Category: Art


A Victorian Dog Story

Here’s a very delightful guest post coming up. But first to my introduction.

Speke’s Monument, Kensington Gardens


Whatever one feels about London, the city of my birth (Acton; North-West London, to be more precise), there’s no denying that it has some glorious parks.

One of those wonderful parks is Kensington Gardens that is located not that far from the Royal Albert Hall. Or as Wikipedia puts it:

Kensington Gardens, once the private gardens of Kensington Palace, are one of the Royal Parks of London, lying immediately to the west of Hyde Park.

So keep that image in your mind as we turn to today’s guest post.


A Victorian Dog Story


If you are ever in the UK, wander through Kensington Gardens (past the palace where Princess Diana resided) and go Northeast, behind Victoria Lodge; you will find a pet cemetery. Mentioned by Peter Pan author, J.M. Barrie, in his work The Little White Bird, over 200 dogs, cats and birds have been laid to rest here. All of its inhabitants were once beloved pets.
The cemetery was started by the lodge keeper around 1881; the first dog to be buried in Kensington was her “Cherry”, a Maltese terrier who died of old age. The second dog was “Prince”, once belonging to the Duke of Cambridge (no relation to the present Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton!). Struck by a carriage, this dog’s simple gravestone reads: “Poor Prince.” Though the cemetery is no longer active, contemporary guests can take pictures of the tiny tombstones and read such sentiments as “Maudie, An Old Friend”, “Darling Dolly My Sunbeam, My Consolation”; and “In Loving Memory of Our Faithful Little Friend Wobbles.”
Keeping dogs as pets gained popularity in the 19th century. As sanitation conditions started to be regulated, animals such as pigs, cows and sheep were banned from the streets. So dogs that were once kept outside were now invited by the fire. The dog changed from being a worker to being a member of the family. In 1837 there were about 140 dog nappers; they stole lap dogs from the wealthy and charged hefty ransoms for their return. A Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs opened in 1860; ultimately this became The Battersea Dogs Home, where strays could be adopted. For more information on the Victorian cult of the dog, I would recommend At Home and Astray by Philip Howell. Meanwhile, if you are searching for a name for your new pet puppy, you might want to consider Dandie, Dash or Eos, pronounced ee-oohs–if they were good enough for Queen Victoria’s pooches, they may be good enough for yours!
Let me close with the words of the author: Annabelle Troy
An American who loves UK culture, I alternate my time between New York City and London. I’m the author of four books available on Amazon: Jane Eyre Gets Real, A Cure for Cecily, The Grace of the Hunchback, and Hansel and Gretel Inside the House of Candy.  Inspiration comes to me through literature, history and magic.
Here’s the cover of that first-named book.
511hedjbc8lI don’t know about Jane Eyre but Annabelle Troy comes over as real enough!

November writing alert!

Normal service may not be possible for the next few weeks!

learningfromdogs_3dbook_500xAs many of you know last December I published my first book Learning from Dogs.

That book had been the result of me getting my head down in the Novembers of 2013 and 2014. Why November? Because that is the month of NaNoWriMo, or to use the long-form: National Novel Writing Month.

Having brought book number one the light of the day, it was only natural that my mind started to turn to a sequel. At first, I thought of another book about dogs; perhaps Learning About Dogs? But for a variety of reasons I just couldn’t get started and it all came to a head last Wednesday during one of our regular group cycle rides. As follows:

Jim Goodbrod, he who wrote the foreword to my first book, asked how book number two was coming along.
“Oh Jim,” I replied, “I have left it far too late to contact the many academics that I have come across, to seek permission to quote their works and to find out if they have more scientific information of potential interest.”
“I have this terrible feeling that I’m setting myself up to fail!”

Jim then opened a wonderful window for me; metaphorically speaking. But before describing what Jim went on to say I should explain to you, dear reader, the connection between Jim and Janet, his wife, and Jean and me. Jim and Janet live about half-a-mile from us in Merlin, Southern Oregon, and right from the moment when we moved into our home back in 2012 they have been very good friends indeed. That friendship built upon Jim and Janet sharing very many similar outlooks on life to Jeannie and me. Plus Jim is a professional veterinarian doctor at a vet’s practice in Grants Pass, our local town some 12 miles from home, but has frequently given us advice ‘out of hours’ when one of our pets at home has gone down with something beyond Jean’s extensive experience.
So the four of us have spent much time together socially and I am embarrassed to admit that quite a few of my stories from past years have been told by me.

Back to that conversation during that bike ride. “Paul, Janet and I were only saying the other day that we would really love to see your next book being something autobiographical. You have had so many interesting experiences in so many parts of the world that we truly believe that they would be of interest to many others.”

It felt slightly uncomfortable to hear that. Uncomfortable in the sense that immediately responding by saying what a good idea that was carried too much egotism, was too self-indulgent. But at the same time I knew that Jim and Janet would offer a genuine recommendation and that it would most certainly get me out of my present difficult situation. I thanked Jim profusely. Jim then went on the describe the style that he and Janet would enjoy: “Janet and I have long loved reading books where each chapter was a self-contained story. In other words, a book that one could pick up and dip into and still feel that it was a good read.”

When I returned home and spoke about this to Jeannie she immediately said that it was something that she had been urging me to consider. An hour later I was speaking on the phone to my sister Eleanor and she, too, encouraged me to go down this route.

So that’s how it has come about that book number two is going to be semi-autobiographical, and it already has a name: Four Dogs On My Bed.

Or as the byline reads: On Life; On Love; and On Dogs.

All of which is a rather wordy way of saying that from now until the end of November my first priority is going to be book writing. How that will impact my attention to this blog and all you wonderful readers is uncertain. But if you see a string of re-posts from earlier times, if I don’t provide the most fulsome introduction to a guest author that they deserve, if my replies to comments are not as quick as I normally try to be, then you will know the reason why.

Thank you!

The power of a good massage.

This was a day when a massage would have been perfect treatment!

On Wednesday afternoon Jean and I hooked a big flatbed trailer, borrowed from a neighbour, to our pickup truck and went into town to collect a new sectional settee that we had recently purchased at a furniture sale.

Yesterday, Michael who comes in to help us on a regular basis turned up at 8:30 and we all set to. First up was to dismantle an old sectional in our den that had seen much better days and then carry that out to the front.

Next we moved a settee from our living-room to the den.

Last up was to unpack all three units that comprised the new sectional. Oh, nearly forgot! Then the old sectional from the den was loaded on to the trailer and taken to the tip!

By the end of the day this Brit, who will be 72 in a couple of weeks time, was feeling the odd aching muscle or two!

All of which is my introduction to this:


Watching animals get massages is the most relaxing thing ever — for people

Humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy a soothing rubdown.

Starre Vartan

October 15, 2016
Most animals can benefit from massage, but whether it’s theraputic or not, they sure enjoy it, just like we do. (Photo: Serjey Saraschenko/Shutterstock)

I get massages whenever I’m able, and it’s my answer to the fun party question: “What would you do with a million dollars?” Well, first I’d pay off my grad school loans, but second on the list would definitely be weekly massage. Every time I get one, I end up walking on air; for me it’s like doing a yoga class without the effort.

But watching massage can be relaxing too — not watching people (that’s icky), but animals. I’m not the only one: My Facebook feed is littered with people posting and reposting cute furry animals both wild and domesticated getting backs kneaded and shoulders rubbed. My favorites are below, so if you need a moment of chill, check out a couple of these and relax.

This corgi’s face massage is a joy to watch, and it’s funny too — check out his reclining position which is more guy-napping-on-a-pool-float than canine.

This sweet gray kitten getting an ever-so-gentle facial massage in the sunshine starts out asleep and seems to get more relaxed as you watch. Is that even possible?

Guinea pigs are known for being snuggly creatures, but also nervous ones. Watching this one slowly relax does the same thing for me.

If you get sucked into this video like I did, you’ll be rewarded with a soft-as-marshmallow white bunny, which follows the gray bunny. Spoiler alert: Both get lots of love.

The relaxation and happiness of this pregnant cow getting a solid rubdown is crystal clear even though the video quality is low.

Aside from dogs, horses are probably the domesticated animal that gets the most serious massage attention, since many of them are performers and athletes, either in the dressage ring or on a racecourse. So there are lots of instructional videos about horse massage, but I think Jess, a trained horse massage therapist, shows it best.

There are a lot of animals that give themselves massages, especially otters. This one is clearly an expert — after a solid minute of scalp massage, she has a nap!


Well I have to say that receiving a massage directly would have been a tad better than watching these animals get their massages, but it was way, way better than nothing!

English as she is spoken!

Difficult to avoid the irony!

(Of an Englishman helping Americans to ‘Ramp Up Their English’!😉

Good followers of this place will recall that in March I published a ‘thank-you’ piece showing my appreciation for Rogue Valley TV and John Letz.  Here’s how I opened that post:

Huge thank you to Producer John Letz and the whole crew.

A week ago last Saturday Jean and I travelled down to Ashland and to the studios of Rogue Valley Community Television (RVTV). This is how RVTV describe themselves:

Based at the Southern Oregon Digital Media Center, RVTV provides access television and streaming media services for the citizens and local governments of Jackson and Josephine Counties. Please visit for more information.

John Letz, the Producer for Adventures in Education and Ramping Up your English, had read my book and thought it might make a good programme.

Anyway, leaving the irony to one side, John recently sent me a link to the 30-minute episode that is included below.

To be honest if you are comfortable with your English then I strongly recommend that you skip this video unless you can’t live another minute without peeking into the Handover household and our dogs.

Mind you, even if you want to skip the video I can’t let you get away entirely Scot free. For at the 3:30 minute mark in the video John sets out the definition of pet:

PET: A dependent animal with a close emotional connection to the pet-owner.

I wonder if John had this in mind (photos taken yesterday morning in our bedroom):



p1160547Please give all your dogs out there a big hug! Now!🙂

It is never boring with our wonderful dogs.

Settle down and enjoy this ten-minute video.

Huge thanks to Suzann.

Because Jean and I were out from 9am through to well after 2pm and I had a string of things to do including writing today’s post.

But there in my email inbox was a greeting from Su and a link to the following:

Enjoy! (Guaranteed that you will; by the way!)

Give your dogs a wonderful hug from us here in Oregon!

Thank you Channel 15!

Delighted to share this with you all.

Back in July we were contacted by John Letz asking if he could come and film a news item for KDRV of Jean and me and our dogs.

Of course we said ‘yes’ and the following is the result.

Learning from Dogs for CH 15 news from John Letz on Vimeo.

Trust you will forgive this small waving of the Handover banner!

(Plus, if you want to buy the book please drop into Amazon and choose which format you would like.)

If dogs could talk!

Sharing the ups and downs of life with your dog.

Yesterday I used the phrase, “A number of domestic circumstances are taking priority at the moment …” and I wasn’t overplaying that. I can’t say anymore at this stage other than to say that a very close family member has been diagnosed with a terminal illness (and it’s not Jeannie, my son or my daughter.)

Naturally, it has been dominating my thoughts and emotions these last 72 hours but my ability to comprehend what has happened and to weep from time to time would have been impossible without the love of my sweet, dear Jeannie and the emotional sensitivity of our dogs.

For example, yesterday morning when I swung myself out of bed a little after 5:15am, the room still dark, and then sat on the side of the bed wondering what the diagnosis would be from the consultant in London, Brandy came up to me and just buried his head in between my slightly opened legs. With his head held down he pressed himself into my crutch and I then bent my own chest and head down and buried my face in the warm fur of Brandy’s neck just behind his ears.

So on to a short film that has been shown before here on Learning from Dogs but is still worth seeing again.

Published on Mar 27, 2015

Thanks for watching my film. I really hope you share and comment as we love your feedback also feel free to email your thoughts as well. for more info and my email.
The Director
-Shawn Welling
Full Synopsis:
A friend to share the ups and downs of life with him — and, soon, his family. “If I Could Talk” gives this dog the one chance he wants to share his thoughts.
Director: Shawn Welling AXI
Story: Mark Galvin / Shawn Welling
Screenplay: Shawn Welling
Max Welling / The White Lab
Shawn Welling / Shawn Welling
Michelle Simmons / Michelle Welling
Grace Calabrese / Grace Welling
Kalyssa Lauer / Kalyssa Welling
Phillip Glass
Shawn Welling
Art Giraldo
Scott Budge

Thinking of every one of you and what your dogs mean to you!

In praise of beautiful prose.

None better than Alistair Cooke.

In 1968 I went out to live in Sydney, Australia.

By chance a work colleague in my workplace in Sydney introduced me to an organization called Rostrum. They still exist today and as their ‘About’ page on their website explains:

The History of Rostrum

Rostrum Australia is an association of public speaking clubs, founded on 21 July 1930. The original Rostrum club (“The Rostrum”) was founded in Manchester, England, on 21 July 1923 and its first meeting was held under a yew tree at Greendale Farm near Manchester. The first meeting in Australia was held under an Angophora tree in 1930.

This makes Rostrum the longest-running public speaking organisation in the world.

General Information

Rostrum clubs aim to help their members improve their speaking and meeting skills. They do this primarily through regular club meetings and less frequent competitions. The main national competition for members is the Sidney Wicks Speaking Competition, held about every 6 years. State and territory competitions are held throughout the year.

It was a marvelous connection for me for later on in life I was required to give many public speeches.

Anyway, back to those days in Sydney. I still recall how one meeting was devoted to listening to and understanding one of the most eloquent and masterful speakers ever: Alistair Cooke. Listening to Alistair Cooke’s Letter from America on BBC radio was a passion for me until the day he died.

Alistair Cooke
Alistair Cooke

Here’s how Wikipedia describes this wonderful man.

Alistair Cooke, KBE (20 November 1908 – 30 March 2004) was a British journalist, television personality and broadcaster.[1] Outside his journalistic output, which included Letter from America and Alistair Cooke’s America, he was well known in the United States as the host of PBS Masterpiece Theatre from 1971 to 1992. After holding the job for 22 years, and having worked in television for 42 years, Cooke retired in 1992, although he continued to present Letter from America until shortly before his death. He was the father of author and folk singer John Byrne Cooke.

It was a great pleasure to discover that the BBC still holds archives of many of the broadcasts of Letter from America but, in addition, some of Alistair Cooke’s broadcasts are on YouTube.

Please settle down for 15 minutes and listen to one of best writers and speakers to have graced this world.

Broadcast on Fri 12 Dec 1980, BBC Radio

The shooting of John Lennon on the 8th December 1980 sparks a debate over the need for national gun control law in America.

Some issues never go out of date!