Thursday, 12 August 2010

Sexist dog treats, and the case of the mysterious travelling tennis ball

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

The duchess is moulting. I obviously mean my dog, not Debo Devonshire. I do not in fact have a dog called the duchess, that would be silly, but my younger niece gave both canines nicknames when they were younger. The duchess is the duchess for blatant reasons: excess poshness. No one ever told her she is a bit of a mutt; shall we say mixed heritage, anyway. Sometimes she looks at me as if she were Lady Catherine de Bourgh and I were Mrs Bennet. It's quite disconcerting. The other, softer one is called the pigeon. The niece has a talent for accents; she can do perfect Irish, which is harder than you might think. For some reason, she began addressing the soft dog in a West Country voice: 'my bird, my lover, my pigeon,' she would croon. So, we got the Duchess and the Pigeon. There's no accounting, as my old mum would say.

Anyway, the point is, this weekend we have a very exciting invitation to Glen Clova, one of the fabled glens of Scotland, and the duchess chose this moment to start looking less like a member of the aristocracy and more like a bag lady. In a panic, I rushed to the shops to buy coat conditioners. I came back laden with boxes of treats full of omega 3 and other miracle ingredients. She is like a pig in clover, because instead of her customary two or three treats a day (we are very strict in this house) she is now getting handfuls of the stuff, as emergency measures. That, along with frenzied brushing, and a bit of butter paper, appears to be doing the job, so she shall look respectable by Saturday. I was examining one of the boxes, to read about all the wonderful vitamins they contained, when I saw this:

'Omega Three, to help keep him fit for life; Calcium to help give him strong teeth and bones; Vitamins to help maintain his natural defences.'

His natural defences? To help keep HIM fit for life? Excusez-moi, is Pedigree Chum suggesting that all dogs are dogs? No bitches allowed? I am shocked, shocked, to discover such egregious gender bias, parading about in the public square. Funnily enough, this does still apply to humans too. I remember being rather startled when Sue Lawley was introducing this year's Reith Lectures on the BBC. She kept saying things like: if man is to prosper, he must do X, Y and Z. I know it was silly when the fringy feminists tried to change history to herstory, but beyond the clunkiness of that ugly word, they did have a point. I do feel rather sad and excluded when humankind is referred to as mankind, and the people of the world are reduced to Man.

There we are: feminism and dogs, two of my favourite things.

My second oddity of the day involves the strange trajectory of a small yellow ball. Sometimes, when walking around the compound, we come across a stray tennis ball. This always occasions much rejoicing, since there is nothing the pigeon loves more than retrieving balls. The duchess is far too grand, obviously. Anyway, we found one yesterday, and played with it for a bit, and I left it outside the door. When we set out this morning, the ball had disappeared. I was rather sad, as the poor pigeon would have nothing to catch. We went down to the burn, to see how swollen it was from two days of rain, and there, on the lip of the water, was the tennis ball. This is an absolute mystery. That side of the burn is about four hundred yards from my house, and it is behind a fence. The only way to get to it is to approach from the north side and then swim across, unless you go the very long way round, which is about half a mile, and no one ever does. I can't work it out at all. There it sits, mysteriously, out of reach, taunting us.

The other really odd thing is that no one here even plays tennis. So I don't know where the balls come from in the first place. Is there a special ball fairy, who comes and scatters them in the night?

You really can tell it is silly season, can't you? Remember the days when I gave you serious political posts? Ah well, light and shade.

Here are your pictures of the day:

The sun has come out, after the torrential rain, and all the plants are so happy:





This little salix is probably the least showy of all the things in my garden, and a photograph not does really do it justice, but of all my plants, it is the one I adore the most. It is so elegant and understated and unassuming. It grows quietly and slowly, and survives everything the cruel Scottish weather can throw at it. I love it:


See how high the burn is after all that downpour:


Serious dog training went on this morning.





I said, Stay:






People sometimes ask me: so what do you write on your blog? Quite frankly, I hardly dare tell them.


  1. At the end of a very long and irritating at the end day, this was just what I needed. A mindless post about everything and nothing and specially the dogs. I am having Frankie and Googly both drooling and behaving badly today.

  2. My guess would be a fox - every now and then I find the large foam football (left behind by the previous owners) in the middle of the lawn, occasionally with chunks missing, and I suspect them of having a night-time footie game, perhaps using the love-seat legs as goal posts. Or - to freak you out entirely - I once found my husband's once-very-smart-russell & bromley sandal halfway up the lawn - dragged from the back door where he has left it - with CHUNKS BITTEN from the straps. I honestly believe that was a rat. Ack.

  3. Divine! If anyone else asks, just tell them your blog makes people very happy, thoughtful and nicely envious of your beautiful piece of the world.

  4. The beautiful photos of your girls made me a little weepy (in a good way) - so gorgeous. I grew up with large dogs - superior beings. xxx

  5. I suspect foxes too, a friend was woken in the middle of the night by the sound of her terriers ruffian chicken toy squawking away in the garden (one of the few indestructible and long lasting dog toys and makes a terrible racket dogs love). Thinking perhaps the dog had gone mad and fancied a nocturnal play, what they actually found was a fox happily playing away in the middle of the lawn.

    I love you dog photo's, please don't stop!


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