Wednesday 31 January 2024

Dogs in advertising

 

Dogs in advertising


When an appealing dog is used to advertise a service or a commodity, public demand for that breed increases, often to its detriment. There are many respected and responsible breeders for whom health and temperament of the animals they breed are the first of their considerations, and those two are frequently co-dependent, but when a breed becomes popular, it attracts unscrupulous people seeking to make money.

Greedy breeders breed indiscriminately and far too frequently, with little thought for the health of the brood bitches or their resultant litters. The puppies are sold to anyone who expresses a wish to pay for one without regard to the future living conditions of the dog or the suitability of the owners to care properly for them. Too many puppies are given up or thrown away when they grow out of the puppy stage or chew one too many chair legs, or growl at the children because the children have not been taught how to behave with animals.

We have always been interviewed for any animal we have wanted to acquire and that applies to animal shelters, too. When we, in a very small way, bred Burmese cats, we were always very careful about who they went to. One woman got quite snooty with me because I refused to let my kittens go around Christmas, quite the worst time of year for a young animal to go to its new home.

Pug

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
English bulldog
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Currently, it’s brachycephalic dogs that are causing concern. They are ‘cute-looking’, I’m told. For example, pugs have huge eyes that remind some people of babies. I’m sure there are responsible breeders of these dogs, but in the wrong hands, their inherent breathing problems will be exacerbated and their health and behaviour affected. The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) says:

"There is a real concern that the use of French Bulldogs, Bulldogs and Pugs in adverts is fuelling the popularity of these breeds, and is widening the market for those who simply wish to make money from these dogs with little or no regard for their health and wellbeing.   “These breeds can suffer from some horrible long-term health conditions . . . we are currently fighting a losing battle while these dogs continue to be used needlessly in thoughtless advertising. We are heading towards a welfare crisis for these breeds so it is time for companies to prioritise dog welfare over profit and commit to avoiding the use of flat faced dog breeds in advertising.  Not only will this make a real difference to the health and welfare of these dogs but it will help to protect the companies from brand damage and make it clear that they take their corporate social responsibility seriously.”  

Breeds that have suffered or may suffer in future because of advertising or exposure in film or television programmes, include the Old English Sheepdog, Dalmatian, Basset hound, Dachshund, the ‘doodle’ breeds (those breeds crossed with poodles, like Goldendoodle, Maltipoo, Cockapoo, of which there are currently 40 different mixes)

I wonder whether companies will, as the RVC hopes, ‘take their corporate social responsibility seriously’. My feeling, cynic that I am, is that they will move onto something else to capture the public’s imagination, a wolf hybrid, perhaps.

Would a tarantula or a scorpion excite the same acquisitive reaction? Possibly. The owl in the Harry Potter films generated a desire in children to have their very own owl, so an expertly photographed and photogenic chamaeleon or poison dart frog would probably appeal, too.  

Tuesday 30 January 2024

Gracing the table

 

Gracing the table


On Sunday we had lunch in the dining room. This was unusual, not least because we don’t normally have lunch. Generally, we have late breakfast and early supper.

Anyway, we used the dining room because there were six of us to seat. There was a spirited discussion between Charlie (8 years old) and Barry (somewhat more than 8 years old), about elements, the metaverse, the periodic table, nuclear fission and nuclear fusion, the possibility or probability of the discovery of new elements on far-flung planets among other things. To say that Charlie is interested in physics, chemistry, biology and maths would be to understate his enthusiasm. He also likes teasing his little brother Jack (5). Robert monitored that tendency!

Jack perked up when he misheard that Barry had a nuclear bomb and was desperate to see it, then disappointed that there was nothing to see. Otherwise, he was happy to chatter, which he does all day, from the moment he gets up until he goes to bed. School has not diminished his non-stop vocal observation of the world and his sharp ears pick up everything, particularly anything to which he should not be privy, although sometimes he misunderstands. Don’t we all?

I look at other people’s dining tables and marvel at the order and attractiveness of them. My table is always covered in dishes and bowls, plates, glasses, serving spoons and condiments. There never seems to be enough room, even if we extend the table to its fullest.


 I did manage to find room for the beautiful flowers Bethan gave me. I’m no flower arranger but actually I like them altogether in one vase, a burst of colour. Unlike George Bernard Shaw I enjoy seeing cut flowers in the house and very often it means that they have the chance to shine when otherwise they might be overlooked or trampled. Life continues in the bulbs underground.

I also set out my rather whimsical salt and pepper shakers. They’re not to everyone’s taste, but I like them, and Barry doesn’t really have a choice!

It was a very enjoyable day. The dogs and cats were exhausted last night – any change to their routine disturbs their equilibrium.

Monday 29 January 2024

Sixteen years

 

Sixteen years


Sixteen years have passed since these photographs were taken. Our Dalmatian years lasted for 30 years, the last one, my velcro dog, Frodo the Faller, leaving us 9 years ago.

                                        Frodo the Faller, my velcro dog

I’ve heard all sorts of stories about Dalmatians. Some people asked us if black-spotted Dalmatians turned brown in old age, or did the liver-spotted turn black with age? One person told me that liver-spotted Dalmatians were not regarded as proper Dalmatians. They are ‘proper’ Dalmatians and some breeders try to specialise in the liver-spotted variety. Many people were surprised to learn that the puppies are white when they’re born, developing their spots from the age of about two weeks until 18 months or so.

                                    Dominie of the thunderous paws

It is a fact that puppies born with coloured patches used to be destroyed at birth. Whether this was because it was thought the patches might become cancerous or because it demeaned the breed or the breeder in some way is unclear. Patched puppies are no longer destroyed and haven’t been for more than forty years. They make fine pets, though they will not be destined for a show career.

                                        Buddy Liver Spots

Like most white or piebald animals, Dalmatians have a tendency to deafness, but this is being addressed with careful breeding and BAER testing (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) of registered breeding stock. There are some unregistered breeders so deaf pups are still born. With careful, patient training they can be wonderful dogs, but they require a lot of work.

                        Buddy Liver Spots and Frodo the Faller

We greatly enjoyed our Dalmatians. They were fantastic running companions for Barry and would also walk for hours with me. Now we lead lives more suited to rambling, Labrador Retrievers have become our companions once again. We have come full circle. We started with a Labrador, then had the Jack Russell years, which overlapped the Labrador. The Dalmatians ran concurrently with the JRs for a while, and then led back to Labradors.

                Jenna. the little Labrador with the enormous paws, with her tracker and cow bell, never happier than when retrieving

Sunday 28 January 2024

Sansevieria

 

Sansevieria trifasciata



In similar vein to aspidistra, snake plants are tolerant of a certain degree of neglect. They do not require a great deal of water and also survive well in low light. They are known to be effective in purifying the air, removing toxins and pollutants from the atmosphere.

It has been noted that snake plants have several health benefits, such as relieving headaches and alleviating eye irritation and respiratory problems. In addition, these plants are said to improve concentration and increase productivity. As they remove carbon dioxide from the air and give out oxygen, they are good plants to have in a bedroom.

Advocates of feng-shui claim that snake plants bring good luck and positive energy or chi, and place them in corners of rooms or at their entrances.

I discovered Sansevieria Velvet Touchz quite by chance and was intrigued by the brightly coloured tips. I failed to delve into the reasons and found later that the colours are entirely artificial, the leaves having been dipped into paint that resembles velvet when dry. Basically, they are painted ladies!

Other names for Sansevieria include mother-in-law’s tongue, good luck plant and golden bird’s nest. They are toxic to pets – and people - if consumed in large quantities but our animals have got past the chewing plants stage!

I have mixed feelings about human intervention in plants, which is wildly illogical, considering the amount of work that plantsmen have done over the centuries. Painting colours onto plants does nothing for them, other than to make them eye-catching. Bonsai or penjing is a human application of something that occurs incredibly rarely in nature.



Saturday 27 January 2024

Snoopy

 

Snoopy

Snoopy sleeps on top of his kennel

I love Snoopy and was delighted to discover that I could feature him on my watch. He makes a lovely change from the butterflies, flowers and jellyfish I have had before – not all at the same time, obviously. - that would be silly!


    Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Snoopy, or rather that should be the chronicler of Snoopy, was an American cartoonist. He is credited with being ‘one of the most influential cartoonists in history’. His comic strip, Peanuts, mainly featured the hapless, perpetually surprised but always optimistic Charlie Brown and his pet dog, Snoopy.

Snoopy aspires to be a writer
Snoopy was inspired by one of Schulz’s childhood dogs, Spike. Snoopy is a dreamer, one of his favourite fantasies being that of a flying ace of the First World War, a parody of a British officer, complete with flying helmet and swagger stick, without which no officer was complete . 


Snoopy skiing, or snowboarding or is he flying?

His dreams of stardom and fame come to naught. He is loyal to Charlie Brown, though he can never remember his name.

 


                                

Friday 26 January 2024

Would you?

 

Would you?

                            Marnie , aged 15, with a feline patient

Mary from‘ In the Corner of My Eye’ commented that dog food is said to be fit for human consumption. It reminded me of the time my eldest granddaughter stayed with us while she had some work experience locally. Work experience gives students in year 10 or 11, that is, children of 15 or 16, an opportunity to find out a little about the so-called ‘world of work’. 

At that time, Marnie thought she would like to become a vet and so applied to our veterinary surgery for the opportunity to gain insight into the profession. She had and still has excellent interpersonal skills and great empathy with animals. Every day she reported for duty and got on very well with Nadia-the-Vet and the rest of the staff.

                                    Cat under anaesthetic

Though they are not specialist animal nutritionists and only a very small fraction of their training is devoted to diet, vets in general practice will often suggest a change of diet for pets, particularly if an animal is not thriving or has particular problems, like renal failure or a propensity to hairballs, for example. 

There is a wide choice of pet food in the market, but most veterinary practices carry only the more recognisable ‘scientific’ brands.  Nadia-the-Vet and Marnie decided to taste test the dog and cat ‘wet’ food and found the different recipes quite palatable.

                                Marnie with a puppy patient

There are professional animal food testers and the video clip gives a taste (groan – sorry!) of their dedication to duty.

When I was a child, there was not a great variety of commercial animal food but I used to enjoy munching dog biscuits occasionally. I found them quite tasty. The food our cats have looks quite attractive and, judging by the smell, is highly flavoured, but I am not tempted to taste it.

Would you?

Thursday 25 January 2024

 

Dates to remember in January 2024 – 4  

1787 Portrait of Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth (1758-1840)

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Robert Burns, often fondly known as Rabbie Burns, is the national poet and treasure of Scotland. He was born on 25th January, 1759 and is honoured for his verse, much of which was written in a Scottish dialect that was accessible to English readers.

He wrote Auld Lang Syne, which is sung at midnight on New Year’s Eve (Scottish Hogmanay) across the world. Another of his romantic poems has been beautifully set to the music of an older tune, ‘Major Graham’.

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,

That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my Dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my Dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only Luve!
And fare thee weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile!

Burns also collected Scottish folk songs. He died, aged 37, on 21st July 1796, on the day his son Maxwell was born.  Rabbie Burns had 12 children, of whom five survived to adulthood. There are currently more than 900 living descendants of Burns.

He is fĂȘted across the world and became ‘the people’s poet’ of Russia. The first commemorative stamp honouring Burns was issued in Russia in 1956. The UK has three times issued commemorative stamps, in 1966, 1996 and 2009. In 1996 the Isle of Man issued a set of four crown coins with themes including Auld Lang Syne.

A crater on Mercury has been named after Burns. His reputation is far-reaching!

Every year, on the anniversary of his birth, proud Scots across the world gather to celebrate their favourite son with food and whisky and maybe a little dancing and verse recital. The evening starts with the Selkirk Grace:

Some hae meat and canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it.

But we hae meat and we can eat

Sae let the Lord be thankit.

The centrepiece of the feast is the haggis, ‘Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin-race’. In essence this is an over-sized sausage made with a sheep’s ‘pluck’ – heart, liver and lungs, lamb ‘trimmings’, onions, oatmeal, pepper, salt, mace, nutmeg, and coriander encased in sheep’s stomach or similar. It is served with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes) and piped to the table with bagpipes. Then the haggis is ‘addressed’ by a senior member of the company who ends the eight verses of the recitation by stabbing the haggis with a sharp knife.

There are various recipes for haggis but all are spicy and filling. At the end of the meal toasts are made and replied to. There is a special toast to ‘the immortal memory’ of the poet', often with some reference to his life and works. The evening ends with the singing of Auld Lang Syne.

 SlĂ inte mhath! (Good health)

 January 25th also sees the Welsh celebration of Dydd Santes Dwynwen. This is the Welsh version of St Valentine’s Day and remembers St Dwynwen’s romantic tribulations which led to her becoming a nun. She was a princess, in the 5th century, the loveliest of the king’s 24 daughters. She met and fell in love with the son of a neighbouring king, but her father refused his suit, saying he had already made an arrangement for his daughter. Prince Maelon left the palace in a rage, angry with Dwynwen. She fled to the forest where she cried herself to sleep. When she woke a spirit appeared to her and told her that Maelon had been turned to ice and would not trouble her again. The spirit then granted her three wishes.  Dwynwen’s wishes were that Maelon should be thawed, true love should always conquer all and that she would never fall in love again.

 All three wishes were granted and Dwynwen became a nun, founding a convent on an island off the coast of Anglesey. A well near the convent was named after her and became a place of pilgrimage  after her death. Legend had it that a fish in the well could foretell the future. If the water bubbled when a couple drew near, that meant good fortune for them.



Wednesday 24 January 2024

E.H. Shepard

 

E.H. Shepard

Illustration from 'Winnie-the-Pooh' by A.A. Milne
Original illustrations were black and white
Ernest Howard Shepard (1879 - 1976) showed a talent for drawing at a young age. He was a friendly boy with a liking for practical jokes and was nicknamed ‘Giddy-Kipper’ by his peers. The name remained with him, in the shortened form of ‘Kip’ for the remainder of his life.

Illustration from 'Winnie-the-Pooh' by A.A. Milne
Original illustrations were black and white

Although he is probably most recognisable as the illustrator of ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ and ‘The Wind in the Willows’, Ernest Shepard produced many cartoons representing war images and political figures for ‘Punch’, the ‘Illustrated London News’ and ‘London Opinion’. 

Only single men under the age of 30 were initially allowed to enlist in the forces in World War I, to his frustration – he was a married man of 35 when war was declared. He was eventually able to enlist and was posted to France as a junior officer.

British propaganda against Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, 17th November, 1923

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

His elder brother was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, July 1st, 1916. Shepard was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry at Arras and served with distinction in the Italian Campaign. All the while he recorded his experiences through his drawings. 

                 Illustration from 'The King's Breakfast' by A.A. Milne

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

After he was demobilised, he became a staff member of ‘Punch’ magazine and was asked if he would consider illustrating some verses by A.A. Milne. He agreed and the verses were published as ‘When We Were Very Young’ in 1924 and were followed by ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’, ‘Now We Are Six’ and ‘The House at Pooh Corner.’


         Illustration from 'The Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Grahame
                          Original illustrations were black and white

Subsequently, A.A. Milne introduced him to Kenneth Grahame, who had written ‘The Wind in the Willows’ in 1908 but had not found an illustrator he liked for it. Shephard visited Grahame at his home in the Thames Valley, in Pangbourne, and was inspired to create the drawings for the book. They greatly pleased Grahame. 

' . . . there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.'
        Illustration from 'The Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Grahame
                    Original illustrations were black and white

Shepard continued to work as the chief cartoonist for ‘Punch’, covering important events like the Abdication, the outbreak of World War II and the rise of Churchill. In 1953 he was sacked as leading cartoonist from ‘Punch’ by Malcom Muggeridge, who wanted a fresh look for the magazine.

Shepard grew to resent his ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ illustrations because he felt they overshadowed all his other work. He was heard to refer to Pooh as ‘that silly old bear’.

In similar vein, A.A. Milne, disliked the fact that his children’s books were better recognised than his plays and novels and film scripts.

 

Tuesday 23 January 2024

Microfiction 2

 

Microfiction 2



 Image source unknown

This was another microfiction prompt from 2010. The challenge was to write a response in 140 characters or less – and spaces are characters!


I had two reactions to this prompt.

#1: She squinted but couldn’t decipher the instructions. She always forgot to read them before getting into the shower. Laser eye surgery was definitely on her to do list. (140 characters)

#2: So this was the elixir of life but must she drink it or apply it? And did she really want to live forever in the present economic climate? (138 characters)

I’d love to know what your offerings would be.

Monday 22 January 2024

Things that appeal

 

Things that appeal

Remembering the Muppets the other day and how much I enjoyed watching them from time to time made me start thinking about the appeal of children’s films and television programmes. 

Frankie and Susannah came to live with us ‘just for a few months’ after they had to leave their home in London. Selfish men don’t have any consideration for their small children! ’Nuff said.

Frankie was 16 months old and Barry and I had the privilege of seeing him grow and develop. Susannah was commuting to London every day, leaving early and arriving home after Frankie was in bed. A most agreeable part of the day was sitting with him on my lap and watching cartoons. Bedtime stories were another pleasure.

It quickly became apparent which cartoons were simply for entertainment and which had underlying messages and subtle nods to adult viewers. The ones I particularly liked were ‘Peppa Pig’ and ‘Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom’. Both were created by Neville Astley and Mark Baker and many of the voice actors were common to both.

Peppa Pig was a young piglet encountering many of the experiences that little children have – going to pre-school, visiting the dentist, shopping, playing with friends at the park, swimming. Her favourite thing was splashing in muddy puddles. It was quite common when we were walking the dogs in the woods to see young children emulating her, sometimes to the irritation of their parents!

‘Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom’ was for slightly older children and was centred around a miniature magic kingdom. Ben was an elf and his best friend was Princess Holly. Her efforts at magic were not always successful. They were charming and funny characters, with ‘good hearts’.

Once we had started reading Julia Donaldson’s wonderful stories with Axel Scheffler’s amazing illustrations, we entered a different world of make-believe. Many a walk was enhanced by a search for the Gruffalo, the most persistent of Julia Donaldson’s creations.

The Gruffalo, 'with terrible claws, and terrible tusks in its terrible jaws, and knobbly knees and turned-out toes, and a poisonous wart at the end of its nose'

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The ‘just for a few months’ extended to 5½ years until Susannah found a nice house nearby. It was the right time for them to move and now they’ve moved again, to an even nicer house. Frankie is no longer a little boy but a ‘twixt and tween’, that awkward stage between childhood and adulthood. I remember adolescence so well – it was horrible!

Wallace and Gromit in A Close Shave'

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Some of the best and most talented people are engaged in producing entertainment, in book or other forms, for children and for the children in adults. It is sad if we completely lose our propensity for child-like wonder.

 ‘Wallace and Gromit’ and ‘Up’ remain screen favourites, but books from long ago retain their appeal, too. ‘Heidi’ and ‘Black Beauty’ brought tears. ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and ‘Little Women’ introduced characters in Canada and the USA.  

‘My friend Flicka’ and ‘Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes’ lurk in my memory, as well.

                    Which books and programmes or films do you cherish?                                                               


Sunday 21 January 2024

Halfway

 

Halfway up the stairs

There is a bedtime ritual in our house. Herschel usually grabs his bed space an hour or so before the humans then Janice and Gilbert go up and make their preparations.

 Some time later, Barry stokes up the fire, checks the doors and windows, makes sure the fridge and freezer locks are engaged, to foil the ever hungry and resourceful Jellicoe, and tells Roxy it’s time for bed. She trots ahead and goes partway up the stairs, then sits and waits for him. She usually stops on the 7th or 9th step. Then they have a conversation about the day, talking about the things that have happened and what might happen on the morrow. There may be biscuits involved.

Sometimes, Gilbert decides to go and find out what’s holding everyone up (especially if biscuits are involved!)

The photograph of Roxy and Gilbert brought to mind the little poem by A.A. Milne, though the child in the verse, Christopher Robin, is halfway down the stairs to begin with, and then halfway up.

Halfway down the stairs

Is a stair

Where I sit.

There isn’t any

Other stair

Quite like

It.

I’m not at the bottom,

I’m not at the top;

So this is the stair

Where

I always

Stop.

 

Halfway up the stairs

Isn’t up

And isn’t down.

It isn’t in the nursery,

It isn’t in the town.

And all sorts of funny thoughts

Run round my head;

“It isn’t really

Anywhere!

It’s somewhere else

Instead!”

The poem was included in the collection of poems in ‘When We Were Very Young’, with illustrations by the inimitable Ernest Shepard. Harold Fraser-Simson, a composer of light music, and best remembered for his musical, ‘The Maid of the Mountains’, set many of A.A. Milne’s poems to music, including ‘Halfway Down’.

It is a very sweet song and became well-known after it was used in ‘The Muppet Show’. In the first season, Robin the Frog, Kermit’s nephew, sat and sang it on a flight of stairs. It was one of Jim Henson’s favourite Muppet songs and was sung at his memorial service.

The song also featured in an episode of ‘Family Guy’.

Saturday 20 January 2024

 

Dog food*

                            The late Foxy, working Labrador, not greyhound

One day I was at the pet shop, stocking up on pet essentials – food and toys, that is, we have enough pets for the time being. Queuing up to pay, the customer behind me noticed the large bag of dog food in my trolley.

‘Oh, have you got a dog?’ she asked.

‘No,’ I said, ‘I’m starting my dog food diet again tomorrow.’

‘Does it work?’ she asked.

‘Well, the last time I tried it I lost 3 stone in six weeks,’ I replied, ‘And it’s so easy. You just keep a handful of kibble in your pocket and every time you feel peckish you eat a little. It’s amazing. I never felt hungry and I bought the Perfectly Balanced Nutritionally Complete mixture so that I got all the vitamins and minerals I needed. I saved a fortune on groceries and cooking, too.’

‘You said you’re starting it again,‘ she said. ‘Why did you stop?’

 ‘The side effects,’ I said.

‘Oh?’ she said, obviously longing to know but too polite to ask.

‘The first thing I noticed was that although my hair was really shiny, it was growing longer all over my body and I had an urge to keep scratching. That wouldn’t have been so bad but I was finding it difficult to get my leg up high enough to scratch behind my ears.’

She nodded sympathetically.

‘Then there was the water. I was drinking gallons of water every day so of course I spent a long time in the bathroom. Even when I was walking along the street I had the urge to mark my territory, so to speak, and then when I went to the doctor for my ‘flu jab, she asked me why I had gone down on all fours. She looked a bit surprised when I barked at her, then licked her hand.’

‘So that’s when you stopped?’

‘No, I was chasing a handsome Labrador across the road and a car knocked me down.‘

‘So why are you starting again?’

I looked at her in amazement. ‘I lost 3 stone in six weeks. That’s reason enough, surely?’

 

* Original idea pinched and adapted from elsewhere