Posts Tagged ‘dogs’

Dogs on Sunday

November 2, 2013

In Berlin

We stayed for the first few days at a lovely place – the Yogitel on Tschaikowski Strasse – which is really a community of families who teach and practice yoga and various therapies.  Part of alternative Berlin, I guess, and very very cheap.  They don’t do breakfast or meals, so one pops out to the local Bäckerei first thing in the morning – only to discover that it is the weekend and so the place is full of families, dogs, relaxation.

On the way down the street I spotted:

lovely tri-colour border collie seen on Grabbeallee

lovely tri-colour border collie seen on Grabbeallee

This beautiful chap was the first I photographed – just because he looked a lot like Bandit.  Nice leather lead, too.

FB keeps asking me to tag these seedy characters, who watched my entire sequence of photographic exploits.  NO, facebook, I really don't know who they are.

FB keeps asking me to tag these seedy characters, who watched my entire sequence of photographic exploits. NO, facebook, I really don’t know who they are.

The streets are populated by families (many wearing bright green), cyclists, dogs. The atmosphere is warm and relaxed.  Little kids come to the shop by themselves and go out with big bags of croissants or buns.  Two little girls had brought the family dog – but I didn’t take their picture – it doesn’t feel seemly to take kids’ photos, and so I have to deny you many many bright green garments, dog owners and cyclists.  But I did take some photos of dogs waiting willingly outside the Bäckerei, or trotting along with their owners.

Standing patiently outside the Bäckerei without a lead at all.  He was there for some time, solid as a rock.

Standing patiently outside the Bäckerei without a lead at all. He was there for some time, solid as a rock.

Not far away was this little poodle –


When I tried to take Pablo’s picture, his owner gave me a rather formal ‘look’ and asked me what I was doing – the only person who was even slightly suspicious.  I explained (best German, worked out in advance) that I was making a collection called ‘Dogs on Sunday’ and she said ‘OK’.  Then her friend got Pablo to pose like this.



– We found out later that we were in fact staying in a quarter (Schönhausen) that had been in East Berlin.  It had been rather smart, though: the location for the foreign embassies.  Indeed, many houses there looked very fine indeed, especially on the Mayakovsky Ring nearby.

By the time I photographed Ken I was becoming quite confident about asking owners for permission.  Ken’s owner spoke really good English and was more than happy to chat. – Ken is a rescue dog and very friendly – you can see from the tail.  He even accepted a treat from me.  ( I didn’t ask about the name.)  He, too, waited outside the bakery off-lead.

little dog at the Backerei

little dog at the Backerei

OK, I thought, that was fun.  Then I caught a very crowded tram down Grabbeallee

discreet, conscientious: a dog that manages a bus, crowds and a complex lead, and gets everything right.

Discreet, conscientious: a dog that manages a bus, crowds and a complex lead, and gets everything right.  You had to admire his style.

to the Mauer Park  ( a park that contains a short stretch of the Wall).  Here the atmosphere is absolutely hopping on a Sunday.  Hordes of people, singers and buskers and ‘acts’ involving comedy/juggling.

slack-wire walking

slack-wire walking – also note green garment on the little boy drawn from the crowd to assist. (‘Leo’)

A massively tempting flea market; loads of fabulous street food.  And (a German speciality, I later found) – deeply concealed toilet facilities.  This last can be a bit of an issue for me – but a helpful stall holder saved the day.  And, to my great joy, I had at last found someone whose English was worse than my German: we communicated effectively auf Deutsch. She was immensely kind and helpful – made absolutely sure that i knew where I was going.

But I am straying from the point of this post: the people in the park were accompanied by their dogs, in the most natural and unassuming way imaginable.  Your correspondent, photographer and dog-lover, was bowled away by the sheer variety and numbers.  And all – all, I tell you – impeccably behaved and happy. Here are a few:


Sorry about the angle – it hardly looks like a dog at all.


Excellent owner-plus-dog combo. Is that dog even on a lead?


A lot of people use these great harness contraptions: must try them out.


This fine fellow was unusual for being a clear cut breed. (most of the dogs at the park were excellent bitsers). I think he is a Bernese Mountain dog.

Tall thin person with tall thin dogs.

Tall thin person with tall thin dogs.

stalking away - having checked out the other dog.  Owners were picnicking nearby.

stalking away – having checked out the other dog. Owners were picnicking nearby.

belongs to a stall holder - maturely calm in the crowd

belongs to a stall holder – maturely calm in the crowd

There’s more to come about the Mauerpark – but I need to find my camera’s connection lead – somewhere in my packing, before I can upload the photographs.  Another day!

Questions – truth or dare?

December 27, 2012

I am keen on telling the truth to children – for lots of reasons, but the two main ones are: because I want to set a good example; and because I want them to find me reliable.

My grandchildren asked me two truly difficult questions this morning.

Their Dad had gone to work early, and they were staying on with me till their Mum came to collect them after breakfast.  Anyway, they came and sat on the bed while I drank my cup of tea.  We chatted of this and that in a friendly way.

They asked ‘Why do you love dogs so much?’  That was where I stumbled – maybe there are too many reasons, and I felt under pressure to answer quickly and truthfully, but also to get the really best answers out first, as I know they will stop listening after one or two reasons, and move on to the next ‘why?’  So I said that I grew up with dogs (scepticism here – they have dogs, but don’t interact with them very much), that dogs always tell the truth (even though sometimes they steal stuff) and so you always know where you are with them.  (That led to a pause.)  I think I might have slipped in some banalities about dogs as loyal, and as company.  Then they said ‘But it’s boring having to walk them’ and I answered that I liked to get out into the fresh air.  After they had gone, I was still wondering whether I had really given the truthful answers.  More and more responses came to me – how good it is to have something to look after; how snuggly they are (even when ‘a wet dog is the lovingest’); how they look me in the eye and I feel that we know each other across the gulf of species; how it might be about power and obedience when I enjoy training them; how proud I am of them when they are praised by strangers.  How they might be child substitutes – I don’t think so.  Maybe children are dog-substitutes – has anyone suggested that?  How they teach us to live in the moment; to bear adversity and old age; to be joyful for small cause as well as for large.

Of course, that answer took moments to say, and even fewer moments for the rest to flash through my mind.  The conversation was moving onwards briskly.  The next question was  fairly easy: ‘Why do you have pillows on the other side of the bed?’  (A. For when Grandad comes to stay.)  And: ‘Why does he sleep on that side of the bed?’  (A.  He likes the right-hand side).  OK – I know there are lots of answers to that second one – the feminist answer; the noble, or ‘sword hand’, answer; the ‘Adam’s Rib’ answer.  But I felt fine with the mild evasion as offered – it, too, was true, even though superficial.  It triggered a ritual sequence: one of these kiddies is right-handed, the other left-handed, and they often tell me this.   Bored, I suggested writing with the wrong hand, and reached for a notebook and pen beside the bed.  (‘Is that your diary?’ – ‘No, just a notebook I write things in.’)  We had fun with that, but time was knocking on and their mother was due at ten.  I jumped up, followed by the dogs (who generally come with me to the shower), to hear a real stumper: ‘Why do you love books so much?’

The best response might be something like ‘How much time have you got?’  But what, dear reader, would you have said?  Take a moment now before you read on – bear in mind that you have at most one minute in which to think and speak before their thoughts will have flown off elsewhere.  After all, they don’t know when they have hit on a big question.

So I said: ‘You’re right.  I love books.  I think nearly everything useful that I know has come from books.  And [oddly faithful to my theme of the day] books tell me true things.’  Now – I know that I needed to modify that last one – but there is something in it, too.  Think of Bruno Bettelheim and The Uses of Enchantment if you believe fiction to be untruthful.  I didn’t mention their rôle as comforter, companion, escape-route, inspirer.  What would you have said?

Next, I said briskly, ‘I’m off to the shower’.

‘Why do you like showers?’  (Easy one – no thought needed.)

‘I like to start the day feeling fresh’

‘I don’t have showers.’ (He runs interference a lot – another no-brainer.)

‘You’re fine – you had a bath last night.  See you in five.’


Later, tap tap, their mother came for them.  The nine-year-old said (among other things, of course): ‘And I got a DVD of The Witches.’

‘You got what?’ her mother said

‘The Witches’

‘The what?’

‘The Witches, Roald Dahl, you know.’

‘Oh – yeah – .’

I’m not convinced that the name was familiar to her, but maybe she was just thinking of other things.

“The Dogs Who Came to Stay”

December 8, 2012
A friend sent me a book to read and comment on.  Here is what I emailed back to him.
Dear Joe
You asked for my thoughts on the book by George Pitcher.  I whizzed through it in a day – it’s that kind of book.  I think I had feelings and reactions rather than thoughts, because I took a bit of a dislike to the author.  He seems unaware of the rest of the world, but also quite unwilling to  open up about the interesting bits within himself.  Perhaps he has a wide circle of friends who all urged him to write it, but at the end of the day the memoir just isn’t his medium.  (Joyce Carol Oates for goodness sake!  And Anthony Storr comments on the endpapers.  What’s that about?)  And indeed he does seem to be a bit of namedropper (though trying hard not to be).  It’s a very old book by a very old person – who else would call a longstanding gay relationship “two bachelors”?  I can understand his wish for concealment, but I don’t like the feeling it gave me.
Writing style: educated amateur/ banal.  The topic calls for much more poetic diction and for some richness.  As we say in the trade ‘show don’t tell’.
content: he mentions life and death, and the fact that dogs can teach us a lot about these things.  But somehow choosing not to get stuck in to that idea – not to philosophise it, I guess – diminishes it.  The story of the dogs would have something, if the writing was stronger, but as it is we have fairly low-grade natter.
Books about practical topics have the opportunity to inform – but he doesn’t get into that.  I have found the same problem with books about canal boating: neither poetic enough, nor informative enough.  Either focus would be great, but a skimpy bit of both doesn’t cut it. Maybe reading the sensitive and complex Kathleen Jamie has spoiled me for less skilled matter.  (Do you know her stuff? – the prose, I mean, more than the poetry.  Blackwells shelves her work, Findings, under “Travel Writing”, which is misleading, almost perverse).
I do know of a work that does these things really well – but it’s a film – called ‘My Dog Tulip’ – very clever cartoon/animation, based on material by J R Ackerley, who really can write.  The film trailer is a bit American – the film is better and more creative than the trailer – but this gives you an idea. .  Ackerley too describes himself as a ‘bachelor’ – but I don’t mind that from 1956, especially when his insights can be so neatly and beautifully put forward.  The American voiceover pre-judges and falsely contextualises – try to ignore that, and get hold of the film!
(Actually I didn’t send him this picture – I added it for the blog.)
Your word was disappointed – I’m thinking frustrated.  It’s on its interrupted way to Oxfam now.
(I hope you get it that I thoroughly enjoyed tearing it to shreds! Thank you for the opportunity!)
All good wishes  for Xmas!

Queen Charlotte Sound

April 25, 2011
Captain Cook is more than just a household name in New Zealand – he is admired, revered, even loved.  Everyone, it seems, knows some of his story.  His biographies are prominent on the bookshop shelves, and there’s a new one coming out later this year.  Cook has been credibly described as a genius – for his technical navigational skills his scientific acumen and his extraordinary seamanship. He was one of those enthusiastic thinkers and doers who seem to have abounded in the eighteenth century – and they appreciated him. The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) four-part documentary was being re-run while we were in Auckland, which is how I know all this.  Thank goodness!  We caught two parts of it, and it is absolutely rivetting stuff.  Though the acting is a trifle wooden, and the material on his wife tries to fill out absent detail with mawkish speculation, the information itself  is  marvellous and really well presented.  The descriptions of his closing years and death in Hawaii are moving, and very credibly analysed.  There’s a trailer for the series on youtube: 
And if you know a bit about Cook (1728-1779), you will never be short of conversation, should you meet a New Zealander.  The BBC summary of his life is good – though it minimizes what he did in New Zealand and emphasizes Australia. 
I didn’t know much of this back when I booked the ferry from Wellington to Picton (en route to Nelson) – I was just trying to travel overland (and oversea?) as much as possible, seeing lots of the country at close quarters and avoiding the un-green activity of flying. (I am guilty of far too much air travel already).  So you can imagine my delight to discover that Picton is at the southern tip of Queen Charlotte Sound, Cook’s favourite anchorage of all time.  He even travelled across half the Pacific to get there, on one occasion.  Quite why isn’t clear – people say it was such a good, safe anchorage, where he could rest and repair his ship.  But it does seem like an awfully long way to go – I can’t help wondering whether there was more to it than that.  Maybe when I get around to reading the biography I’ll find out.

entrance to Queen Charlotte Sound - that little notch between the hills

The ferry here has already crossed Cook Strait (yes, him again) between the North and South islands  and is already within the Sound.  Its route sweeps in westwards, and then turns sharply into Tory Channel.  This picture was taken looking back towards the North (or maybe more like the North East), and you can just see the curve of the wake, outlining where it has travelled. 
I was trying to check the actual compass points for you on a map when I came across this marvellous photo of Tory Channel and Queen Charlotte Sound, taken by Phillip Capper (I found it on Flickr).

 All the world was fresh and glorious: as delightful as if it (and I) had been newly created.  It was a Monday so there were not many people out and about.  I was lucky to see one little sailing boat slipping along.  

There are seals in the Sound, but although I pointed the camera at them and it went click, they are quite invisible in the photos.


(No – this is not one of my ‘find the seal’ pictures.  I genuinely can’t see it – you just have to take my word that it was over by the little sailing boat, and visibly eating a fish.  I could almost hear the crunching.)  You could draw your own seal into the picture, if you like. 
From Picton, it was a bus trip through flat agricultural land, past the vineyards of the Marlborough region, then over a  jack-knifing mountain range and down into Nelson in the warm glow of late afternoon.   Encumbered by my embarrassingly massive suitcase, I eventually met my friend at the tourist centre.  A long day, and a tiring one.  It was wonderful to be scooped up into her four-wheel drive and transported to her charming home near Nelson.  Bertie the Jack Russell made me welcome.

Bertie Russell

Doggoes visiting the floods

January 16, 2011

Bearing in mind that the floods were preceded by weeks of heavy rain, it was hardly surprising that the parks on that first dry morning were full of children fizzing with their released need to play. Adults drifted around with umbrellas, and brought their dogs.  I took just a few photos – a wonderful way of striking up a conversation: ‘D’you mind if I take a snap of your dog?  I’m collecting photos of dogs visiting the floods.’

I can tell you that dogs, by and large, are not very interested in floodwaters.  Horses (on Prior’s Pocket Road) watch water with great interest when it is rising, but not afterwards.

Two Rottweilers on Montanus Drive, near Bellbowrie shops

I didn’t ask their names – note their disdain for floodwater? They are looking in exactly the opposite direction.

a very friendly bouncy young dog also on Montanus Drive - the owners tried really hard to get him to pose for me

same doggo - posing better now

small fluffy dog near Bellbowrie - your guess is as good as mine

Jack - a beautiful Border Collie we met near the flood where Pullen Pullen creek was covering the Mt Crosby Road - just near Dolman Road

I like the way that a photo of a dog generally also involves some pictures of peoples’ feet. I wouldn’t crop them for worlds.

Jack again - this road is in bushland and I was really pleased to see that he was let off the lead as we walked away

There were lots of insects and large worms swimming to dry ground on this road.  We had been trying to find a way around the flooded bit of Moggill Road (after the floods were beginning to go down) – but no luck here.

This is, described by her owners as a 'media whore'. Location: Moggill ferry, where a track had been beaten through the long grass to a vantage point where people could see the ferry, riding the massive flux of brown water, and refusing to sink or to be swept away

the lovely, alert Kelsey - a young female Alsatian-type puppy on her way to see Moggill Ferry

'Mister' was extremely well-groomed with a most beautifully softly fluffy topknot - the owner assured me that he is really a proper poodle, even though quite short-legged.

Mister, being so glamorous, seemed accustomed to quite a lot of attention. He, too, was on his way to see Moggill Ferry. I love the way this photo also shows you his owner’s painted toenails and the little container for dog-poo bags, so efficiently located on his lead.

Daisy, deliriously happy to be out and about, was said to be a beagle-cross, and she was ‘the cheapest in the pets ads’.  Her owners seemed a little apologetic about her patches of mange – we tried to turn her so that they wouldn’t show.  They agreed with me that it could be mites or perhaps some allergy, but they had tried everything.  Daisy had been to see Moggill Ferry.

How I wish I had taken more photos, and made better notes about the conversations I had with all the dogs and their owners!

(Thanks to my friend Val for the lovely word ‘doggoes’)

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