Tag Archives: Mabel

‘No colour will ever be brighter for me than black and white.’ Allessandro Del Piero.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines colour as ‘the property possessed by an object of producing different sensations on the eye as a result of the way it reflects or emits light’.

The human eye can only see light within specific wavelengths so, by this definition, colour is the range of visible light that humans can actually see.  For us, the visible spectrum begins with the wavelengths we call violet.  This then moves on to blue, green, yellow, orange, and ends with what we call red.  The trouble with this approach is that there are some very noticeable exceptionslike black and white. In science black and white are not considered colours because they do not have specific wavelengths. White light contains all wavelengths of visible light while black is the absence of visible light.

But you know what?  That doesn’t really work for me.  I need to see black and white as colours because, in spite of my love of all the other colours of the rainbow, my day-to-day life is a vision in monochrome.

My home decor is mostly black and white.  I admit  there are a few (quite a few actually) vibrant pops of colour here and there, but the fact remainsI have white walls, white cupboards, black lounge, black chairs, black and white rugs, black and white prints and black and white quilts and pillows.  (All serving to beautifully accentuate all those other lovely colours I might add).

I also have three little dogs, two black-and-white, and one all black.  Now, I hasten to add that I absolutely did not choose these little dogs so they would match my furniture.  That was more of a happy accident . . .

Many of my clothes are black and whitejust because I really like wearing black and white It works in any season, it’s easy to mix and match (and add to—no more vacillating about whether it is quite the right shade when buying something new for my already far too substantial wardrobe) and I can also easily pep it up with any other colour on a whim (fuschia pink shoes!!) while still looking tidy and presentable when out and about in the world.

(Wearing mostly black and white is also exceedingly helpful when you are the owner of aforesaid three hairy (and prone to frequent shedding) little dogs.  The ever-constant dog-hairs on my clothes are at least evenly distributed . . . )

So, scientific or not, I think I need to continue to see black and white as colours—otherwise I might be forced to rethink my whole take on my world and everything in it.

I’m not sure I’m entirely ready for that . . .

Just as well Mabel had her red collar on or she might have gone completely unnoticed on the black and white quilt.


Posted by on March 9, 2018 in Uncategorized


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‘My little dog—a heartbeat at my feet.’ Edith Wharton.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

Mabel doesn’t sit at my feet (unless we are out of the house of course, and my feet are the only thing to hide behind).

But inside the house—I don’t think so.  Being a teeny-tiny dog, Mabel learned very early on that it was in her own best interests to avoid anyone else’s feet but her own.  (It should be written in the doggie handbook—two-legged giants stomping around on big clumsy feet rarely bother to look down.)

Besides, why on earth would she sit on a cold, hard floor when she could be sleeping between the pillows on mum’s bed, or snuggled between her two sisters in a blanket on the couch, or, better still, on mum’s lap.  I mean, really . . .

Mabel-May 2016


Posted by on May 3, 2016 in Uncategorized


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‘ “Meow” means “woof” in cat.’ George Carlin.

Silver is sleeping in the sun on his driveway. He’s a big beautiful old grey cat, and dozing on the warm asphalt in the late afternoon sun is one of his favourite things to do. We see him there most days as we go past on our walk. Mabel will ignore him, Maudie will rumble menacingly at him (only under her breath thoughI think she is a bit scared of him), and dog-barking-at-cat-336498Mollywell Molly will puff herself up to twice her usual size (which is still only about half the size of this cat) and frantically hurl doggie-insults about cats and their mothers until she is well out of earshot. Silver will occasionally open an eye to see what all the noise is about, but usually he will just yawn, flex his paws, stretch out full length, smile and go back to sleep. So not bothered. Silver is one cool dude.

I miss my cats. I think people often assume that if you only have dogs that you probably just don’t like cats. That may well be true for some people, but not for me. I love cats. Cats owned me long before I owned dogs.

black kittenA couple of weeks after I first came back to Australia after an extended period living overseas I found myself living in a city where I didn’t know a soul. One day I went into town to buy groceriesand came home with two tiny six-week old kittens and a bag full of cat food, cat litter and cat paraphernalia (I can’t remember whether I actually bought any groceries). It was impulsive, yes, but I never once regretted it. And I never felt lonely again. I loved those two little cats. I loved their big yellow eyes, their soft shiny fur, their insatiable curiosity, deep rumbling purrs and their tiny kitty-cat feet. I would sit and watch them for hoursplaying or sleeping, or eating, or chasing dust motes or just sitting blissed-out in the sun.

black cat stalkingThe girl, Cleo, grew up to be a lovely, gentle, even-tempered little girl who loved to be stroked and fussed and cuddled. Her brother, Jess, on the other hand, turned into a huge beast of a cat who liked to spend his time stalking the neighbours through their gardens, creeping quietly up on them and then suddenly exploding out of the bushes and frightening the crap out of them. I always pretended to be cross with him (for the neighbour’s sake) but, just quietly, it was pretty hilarious.

(Less hilarious was his penchant for knocking things off my dressing-room table when he wanted his breakfast and I wanted a bit of a lie-in. In my sleepy stupor I would hear him gently tap, tap, slide, slide, tap and slide the bottles and jars around, and when I continued to ignore him it would get all too much and—wham—off the table one of the bottles would go. I would be out of bed in a flash and he would be off and running (and laughing) all the way into the kitchen—where I would find him ready and waiting for breakfast with a big smug smile on his face. Used to make me crazy.)

When the cats were about 10 years old I decided it was time to add a dog to our little family. The cats would be fine, I thought. They were fat and happy and well-adjusted, I thought. It wouldn’t be a drama, I thought. Who was I trying to kid? I can still see the look of abject disgust on Jessie’s face the day I bought that six week old pup (Harry) into the house. Jess was 19 years old when he died and I don’t think he ever really changed that initial opinion of Harry one iota over the next 9 years of his life.

stuffed dog&catAnd it wasn’t one sided either. Harry didn’t like Jess, right back at him. Harry, my lovely, adorable, feisty little Harry came out of the womb hating cats. Sigh. There was constant hissing and spitting and growling and snapping, and I would cajole and plea and bribe and even get cranky with them, all to no avail. I would see pictures of other people’s cats and dogs, all cuddled happily up together on the sofa, or piled up in a doggie bed together, and conclude that either one or the other of the animals in these pictures just had to be stuffed. It was never going to happen in my house.

But, over time (and when it eventually became obvious to them that I wasn’t going to give anyone away) they did manage to work out their own set of rules. As long as nobody sat too close to anybody elseor went near anybody else’s food dishor pushed in for a cuddle while someone else was already having oneor inadvertently came around a corner unexpectedly and gave someone a frightthings eventually settled into a nice routine, and we all bimbled along fairly harmoniously.

So I got another dog.

Frankie and Harry were polar opposites. In his whole life Harry only ever really loved me and Frankie (and thank God he loved Frankie too, it would have been awful if he hadn’t). He couldn’t really have cared less about anyone else.



Frankie loved me and Harryand everybody else he ever met. And that included the cats. From the very first day he was enamoured of them. He would sidle up to them, wriggling from his nose to his tail, desperate to get close to them. They, naturally, were mortally offended (how dare he?) and poor Frankie got his ears boxed more than once for his trouble. He would then spend the next couple of hours doing his utmost to apologise to them for his crass behaviour, which only exasperated them even more. Bless. But he never gave up, and in the end I think he just wore them down. He had so much love to give and those cats were going to get some of itwhether they liked it or not.

Cleo and Frank became snugglebuddies and would often cuddle together in the doggie bed in front of the heater (miracles can happen—if you wait long enough). Jess, although less inclined to snuggle, stopped hissing and spitting and ear boxing and even occasionally let Frankie lick his ears (while also trying really really hard not to purr).



Even Harry’s hatred of cats eventually mellowed under the onslaught of Frankie’s love. Well, ‘mellowed’ is perhaps too strong a word. Harry became more ‘tolerant’ of the cats. He would even allow them to sit next to Frank as long as they didn’t also touch him in the process. And he would also protect ‘his’ cats from other visiting dogs—he was allowed to be mean to them, but no-one else was.  Earlier grievances between Harry and Jess were mostly forgotten on those freezing cold Armidale winter nights when they would all pile into bed with me, with only the smallest amount of grumbling if someone had to get up during the night and came back to bed with cold feet.

It is many years now since I have had cats in the house.  Jess and Cleo both lived to ripe old age, as did Harry and Frank, but somehow it was dogs that started to take over my life and now when I need a cat ‘fix’ I have to make do with the occasional smooch from a neighbouring feline. And, although I am perfectly happy with my three doggie-girls, occasionally I will see a sign at the local pet shop  ‘Kittens Available’, and I will remember my lovely cats and have to put my head down and walk away really, really fast so as not to be temptedbecause it would be so easy to be tempted.



Instead I will keep telling myself that when Molly has had her summer clip it almost feels like I am stroking a cat. And, if you pat her in just the right way, she stretches out full length and flexs her little feet like a cat too.

Sadly, she doesn’t purr. She does, however, snore—and loudly.

It’s not quite the same  . . .


Posted by on December 4, 2015 in Uncategorized


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‘When birds burp, it must taste like bugs.’ Bill Watterson

birdWe have just been attacked by a teeny tiny bird. The teeniest tiniest bird on the planet (well, probably not, but he was very teeny). A little black and white blur. Seriously. We were wandering along, minding our own business, on our usual morning walk along the path by the water and, out of nowhere, he was upon us. Swooping and diving and shrieking, barely an inch from my face. And swooping again. And shrieking again. He was really pissed off.

Birds_attack_2071I imagine he was trying to drive us away from some hidden nest but his vicious onslaught had the exact opposite effect, at least initially. He took me so much by surprise that I just stopped dead, flung up my arms and madly tried to wave him away. This only upset him even further and he redoubled his efforts to be rid of me. From a distance I must have looked like I was having some sort of mad fit (or practising my secret kung fu moves . . .)

Dog__Play_DeadThis totally unexpected (and unwarranted) attack also had an instantaneous effect on the girls. Molly and Maude immediately sprang into action, trying valiantly to protect me, leaping and barking and running in circles, but really, as they both only just reach the level of my knees at full stretch, their efforts were mostly in vain.  Mabel, on the other hand, is a sensitive soul (also a bit of a sooky-la-la) and got so upset by the uproar that she just lay down on her side, closed her eyes and pretended to be in a coma. Also not terribly helpful.

old-man-dancing-taps-footAnyway, once I realised the wee bird was not going to give up any time soon I put my head down, scooped up Mabel, and cried, ‘RUN’, and the four of us fled down the path as far and as fast as we could to escape the tiny tormentor. When we stopped to catch our breath (in truth we didn’t run very far—I am not built for running) I turned and looked back to see an older gentleman now performing what looked to be some kind of manic break dance in exactly the same spot we had just left. On the path not far behind him stretched a long line of other unsuspecting walkers—all heading straight into the firing line. That little bird was in for a very exhausting day.

After all that excitement I was half inclined to go straight home (Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ immediately sprang to mind) but the dogs had forgotten the drama already (they have very short attention spans, except when it comes to food, then there is no diverting them) so I decided to keep goingalthough I do admit to looking back over my shoulder more than once.

rainbow lorikeetsThe path we walk along continues on directly down to the sea with the nature reserve on one side and the river on the other—and I was sure I could feel thousands of beady eyes boring into me—and that wouldn’t be far from the truth. (I really want to say here that where I live is a ‘haven’ for birdlife, but the ‘pun police’ would be on me like a flash, so I won’t. 🙂 )  Suffice to say that the Camden Haven is teeming with birds of every shape and size—magpies (scary even when they are in a good mood, which doesn’t seem to be often), ravens, wrens, Willy WagtailsRosellas, Rainbow Lorikeets, Wattlebirds, ducks, herons, gulls, Pelicans and Plovers to name but a few.

(Personally I think Plovers (also called lapwings) are a little bit spooky. plover-with-chicks (1)They produce an ear-splitting shriek when they are cranky with you, and they are usually cranky with you before you even know there is one in the area. They can be found not only in the parks, but also openly nesting on street corners or busy roundabouts around town. Their babies look like little cotton-wool balls on stilts—very cute—but you will not get a chance to get near enough to get a good look at one. A plover will think nothing of standing in the middle of a busy road and staring down a four wheel drive while its partner moves its babies to safety. Best to give them a very wide berth.)

In spite of feeling a tad nervous about them when they gather in large numbers, I really quite like birds—although I am also quite sure that they could care less whether I liked them or not. Except for the odd incident like the kamikaze ‘budgie’ today (and the occasional rabid plover) most of our feathered friends spend their birdy lives doing birdy things and pay very little attention to you or me at all. That’s fine. I don’t feel the need to directly interact with them (not like I do with puppies—no puppy is safe from interaction with me). I am happy to watch birds from a distance.

black cockatooAnd watching from a distance is what I doing every morning at the moment as a flock of about 30 black cockatoos has taken up residence about two blocks from my house. They turn up about this time every year, stay for a couple of months and then move on. On my early morning walks I will often just stop and watch them as they lift into the sky, one by one, screeching and calling to each other, flying in wider and wider circles over the river as they gather up the members of the flock from their night time roosts. They soar and wheel and roll, shrieking the whole time (maybe deciding on where to meet for breakfast?) and looking like they are just glad to  be alive. They have ‘attitude’ and  I think they are pretty fabulous—although anyone who wants to sleep past 5.00am every morning wouldn’t necessarily agree.

Cockatoos aren’t the only birds with joie de vivre around here. 01kookaburra-face1There are also the big fat kookaburras who line up in rows along the tree branches and gaze, unblinking, down upon you. One will start to chuckle, followed by another, and then another, then they will all start giggling and then laughing uproariously, and although you can’t help but feel that you are the butt of the joke, you end up smiling too.

And there are the rosellas and lorikeets which swarm the trees, feeding off the acacias, constantly squabbling, and sqwarking, flashing their feathers at each other and then dropping from the trees and performing acrobatic manoeuvres at such a low altitude that you have to duck your head as they whiz past.

Pink and grey galahs hang hapazardly off telephone wires or gather in groups on lawns to feed, waddling about on their fat little legs and are a delight to watch (and so much fun to scatter if you are a dog).

mineAnd at home a cheeky little family of (very) Noisy Miners visits my front verandah every afternoons to commandeer the seed dish, toss insults at the other birds and take turns to dive bomb the birdbath and throw water all over my lounge room windows. (The girls line up in the window in anticipation, barking out scores out of ten, as the birds dive and tumble and generally just show off.)

We are really so very lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful creatures (yes, even the cranky ones), and yet for all their incredible variety, their beauty and their humour, when I find myself watching them I am not so much thinking about them, but more the fact that birds just always remind me my Frankie.



Frankie was a dear, sweet, goofy boy, with not a mean bone in his body. He has been gone 5 years now, but we were together fourteen years and I still miss him every day (he and his older brother Harry, who was with me for for 19 years). Frankie loved birds. He was fascinated with them since he was a tiny boy, and was the only dog I ever knew who seemed to be always looking up. On our daily walks his legs would follow me, but his eyes were always skyward. He would often just stop, dead in his tracks, and follow the flight of bird until he could see it no longer. I have very fond memories of seeing him out in the backyard in the fading afternoon sunshine, smiling and wagging his tail happily, surrounded by a little group of lorikeets and pigeons who pottered and scratched about in the grass around at his feet, totally unconcerned by his presence. 3birdsHe always looked so wistful when they eventually took flight and left him alone on the ground.

I don’t know whether it is possible but I have always hoped that if Frankie ever got a chance to come back from doggie heaven, that he got to come back as a bird. I think he would really have liked that . . .



Posted by on November 20, 2015 in Uncategorized


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‘Anyone who doesn’t know what soap tastes like has never washed a dog.’ Franklin P Jones.

Saturday.  I decided to give the girls their baths early today.  They’ve been for a big walk, had their breakfast, pottered around the garden for a while and now they are all drowsing on the couch.  Perfect.

I go into the bathroom and close the door, find the shampoo and conditioner, get out the doggy towels and put everything within reach.  Don’t run the water—that’s a dead giveaway.  All organised and back into the lounge room and—it’s deserted.  Not a hair of a sleepy dog anywhere to be found.  Sigh.  I don’t know how they know, but they always do.

I look for Maudie first for the simple reason that I know exactly where she’ll be.  When Maudie hides she hides in precisely the same spot every time—the doggie bed out on the back verandah.  I come out the back door just in time to see her duck her head below the edge of the bed.  I think she thinks that if she can’t see me, I can’t see her.  Bless.

Maudie Drying off in my bed

Drying off in my bed

She doesn’t struggle.  She does, however, squeal.  I take her collar off.  Squeal.  I stand her gently in the bath (which has no water in it yet).  Squeal.  I turn on the shower hose.  Squeal.  Accidentally touch her tummy when she is not expecting it—squeal.  Like fingernails on a chalkboard, swear to God.  Such a drama queen.  Especially as it takes all of about three minutes to get her wet down, washed, rinsed, conditioned and rinsed again.  I turn the water off, throw a towel over the top of her and lift her out of the bath.  Squeal.  Quickly put her collar back on underneath the towel before she realises what I am doing.  Muffled squeal.  Dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry—release—and she’s off.

At that exact moment I realise I have forgotten to close the bedroom door.  By the time I get to it Maudie has done three gleeful, full-speed circuits of the house, further drying herself on every fabric surface she has come across—carpets, rugs, cushions—she’s rolled on her back from one end of my bed to the other and has now buried herself deep amongst the pillows.  She smiles sweetly at me from inside her little nest.

Molly Drying off in a towel

Drying off in a towel

Molly next.  She’s hiding under the settee, but not for long.  She is much easier to deal with (no squealing for a start) and sits like a tiny black wet sock in the corner of the bath while I work on her.  I squeeze as much water as I can out of her before I take her out of the bath but it takes two extra large towels to get her even partially dried off.  When I let her loose she looks a bit like a walking brillo pad.

And now Mabel.  Where’s Mabel?  After searching for a while I am pretty sure that is her in the deep dark gloom under the bed—either that or there is something else moving around under there that I really don’t want to know about.  Rather than risk traumatising her for a week I usually leave Mabel to come out of her own accord.  Her record hiding time is 2 hours 14 minutes . . .

Mabel Drying off in the sun

Drying off in the sun

Got her.  Someone came to the front door and she just couldn’t resist the urge to come out and see who it was.  So, that’s it—all three.  Done and dusted.  They’ve all had treats for ‘being good girls’ (the term is relative).  I’ve cleaned and de-haired the bathroom and every towel I own is now in the wash.  The girls are all prancing about looking all very bright and shiny and pleased with themselves.  Like it was all their idea. Watching them all sitting blissfully outside in the sun I can see that Molly is also going to need a haircut and good brushing out when she’s completed dried off.

But that’s for later. It is now all of 10.00am, and  I think I have earned a nice cup of tea and a bit of a lie down . . .


Posted by on September 16, 2015 in Uncategorized


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