Sunday, December 11, 2016

The essence of high adventure.

A long evening spent on the phone to the credit card fraud line. Someone has hacked into our details and been busy charging away. All the transactions just under $300 which is presumably a level above which checks are made. This is the third time this has happened to us in the last two years. The card company are very good but it means destroying the old card and waiting 10 days for new ones to be delivered. 

Bob and Angus start off Sunday with a trip in the car to the greengrocers. Bob leaps into the back of the 'Loonj' tail wagging . He considers an outing to the greengrocers to be the very essence of high adventure. Angus wishes he could say the same.

This morning black skinned potatoes and '' Bouquet " artichokes are oddities that grab our attention.

After dropping off the breakfast croissants Bob and Angus set off for a brisk walk. The weather continues to be abnormally mild.... and sunny. Perhaps this is why the avian flu epidemic continues to spread. Earlier in the week 3000 ducks had to be slaughtered . The number now 10,000 and rising. The local farmers are praying it doesn't spread to the geese.

Sophie is making great progress. She seems slightly hesitant about putting weight on the leg operated on two and a half weeks ago but that shouldn't be a surprise. The other leg provides her with good as new traction. She is beginning to look like a PON diva again.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Lesson #5 of dog ownership : If you don't clear something away the dogs will find it.

The gardeners arrive to finish off what they were supposed to have finished yesterday. To show them who's boss Bob christens the new lavender plants they've brought. He also christens the tyres on their flat bed truck.

Loic , the heavily bifocaled leaf blower, blows leaves into piles. Bob follows along behind pouncing in the piles and sending the leaves flying. Loic remains oblivious to the chaos unfolding behind him.

Sophie makes it quite clear that she should be with her brother and doesn't need to be house bound for another six weeks.

Off with Bob to the little market town. He trots along happily. Drooly but happy.
We buy some Olivet - a bit like cinder coated Camembert.
The cheese monger asks me what the English for cindre is.
"Ash ".
'Like the drug' he says.
"No, that's hash" I reply.
The other shoppers wait while he practises saying ash and hash.
Bob gets a little Poivre d'Ane which he likes.

Home to unload the car and then head out along the ridge while Sophie and 'The Font' have breakfast. Every morning Angus sits on the cover of the storm drain, the male PON beside him. Every morning Bob is told this is his country and has his ears scratched. This morning is no different.

Down at the little waterfall he stares at the minnows and does his best at fishing.  He finally gives up and has a long drink.

Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse the gardeners have left a bucket on the terrace. Bob finds some water in the bottom and drains it. Old water in a bucket is always tastier than fresh water in a bowl. Lesson #5 of dog ownership : If you don't clear something away the dogs will find it.

Those happy routines too unimportant for a diary but too important not to be completely forgotten.

Friday, December 9, 2016


Sophie has now dispensed with her collar and is enjoying life en plein air. The pre-schoolers head off in the bus to the kindergarten. They wave at her and shout out, almost in unison, Bonjour Sophie. The mayor drives by in his Renault, stops, winds down the window and chats to her. Sophie takes adulation in her stride.

After the pre-schoolers and the mayor go Sophie turns on her back on the grass and falls asleep. Not even the arrival of the gardeners ( unannounced ) wakes her. From the state of Sophie's coat a month of grooming is in order.

'The Font' takes Bob to Toulouse for his tests. He is a perfect patient. The staff at the reception desk ask if he's Sophie's brother. He is fussed over - which he loves. Bob observes the other dogs in the waiting room affably but is 'aware' of the cats. While they wait for the specialists 'The Font' chats to him. From the sullen glares of the other pet owners chatting to your dog is not a French thing.  

Bob trots off with the surgeon and doesn't complain as his head, neck and shoulders are manipulated. Lights are shone in his eyes. Things are dropped in front of him. Instruments are poked in his nostrils and ears. The family fellow takes it all with good grace. The neurologist asks if he bites. '' Only his sister " replies 'The Font'. This humour does not translate. The MRI machine , which had been working perfectly, decides to break down. X-rays are taken but are inconclusive other than to show there's nothing wrong mechanically. Blood tests should  provide further clues to the puzzle. From Bobs perspective the good news is that with the MRI down he doesn't have to be sedated.

A meeting with the three specialists. The sensory nerves are fine. The motor nerves aren't. The eye lids on one eye don't work but the eye probably does.The nose is functioning perfectly. The ears and the neck are 'sensitive'. Perhaps the drooling points to a problem with the ear canal although none can be seen. In the absence of the MRI scan no further progress can be made on determining whether there's a tumour on the spine or brain stem . The senior surgeon very sensibly says that we should wait for the results of the blood tests before jumping to any conclusions. ' There are many things it could be '. A very sensible attitude to adopt. More specialized blood tests are scheduled.

In the absence of any information to the contrary we will take the view that there is nothing to be alarmed about. Bob will continue to enjoy leisurely walks on soft ground, long drinks from running streams and visits to the croissant dispensing bakers. A drooly and slightly 'tipsy' big brother and a lame little sister manage to play together for the first time since September. Bob is of course completely oblivious to the fact that his health is a cause for concern.

Those little things about life with dogs that don't make it into a diary.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


Sophie only needs to wear one small collar to stop her licking the recently exposed wound. Not complete freedom but much better than having the big collar round her neck. Who would ever have believed that the shy little puppy who hid under her brother would turn into such a determined patient ?

The task now is to keep her from doing all the things she wants to do like savaging her brother, leaping at falling leaves and chasing audacious blackbirds. The two handled harness and a set routine have made the transition onto the second recovery much easier.

'The Font' will take Bob to the specialists in Toulouse this afternoon for the brain scan. An hour down and an hour and a half back in the dark. In the meantime he's being kept busy. Lots of long leisurely walks on soft, leaf strewn paths.

Maid afternoon. Time to stand in the middle of the little stream for a drink in between fishing for trout. Our reverie is interrupted by the strange air displacing whoop-whoop-whoop of low flying helicopters. They fly over us, circle then circle again. Through the canopy of the trees I can see faces peering down at us. They monitor us for a long five minutes. 

The Old Farmer, standing on his balcony with a pair of over sized binoculars, informs us that there is a major anti-terrorist exercise underway. An isolated backwater the perfect place for balaclava wearing men to abseil down ropes. A man standing in the middle of a stream with a shaggy dog is clearly not part of the script. An incongruous moment.

An outbreak of avian flu arrives just in time for Christmas. 3000 ducks have to be put down. Another 12000 being monitored. Department of agriculture vans pass through the village in the morning and return late in the afternoon - their work for the day done. The local poultry farmers face a tough Christmas.

Just another day in a part of deepest, deepest France profonde where nothing ever happens .

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

One step forward.

Another beautiful morning. Dry weather while Sophie's leg has been healing has been a godsend. There was only one day when her plaster cast had to be wrapped in a freezer bag to stop it getting wet. The stitches were removed by the local vet. Sophie didn't complain ( Bob would have given an Oscar winning performance ) and is now mightily relieved to have the plaster off. The collar will be kept on for a day or two ( at night and when unsupervised )to stop her nibbling at the scar.

Bob stayed up late 'webinaring' with 'The Font', the Pasadena astrophysicists and the Chinese girls who look sixteen but have triple doctorates in Particle Physics. This morning the family fellow gives me his '' Blimey ! Don't tell me it's time to get up " look. It's unusual for him to sleep in. He has trouble navigating down the stairs. Tomorrows battery of tests and meeting with the specialists can't come quickly enough.

The little market town just coming to life when we arrive to pick up the morning croissants.

A stylized tree has appeared outside the bank. It has railings around it to prevent the town dogs from adding their seasonal greetings. What is wrong with a real tree ?

There's time to stop the car and have a stroll along the old Roman road. Bob walks by the young cows with the briefest of ' Morning Girls ' acknowledgements. He has exciting scents to follow and some badger poo to savour. Something strange and unconnected about his movements today although I can't quite work out what it is. Every time a new generation of PONs join the family I vow not to worry about them. Some chance of that.

A smaller star.

In half an hour we'll be heading off to have Sophies stitches removed. How quickly time moves. 

The Metacam has made Bob calmer, steadier on his feet and seems to have given him the use of both eyes again. The drooling has eased and he's holding his body straight. 

On our walk down the hill he stands and glares at the goldfinches congregating in the mistletoe . The fact he's looking up and holding his head high another positive portent.

At The Rickety Old Farmhouse a Christmas ' partridge in a pear tree ' decoration goes up. The first of the season. Every year we vow we'll have a minimal Christmas and then rush at the last moment to put up a Christmas tree. 

To the florist to buy hyacinth bulbs. The florist, usually a taciturn individual, wants to engage in a deep conversation about Brexit. '' The problem with the English is they're islanders. All islanders are odd. The Corsicans are odd, the people who live on the Ile de Re are odd and the English are odd ". He pauses and then adds '' the Americans are odd too". Angus had never really considered America to be an island but there again Angus doesn't have the world view of a resident of deepest, deepest France profonde. We buy the bulbs, make suitable grunting noises in response to his diatribe and leave. Bob, ever hopeful that he'll find something to eat is disappointed .

We have fifteen hyacinth vases. 'The Font' finds six. The others are hiding together with the last five years worth of Christmas lights.

The Old Farmer has failed to weld together his Christmas Star. The metal has rotted clean through. He's put up a star ever since his first daughter was born. A routine that became all the more important since he lost her and his wife in a traffic accident. He's seen a replacement in an electrical store window in Toulouse. It's only a fifth of the size of the old one but '' it will do until I find something better ". He sets off in the Mercedes for his journey into the big city. Bob stands on his stump seat and watches him go.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Only one more day of the collar.

Sophies stitches are removed tomorrow. As far as she's concerned the end of the collar wearing season can't come quickly enough. Then comes the small matter of keeping one very feisty diva confined for another six weeks.

A 'black tie' window display on the shopping street makes me laugh. Black tie with a leather jacket with astrakhan collar or with a white woolen jumper are all the vogue in rural France this year.

A Christmas tree has appeared on the market square. An overnight miracle performed by the municipal workmen on triple rate overtime pay. Bob is prevented from sprinkling his seasonal greetings over the base.

We stop at the fancy bakers. Mrs.Baker is in a good mood. Teething is now safely behind her ( and the baby ) and she has rediscovered sleep. This has done wonders for her outlook on life.  We buy a raspberry sponge. Bob gets given the end of a malformed ( and therefore unsaleable )  croissant. His tail goes into overdrive.

Bob gets taken to the rugby match then has a long walk down to the little waterfall for some inept fishing. Just enough exercise and activity to take his mind off things. He watches some Sunday afternoon visitors park their cars and head across the churchyard to the swaying Jesus . The wind is blowing at 40 mph and has set up a gentle, almost imperceptible, rocking. The visitors quickly go. The Metacam the vet prescribed  for Bob on Saturday seems to be having an almost immediate effect on him and the discomfort seems to be easing.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

' Since it is denied us to live long let us do something to show we have lived '.

Saturday afternoon. A change in Bobs behaviour. A collection of little things that we'd like to ignore but which take us to the vet. A full 45 minute examination. 'Probably just an infection' but an appointment for scans at the hospital in Toulouse arranged for Thursday. Metacam prescribed. Bob, unaware of human worries about his health, remains gloriously happy.

This morning at first light it's off down the hill to the stream. Bob and Angus go slowly. Not for Bobs sake but for his master who is less sure footed in the mud. A morning to spend with the family fellow doing nothing in style.  

Overnight, leaves have clogged the little waterfall. This interferes with minnow fishing but doesn't hinder Bob from having a go. I laugh at the sight of a large furry paw waving ineptly over the surface before splashing down. 

Here, away from the wind, dragon flies flit in the reed beds. Exotic bursts of lapis lazuli against the winter foliage. A grey heron, a female deer and a red headed woodpecker watch nervously from the shelter of the trees. This year the wild roses have produced masses of bright orange hips that attract clouds of starlings. A sign of a harsh winter to come ? In the field behind us, where the farmer has deep ploughed the clay soil, scores, possibly hundreds, of blue and yellow finches are grubbing for insects. They argue as they bob up the furrow ridge and into the dip, up the ridge and into the dip. Nature at its most comical. The low sun burns off the mist in the frost hollows. As the soil dries it emits faint 'popping' sounds. 

Dog and master head back up the hill. 35 minutes down, an hour back. Bob moves ahead with purpose, sniffing the verges, rolling in the long grass and barking at invisible things. ' Since it is denied us to live long let us do something to show we have lived '; the fill every second secret of canine contentment.

Sunday morning in deepest, deepest France profonde with a family fellow.