Thursday, July 30, 2009

10 Pieces of Advice For Ellen

Yesterday it was a month since we brought Ellen home.  It is lovely to have a dog around again, but I'd forgotten about some of the more interesting aspects.  For the Fella it is all new.  Terrifyingly new.

Anyhow, the Fella has grown very fond of her, and I think Ellen likes it here.  She's settling in nicely, but there are still some teensie things she needs to learn.  This is what I would like to tell her if she would listen to me:

1. Stuart may sit there docilely while you are licking his face, but rest assured he is biding his time before he launches a bloody revenge attack. Very bloody.

2. Plastic is delicious, but it's better to eat your very expensive bones and chew toys.  DVD cases are not chew toys.

3. I know it's you that farts during Spicks and Specks.  It's no good sharing a knowing look with the Fella and trying to blame me.

4. If you find a smashed watermelon when you're on walkies, it's OK to eat some of it.  It's not OK to eat most of it.  This has unfortunate results. 

5. You are never, ever, going to catch a magpie.   Or a wattle bird.  Or a group of children.  Standing there with your tail nice and straight then hurtling at them like a demented thing is not effective.

6. We know you're not deaf.

7. We would prefer it if you didn't remove whole palings from the fence and chew them up on the deck.

8. It's very sweet when you sleep with your head on my lap, but when you wake up and chew my belly, it is unpleasant.

9. You have a fine voice, but it's best if you don't use it at 2:00am.

10. Dead birds can be admired from a reasonable distance.  You don't necessarily have to roll all over them.

She will eventually learn the first point, but I am not confident about the rest.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lessons From My Dog: #132

If you can fit it in your mouth and run with it, it's a stick, not a log.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


My first experience with a computer was a Commodore 64 in Grade 6.  When something went wrong with it, it was usually pretty easy to find the source of the problem: either someone had unplugged it so they could plug in the fish-tank pump, or someone had changed the text colour to the same colour as the background, or there were Cheezel crumbs in the tape player.

Things are a little more complicated in the noughties.  For example, I was just looking at some of my blog's stats, and it has a breakdown of crawl errors. Now, I don't even know what crawl errors are, but I've learned they can have simple causes like "time-out," or "not found."

My blog had none of those problems.  The five crawl errors listed all occurred because they had been "restricted by robots."  What?!?  As an eleven year old, sitting there eating Cheezels and waiting for the Pitfall Harry tape to load, this is just the sort of problem I imagined would happen in the future.  Then, as now, it made me uneasy and whimpery.  ROBOTS are determining who reads my blog and under what circumstances???

Until now, the Fella's greatest fear has been cookies*, but he is obviously unaware of the automaton menace.  When he gets home we shall board ourselves up immediately inside the house with lots of canned food, two pasties, and some Maltesers.

But we'll leave the dog outside.  She's still in my bad books. 

*the computery kind, not the chocolate-chip kind.  Nobody is frightened of those ones.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lab On The Run

Yesterday Ellen escaped.  Twice.

The first time, I was sitting in the study, and out of the window I saw a dog where no dog should be.  I rushed out, and found that two palings into the neighbour's yard were pushed out.  Using my super detectiving skills, I deduced this was done with the same rock-hard skull that had bruised my elbow the day before.

Dog was retrieved, and bricks cleverly piled up against escape route.

The second incident occurred when I was at the shops.  Received a call from the Fella to say a nice man called Neil was restraining Ellen on a leash in his front yard.  I rushed home, and saw how Ellen had climbed over my clever brick wall and pushed the palings back a little higher up the fence.  She may be the worst dog ever who is a nutcase with bizarre behaviours, but she is not dumb.

Collected Ellen's leash and walked down the street where a man called Neil in a muddied suit was holding what appeared to be four psychotic black howler monkeys that had got tangled up together and mysteriously grown extra teeth.  Neil was very nice and understanding, and I managed to get Ellen home.  Slowly and bitingly.

She was calm enough to be allowed inside after din-dins, but then this happened:

I know what you're thinking: "NOOOOOO, she was a lunatic, and there was no hope of teaching her manners, and I know you're sick of her eating your solar lights, but was there any need to massacre her in such a violent fashion??? And why would you choose to do it on the carpet???"

Actually, she's still alive.  She was just so pleased with the day's exploits that she swept my glass of wine off the coffee table with a big waggy tail.  Sigh.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Sometimes you come across people that you don't like.

There's no rational reason, but they make you squirm a little, and you think that if they touched you, you'd scream and flail your arms and sob a little bit, and maybe even hiss like an angry possum.  And you couldn't help yourself, even though important people might be watching who might one day want to offer you a job, a tasty treat, or even help you load your Billy bookcases into the back of your car in the Ikea carpark when you're so clearly struggling with the weight of the flatpack and the nausea of a belly full of Swedish meatballs.

There is such a man who works in one of my favorite supermarkets.  It's a supermarket I really like because it reduces cheeses quite significantly on a Tuesday when they're nice and ripe, and I can buy six cheeses for the price of two, and then I can go home with a flush of "reduced to clear" triumph, before the "oh no, how am I going to eat all these before tomorrow" dread sinks in.

My nemesis works on the checkout.  Always the checkout I end up at.  If I choose one that has a nice looking lady on it, he will arrive after I've unloaded my trolley and send the lady on a break.  

He has beady eyes in a head that is too big for his skinny pale frame, and he judges me with a piercing stare as each electronic beep registers another of my cheesy conquests.  I want to look at my feet, but daren't take my eyes off him, lest one of my prizes is scanned at full price.  When he's done, he flashes his very pointy teeth as he asks if I want any cash out.  I shake my head too quickly and stand there with James Mathison eyes until he hands me my receipt with his pale claw.

It's very fortunate that I have cheese when I get home, because nothing else can comfort and gruntle me.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Whispering Jack

Ellen's dog whisperer just left.  Although he didn't whisper so much as growl, shout, wrestle and spray water.

He had lots to say, but my favorite things were:

"She's the worst dog I've seen, and I've seen over 300."
"She has some good qualities and some bizarre ones."
"She is out of control."

Usually, he said, younger dogs were easier to control, but Ellen was a little more "highly-strung" than most.  So to control her, we need to put her on the very expensive lead and choker chain he sold me, and growl at her like a mentally unbalanced person when she acts up.  This works to calm most dogs down in two weeks, but it can take six weeks if the dog is "dumb."  Luckily she's not dumb.  She's just a nutcase.

Oh, and the guy's name wasn't Jack, it was Brian.  I changed it to preserve his anonymity.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Stuart and Ellen's Musical Journey

Scar/Missy Higgins

Psycho Killer, Qu'est-ce que c'est/Talking Heads

Bright Eyes/Art Garfunkel

O Clap Your Hands/Orlando Gibbons

How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?/Bob Merrill

Ca Plane Pour Moi (I Am The King Of The Divan)/Plastic Bertrand

Bootylicious/Destiny's Child

I'm An Asshole/Denis Leary

Lessons From My Dog: #48

Always make sure the kitchen cupboards are securely closed

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Diet Update

Today Ellen has eaten the following:
  1. Expensive breakfast of gourmet dogfood that is designed to keep Ellen glossy and regular, stuffed inside an even more expensive rubber thing that is supposed to provide "environmental stimulation" and stop her destroying said environment.  Food worked a treat.  Rubber thing - not so effective.
  2. One pineapple ring.  Delicious, nutritious, and gives a touch of paradise to Ellen's Canberra winter days.
  3. Half a doormat.
  4. Two pieces of broken plastic.  Leftovers from yesterday's meal of solar garden light.
  5. One dogwood tree.  In a terracotta pot.
  6. One bonsai pot.  Small.  Green glazed.  Not actually eaten, but stolen from toolshed and smashed on the deck.
  7. A cactus.  More specifically, a cactus that was scavenged with some delight from a big bin six years ago.  It has flowered beautifully every year, and has been a constant, if prickly, companion.
  8. Some water.  Presumably to dislodge prickles.
  9. Horse poo.  Always a highlight of walkies.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What Have I Become?

There have been many great battles throughout history: Alien vs. Predator, the people vs. Larry Flint, and Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus.  But none of these has been fought with the focussed intensity of Ellen vs. Her Leash.  

Like a drooling, eye-rolling, jumping Princess Leia trying to free herself of the chains that bind her to Jabba the Hutt, Ellen will invariably decide about halfway through a walk that she doesn't like wearing the leash, and while she's at it, she might as well try and bite your arm.

Basically, she transforms from this:

To this:

Image modified from one here

Needless to say, this cannot continue unabated until she is a big strong dog.  So I called a dog-whispering-type man who will come around next week and, for $110 allegedly cure her of this bad habit in one hour.

This all sounds great, but I realised with some shame what is happening here: MY DOG HAS A THERAPIST.  This puts me firmly in the league of "people who I thought were big fat wankers and I was never in a million years going to become one of them and I was always going to be cool and so were all my friends and oh how we'd laugh at those yuppie idiots for ever."  

But I've realised the dog thing is only the aglet of my shoelace of shame.  The more I think about it, the further I have fallen from my unwashed and carefree days in Carlton sharehouses, and the closer I have inexorably slunk to my suburban nest of low-fat spreads and high- definition viewings of Grand Designs with a glass of Pinot Grigio.  If I'd stopped to think, these might have been some of the things that have marked my fall:

  • My last shopping list was created on my iPod Touch.
  • That list included balsamic vinegar.
  • I go to the farmers' market.  In a Prius.  And I buy organic leeks there.
  • I use Aesop cleansers.  Once upon a time I thought Imperial Leather was a bit too fancy for every day.
  • I enjoy chips and gravy for their culinary kitsch value, not just for the gravy.
  • I no longer wear pyjama pants to the video shop.  Even if they could pass for pants.
  • I yell at the TV because I am outraged at pornographic music videos, not just because I am drunk.
Good grief.  There's no hope.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

Very. Very. Unlikely.

From the ABC news website:

Mystery skull

Source:Supplied, NSW Police
Published:Tuesday, July 7, 2009 8:46 AEST

A skull sits on the beach in Mona Vale, on Sydney's northern beaches in September 2008. The skull of a child, thought to be around 700 years old, was discovered after it washed up on the beach. Police have appealed for the owner to come forward.

Good luck with that appeal guys.  I imagine it will go something like this:

Skeleton walks into police station.

S: Hello.  I have lost my skull.  I believe you may have found it.

Constable: We may be in the possession of cranial material from a person of interest.  Our investigations are ongoing.

S: It is my skull, constable.

Constable: You must understand we need to take every precaution against vexatious claimants. Can you prove the skull in question is lawfully yours.

S: Well, I have no skull.  Also I am 700 years old.

Constable: We need to be sure it is your skull.  Does it have any distinguishing marks.

S: No. It's just a skull.  With some teeth.

Constable: All right.  Fill out this form, and an officer will contact you in seven to ten working days to discuss your claim to the lost property.

S: Can you read the form out to me?  I am vision impaired.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Tao of Poo

The world is full of those nauseating little books with pithy little words of wisdom that are supposed to make you smile and think a little wistfully about things.  I struggle to do those two things at the same time, so they just give me the irrits.

Winnie the Pooh, fat babies and, of course, dogs are favorite subjects of these books.  Gems such as "Wag and the world wags with you", or "Love is a wet nose" accompany soft-focus photos of adorable and well-behaved puppies with big blue eyes and wrinkly little smiles.  Of course I'm not immune to the charms of a milky little bundle of fur, but I doubt these dogs are able to pass on much wisdom at all.  They clearly lack life experience, and let's be frank, brains.

That said, I've found that there are many valuable things a dog can teach us.  So, based on my experience over the past week, I present my list of 


1: Poo is delicious.  Possum, bird or dog poo (your own or someone else's), it doesn't matter.  Just eat it before someone yells at you.

2: Being really naughty will get you treats.  Your owner has probably read one of those books that tell her to NEVER punish you when you're doing the wrong thing, but to reward good behaviour.  So jump at her face, then tear her clothes for a bit.  When you tire and sit down you'll get a liver chip.

3: Clothes pegs are clearly extremely valuable, as they are very closely guarded.  Run off with a pair of underpants from the washing basket and leave them in a puddle. When your owner runs to retrieve them, the peg basket will be unguarded, and you can snatch a whole mouthful.

4: If you have to vomit, do it on your bed.

5: Unless you can actually see your owner holding a treat, it's best to feign deafness.

6: Worrying at your stitches will probably result in treats.

7: It's fun to ruin people's clothes.  Visitors will smile politely at your friendly exuberance as you are tearing at their trousers like a shark.  This will work until your owner notices the visitors and comes outside.  Then you will get a liver chip for settling down and being a good girl.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Carpe Canem

We have started a family.  The good kind, not the "Oh crap, I'm all banged up, we'd better get to New York for a shotgun wedding before the bump gets too big to blame on Reeses Peanut Butter Cups" kind.

This is Ellen.  She may or may not be all labrador, but she is all dog.

You know, people throw around the term "dog-proofing" too readily, like it's a very easy process that involves keeping cakes off the floor and not leaving the cat tied up where the dog likes to sleep.  What people don't realise (and I clearly don't number myself amongst "people" any more) is that dog-proofing means:
A: locking away anything softer than 9.5 on the Mohs scale, 
B: locking away anything that is harder than 9.5 on the Mohs scale but small enough to be carried away and hidden in the garden, and 
C: putting cinder blocks around the entire perimeter of your property, lest your dog tire of tearing at your sleeves and decide to try and escape.

Ellen has settled nicely into a routine already, and has worked out her favorite things.

One of the things Ellen likes to do is to eat the cane chairs

Ellen also likes to eat the wooden furniture

All that wood makes Ellen thirsty.  When she drinks, she likes to put a big wet nose on the camera.

But it's not all bad.  She knows some basic things, and as the lady at the shelter said, she's very "food-motivated", so like me, she can learn through tasty treats.  These treats can be used as incentives to reinforce house rules.

One of the first rules is that she is not allowed on the furniture.  She has a bed that's more expensive than ours, and feet as muddy as you'd expect from a water-dog who's very excited about her drink bowl.

It's not easy to enforce the rules all the time though.  'Specially when she is soooo tired and adorable at the end of a long day's chewing.

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