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‘Did you know that there are over 300 words for love in canine?’ Gabriel Zevin.

When I arrive home after being out of the house all day I am always met at my front door by my small (but extremely loud) pack of fur children (I swear the whole neighbourhood knows when I get home).  Molly will run in circles barking at the top of her lungs.  Mabel will wriggle, grin her lop-sided grin and yip excitedly . . . and then there’s Maudie . . .

Maudie comes at me like a doggie-sunami, sweeping aside anything in her path (including her sisters).  She will shriek with excitement, hopping about on her back legs and waving her front paws wildly in the air, and then, quite suddenly, she will realise something is missing.  She will skid to a halt, do a complete about-face, and hurtle headlong back into the depths of the house in search of that missing something.  She’s forgotten to bring me her ‘Ball’ . . .

Ball is one of Maudie’s 300 words for love.  It is her comfort and joy.  (Think Linus and his blanket.)  She takes her ball to bed with her in the evening, and it is the first thing she looks for in the morning. She takes it outside to sit in the sun with her and it has its own special place beside her on the sofa in the evenings.  The only time I ever see her really upset is if Mabel steals it from her and refuses to give it back.  (This causes such a ruckus that I usually have to intervene on Maudie’s behalf.  Mabel can be a real little *&#% when she wants to be . . . )  

Unfortunately, Ball is now in imminent danger of being loved to death.  Comprised of some sort of dense squishy foam the constant and unyielding onslaught of Maudie-love (along with Mabel nibbling pieces off it occasionally just to stir her sister up) has seen it begin to disintegrate at an alarming rate.  It used to be the size of regular tennis ball, but has now shrunk to the size of a (weirdly shaped) golf ball. What happens when Ball crumbles completely and Maudie is left bereft doesn’t bear thinking about.  So for the last few months I have been quietly searching for some kind of replacement.  It has proved no easy task.

It’s not that Maudie doesn’t love a new toy—quite the opposite.  Every new thing I have brought home for her has been a joy and a delight.  For about five minutes. Then it has been gently discarded and rarely looked at again.  Nothing (so far) has come close to competing for her affections.  I was beginning to despair.  And then a couple of weeks ago I came across a site selling cat balls.  (That doesn’t quite sound right.  Perhaps I should have said ‘ balls for cats’ . . .  )

Anyway, these seemed to be about the same size as Ball is now and made of the same squishy material.  (I couldn’t get a green one but I thought (hoped) that she might be more concerned with the taste and texture than the colour.)  In fact, so convinced was I that these balls were exactly what I was looking for that I bought a bunch of them (6 balls for one dollar.  Woo Hoo!  ‘Hey big spender . . .’ )

When they finally arrived early this week I was so excited to show them to Maudie that I gave them a huge build up.  I worked her up into a frenzy of anticipation as I slowly undid the wrappings.  And she loved it. Her eyes grew wide and she yipped excitedly and pawed at the packet.  I held up one of the new balls and she launched herself at it, grabbed it and took off running.  She ran twice around the house in glee—yay—a new ball!  She threw it in the air and caught it and threw it again.  She took it outside and showed it her favourite sunny spot in the back garden.  She rolled it around in her mouth and chomped on it and even rumbled a warning at Mabel when she wandered too close.

Feeling very pleased with myself and confident I had at least found a contender I took myself off to do a couple of chores and make myself a nice cup of tea.  When I returned I found the living-room littered with shredded wrapping paper (I should have seen that coming) and a scattering of small, brightly coloured balls.

And there was Maudie—fast asleep and snoring happily on the couch . . .

. . . and nestled safely between her two front feet was . . . you guessed it . . . her old, decrepit, smelly, beloved Ball . . .

‘Maudie Maudie Maudie—go find me a ball . . . ‘

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘The palest ink is better than the best memory.’ Chinese Proverb.

I have been feeling a little bit despondent about my sketching lately.  I have still managed to work myself up to doing a bit of drawing during the week but I have felt somewhat . . .  uninspired . . . to say the least.  I look at the fabulous sketches of my fellow online students and arty friends, and see that they have done their sketches ‘on the bus’ or ‘in my lunch break’ or ‘in the doctor’s waiting room’ and I, who have no (valid) excuses for not sketching (and obviously a lot more free time on my hands than some of these people) feel like a complete wastrel.

This feeling is not entirely unexpected of course.  I’m in the doldrums.  It’s happened before and, no doubt, will happen again, but . . .  sigh . . .

In the past, feeling like this has resulted in me stopping drawing altogether, sometimes for years, but I am determined that is not going to happen this time.  I am going to try and push through, and if that means a sketchbook full of crappy, uninspiring sketches, then so be it!   (That sentence was full of false bravado by the way.  ‘So be it!’  Ha!  Who am I kidding?  I still get really upset with myself when I do a crappy, unspired sketch, but I am trying a little positive psychology on myself so I’ll let it go . . . )

In an effort to suck myself into a more positive frame of mind I looked back over my very first sketchbook, which I started last year. In it I found one of the first ‘outdoor’ sketches I attempted.  With it I  wrote — ‘. . .  just to be clear, the pots are actually standing on a garden of bark chips (not just a patch of concrete)—but I have no idea how to draw bark chips so I just pretended they wasn’t there.  I also ignored the rest of the garden—the back fence, the Hills Hoist, the three madcap dogs chasing each other in and around the pots—and anything else that was too hard.  I think that’s called ‘artistic licence’ . . .’

At Sketchbook Skool they teach that there are no ‘bad’ drawings.  Each sketch we do is a learning experience and therefore important in itself.  Although I still struggle internally with this concept (I still believe that some of my drawing ‘experiences’ have been, and continue to be, pretty gruesome) I have tried to take this on board and so, although at times still sorely tempted, I no longer rip these offending pages out of my sketchbooks.  I may not ever show these horrors to anybody else but there they will remainpale (or sometimes scarily bright) memories of my ongoing artistic endeavours.

Finding that earlier sketch put me in mind of another I did, much more recently, of the same garden. It’s from a different angle (it was a cold day so the girls and I sat in the warmest spot we could find) but otherwise much is unchanged.  The bird bath and many of the plants are the same—and I still haven’t worked out how to draw bark chips or the dogs racing around the gardenbut, in spite of that, I do like the second drawing more than the first, and that’s definitely a step in the right direction.

So, sketching slump or no, I will soldier on.  I am not going to give up.  Realistically, how could I anyway?

What on earth would I do with all the cupboards (and drawers and boxes) still full of lovely (empty) sketchbooks. . .  and pens . . . and inks . . .  and pencils . . . and paints . . . and pastels and . . .

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘I can resist everything, except temptation.’ Oscar Wilde.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

Why is it, do you think, that the moment I decide—and I am talking the instant the decision is made—that I am (absolutely, definitely, starting right now) going to lose those extra couple of kilos which have somehow sneakily (re)appeared on my already ample backside since this time last year . . . that, suddenly, inexorably, all I can manage to think about is what I am going to eat next . . .

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Donald Duck. “Quacking” people up since 1934 . . .

A couple of months ago, David, the owner of our local movie house, The Plaza Theatre, asked me to do a tidy-up job on an original 1940s advertising board he had recently acquired.  Having never tackled anything like that before I was a bit nervous about taking it on, but I said I’d give it a try.  

(This was ‘sight unseen’ of course.  When David told me about the board I had it in my head that it was going to be about the size of a sandwich-board, so I was somewhat taken aback when he brought it around and I realised it was actually taller than I was!!)

I regret now not taking a photo of it as soon as it arrived it but I didn’t think about at the time.  By the time I did think about it (first photo below) I had already spent two days cleaning, scrubbing and hand-sanding 60 years of dirt, mould and general ickiness off it.  (My girls helped, as you might imagine.)  It had seen some wear and tear for sure.  The sides and edges were particularly knocked about, and it was covered in dings, dents and cracks, along with thousands of pin holes and lots of tiny little (almost invisible) nails (possibly the remnants of long-ago staples) which I discovered when I started sanding and repeatedly caught my fingers on.  (I can honestly say I worked on this until my fingers bled . . . )

It took a couple of weekends and a good deal of trial and error as to what materials to use (and not to use) and many repeated admonitions to the girls of  “No.  NO.  NO!  Go over there.  Go sit over there. You’re good girls, but PLEASE DON’T STAND ON THE BOARD!”, but in the end it was done, and I was reasonably pleased with the final result.  It was a fun project and I enjoyed having a try at something a bit different.

To cap the whole experience off, David unexpectedly gave me a bunch of free movie tickets for my efforts as well!!  Woo Hoo!!

A few fun facts about Donald Duck . . . .

Donald Fauntleroy Duck was created by Walt Disney when he heard Clarence Nash doing his “duck” voice while reciting Mary Had a Little Lamb.  Nash voiced the character from 1934 to 1983.

Donald first appeared on the silver screen on June 9, 1934, in the animated short film, The Wise Little Hen, dancing to the Sailor’s Hornpipe. He then went on to star in seven feature films and won an Oscar in 1943 for ‘Der Feuhrer’s Face’.

Donald has an uncle (Scrooge McDuck) a girlfriend named Daisy, a twin sister named Dumbella, and three mischievous nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie . . .

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘I speak over 2000 languages, including Dodo and Unicorn.’ Polynesia the Parrot. (Dr Dolittle)

I saw a program the other day in which children were asked who their favourite superheroes were.  Not surprisingly all the usual suspects were thereSuperman, Spiderman, Batman, Daredevil, The Hulk, Wonder Woman, The Flash . . .  Out of idle curiosity I then did an online search and found a survey in which adults were asked the same questionand the results were almost exactly the same.  (What? No Deadpool?)  

While I admit I love to watch the Marvel-movies these days, I can’t say I ever identified with any particular superhero when I was growing up.  I remember I used to watch the Superman TV series with my dad (along with really old re-runs of Flash Gordon (‘Flash, a-ah, saviour of the universe’) although I don’t think he can be counted as a superhero as he didn’t have any real superpowers) but my dad enjoyed these shows much more than I did.  When I was younger I always thought these shows were kind of silly, but the older I get the more I enjoy them.  Colours, lights, explosions, aliens, implausible plots, buff-bodies in lycra and body-armour . . .  I mean, what’s not to like?

And I started to wonderif I had to pick a superpower for myself, what would it be?   Mmmm, so many to choose from.  I am not keen on flying at the best of times, so that one is out.  Reading peoples’ minds? (I think I would prefer not to know.)  X-Ray vision? (eeerk—that’s just creepy.)   Invisibility? (meh.)

Then something happened this week which brought on another of those ‘WTF?’ moments (I seem to be having them a lot of lately) which decided it for me.  My superpower of choice would be the ability to talk to animals, a la Dr Dolittle (‘ . . . if we could talk to the animals, learn all their languages, maybe take an animal degree . . . I’d study elephant and eagle, buffalo and beagle, alligator, guinea pig, and flea . . . ) 

. . . but the very first animal language I’d want to be able to converse in would be ‘dog’ . . .

On Wednesday I came home as usual to a pack of silly, raucous, over-excited little dogs, who barked and bounced and jostled and hounded me (ha-see what I did there?) until I eventually changed into my daggy-duds and was ready for our afternoon walk.  (Well—not  Molly.  Molly decided a couple of weeks ago that she was never going to go walking with us ever again—but that’s a whole other story.)

So we left Molly sitting in the front window guarding the house and Mabel, Maude and I set off for the park.  All good.  We played on the grass, barked at the big scary dog around the corner (from a safe distance), met and chatted with some friends and then headed out along the river walk towards the beach.  By this time everyone else seemed to have gone home for their dinner so I let the girls off their leads so they could stop and sniff and explore (and wee) to their little hearts’ content.

(When I say ‘explore’ Maude usually roams far and wide—as long as it is within a six foot circumference of me, and Mabel rarely leaves my right heel . . . )

Anyway, there I was, happily walking along, looking at the water, watching the birds (wondering whether I should have brought my sketchbook with me) when I suddenly realised that Mabel was no longer at my side. Looking over my shoulder I found the girls sitting close together on the path about 100 yards behind me.  Just sitting . . . and watching me walk away.  I called them to me.  No response.  I called again.  Nothing. They just continued to sit quietly and watch me.  I scanned the area to see what might have stopped them. There was nothing.  Or at least nothing I could see.  No other people, no other dogs, no other . . . anything.

I called them to me again.  Nope.  They moved not a muscle.  Sigh.  As I started back towards them they stood, turned, and headed for home.  Well, okay then. Home it is.  They didn’t appear upset, or scared, or distressed, but something—some sound, smell, sight—or notion—had stopped them dead in their tracks, and left me clueless. They may both be a bit scatty at times but this was weird even for themand they have always come to me when called.

When we got home they greeted their long lost sister Molly, ate their dinner and settled in for the evening as if nothing untoward had happened.  And perhaps it hadn’t.  Perhaps there was nothing freaky going on and I was reading too much into it.   Maybe they had just had enough of walking and didn’t want to go any further (I guess there is a first time for everything).  Or perhaps (and I think this is the most likely option) they were trying out a new doggie-jedi-mind-trick on me (in which case—it worked.)

I’m resigned to that fact that I’ll never know what was going on in their wee heads that day (or any other day for that matter) but I can’t help but imagine how cool it would have been to have had the ability to look my girls in the eye and asked ‘What the . . . .?’  — and actually received an answer.

Now, that would be something to blog about . . .

Post Script:  
If my girls could have superpowers of their own, I wonder which ones they would choose?

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Without my dogs my wallet would be full, my house would be clean, but my heart would be empty.’ Anon.

Stories from my Sketchbook  . . .

  • Three heartworm injections,
  • Three C3 injections,
  • Three ears-eyes-heart checks,
  • Three nail clippings,
  • Three pinched, poked, prodded, over-excited, over-wrought and now very tired little dogs . . .
  • One exhausted mum . . .

(and one very quick, very loose (and very rare) sketch of all my three girls together)

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘I had a dream that I was awake and I woke up to find myself asleep.’ Stan Laurel.

I love to watch my dogs sleep.  They always look so comfortable and content.  Unlike me, they never seem to suffer from disturbed sleep. No tossing, no turning, no thrashing about.  (No thumping the pillows or rearranging the bedclothes.)  They just find a nice, sweet spot, turn around three times, and settle in.  I often wonder what they dream about.  “Chasing rabbits,” my dad would say.  Watching Maudie now and listening to her excited little ‘yip-yips’ as her nose twitches and her feet paw the air, it’s easy to imagine that’s exactly what she’s doing (although I don’t know that Maudie has ever seen a real bunny . . . )

Scientists have been performing sleep and dream studies for decades but still do not seem to be 100% agreed on why we dream.  The most popular theory is that dreams work together with sleep to help the brain sort through the information it has collected during our waking hours.  Dreaming helps us process what to remember and what to forget.

As it seems that humans and dogs have very similar sleep cycles (stages of wakefulness, rapid eye movement (REM) and slow wave deep sleep) perhaps dogs dream for exactly the same reason we do.  Rather than chasing rabbits, Maudie is probably reliving all the sights, sounds and smells she encountered during the day, deciding which ones she should discard and which ones are important enough to keep (there’s a new big scary dog moved in around the corner . . . the little kid down the street always has lollies in his pockets . . . I hid my favourite ball on the couch behind the cushion . . .)

I rarely remember my own dreams.  I know I do dream, and dream often, but I rarely remember the details.  This past week I has been a little different.  I have had some seriously weird dreams.  Really vivid, surreal, almost nightmarish dreams—some so freaky they remained with me when I woke.  I was trying to think why that would be—why these dreams seemed so different—and then I had a thought (it happens sometimes) . . . could my whacked-out dreams be an unexpected by-product of all the (industrial strength) flu medication I have recently been taking?

I had never really thought about that before but now I was curious, so I looked it up.  (I looked it up on the web, because who reads the teeny-tiny printed (‘Please read carefully’) foldouts that come in the medication boxes?  I tried that once.  Not only did I give myself serious eye strain, but the list of possible life-threatening side effects nearly scared me to death . . . )  Anyway, I found that there are in fact numerous drugs used in cough, cold, flu, allergy, motion sickness and (get this) insomnia medications, which have been linked to dream-altering states and vivid nightmares.

(How unfair would it be to be suffering from insomnia, only to take prescribed meds, finally fall asleep and then be hit by screaming nightmares. Talk about adding insult to injury!)

Weird dreams have also been noted as a side effect of anti-depressants, pain medications, blood-pressure meds and drugs to help people stop smoking.  So it seems that while we are happily ingesting any and all pharmaceuticals to cure whatever ails us, we are also unwittingly inviting in all manner of creeping night terrors to join us in our misery as well!

Happily, so far, my girls have been healthy enough that I haven’t had to ply any of them with much medication of any sort, but my own experience this week has made me realise that this is something I should probably bear in mind should they need any ‘medicating’ in the future.  If their sleep patterns are indeed akin to ours, it stands to reason that any drugs they receive might well affect their sleep patterns (and dreams) too.

I admit, this somewhat worrying to me.  Maudie is a happy little dog and would probably quickly shrug off any bad dream (just wave her ball under her nose and she’d be good to go) but Mabel and Molly are both somewhat highly strung at the best of times (that’s putting it politely) and the idea of them (and therefore me) having to cope with raging bouts of doggie-nightmares doesn’t quite bear thinking about . . .

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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