With Hamish now resting in peace, gone but never forgotten, I am starting a new blog. Having for so long written in the persona of Hamish, it may take a while to settle into my own voice. For fans of my little Westie, I can promise that he will be present in spirit in the new blog, and, amongst much else, there will be the occasional reminiscence about the dear chap.
Readers of this blog may remember this photo of Hamish. I took it last Spring in the front garden of my West Highland cottage.
The stone when Hamish stands is just outside the front door of the cottage, overlooking Loch Torridon. The sheltered garden faces south, and even in Winter, if the sun is out, I love sitting there, contemplating the quiet and unspoilt beauty of the surroundings.
Hamish's preferred position was to lie on the soft peaty soil of the flower bed immediately to the left of the stone. Every year, he cheerfully flattened what was, until he turned up, a delicate display of autumn crocuses.
Hamish so loved our trips to Torridon. I think of it as his spiritual home. He knew that, once there, he'd have my full attention, no disappearing off to work and boring stuff like that. He 'd have such fun exploring the garden and roaming around the numerous and boggy footpaths along the loch and up the nearby hills. I'd let him get all muddy, safe in the knowledge that I could wash him off in a cool clear stream just a few yards down the road from the house. He didn't even mind the midges in Summer....
So it didn't take long to decide where to bury his ashes.
I drove over there a week last Sunday. Then, first off, I went down to the rocky beach a short distance from the cottage and selected a suitable stone to mark the spot. It had, of course, to be Torridonian Sandstone (part of the oldest sedimentary sequence in the UK, from the Precambrian era, approximately a billion years old, and so much easier on the paws than the other rocks of that region, the sharp angular quartzites, and coarsely crystalline schists and gneisses).
I chose a square squat stone, perhaps fancifully thinking of my compact and sturdy little dog.
Then I returned to the cottage, dug a little hole (unearthing a few crocus bulbs in the process).
I scattered in the ashes, lifted the marker stone into place, and made the bed tidy again.
Now I can sit in my favourite spot, think happy thoughts about my beloved and unforgettable little pal, and pat his marker stone from time to time and feel that all will be well.
PS Still working on ideas for a new blog. Watch this space.
Well I ran into a neighbour today, who often walks his rather slow black labrador at about the same time as I used to take dear Hamish out. Through tears (embarrassing in the newsagents) I told him about how I lost Hamish last week. With kindness in his eyes and voice, this taciturn Scot said "och well, he had a good innings didn't he?"
I don't know if this expression is used in non-cricket playing cultures; it is common to the point of cliche here, but none the worse for that.
Hamish did have a good innings, and I am so thankful.
Readers of this blog, I have been overwhelmed by your messages of condolence and support, and by all those beautiful poems and thoughts that you have offered as comfort. I apologize to those of you I have not found time to thank personally - I have so appreciated every single kind comment.
As for blogging, I have enjoyed it so much that I shall find a way to continue, as I begin to adjust to life without Hamish. It will be a new blog, and I'll post a link here when I decide exactly the format (probably in a few weeks). I shall of course also continue to follow my all favourite dog blogs - life would be dull without them now.
One day too, but not immediately, there will be a new dog in my house, I am sure.
There is no good way of saying this. I'll tell it straight.
Late Wednesday afternoon (only a few minutes after I pressed the 'publish' button on the blog post) Hamish fell into a fit. A couple of hours later, he seemed to have stabilised, but then at about eight thirty came another seizure, and after that he went into a downward spiral of convulsion after convulsion interspersed with a sort of unhinged frantic pacing in circles around the room. After several calls to the emergency vet, at three o'clock in the morning I drove him the short distance to the veterinary surgery and made perhaps to the hardest decision of my life, to sign the consent form for 'humane euthanasia'.
He was such a grand little dog. He brightened my life for over a decade. I can't quite accept yet that he really is gone, the end came so suddenly. I keep hearing noises in the house and thinking 'what's he up to', and I find I don't know what to do with the time when I should be taking him for walk.
This photo below is last one I took of Hamish, crossing the road on his way back home after his final stroll.
So we went out for a walk round the neighbourhood at lunchtime today. The winter sun was shining bright, and in the middle of day, by this time of year, if there's not too much wind, you can begin to feel just a little bit of warmth in the rays.
Not enough to make an old dog leave his coat at home mind.
Anyway, we weren't in a hurry, and I persuaded Gail to bring her camera along, so I can show you what our little corner of Aberdeen looks like. On a good day....
But please be aware that our Northern city doesn't alway appear so benign.
For example, you wouldn't believe what the conditions were like when Gail took me out earlier this week. I can't imagine what she was thinking!
I mean, who ever would consider it good idea to make one's elderly companion walk along by the city beach, when it's icy cold, a gale force wind is driving horizontal sleet in from the North Sea, and massive waves are walloping into the promenade? Well I did alright for a couple of hundred yards, then suddenly came over all faint and wobbly, my legs felt quite unsteady and I keeled over onto my side, and started to shake. I couldn't go any further. I just lay there. Gail picked me up and carried me back to the car, looking very anxious. She turned the heater on full and quickly drove us home. After a quiet couple of hours, inside in the warmth, I was feeling a good bit better.
So don't worry, I'm OK again now.
But it's no picnic, this getting old business.....
Long time readers of this blog will already be familiar with my Parallel Universe theory (see 29 July 2009). Well toss a few extra dimensions of quantum superposition into the mix and you will find yourself on Max's World Tour. Welcome!
You all know Max, don't you? My fine, handsome, loyal, noble friend from South Africa, the star of a quite wonderful blog. Well I am thrilled to be able to tell you that, wholly unexpectedly, he dropped in to see me this week, and accompanied me on a ramble in the Highlands.
Now it has always been my contention that a Westie is the perfect embellishment to the Scottish landscape. But, you know, looking at these pictures, I fear I have a rival. (Please don't let on to the Scottish Tourist Board, our contract negotiatons are still in the balance).
Well we had SO much to talk about, Max and I, and as we are both quite elderly gents, we interrupted our stroll with frequent rests.
Max told me all about his family back home, and especially about his Mom, who he adores and wants to thank over and over again for being so kind and taking such good care of him.
Of course, before Max left, I invited him in for a wee dram of Highland Park. It was a poignant moment, as I fear it will be Max's last visit to Scotland. My paws were shaking badly so no more photos were taken.
When I took Max back to the airport in Inverness, I have to report that he showed signs of being touch hungover. Well, we were both tired and emotional, and a tear or two was shed as he boarded the plane.
PS We would like to thank Petey's Mom in New York for her invaluable assistance with this post!
How am I doing today? Hmmmh. Thanks for asking. Well I've been feeling a bit up and down this week. But, to use a favourite phrase of human grandad, Soldiering On.
Yes indeed, I'm Soldiering On.
As I haven't been out much, I've had plenty of time to think about important questions.
There's just one thing I just can't make up my mind about. Perhaps you can help?
Gail was given these two mugs as Christmas presents last year. It really is difficult to decide which one is nicest.
I think we need a closer look.
One always has to consider a problem from different angles
And take into account all the features. Let's see.
I think the most important factor is the depiction of the Westies, don't you? The 'red' mug on the left features two, but the 'blue' one on the right has three, so round one to the blue corner, yes? But then on the other hand, one of the red mug's Westies has a smart coat, and the other a nice collar and tag, so that maybe balances things out.
What about the other accessories? Here, advantage red mug, where the two dogs have their own kennel, a welcoming robin, and someone has given them an interesting gift.
Oh but then perhaps that's not the whole picture. Consider the weather. Those two Westies on the left do need a kennel, as it appears to be snowing on their mug. Whereas our three pals on the right are enjoying a pleasant summer day, blue skies and green grass.
A quiet voice in the corner here is suggesting that I am 'over-analysing' this issue. And also complaining that I am missing the point by ignoring key features like compatibility with dishwashers and microwaves....
Which mug do you prefer? I'm too tired to think about it any longer....
Gail speaks first: Thank you so very much to everyone for sending Hamish all those best wishes, love and healing thoughts yesterday. What did we learn at the vet? Well apparently dogs of Hamish's age and breed do not suddenly develop epilepsy, so the fits must be caused by something else. A blood test ruled out liver or kidney failure, an abscess, and hypoglycemia. That leaves, worryingly, a brain tumour or a mini-stroke as the most likely cause. The vet does not recommend further invasive investigations for a dog of Hamish's age. He has been prescribed medication to improve oxygen supply to the brain, and if the fits continue he will also receive anti-convulsant medication. He has been taking a short course of prednisolone for the last few weeks anyway to calm his itchy skin. So it's now a game of wait and see, with fingers crossed.
Now back to Hamish:
Hi folks! Well I did feel pretty strange yesterday, after my odd turn on Saturday night. A few bruises too, from tumbling downstairs. Still, every cloud has a silver lining, and as neither Gail nor I felt up to embarking on one of our more exciting Sunday outings, we ventured instead into that terra incognito known as 'the back garden', and I helped (well, provided moral support) with some tidying up work.
And I do want to make my contribution quite clear as it is usually me, who, most unfairly, gets blamed for the state of this overgrown, unkempt and generally neglected patch of earth. I mean, I would show you photos of how bad it looks, but that has been banned, on grounds of 'embarrassment'.
Pleased to report that this morning (Monday) I'm feeling a good bit sprightlier, and am looking forward to a cosy week at home, assisting Gail with this new 'job'. (I have decided to take my friends' advice and not write to her employers about the false authorship claims...)
There's so much stuff I'd like to talk about to you today - this excellent book I've been reading, my views on rugby and national identity, your comments on my last post, the woeful state of our garden, the interesting experience of participating in Mango Minster....
But the truth is I'm feeling too exhausted to blog this morning and, reluctantly, I am going to hand over to Gail.
Gail speaks: Hamish is an old dog, and his health is deteriorating. Last night we were up for several hours after he suffered a fit, the second within a week. He eventually settled down to sleep, and this morning seems more or less OK, but tired and dazed. This is a new problem for Hamish and we are off to the vet later today.
I'm speechless with rage (almost...). Talk about UNFAIR. You wouldn't believe what I overheard Gail telling a friend yesterday!
It was about this new 'job' she started in January. I had been thinking it quite a GOOD THING, because it seems she can mostly 'work' at home, tapping away at the computer, me at her feet.
But now I feel used. Violated even.
Well. I just learned that Gail only got the job because of THIS BLOG. By pretending that she is the author. She even put the web address on her CV. Apparently the idea was to show that she could write in an 'accessible' way, not just as a boring old scientist.
I wouldn't mind so much if I'd been asked about it first. Or offered something in return. A daily meal of fried liver, rounded off with a wee dram of Highland Park, comes to mind.
Do you think I should write to her new employers and apprise them of this shocking deception?
We've had a lot of wordy posts lately. So today I've decided to give my sore paws a break from typing and show you some photos taken this weekend during a very snowy visit to our cottage on Loch Torridon.
This is the cottage...
And me posing in the front garden.
These are the neighbours. One of them is called 'Gail', which I think is quite funny..
Here is the local communication centre..
And this was our road earlier today..
Part of it is steep, so we had to wait for this vehicle to arrive before we could set off home..
Oh I wish the snow plough man had stopped in bed so we could have stayed longer to enjoy the scenery..
Is there some sort of a group you can join, to protest against invasion of privacy and so forth?
You know that it's been cold outside (less so now). And that my paws hurt. And that I have an aging bladder.
Well, strictly between ourselves, and because of all the above, I've been pretending I can't get out through the dog flap and into the garden any longer. After all, it's so much easier to use the indoor facilities......
Can you believe Gail had the cheek to sneak into our conservatory (if that's what you call a room with lots of windows and a couple of dead plants...) and film this short video?
Hey folks! This year I've decided to participate in Mango Minster for the first time. For those of you not in the know, think of it as Cyber Crufts. This event, run by my pal the relentlessly huge Mango (a mastiff) is distinctly NOT modelled on the arguably better known American dog show Westminster.....
Gail and I looked through the somewhat irregular judging groups for the show, and found that the only category for my breed is called CDIT (Cracker Dog Insane Terriers).
Well let me tell you, the only reason I have agreed to participate in this farrago is as a PROTEST against the outrageous stereotyping of all terriers implied by the title and judging criteria* for this group...
As regular readers of this blog know, I am dignified, mentally stable, intelligent and good natured (usually, except at the vet, and on some other occasions....) I do not have mad staring eyes and as a veteran gentledog I certainly do not go in for lunatic athletic feats. Neither do I have obsessive traits. When faced with a problem, I calmly consider it from an intellectual and analytical perspective.
So here is a picture of me, taken last Spring, poised with decorum on a rock overlooking Loch Torridon. A West Highland Terrier in his natural home, the Northwest Highlands of Scotland.
* Judge Norwood's criteria: click on the image below to enlarge if you really want to read this insult to the noble terrier breed.
A picture on my pal Eric's blog has prompted me to recall long suppressed memories of an incident in my youth.
I'm thinking that ten years is enough time for human Granny to overcome her sense of humour failure, and so she won't get too upset if I tell you all about it. (I do love human Granny, so I'd hate to upset her). Sadly, no photos of the incident exist, so I shall have to paint the picture in words.
First some background.
I was a mere four years old then, I'd only been with Gail for three months, and it was my first ever Christmas trip down to Nottingham. Unsettled by all the changes, I hadn't been eating well.
Oh, and I think that to appreciate the story, you must know that human Granny has some very traditional ideas, especially when it comes to having people round for meals.
On Boxing day, she announces that she's invited the new next-door neighbours for afternoon tea. (Yes really, American readers, proper afternoon tea!). Very respectable neighbours these, one Dr Banjee and family - wife, two young children and mother-in-law. That's DOCTOR Banjee, a real doctor that can cure sick people, not a pretend one like Gail....
Human Granny makes some scones. Very proud of them she is too, explaining to Gail that she'd followed Delia's recipe to the last word, and they were the best scones she's baked for, well, ages.
It is decided that it will be a sit-down-at-the-table tea. Preparations start early afternoon. Raspberry jam and cream are spread on the scones, and they are placed on a fancy plate. A lace tablecloth is laid on the dining table.
Not just any old lace tablecloth, but the precious Nottingham lace tablecloth given to human Grandparents in 1956 as a wedding present from their friends whose family owned a lace factory. Human Granny puts the plate of scones on the table and goes away to get smartened up.
Gail and human Grandad are relaxing in the sitting room. Gail is absorbed in a book. She does vaguely register the fact that she can hear me eating and thinks, 'oh good, finally he's feeling better'. Then after a bit, she thinks, hmmm, that is a very loud eating sound, if Hamish were in the kitchen , where his food bowl is kept, I would not be able to hear him so clearly....
Suddenly, she leaps to her feet and bursts into the dining room!
What does she see? Well there I am stood on the table, a scene of destruction all around. The few remaining scones are scattered about the room in small pieces, and my face is smeared with what jam and cream have not been trodden into the Nottingham lace tablecloth.
My head is tilted to one side in my best 'oh but did I do something wrong' look. Gail's face is strangely contorted into an expression that I suspect was the result of trying simultaneously to convey anger and suppress laughter.
Well I can assure you that human Granny was cross!
I only wish I could have told her that they were indeed very delicious scones...
Gail has been having words with me (and not just about the 'rest room issue').
I am accused of indulging in vanity and self pity in my last two posts, and have been instructed to "shape up" and turn my attention to more cerebral matters....
Well, let me think. We did watch a most interesting programme on the BBC last week, which I'd like to discuss. It was all about the relationship between dogs and humans. Towards the end of the programme, a controversial - and arguably rather insulting - theory was put forward.
Fellow dogs, do you think of yourselves as parasites?
That's what this bloke (a scientist of some sort, I believe, I didn't catch his name) was saying. He pointed out that dogs are found all over the world in their millions, whereas our ancestors the wolves have been much less successful in evolutionary terms and are now an endangered species. Then he suggested that the reason for dogs' success is that we have evolved as parasites, our cute looks and appealing nature acting to divert human attention away from nurturing their own young and rather devoting their time and energy to us. He drew an analogy with cuckoos laying eggs in other birds' nests.
So, parasites eh? Well personally I don't much like being classified in the same zoological category as a tapeworm or a tick!
Perhaps it's no surprise that this so-called expert wanted to remain anonymous...
PS The programme was 'Horizon: The Secret Life of the Dog'. You may still be able to see it on BBC iPlayer if you click here.
I know I said I wanted snow a few weeks ago, but I've changed my mind.
When I was a young whippersnapper, I used to so love the cold weather. Frolicking about in the park, ploughing a path through a few inches of soft, powdery snow, the sensation of rolling around to gain that 'frosted' look to my coat, all those new and interesting yellow snow smells, it seemed so exciting.
Now that I am old, I struggle to remember those joyous youthful times.
Last Thursday night, I woke up and it was so cold in the bedroom, I started shaking. Normally, I'm an independent sort of a chap, not into sharing a bed and all that, but just this once, I swallowed my pride and burrowed under the duvet with Gail. I think she was pleased to have me there...
Not only does the winter chill make my aging bones ache, but my paws are all chapped and sore from having to walk on ice and salt. I really could do without venturing outside at all just now.
Which of course brings me to a 'wee' problem....
Have you noticed how humans regard the indoor toilet as a marker of a civilised life? They don't like going out to 'do their business' in the freezing cold, of that we can be quite sure. So why, please tell me, did Gail get so very upset when I decided to follow her lead....? Doesn't she understand that it's uncomfortable to pee when you're shivering and your feet hurt. And if you choose the wrong spot, you might slip on the ice when positioning yourself correctly against a lamppost or tree. Surely it's sensible in the circumstances to find a nice inside wall or table leg, and a paw-friendly carpet? Especially as us older chaps don't have quite the, how to put this nicely, the 'holding capacity' that we once had? (A problem made worse by the cold, incidentally).
All in all, it seems that global warming can't come fast enough to Scotland. Is there any possibility I could relocate somewhere warmer for the next month or two?
We've been down in England for SO long, but Santa Claus was stupidly instructed to deliver my Christmas present to Aberdeen.
I'd totally given up hope of getting a new coat, and had resigned myself to wearing my old, ragged and slightly too small (and no longer very warm) one for yet another year.
Anyway, we arrived home last night, after such a long drive, and on the kitchen table there was this parcel from Lands' End (which I thought was a place in Cornwall but Gail says is another name for Father Christmas). And lo and behold, inside was a brand new winter jacket.
Isn't it just splendid? I couldn't wait to go out!
Let me point out some of the features.
You will notice the very smart collar, revealing the warm fleecy lining. The collar can be turned up or down, as required. Today, I decided against the Eric Cantona look.
A grey reflective strip makes it easier to see me in the dark, especially useful here in Aberdeen in winter when we have so very little daylight.
Velcro fastenings allow for a certain amount of post-Christmas waist expansion....
Gail thinks it also important to point out that the strap round the middle is (sensibly, she says) a little bit further forward than on the old coat, so that when I lift my leg, there is no danger of 'leakage' dripping onto the material....
It is of course waterproof too. I live in Scotland. Enough said.
And best of all, you will have noticed the personalized insignia, distinguished but discreet, n'est pas?
I want to give a huge thank you to Petey in New York, whose Mom tipped us off about this magnificent garment.
Now we can drive off to Balmoral and meet up with the Queen's corgis, head held high, surely?
What, is it a problem, that it's minus 18 degrees Centigrade around Braemar, with a foot and a half of snow... ?
Oh well, I shall have to stay indoors then, and await my lucrative modelling contract with Lands' End!
Well I at least am having one..... Us old blokes (that's human Grandad and me) don't like too much excitement on New Year's Eve. PS I am having problems at the moment with the computer help. It seems she is busy with family matters and starting a new job on Monday. I can't believe that gets priority over assisting with my blog, I mean what could be more important than me keeping in touch with my pals, but there you go.... Normal service will resume some time later next week. I shall insist! Meanwhile, big apologies for neglecting my very special friends (you know who you are, I think).