Thursday, September 24, 2009


In recent history there have been many great failures:
  • Bert Newton's hair
  • Mark Latham's pancreas
  • Utegate
  • The ending of "The Birds"
  • The shape of the original Hubble telescope lens, and
  • The decision by Coles to stop importing my favorite satay sauce.
We can now add Ellen to this list.

The exam started last night with a simple exercise: walking on a loose lead from one traffic cone to another, then turning around and coming back.

Ellen picked up the cone in her mouth, then pulled like a really pully thing towards the puppies beyond the second cone.  I was told later that "her attention wasn't really on you."

The other exercises weren't much better, but she kicked arse at sitting.

She was the only dog to leave without a certificate, and she also got told she was overweight again.

We'll show them next term, Ellen.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Imminent Fail

Ellen comes from a reasonably intelligent family.  Now, I'm not very good with numbers, and I have trouble filling out forms without getting so nervous about making mistakes that I'll stuff them up two lines from the end and have to ask for a new one, but overall, I don't think I'm a thicky.  And the Fella is very intelligent (he has grammatical super-powers, and has even mastered rudimentary maths, but is not so good at changing washers.  Especially the one in the laundry that has been dripping for weeks and driving everyone crazy).  So, I reckon between the two of us we should be able to raise a reasonably bright child.

I know Ellen is adopted, but I would have hoped that some of our values, and calmness, might have rubbed off on her.  She has certainly been given every educational advantage, and if Sam Neill is right, the amount of steak she has been eating should have made for a Very Big Brain.

Despite all this, we are going to fail our Beginners Obedience Exam tonight.

Last week, in our final class, our (new) instructor concluded by saying, "Now, from what I've seen you'll all do fine in the test next week." Pause, then in our direction, "I'll talk to you after the class." My heart sank.  Ellen continued rolling around on her back as part of her ongoing experiment on how wide she can open her jaws.

After class, the teacher told me that it was "very unlikely" that we would pass, and also my dog was overweight.  Way to make me feel better, lady.  What other gems would she come up with to crush my fragile heart?  "Not every vet will tell you your dog needs to lose weight.  They think you don't want to hear it.  When you go to the doctor, you don't want him pointing out you are overweight, do you?"  So I am also fat.  Sigh.

The two of us will waddle off to our exam tonight.  Ellen won't mind failing.  She'll get to meet a whole new bunch of beginners next term.

Weasel-face probably won't want to talk to her any more though.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Crafty Like A Fox

Given I don't own any flouncy shirts, and we're almost out of rum, what better way to celebrate Talk Like A Pirate Day than with a trip to Spotlight, I thought.  This is no small excursion - it involves driving interstate (yes, yes, only to Queanbeyan, but I want to impress my Adelaide readers), finding a parking space in a small carpark that is shared with Supercheap Auto (second only to Bunnings for attracting blokes on a sunny weekend), and then waiting for twenty minutes in a queue of talkative older ladies who are buying fat quarters* and 10cm of this polarfleece and 50cm of that twill, and 4m of each of these poplins.......

Anyhow, before I got to the queue I found myself in the scrapbooking aisle.  I know I have been a little disparaging of scrapbooking at times, but I'm big enough to admit that they have some quite practical little tools, and I needed something to cut circles more neatly than I can do, and with less cussing.  As the Fella was not with me, I was enjoying touching all the tools and pressing buttons without being asked why I needed to touch everything, and also could we go home, surely we've been here for four hours, and where are the crochet hooks I'd rather dig my eyes out than look at any more Martha Stewart crap?

As I was poking things, a lost-looking woman with an armful of fat quarters approached me and said, "Hello, you look crafty."  I narrowed my eyes and engaged my wary face.  Did she mean I looked like someone who could make a wonderful planter using only a glove with the fingers cut off, two egg-cartons and some PVA?  Or did she mean I looked as though I might take her wallet if she dropped her guard?  In fairness, both are reasonable assessments of me, but I would never choose to do the former.  "I'm looking for ribbons," she continued.

"Arrrgh, there are ribbons, to be sure," I replied, in a confused blending of Talk Like A Pirate Day and Talk Like A Leprechaun Day.** "Ribbons aplenty, over yonder."

Actually, I didn't say all that, but I wish I had.  I just directed her to the ribbons.

And I found my circle-cutter, and my Big Interstate Adventure ended happily.

*for you non-crafting types, a fat quarter is like a regular quarter. But fat.
**which doesn't exist, but should.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Historical Conundrums

These are the questions that have been keeping me awake this week:

1: Did anyone hate technology before the heyday of Ned Ludd?  If so, what were these people called?

2: If you lived before before 500 AD and wanted to get medieval on someone's ass, how would you do it?

3: Were antiquated thoughts and actions called antediluvian before the Great Flood?  And why is "antediluvian" so pejorative?   After all, one of the greatest antediluvian ideas was Noah's* brainwave about building an ark.

4: I have a friend who has a Very Important Job, and her email footer warns that the contents of her emails are subject to the jurisdiction of section 70 of the Crimes Act 1914.  Does the Crimes Act of 1914 really have provision to protect emails?  Were lawyers puzzled by the clause until the invention of the internet some decades later gave it some clarity?  And are our dinner arrangements really worth that level of protection?

*although he doesn't claim all the credit for the idea.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Sometimes people think I am exaggerating Ellen's behaviour.  No, they say, shaking their heads and smiling, she couldn't possibly be THAT naughty.

Our report card last night said that we needed to work on "Calming."

This rather grainy video was shot with my phone last night.  All the other dogs were sitting very nicely at the feet of their owners.  Some were watching the instructor talking, some just looking up at their people with adoration.  Others were lying down quietly, waiting for their next instruction.

This is what Ellen was doing.

We have one more class, and then the exam.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sign Of The Tmies

If the Fella and I end up staying in Canberra, and if we end up having a non-furry child, we will not be sending that child to the local primary school.

To add to the genius, the sign has been there for well over a week.

The Fella reckons someone has changed it, but the case has three padlocks on it.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Hello Dolly

Having had a pretty good week that saw Ellen do all her tricks quickly and correctly at home (in exchange for liverwurst), I was keen to get to school on Thursday to show off how far we'd come.

Of course, kids don't tend to behave so nicely when they're around their friends.

Me: Sit!
Ellen: [LEAP! LEAP! BARKBARKBARK! LEAP! Stand with lolling tongue, wagging at Weasel-face]

Me: SIT!
Ellen: [LEAP! GRAB SLEEVE! LUNGE FOR POCKET CONTAINING STEAK PIECES! Roll around with ladybits immodestly in air and whites of eyes displayed, maniacally daring me to get close to big gnashing teeth.]

Me: SIT!! (with piece of steak held aloft.)
Ellen: [Sit. Very quietly.]

That is pretty much the pattern for all tricks: "sit," "stay," "drop," "drop that other dog," "leave that duck poo."  However, last week our teacher offered me the first words of encouragement I've had. 

"Don't worry," he said, "Every lab of this age is exactly the same.  Give her 18 months and she'll be a doll."

Hmmm, I thought.  She's already a doll.  It just happens to be this one:

Image via here

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Simple Pleasures

Spring is just delightful in what remains of our garden.  The daphne is a gorgeous afro of pink blooms, the first tiny green buds are springing from the gnarly bonsai trunks, and gang-gangs are sitting in the honeysuckle plucking at blossoms and croaking their creaky song.

Yesterday I watched Ellen in adorable puppy mode, gamboling after a butterfly in the late afternoon sun.  Then she caught the butterfly and ate it, which made me a little bit sad.

Oh, for non-Canberrans, this is a gang-gang.  They are the world's most hilarious birds.*

*with the possible exception of those ones with the pointy beaks that pick sheep's noses.

The Promise Of Fruit and Poo

Ellen tries very hard to destroy most things in our garden, but there are some things she can't reach.

These are our beautiful apricot blossoms.

I was enjoying the fragile beauty of these, but then the Fella pointed out that each of these will turn into an apricot, which the cockatoos will pluck off the tree and let fall to the ground, where Ellen will eat it, and it will have unfortunate results.  

Really. Unfortunate. Results.

Progress Report

Our new addition is finally earning her keep.  Last night I spilled some peas on the kitchen floor.  Ellen ate them all up.  We have had her two months, and that is the first useful thing she has done.

Unfortunately she is less helpful in the garden.  

On Sunday, the Fella and I decided to remove our temporary brick wall and repair the fence that Ellen had escaped through a number of weeks ago.  Of course Ellen wanted to help us, and was doing very useful things like picking up the hammer and taking it away, or just hanging around in order to poop where we wanted to stand.

Well, I thought.  Here's an excellent opportunity to practise some of those things we've been doing at school.  In particular, the "wait" command.  This is where we tie our dogs to a fence (actually, we only tie their leads. It would take a lot of string, and patience, to tie Ellen securely to a fence), and then we say "WAIT" as we go off and pretend to buy goat's cheese at the market.  The dog sits quietly, and we return and reward them with a kebab.  

In theory.

Ellen was duly tethered to a deck railing and told to wait.  She was nice and quiet, so we moved around the corner to continue fencing.

No noise for five minutes, so the Fella went around to check on her.  She was standing where we'd left her, but had done this to her lead:

Sigh.  She was very pleased to be back with us and sharing her building skills.

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