Review of the year – 2019

Friends, Collies and my greatly esteemed friends and followers,

And, for anyone new to my dog blog, find out what it is all about here Ben’s big adventure

So, 2020 has arrived and I’m now living in a new decade, which sounds awfully exciting; I’ve not done that one before. Apparently the chips are down on the chances of my seeing another one, but I don’t want to think about that just now. Instead, let me take you on the grand tour of Ben’s life in 2019.

Right at the end of last year’s review David had just got back into a little bit of walking. That was after the horrid, awful, terrible (do I make myself clear?) three months, following the big fall and broken pelvis which, in itself, came fast on the heels of saying goodbye to the old girl. The worst part of being on a mountain, with an incapacitated David, was the whirligig thing that hurt my ears and stole my person from the mountain.

However, I’m so happy to report that right from the beginning of 2019 it has been back to business as usual, by which I mean the rightful reinstatement of my morning routine, consisting of: a lovely early morning drive to Mabie Forest; meeting up with the gang to discuss the weighty issues of the day and then – oh, what unconfined joy – playing ball and lots of it, my absolute – incontrovertible – favourite thing, apart from a spot of dinner, of course. In celebration of this return to normality, I’ve developed an ebullient little song and dance piece, that I perform on the back seat of the car, as soon as we hit the drive that takes us deep into the forest.

During the winter afternoons that follow this morning ritual, I’d while away the time with vivid dog dreams about “… gold lama baskets and choice cuts of meat …” 1 until woken from my slumbers by the sound of Wainwright biscuits hitting porcelain bowl. Reality tore me from luxurious fantasies but, the familiarity of home wasn’t half bad. About this time of day, B’s smell – round and about the house – has faded to the level at which I knew she was about to arrive home (oh dear, I’m so sorry my fellow canines. I’ve just given away the mystery of how we know when our people are coming back. Incase anyone didn’t know, dogs do it with noses ). So, after tucking into a nutritionally balanced – fat free – meal, I’m up at the window waiting for B to drive in. In my excitement I throw myself into her arms, the same v. v. v big welcome home every night. I’m not altogether sure that my exuberance is fully appreciated. Bags seem to go everywhere and sometimes we find ourselves in a confused heap on the floor. She particularly doesn’t like it when one of my paws slides down her face, leaving a big red scar for days on end. I like to think of it as a term of endearment.

Leaving the worst of the winter behind us heralds the start of the caravan season, when we return to our mobile home (that doesn’t move), in The Lake District. I’ve done it every year of my life, the same pattern, with gleeful anticipation of the spring, summer and autumn that lie ahead. This year I was robbed of such happiness. As soon as I crossed the threshold I could smell her. It hit me like an incense bomb and was everywhere – the unforgettable scent of our old girl, Maisie. I curled up in my cushion and got all depressed. Eventually, a little bit of dinner brought me out of myself and, a game of ball on Moor Divock the next day wonders but… every time I got back to the caravan the black dog, instead of our old girl, was my companion.

               

 

It took a lot of hard work but I had to pull myself together, because me and B had work to do and helping others is always such a tonic. We needed to get David confident on the hills again, after the big fall, and – even though I say so myself – we done good. Thus, on 30th March 2019 – exactly six months after the accident – me, B and David, did a return to Place Fell and, on this occassion, actually got to the top. 

March also held another red letter day and gosh, all fiddlesticks – my tummy still gets excited remembering. It was a case of out with the old, in with the new. Though in this case it was just a bit newer. On 11th March 2019 we crossed a line. No more sleeping cramped on the floor of an unreliable VW Caddy van. Now me and B were going up in the world. The future heralded not only a more dependable car but also, one we were going to convert with a micro camper kit. 

 

 

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Nevertheless, despite the excess of comfort, it was with a tear in my eye that I said goodbye to my faithful – if unpredictable – friend of three years. The ally that had got me and B going on the Munros and witnessed my first 47 climbs, and 52 of B’s.

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Perhaps you can imagine how eager I was to go Munro bagging again and try out the soft furnishings in our new Munro mobile. Sadly, I had to exercise something called patience, which is soOOO hard for me to do.

April of 2019 brought in yet another big, BIG event, in our small lives, and it had to be marked. David had one of those birthdays with an 0 at the end of it. I’m not meant to tell you which one, so I’ll put it in v. v. v small numerals and you can pretend you never saw it. (70, hee, hee). For Dog’s sake, HOW MANY DECADES IS THAT? It seems we were heading east to celebrate and I had to test out a whole new suite of soft furnishings. Home comforts aside, I’m not a great fan of sudden change and definitely at my best when running on well oiled lines, with a bouncing spherical object to cement my happiness. Therefore, when we set out on roads I had never, ever been on before, the lava from last year’s butterflies started to hatch in my tummy, giving me a very strange sensation indeed and, not at all to my liking. Of course, all’s well that ends well, and the very first thing to happen, when we arrived, was that I had a lovely big dinner. After that, secure in the knowledge that my food had travelled with us, I set about testing out the buoyancy of the soft furnishings, in this home from home.

For the next week we ranged far and wide across somewhere called The North York Moors. The landscape was gynormous, with vistas stretching into space across bracken and heather hillsides, broken only by deep sided valleys that had – in the geological mists of time – been scooped out of the very earth we might have stood on. These vales took some considerable effort to tumble down and then climb back up so that, by the end of our walk, we needed to stop for refreshment. I would have my dinner beside the car and then B and David would warm their paws, and the cockles of their hearts, in a pub called The Lion Inn, at Blakey Rigg. Unfortunately, I couldn’t join them because of my propensity to take objection to the frightening smell, accompanying the odd human, which brings on a defensive nipping of ankles and makes me canine non grata. Instead, I was left to ponder on the whereabouts of this lion, how fail-safe the locks on our car were, and just why the windows had been left so open. On their return, D & B’s happy disposition met my relief and made for lovely companionable evenings.

Once home, from the birthday celebration, my enthusiasm to get Munroing became a bone of contention, so to bark. First of all the weather was against us but, even when it wasn’t, I was excluded. Apparently, B just happened to be working in Glasgow and it made sense for her (and not me ), to take off north from there. Unbelievably, inexcusably, it was July before I put paw to Munro. However, over that weekend, and another in August, we put another 10 summits in v. v. v heavy bag, which stamped it with the impressive number of 84; me and B had done 57 of these together. The fiery sun played hide and seek behind Cumulonimbus clouds, and then danced on the shimmering waters of high mountain lochans which – in sequestered corries – were protected by cliffs that rose in awe-inspiring towers that beguiled and terrified, These were blissful times together and, on the highest Caledonian hills, we soaked up panoramas that brought the heart, and soul, of a young dog alive. Gasps for breath, from the bi-ped beside me, suggested the heart wasn’t quite up to the job; as for the soul – well, that’s anyone’s guess.

Lots of photos on my special slide show. It’s a bit on the slow side but you can use the arrows to move forward

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Of course, as mentioned in so many of my blogs before, being away with B is never a totally easy experience and nothing had changed in the last year, unfortunately. On the first day of our July weekend – luckily after we had bagged Bynack More – I was brought down to earth, literally, by the exploding tyre beneath me.

The case of the exploding tyre

And then, the very next day, I was met with a compromising situation in the safety department as our navigational aids – that provide my security – were made redundant, in a catalogue of neglect. The straw that broke the collies back was when our map – the very foundation of our whereabouts – blow off in the wind. Somehow, I survived to tell the tale.

The case of the disappearing map

B went bagging again briefly, in both September and October but, by this time, I was having something they call divided loyalties, which is a very nasty condition. With the old girl gone back to ashes, I couldn’t bare to think of David – home alone, when I was away with B. On the other paw, when I kept David company, the thought of B on the mountains, without the protection of her Munro buddy, sent me into a tumult of guilt and anxiety. This unconditional love business isn’t always easy. I felt like I was becoming a tug of love dog.

After October, it was better – lovelier – we were all together, all the time. We had such companionable walks in the Lake District, me with my ball, B & David with that incessant chatter thing that humans do. Then alas, it was the interregnum (from the caravan site) and we were banned from the Lake District till March. The season of mellow fruitfulness had given way to winter and I took to the indoor life, disporting myself around the soft furnishings, while catching up on a spot of reading.

It has to be said that, my absolute best read of 2019 is a little tomb called, ‘The Enlightened Spaniel’. I need to qualify that sentence in a couple of ways. The book is in no way little. In fact, IT IS MEGA. It has changed my whole outlook on life. And then, of course, there is the issue with the breed (not my favourite, since an unfortunate little altercation, regarding the property rights of a certain spherical object, a couple of years ago). Clearly, the book should have been pawed by a noble Border Collie but, it seems, the floppy ears got in first. That said, I think this way of being may have something to offer.

For instance, you are – apparently – meant to live in the moment. Well, let’s face it, that’s easy peasy for me. That moment could be blissful, with one of my bestest humans throwing my ball over an arch of sky, or it might be some scary instance requiring the nipping of ankles; either way, when it’s done it’s done – nothing of the past remains and, as for the future, it’s a foreign county; anything could happen. Another facet of this world view is about unconditional love and – say no more – that’s what we go in for, big style. I might even have to let the Spaniels in on that one – reluctantly.

According to Buddhist philosophy, which is big on this enlightenment stuff, we get born and born again – ever improving – on a path to somewhere called Navana, which is the bees knees. Did you know that bees have knees? Nivana is the best place imaginable and you have to be v. v. v well behaved, caring lots about other creatures, to get there. Honestly, I really was doing my best but then along comes Christmas and well, let’s face it, we all indulge ourselves a bit – or a big bit. All those presents, eating too much, loafing about and, of course, the excess of dog beer – it may have set Nivana back a bit.

Nevertheless, just a few more incarnations and I fully expect to be there. The first Border Collie ball dog at Wimbledon… perhaps next year.

In the meantime, more dog dreams.

And so to bed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Ben

 

1 Carroll, D H (2013); Dog Dreams. This England, Vol 46, No 2, Thompson Publishing, London.

Munros 2019 – 5th July. Bynack More (no. 75)

Friends, collies, the RAC man

It was early when me and B gave up on any chance of sleep, due to my uncomfortable sleeping accommodation, which I barked on about in my last blog. We could hear the birds in fine voice greeting the day and I began to remember what this Munro bagging was all about. We’d get up v. v. v early, walk for hours and hours and hours – mostly uphill – with B doing lots of huffing and puffing. Then, right at the top, I had to sit in front of a pile of old stones and smile sweetly while something called a camera was pointed rudely in my direction. After that, I got a nice chunk of sausage and, at the end of the day, all my legs hurt… badly. The best bit was always the sausage.

Today, we were going up a Munro mountain called Bynack More. It’s the one in the far North East of the Cairngorms, in Scotland. We started out, like so often before, through a forest and that rang alarm bells straight away. Forests are known for forest tracks and lots of them. This renders B ultimately vulnerable in the… how do I find my way through here department. Today though, we seemed to be hitting all the landmarks spot on, for a change. Before long we came to the beautiful Lochan Uaine with its delicious, tempting, turquoise water. Al I needed to make my world complete was a ball and someone to throw it.

Not everything about Munro bagging speaks directly to my soul, especially when it becomes a dialectic struggle (hey, hey, how’s that for a young dog). Apparently, I needed to preserve my energy for the big hill, instead of going like the clappers to retrieve a ball from a Loch, LOTS of times. So we went on, with B tugging away at a reluctant Ben.

Soon we were out of the forest and making our way to the next marker. This is the spot where Bynack Stable isn’t anymore. How odd, I thought to myself, that an empty site can become a navigational reference point. However, there we were, just before the river, looking at an area of flat green ground that housed nothing at all.

On the other side of the Nethy we could see our way ahead as a clear path snaked up into the hills. Just here, over an hour into our walk, my tummy started getting hungry and B wasn’t responding to my pleading looks. It was with a heavy heart that I realised that I needed to get her trained up all over again, in the frequent administration of my treats, after not being on the Munros with her for nearly a year.

3 Path ahead

We continued to the top, though where the real top was wasn’t immediately obvious amongst the crested outcrops of granite tors. These had been spewed up from the mountain’s entails in some violent peak of seismic climatic change. Further along though, there it was, as bold as any other old pile of constructed stones, our summit cairn; out came the camera, on went my smile.

From here we could see the east facing slopes of five, out of the six, highest mountains in Scotland and, though we were well into summer, the last gasps of snow clung to hollows, like rock climbers clinging on for dear life by their fingertips.

 

We returned by the same route with wide open vitas right across North East Scotland.

8 Long view over Moray

It took us much less time to get back to the bridge over the Nethy, and the vacant landmark beyond. Once again we marched right past that lovely lochan even though I tried my best to bark, to say my legs didn’t hurt at all and I had lots of spare energy. Just when I was beginning to think that actually, a bit of shut eye wouldn’t be a bad idea after all – catching up on some of last night’s misplaced zzzs –  out came the map. Its perusal – scrutinised from every angle – was accompanied by a series of deep sighs. It seemed that, just over a kilometre from our Kangoo, we had been beaten by all those forest tracks and didn’t know which one to take. After another half hour of going wrong, flapping maps, and sighs that had evolved into groans, we hit on the right path and were back at the Munromobile, with another hill in the bag and without having encountered too many mishaps.

Me and B had a short nap back at base and were then keen to get to our pit stop for tonight’s sleep-over, close to Newtonmore. A nice big dinner, route planning and some writing would see us ready for sleep, hoping to wake refreshed for the next day of adventure. Oh dear Dog, if only being away with B could be that straight forward. We stopped for petrol in Aviemore and then drove back onto the road. Jeepers Creepers, what a strange sensation assaulted me. Bump and crunch accompanied each rotation of the wheel below me. Newtonmore was off, Glenmore Holiday Park was on, as we wobbled our way off the road ASAP.

B did lots of talking down those things you humans are always tapping away at, or holding to one of your ears. It seemed that someone could come to help us but it might be four or five hours. We had broken down at the busiest time possible. 5.00pm on a Friday evening in summer. At this news I went into a bit of a decline. My tummy was v. v. v hungry and that seemed an awful long time to wait for my dinner.

As I have indicated, B does get us into some awful pickles but, it has to be said, she can come up trumps when the cards are down. Before you could say, “Where’s the RAC”, my tummy was nice and full, lunch was done for tomorrow and B’s tummy was full too. All this happened by the side of the road, from the back of our Kangoo, as myriads of people, and their dogs, were arriving at their holiday chalets. I was just settling down for a few hours kip when – after a quick bit of talking down the ear machine – a god sent mechanic rolled up nice and early. He was from a local garage sub-contracted by the RAC. Oh dearie-me, the news wasn’t good. Not only had my tyre gone for a burton but the spare we were relying on wasn’t in great shape either. There was a lot more talking with words like recovery and home casting a black cloud over our weekend. Then, after even more confusing chat, this time with the man talking into his own ear extension, I got propped up on someone called Jack and he took away my wheel. At this the butterflies in my tummy started a trapeze display on v. v. v high wires.

However, the long and the short of it was that within another hour I had a brand new tyre fitted to my wheel and, to keep the butterflies well at bay, we had a new spare tyre too. Newtonmore was back on and the words recovery and home were flung out the window for at least, we hoped, the rest of the weekend.

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And so to bed

Love Ben  AA HeartPawPrint

 

Springtime frolics, #Tanka

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 poets – and to date I seem to be the only dog poet –  write one of the structured poems permitted and have to integrate, as synonyms, the two words given as a prompt.

This week however, being the first week in the month, we can choose our own words and mine are April and Fool.

You can find out all about the challenge, the different poetry forms, and have a go yourself, by clicking below.
Colleen’s poetry challenge

After the dark days of winter, spring has enlivened me and I’m up for anything.  My newfound mischievousness has inspired this weeks poem, a Tanka.

pet mischief

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I’m game for a laugh

Purveyor of happiness,

Big wagging of tail.

Like the jester’s  guileless pranks,

Springtime frolics, harmless fun.

By Ben, the dog poet © 2019

You can see what all the other poets got up to by clicking below.
The poet writes – challenge no 129

Love Ben xx
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Ben’s new Munromobile #A Tanka

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 poets – and to date I seem to be the only dog poet –  write one of the structured poems permitted and have to integrate, as synonyms, the two words given as a prompt.

This week the word are spring and sing; I am doing a Tanka.

You can find out about it all, and have a go yourself, by clicking below:

Colleen’s poetry challenge

 

Photo of Ben's van no available in this format.

Last week I had to relinquish my van, which had been our friend, transport and accommodation, as we climbed the first 50 mountains on our quest to conquer the 282 Munros in Scotland; they are the mountains over 3000 feet. While I had grown to love the character of my van it seems that’s it’s unreliability was a bit of a liability. I had very mixed feelings about this transformation and wrote about then in this blog:

Ben’s new Munromobile

You can read all about our v. v. v big challenge here. Ben’s adventure

However, look at what I’ve got now and, of course, I had to write a poem about it.

 

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Bought near Pentland hills –
My rising star, shinning bright –
Tanka-Kangoo beams.
Like the promise of sunset
Or a boyant, joyous song.

Love Ben, the dog poet xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have I got news for you!

Friends, collies, micro campers,

Last Monday my afternoon slumber was badly disturbed, or so I thought at the time. In Ben’s life, mornings are all about playing ball in the forest for a couple of hours and, after all that exertion, afternoons give way to lots and lots of zzzzzzzzzzs; life’s not all bad.

Being a creature of habit, I’m not at my best when such a well-oiled routine is interrupted and, therefore, I was in a foul mood when woken and directed to the garden (nature’s own public convenience), before getting into my seat in the car.

Arriving at B’s work to collect her early perked me up no end, but my body clock was seriously confused; what was going on? We started back towards home, but then went sailing (well, OK driving) right past the end of our road. Curiouser and curiouser, I thought, but such a lot of thinking was beginning to make my headspace hurt and the anxiety butterflies had started their workout in my tummy. There really is only one response to such uncertainty, so I thumped down on my seat – to let my feelings be known – and then proceeded to catch up on some shut-eye.

When the motion of rubber on tarmac became uneven I was jolted into consciousness and serious worry commenced. There was nothing recognisable here that could anchor me to time or place. The familiar dance of the butterflies I had experienced earlier became a frantic workout, involving cartwheels, back flips and double somersaults.

We had fetched up by some ruinous mill-type building, with portacabins and lots of cars, seemingly abandoned, decorating the landscape. Not only was the unfamiliar a cause for concern but B and David immediately deserted me and I didn’t know if they would ever come back. As you can imagine, I followed their footsteps with my eyes out on stalks and my neck stretched to the back window, which is a very long way, even in our little Fabia. Well, what a funny thing. B and David were giving one of those abandoned cars the once over and, before you could say “Ben, meet your new Munromobile”, B had driven off in it with a strange man, and David was sitting beside me.

It turns out that my van is being traded in for a newer model. Oh my goodness me, you should see it. Well, actually you can, here’s some photos. Will you take a look at that!

 

The mileage is only just over half way round the clock (whatever that means), and everything works as it should, which is a real novelty. Now the van won’t blow a fuse if she forgets the back door lock is dysfunctional, and neither will she get the key stuck in the passenger lock, because that one doesn’t work either. The audio system does the job properly too, which means melodious tunes. No longer do musicians sound as if they are undergoing some very nasty examination while trying to sing at the same time. And, if that isn’t enough, just look at the paintwork. I know appearances are only skin deep but I can do shallow if it means a spiffing car. I can tell you, I will be sitting up very proudly as we make for Munro country, waving my paw as if, for all the world, I was related to royalty.

And….., as if that wasn’t enough, very soon it is going to look like this – hells bells!

Van

When B came back from her test drive she asked for my opinion, and obviously that was a no- brainer. What adventures we are going to have as veritable owners of our Renault Kangoo, which is seven years younger than my van. I wish B could lose seven years just like that. Then we might be able to get up our Munros one heck of a lot quicker.

I’m going to call my new car/van Tanka. It’s after the poetry competition I enter most Tuesdays. While a Tanka is a form of poetry originating from Japan, my new Munromobile looks a little bit like a tank and drives like pure poetry in motion.

We got Tanka from Fraser Murray Cars Sales in Penicuik, near Edinburgh, and his is a v. v. v commendable outfit, getting lots of those five star things. I even got a donation in my fundraising pot. I’m going to add Fraser Murray Car Sales to my team, when I get back from my weekend away. Me and B are telling everyone to get their cars there.

I couldn’t sleep on the way back home. My tummy was in such a state. I don’t even know how to describe it. I had got so v. v. v excited, but now there was another drama going on and the butterflies were in free-fall. What was going to happen to myvan. B and me had started our big Munro challenge in it and, in fact, it had been our accommodation for the first 50 Munros. I know it had let us down a few times, and had more quirky qualities than you could shake a stick at, but it had character and I had grown to love it. We had even identified our own special song in it; albeit with Ronan Keating singing in a pitch something akin to soprano. I also got worried about Micky, who had come back for shelter again this year, as winter approached; how would he keep warm now? Apparently, the new model was top security, not even a little field mouse could gain entry. Then there were all my mini paw prints, each one denoting a Munro I had climbed. Where could I put them now, with nine windows taking up all the space? Oh dearie me, now I wasn’t so sure at all.

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I know B’s tummy was in a similar state to mine, and I believe hers started going wobbly when she produced that thing they call a credit card. Me and B had a big conflab when got home. B reassured me that we would find somewhere to put my paw prints and, while she is going to get a bit of kit that becomes a bed, for the sake of her old bones, I can still have my cushion beside her. Also, and oh this took my breath away, as Micky hasn’t been back for quite a while now, it is highly likely that he is a goner.

B was still going on but by this time my head space was like mince, and I was flat out dreaming of a Renault Kangoo parked far below towering Munro peaks.

 

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And so to bed

Love Ben untitled 1xx

Sensational

Oh golly gosh,

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 poets – to date I seem to be the only dog poet –  write one of the structured poems permitted and have to integrate, as synonyms, the two words given as a prompt. Though, for the first poem of each month, we can choose our own words. This week I have chosen the words scent and sad and I am doing a short Haibun , followed by a Tanka. The Haibun is a piece of prose, with a title, written in the first person canine singular, and it occurs in the present moment. The poem that follows – never seeks to repeat, quote from or explain the prose. It should reflect some aspect of the prose by introducing a different step in the narrative through a microburst of detail – seemingly different, yet somehow connected; gosh!

To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve captured all that but, then again, I’m only a dog and I’ve done my best for my first attempt. The Tanka that follows is structured in 5 lines, with a syllable count of 5, 7, 5, 7, 7. I’m pretty sure I’ve managed that, which isn’t bad for a dog, even a dog poet.

You can find out about it all and, have a go yourself. by clicking below:

Colleen’s poetry challenge

Sensational

sensational

She entered my life as a burst of starlight on a winter’s night, igniting my senses. The sky is now bluer and mown grass more fragrant, while autumn leaves laugh and crackle under foot. Our walks in the forest inject my heart with joy and – with soft steps – I dance, trying to catch moving shadows on the path. Here, verdant trees – swaying in the breeze – filter sunlight.

When she goes away, as she sometimes has to, a despondency numbs my senses and then a grey mantilla shrouds my life. I am reminded of lines from the poet, Yevtushenko:
“ The colours in my eyes will fade, when your face sets.”

Though – of course – being a dog, my senses will be extinguished when her smell is gone.

Her smell fading now
Each moment a crying shame.
Disrupted, my world –
Like neglected flower heads –
Drooping, lifeless, sees no sun.

By Ben, the dog poet ©2019

Additionally, you can read all the poems from last week here: Tuesday poetry challenge recap

And, if you need a little bed time reading to send you to sleep, you can read lots of my poems ever, here: The dog poet’s poems

You can also read all about my big walking charity challenge here: Mucky Boots and Flawless Paws, but that might keep you awake at night, or possibly give you nightmares – hee, hee!

Love Ben xx 0

Ben’s View #Haiku

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.

Click here to find out more and enter

You can read all the poems from last week here: Tuesday poetry challenge 120, recap

And, if you need a little bed time reading to send you to sleep, you can read all my poems ever, here: The dog poet’s poems

You can also read all about my big walking charity challenge here: Mucky Boots and Flawless Paws

 

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Ben’s View

Window on the world

Dogs employed herding sheep

Farmer strolls behind

By Ben the dog poet © 2019

 

Ben’s Review of the Year – 2018, Part Two

Friends, collies, bereaved dogs,

Summer – continued

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.

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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.

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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.

Autumn

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.

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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.

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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.

Winter

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….

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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.

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Then, with that profound thought in my head, I fell fast asleep.

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And so to bed

Love Ben xx 0