supporting a rather extensive tum, after an over indulgence of Christmas treats, I could hardly muster enough energy – let alone enthusiasm – for even a short walk. I had metamorphosed from self-actualising Munro Buddy into lethargic mass of excess flab, mirroring my people.
Just as I was in danger of succumbing to something called sloth, I was saved from myself by the arrival of two very different events. Firstly, my personal friend, Julia Bradbury (of UK TV fame), sent me a present for allowing her to host my blog on her new website. Spotting the postie with a parcel I made contact – not altogether welcome – with his hand, getting through the packaging in a 1, 1, 2 and, before you could say http://www.theoutdoorguide.co.uk, I was sporting a rather spiffing buff and looking rather dandy, even if I say so myself. Ben’s personality and hiding lights under bushels are two mutually exclusive concepts, if you get my drift.
It’s possible that the bohemian look of this rather rakish neckerchief predisposed me to take advantage of the second happening, in that otherwise uneventful start to the year. While surfing the net on my blog site, as dogs do, I chanced up a weekly poetry challenge. Well I thought, as Border Collies do, why not. With the extra time on my paws and the new debonair look, what was there to lose, aside from a v. v. v temperamental ego. So, in the twinkling of a keyboard’s return button, Munro buddy became budding poet and, oh my dog, with what results. Ping, ping, ping … went the notification alerts on my PC, as readers liked what they saw, necessitating a quick visit to the garden, my tummy getting all excited.
Since that day, most Tuesdays have been a creative frenzy as I put paw to paper turning a two-word prompt into structured poems. Would you believe it, I am the only dog poet among this company of new literary friends. Colleen Cheesebro provides all the rules, the two words and, each week, Colleen selects one author as poet of the week. You could have blown me down with a writer’s quill when I achieved this accolade myself, at only my second attempt, with a little Senryu I wrote.
Folding into warm contours
Dissolving in dreams
This is what Colleen wrote about my poem,
“Other than the fact that I ADORE dogs who write poetry, the simplicity of Ben’s words tells the whole story of this Senryu and the fabulous picture posted with the poem. It just felt like something a dog would write about. Sometimes the simplest things bring the most pleasure.”
Me and Colleen have become great friends over the last year and she has given me such encouragement. You can read all about the challenge here. Colleen’s weekly poetry challenge
By the by, if you need something to help you dissolve into dreams at night you can read all my poems just here All Ben’s poems
Eventually we seemed to be turning from winter into spring, as snow and ice gave way to buds and blossom. By this time and with slightly longer walks, I was beginning to fight the flab, looking towards the Munro year ahead.
Alas, my aspirations became a causality of the Beast from the East, when a late blast of bitterly cold weather swept across the UK from the North Sea, lasting well into April and thwarting my fitness regime.
Then, just like the return of an old friend, the ‘cruellest month’ flipped into May and, with that transition summer asserted itself early, casting spring to the dogs, in a rather questionable manner of speaking.
As the annual cycle of growth accelerated so the old girl began to back peddle faster still. By the time she was 15, Canine Cognitive Dementia had set in and her back legs were, well… let’s just say it – useless. I found out lots about the CCD condition and have written a whole page of advice, in my own inimitable style, to help others Ben’s top tips for doggy dementia
The old girl’s 15th Birthday (not her wine!!)
Suddenly, we all became allied healthcare professionals, our raîson d’etre being two fold:
To keep the old girl going, as long as she was happy.
Not to keep her going a moment after she wasn’t happy anymore.
My main role in this nurturing environment was to help maintain an aura of calm by suppressing my ADHD tendencies (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Doggy), something I have written about before. I did my best but it was v. v. v hard work.
Alas, I had to play second fiddle, which is also quiet hard for a self-confessed egoist who thinks he is conductor material. I kept hearing phrases like ‘his time will come’ and ‘we’ll make it up to him’, but they didn’t mean at lot to me at the time. I did get a lot of long walks during the week away at our caravan and just had to alternate my people, so that one of them could take on carer responsibilities for our old girl. All the walking was getting me match fit for the Munros which were, apparently, just around the corner; something that rather puzzled me as we always seemed to spend hours getting to Munros in my van. I concluded that it was a very long corner.
Just then, nearly half way though my year, our orbit tipped out of kilter, everything went topsy turvy and it is only now, at the beginning of 2019 that we are getting back to normal, if I can ever believe in such a thing again. Firstly, just at the end of that May holiday my female person went away and then she kept coming and going for weeks on end. Being a dog I hadn’t a clue what was going on but boy did I do a good imitation of “I’m your best friend, just try and beat this welcome”, every time she came home. David tried his best too but, to be honest, he just hasn’t got the style or, for that matter, the waggy tail to go with it. Anyway, I just made damn sure I got in first to get all the cuddles.
We did make a Munro trip shortly after and spent three glorious days together, scouring the hills, reaching high peaks with fabulous views and we got to the top of 5 Munros. We even reached the first big landmark, notching up the 50th Munro for our bag. In the evenings we’d soak up the unparalleled beauty of the highlands while listening to our own special song, “You say it best, when you say nothing at all.” As nighttime approached I’d jump in the back of my van and snuggle up for sleep in the little space I had available, falling quickly into zzzs after our energetic day on the mountains.
Summit of Beinn a’Chreachain Looking North
Summit of Beinn Achaladair Looking North across Rannoch Moor
When we are away my person does a lot of talking into those strange things bi-peds are always putting to their ears. I do worry about her… a lot, though it seems to bring her some sort of comfort. Then she puts the horrid thing to my ear and it really freaks me out. I look all over for the voice but I can never find him and it makes me sad. When we went through this ritual on our third night we both ended up sad because the voice machine told us the old girl was going further down the tubes. We vowed we would go home after our next walk, a day early; arriving as a surprise cavalry, bringing reinforcements.
The rest of the summer was sung to the old girls tune, her every wish our command. Ben was never the centre of attention in those tranquil dog days. Not actually neglected you understand but just left to my own devices. I kept tapping away at my device of choice and on 19th August I was award the title ‘Poet of the Week’, for the second time. The dog poet honoured a second time
This brought me such a lot of joy at a sad time for us all. My poetry kept me going because, without the Munros to write about, the soul had gone out of my prose.
There wouldn’t be anymore mountains in our collecting bag until the old girl didn’t need to be looked after anymore. None of us wanted to bring that day forward, not one little bit. Even a self-centred dog poet like me knows intuitively when a bit of the old altruism is required. Thus on those summer evenings, when we came in from the garden, I’d snuggle up to the old girl – forsaking my rightful place on the soft furnishings beside B – and offer a bit of fellow comfort. I think she liked it. Walks were reduced to lots of running after ball – maximum energy from Ben, least effort from my people – but you won’t catch me complaining about that and it was always meant to be just a temporary arrangement.
Feeling a little overwhelmed, must sleep. Part two shortly.
Thank you so much for coming to visit a dog poet. My poems for Colleen’s weekly poetry challenge are a take on life from a canine perspective. We poet’s write one of the structured poems permitted and have to integrate, as synonyms, the two words given as a prompt. This week the words are mystery and attract.
Thank you for coming to read my Shadorma. This is a poem of 6 lines with a format of syllables that goes: 3 5 3 3 7 5. I’ve done my best counting and hope I’ve got it right. It is my poem for Colleen’s weekly poetry challenge where we poet’s write one of the structured poems permitted. We have to integrate as synonyms the two words given as a prompt. This week the words are begin and fresh.