Wednesday 27 June 2018

My 24 Hours with Herr Rottweiler

I was soaked. Drenched in a now-dried drool of a highly Germanic nature. And with a somewhat more pungent aroma than I am used to. What's more I have been forced to draw on my usually-disguised super Staffiepowers and I am drained, drained I tell you. In addition to being drained upon, if you will.

There was, briefly, a dog in the manger, or the house, in addition to I, Zetdogg, intellectual giant and guardian of all that is culturally good in the canine world of Zetlandica. I ask you, did I deserve it? After almost six weeks of gruelling exposure to urban blight, Glaswegian hipster beards and the accompanying, indeed compulsory French Bulldogs and Pugs, I arrived back in the Zetlandics with relief only to find I was expected to share Ramnavine with another creature. And I do not mean the New Doctor Morton, who has accompanied her parents and myself from the Soothlands of Doom and Crafty Beer.

This over-large, goofily affectionate and excessively bouncy thing was called Arnie (clearly, I'd prefer to keep affairs on more formal, 'Arnold' level, or indeed Herr Rottweiler) and initially I surmised that he was merely visiting. Then it became apparent (though clearly, communication was difficult, due to his continental origins) that it was intended for him to reside in Ramnavine semi-permanently. 

Herr Rottweiler was the size of a small horse, like the St Bernards I used to share companions and space with, but much more...ebullient. Clearly, it was essential to dictate terms to him, show him that he was merely a guest, hopefully temporary, and that this was my territory. So some skirmishing ensued. He seemed puzzled by my admittedly diminutive aggression. As half-bear, half-pony, he was much, much larger and heavier than I, but as I say, the Zetdogg superpowers of Staffiedom could be drawn on, and I was able to escape without serious injury or at least having my head crushed to a messy pulp. And inflict a few smarting pieces of sneaky punishment on the giant hulking beast.

Alas, the new Dr Morton became enmeshed in one such encounter, injuring her foot, and the result, not entirely surprisingly, is that Herr Rottweiler has now departed for a place known in Zetlandica as Not Ramnavine. His previous abode, in fact. And I, for once in my life, am submitting without objection to the ordeal known as a bath. With relief.

Having said that, the house is rather quiet and I am in receipt of some reproachful glances from my Main Human Companion, as yes, I admit, it was I, Zetdogg, who provoked the aforementioned skirmishing. Guilty? Yes, a little. He was - is - a cheerful soul, Herr Rottweiler, and I'm sure he will find a good home. Where I, Zetdogg, am not.

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Zetdogg, episode 3: I cavort with greyhounds and ponder their digestive tracts

Greyhounds. What prima donnas they are!

 Well, the pair I’ve been associating with, Cooper and Sophie, Coops and Soph as their Human Companions call them. These are actual, tattooed veterans of the race track, in recovery from their steroid-and-amphetamine years, but my, are they sensitive, delicate creatures. The slightest nip or good-natured nudge and they’re yowling like smoke alarms after a too-thick sourdough toasting incident. And like sourdough and ‘Natural’ wines, they’re a hipster thing here in the Dirty City.

My own HC’s son and daughter-in-law house, walk and clean up after Coops and Soph (see? I have fallen into the hipster slang-trap; it’s like Shetland dialect only more obscure), and for the most part, this pair of retired betting-fodder hounds seem easy for them to look after. They sleep for hour after hour, drape themselves decoratively over the IKEAstuff and generally behave like giant cats, only not intrinsically evil, obviously. Friendly, too, in a distant sort of way, especially Soph(ie). 

But you don’t want to upset them. Then, as mentioned, they go into canine meltdown, though it has to be said they do injure easily. One tuft of hair withdrawn in jest and they’re rolling around as if they’ve been battered with a baseball bat. Which admittedly, in their sordid competitive past, they probably have. And they do have very little hair.

They can run fast, though. Up to 40 miles an hour, though it takes them a little time to reach full speed and a lot to stop. Which means there was a great deal of innocent amusement to be had during a recent weekend in North Berwick, leading them off on a ball-chase and sending them hurtling headlong into the sea due to my superior manoeuvrability and braking. Salt water is not the greyhound’s friend.

And they defecate almost as fast they run. Four or five times a day, copious amounts in a variety of interesting colours and textures. I noticed my own HC’s ashen face as he took three of us for a walk which involved seven - SEVEN - of the euphemistically named poo-bags, and even some tissue paper and wet wipes. I felt ashamed for Coops. Cooper. And bad for my HC who is not used to such hands-on ordure activity. Mind you, the hounds are rib-protrudingly thin so presumably they are built not to absorb, but to expel food. A fat greyhound doesn’t bear thinking about.

As for me, you will have gathered that I am still not back in the Zetlandics. This, I believe, may be my final week on the Main Land of Scot, and is to be highlighted by a stay in the intimidatingly grey city of Aberdeen, which, like North Berwick, has a beach, though not quite as many pugs and Lhasa Apsos per head of population.

I look forward to my Zetlandic return, though I am hearing whispers that change awaits my domestic situation. There is a talk of an additional dog. Just as long as it’s not a greyhound. Actually, though, I like Sophie. She's a bit of a doll (though it was her extracted some fluff from Cooper's side and sent him into paroxysms of demented huffdom). 

And Cooper's not bad either. I suppose you'd get used to carrying panniers full of excrement-receptacles around. Eventually.

Tuesday 12 June 2018

Still stranded in the city of sewage and squirrels: Zetdogg lives!

Another week in the city of dreams! Well, the city of dreams of not actually being in the city; of being elsewhere, somewhere windy and salty and with a lot of nearby sea. That would be good.

Instead, here in the very naval of Scottish intellectual might, the belly button of Bohemianism, here in the west end of Glasgow, I have helped and supported the Human Companion as he has striven to clean, paint and generally prepare for sale his son’s top floor tenement flat. There has been a great deal of swearing, surreptitious dumping of redundant IKEA furniture (“No chipboard” says the man at the recycling centre) in the hope that some hapless, drawerless person will remove said wobbly lump of Swedish furniture and do something useful with it. In Shetland it would be sold to Captain Calamity who would use it as a boat, probably. Chipboard is a fantastically floatable substance, especially when wet. 

So I’m told. But what would I know? I , after all, am Zetdogg, a combination of Staffordshire Bull Terrier, sheepdog and...something else. It so happens that insight, intelligence and the ability to communicate with you, my parishioners, has arisen from this random set of genes. And I for one am thankful. Think how dull it would be to live as a Labrador.

Two wee girls took a liking to me this week and offered to buy me from the HC. We have always wanted a Dalmatian, they said. I have never been so insulted in all my life. One of me is worth 100 spotted pedigree dimwitted spotted objects. Or 101.

It has been hot again, weather wise, but with a sudden onslaught of rain which caused the River Kelvin to burst its banks, depositing a noisome mixture of sewage, toilet paper, diesel oil and chemical residues all over the Kelvin Walkway. Delightful. Yet still the HC daintily picks up my own somewhat less smelly ordure and disposes of it in plastic bags, while seriously deluded canine compadres allow their beasts to actually swim in the foul, olive-green depths of the Kelvin itself.

Collies, Spaniels, even Poodles all swim as if their lives depend on it, in pursuit of ball and Frisbee, stick and human approval. I, Zetdogg am beyond such blandishments. I fear for the future health of these animals. How are they cleaned? I overheard one woman telling the HC that her Afghan Hound loved a good bath when he got home. This is unprincipled behaviour and not deserving of approval. These are dogs who have never known the sea.

One interesting adjunct to my current location is the presence of large amounts of foliage and indeed mature trees, something quite rare in the Zetlandics. These house a variety of creature worthy of pursuit, if one is in any way bored. Magpies are black and white birds, hardly as impressive as our own Black Backed Gulls, as eaten by the Faroese along with puffins, Razorbills and whales, which are not birds and extremely uncommon in the Kelvin. I, being unable to fly, usually do not bother to give chase. Squirrels, though, a  kind of tree-climbing whitrit, are something else again, and apparently not just tasty in a somewhat crunchy way, but in their grey form (and I’ve never seen a yellow one) an acknowledged pest. I hope to have learned to climb trees by the end of this tenemental sojourn, though this may be beyond my undoubted native agility.  We shall see. 

Meanwhile, news is filtering through from the Zetlandics of upheavals in air travel, with humans being forced to pay to leave their cars at Sumburgh Airport and BP, an evil oil company, moving their helicopter operations from the old wartime airfield of Scatsta, which is council owned, also to Sumburgh, which is owned by the evil Highlands and Islands Avaricious Airports. Evil begets evil, I suppose. Like cats and squirrels.

Wednesday 6 June 2018

The Adventures of Zetdogg. 1: Exile in Glasgow

I quite like Glasgow, which is in western Scotland. And as I am currently quartered in the bohemian west end of said city, I feel, as an intellectual athlete, not to mention aesthete of a dog, reasonably comfortable speaking to the relatively educated canines I meet. Of subjects such as Proust, Kerouac, castration complexes, balls, the early Beethoven movies, balls, and why Turner and Hooch is an absolute travesty. 

A dog of a film is how I’ve heard it described, but that seems something of a vile calumny upon the canine community. What was Tom Hanks thinking?

I, Zetdogg (two 'g's; you may call me Zet. Or Dogg) am in, but not of Glasgow. My Human Companion, Tom (not Hanks), is currently residing in a second floor flat surrounded almost entirely by hundreds of other similar homes, all piled on top of one another. Oh, and coffee emporia. This is  while he carries out repairs and improvements to a nearby apartment owned by his son, who wishes to move nearer to his workplace in even more bohemian Edinburgh. And so must sell his current abode. 

Why he doesn’t wish to move back to his native Shetland Islands  I have no idea. There may be some kind of exclusion order in place of the sort currently affecting 'travel bloggers' and so-called 'influencers; software engineers may also be banned from island residence. There is coffee available in Shetland, which is obviously crucial to any sort of digital activity. The HC assures me that lattes and capuccinos (not to mention cortados, espressos, macchiatos and even Nescafe Gold Blend) are available in Lerwick, Hillswick and even in the furthest-flung reaches of Unst, or Nuke Target Spaceport Unst as we must now call it. 

Of course, Glasgow's Queen Margaret Drive has its so-called Coffee Strip, which does offer a bewildering range of grinds and roasts, but it should be pointed out that it is now illegal for any new business to open in Lerwick, capital of All Shetland, which is not a bistro, cafe, cake shop, restaurant (preferably that new concept, 'Meaty vegan local seafood joint') or bar. And the great evil which is craft beer has spread there too. Cry for Tennents and McEwen's if you will! The pipeline carrying peach-and-Marmite pale ale stout with roasted duck feathers is already in place.

One thing which Zetlandic providers of caffeine and indeed bearded alcohol could imitate is the dog-accessibility of Glaswegian establishments. Water is provided, often small snacks, or indeed, full meals including steak, chips and an assortment of sauces, though I am not convinced this is entirely deliberate. The two greyhounds, Cooper and Sophie, with whom I occasionally - I believe the word is ‘hang’ - devoured said dish using their height and then their speed to escape what seemed very like anger emanating from an admittedly overweight human at the next table. though it was tricky discerning the meaning of his gutteral imprecations.
But in general, I miss Shetland and am longing to return. These days, the overnight journey by ferry from Aberdeen (undertaken in the back of my HC’s car, in considerable comfort, once the dog guard has been chewed into flexibility) is painless and once at home I can avail myself of that great and indeed unavoidable  Shetlandic advantage, proximity to the ocean. Not just to cool down in pristine salty cleanliness during these unpleasantly hot months (the River Kelvin, my only alternative to the sea hereabouts, has an aroma I have only smelt in Shetland during an unfortunate encounter with an open septic tank in Mid-Yell, mixed with the delicate whiff of the Bressay gut factory in full belch) but to bark at seals and chase otters into. I have been robustly informed that chasing otters is unwise and that catching them by the tail even less advised (one Labrador of my acquaintance lost part of his nose by doing just that; how does he smell, you ask? Terrible!). But I’m drawn that way. It’s a gene thing. After all, who could like otters? Awful creatures, prone to activities too disgusting to mention herein.

There is also the question of The Poo Bag. I do understand that these are essential if one’s Personal Solid Waste (PSW, as I refer to it) is deposited in public spaces such as the glorious Knab (where I recently met a 16-year-old sheepdog, still trying to round up golfers) or the steps of the Town Hall (I was sternly advised by a councillor I had previously doubted the existence of  that leaving a PSW could not be considered a Political Statement, or a complaint against the planning department). In such circumstances it behoves one’s HC to uplift and dispose of the faeces. It's knotting the bag which causes me difficuoties. Oh for an opposable thumb! 

But the truly liberating al fresco pleasures of performing one’s ablutions at the water’s edge on an incoming tide are not be, ah, sniffed at. Although I have seen my HC desperately trying to bag a PSW on Bain’s Beach during filming of Perez, More Cases of  Rashes Caused By Itchy Gansies, that excellent TV series. Alas, the waves carried it inexorably out towards a boat full of highly-paid local extras, including our very own drug-detecting pooch Thor (aka Castleside Eclipse, but what kind of name is that, really? Who can shout, “sniff that suitcase, Castleside Eclipse!” with a proper sense of urgency?). Who was ‘acting’’ll be shocked...a drug detecting pooch! Typecasting if you ask me. Anyway, Thor looked absolutely horrified. “Cut!” shouted a man in a quilted anorak. We beat a hasty retreat, just as the boat capsized. Oh well. Everyone was fine, once the Lifeboat and coastguard had been called and proper resuscitation procedures followed, and it made for a great scene in the TV show.

Enough of this dreaming of long Shetland nights, runs along the West Ayre and growling at Bonxies! I must now go to place called the North Kelvin Meadow to converse with two Newfoundlands, 15 Lhasa Apsos (they're popular in west end tenement flats, as they do not moult, and are Buddhist) and a number of pugs. And a sheepdog called Molly who keeps trying to round me up. She is a bit confused, I think. I am Zetdogg. I know these things. 

The coming of the Cruiserists, a brand new Beatcroft Social show, and that old kangaroo/wallaby joke

They come to Zetlandia in their hundreds, not exactly tourists, as they do not really tour. They cruise. They are cruiserists, observer...