Tag: California

What rubbish!

No dog is ever ugly!

There was a recent item on The Smithsonian ‘Smart News’ that spoke of a dog winning the prize as the world’s ugliest dog!

I’m sure it was to gain headlines because no dog can be described as ugly.

Read the article yourself.


Meet Scamp the Tramp, the World’s Ugliest Dog

Scamp took home the top prize in an annual competition that seeks to promote dog adoption

Yvonne Morones embraces her dog Scamp the Tramp after he wins the World’s Ugliest Dog contest. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

By Brigit Katz
June 24, 2019
Nineteen canine competitors flocked to California’s Sonoma County last Friday, all pawing for the coveted title of World’s Ugliest Dog. Among them was Willie Wonka, an American Staffordshire Terrier mix born with twisted legs and deformed front paws; Rascal Deux, a hairless, dentally challenged “mutant”; and Josie, an eight-time veteran of the contest, which has been taking place for nearly three decades, with bulging eyes and a too-long tongue. But only one pooch could be crowned the ugliest of them all. And that pooch was Scamp the Tramp.

Scamp, according to Derrick Bryson Taylor of the New York Times, is a dog of unknown breeding, with a plump body and two-inch-long legs. He has Yoda-like ears and wild hair that grows naturally in dreadlocks. His tongue lolls perpetually. Now, Scamp and his human, Yvonne Morones, are the recipients of a towering trophy and $1,500.

“He’s Scamp the Champ, no longer Scamp the Tramp,” Morones quips in an interview with Andrew Beale of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.

The Ugliest Dog Contest’s pool of competitors was especially strong this year, so much so that the judges had a hard time picking just one pup. Once they had narrowed the contestants down to four, the judges asked the audience to cheer loudly for their favorite. Scamp was the clear winner.

Climbing to the top of the ugliest dog totem pole is no easy feat. Boasting a wonky appearance isn’t enough; dogs must also impress the judges and audience with their personalities and accomplishments. Scamp, according to his biography, regularly visits a local senior center and volunteers as a “reading dog,” letting first-graders read stories to him. His favorite book, his bio notes, is Go Dog Go.

“I think the audience saw his beautiful spirit and everything he’s given back to the community,” Morones tells Beale.

The competition’s second-place honor went to Wild Thang, a bushy-haired Pekingese who once contracted distemper, a viral disease that left Wild Thang with slight paralysis of the jaw and a front leg that never stops paddling. Tostito, a chihuahua who lacks teeth and a lower jaw, won third place and the Spirit Award, according to John Rogers of the Associated Press. As champion, Scamp joins the ranks of previous competition winners including Zsa Zsa the English bulldog and Martha the Neapolitan mastiff.

Scamp was found wandering the streets of Compton—“licking Taco Bell wrappers,” according to Taylor of the Times—and was adopted by Morones in 2014.

“It was on the way home that I knew I made the right choice,” she says. “There we were, two strangers in a car on the way home to a new start. Bob Marley was playing … and I looked over and little Scamp was bobbing his head. It was like he knew he had found his forever home.”

The Ugliest Dog Contest is without a doubt entertaining, but it also hopes to impart a serious message: Even dogs without a pedigree, or dogs that don’t quite measure up to standards of conventional canine beauty, are worthy of love and celebration. Many of the contestants, according to the competition’s website, have been rescued from shelters or puppy mills, and the contest organizers seek to promote adoption as an option for potential pet owners—“no matter [the dogs’] physical detractions.”

As part of their prize, Morones and Scamp were flown to New York for an appearance on NBC’s “Today Show.” There, Morones revealed that she was the owner of two previous Ugliest Dog winners—one of whom, Nana, took home the title six times.

In her opinion, Morones said, she doesn’t believe that her latest prize-winning pooch is ugly at all.

“He’s absolutely adorable,” she said. “When people first meet him, they go, ‘Oh, he’s kind of scary’ and then he wins them over with his sparkling personality.”


Now that is not a particularly good photograph of Scamp in the article so I looked for an alternative.

Scamp the Tramp won the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest Friday evening in Petaluma.

Now he is not smart as in smooth-coated but he is a long way from being ugly. Reminds me a little of our own Sweeny.

Here’s a video of the champion.

Welcome to July!

This is really great news!

Reproduced in full from the BBC.

There are so many times when a loving dog just has to do what it has to do.


Camp Fire: Dog missing from Paradise wildfire found after 101 days

21 February 2019

Kingston is believed to have survived by hunting skunks

A dog called Kingston has been reunited with his owners 101 days after he went missing during the deadliest wildfire in California’s history.

The Ballejos family last saw Kingston, an Akita, during the devastating Camp Fire in November.

Kingston, who is 12 years old, had jumped out of their truck as they fled their home in Paradise.

A local animal rescue volunteer caught Kingston on Sunday, and the family believe he survived by hunting skunks.

About 18,000 homes were destroyed and 86 people killed after the Camp Fire broke out and spread rapidly on 8 November north-east of San Francisco.

“When I found out, [it] just about brought me to tears,” Gabriel Ballejos told Associated Press (AP) after being reunited with his dog. “I’m so proud of him. I can’t believe it. He’s a true survivor.”

The family posted flyers and contacted shelters in the hope Kingston would be found. He was eventually recognised by someone who saw a post online.

Over the weekend, animal rescue volunteers spotted a large dog on surveillance cameras before setting up a trap to secure Kingston.

“When I went to check [the trap] on Sunday, there he was,” local dog-trapper Ben Lepe told AP. “It was awesome to see him and know he would be fed and warm.”

Kingston, who the family say was known to hunt skunks before the fire, smelled so strongly of the pungent odour that volunteers spent several hours washing him before reuniting him with the Ballejos family.

“He still smelled even though they used stuff that neutralises the skunk smell,” Suzanne Maxwell, a local resident and volunteer for Friends of Camp Fire Cats, told the BBC.

She described a “heart-warming” reunion between Kingston and his family.


I bet that heart-warming doesn’t do it justice!

A good news story!

We welcome with open arms this change in the law!

From the BBC.


Californian law change means pet shops can sell only rescued animals

December 30th, 2018.

It is hoped the law will encourage pet adoptions.

California is set to become the first state in the US to ban the sale of non-rescue animals in pet shops.

The new law, known as AB 485, takes effect on 1 January. Any businesses violating it face a $500 (£400) fine.

The change means cats, dogs and rabbits sold by retailers cannot be sourced from breeders, only from animal shelters.

Animal rights groups have heralded it as a step forward against so-called “kitten factories” and “puppy mills”.

They say the current “high-volume” industries, where pets are bred for profit, can lead to inhumane treatment and long-term emotional and physical health problems in some animals.

The new state-wide law, approved in late 2017, will now require shops to maintain sufficient records of where they sourced each animal, for periodic checks by authorities.

It does not, however, affect sales from private breeders or owner-to-owner sales.

Some Californian shop owners have raised concern the law could put them out of business. The measure has also seen resistance from the American Kennel Club, which said it limits pet owners.

According to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates, more than 6.5 million pets enter shelters across the country every year, of which about 1.5 million are put down.

It is estimated that more than than 860,000 cats are euthanised in the US every year

The California assembly member who introduced the legislation, Patrick O’Donnell, has insisted the legislation is not just “a big win” for “four-legged friends”, but for California taxpayers too, as they spend hundreds of millions on sheltering animals across the state.

A couple hoping to adopt a cat from a San Diego shelter on Friday, told NBC News the move was a step forward for the state.

“It takes the emphasis off the profit of animals and puts the emphasis back on caring for and getting these cats and dogs a good home,” prospective owner Mitch Kentdotson said.

AB 485 is the first state-wide law of its kind, although other places have enacted similar regulations on pet sales on a local level.

Earlier this month, a similar ban on third-party puppy and kitten sales was confirmed in England.

Lucy’s law, named after a mistreated cavalier King Charles spaniel, also aims to combat low-welfare animal breeding.


Slowly but surely we are recognising that these animals are more, much more, than ‘belongings‘.

Darling Izzy

A wonderful sequel to yesterday’s post.

Needs no introduction from me except to say that this wonderful account of Izzy’s loyalty was first seen on the Mother Nature Network site.


Dog stranded by wildfire waits for her family at burned-down home

Christian Cotroneo
October 13, 2017.

As the scene unfolded when family members checked the house, it wasn’t clear what they would find … and then they saw Izzy. (Photo: Jack Weaver)

When the Weaver family woke up to flames outside their Santa Rosa home — a region ravaged this week by deadly wildfires — there wasn’t much time.

They had to get out.

But sometime during that panicked retreat from the house on Wikiup Bridge Way, the family dog, Izzy, bolted away.

Trying to find her amid the chaos of fire proved too dangerous.

And so this family, like countless others in California’s wine country, left more than just their home behind. When they drove through sheer walls of flame and across an uncertain wooden bridge to get to safety — they left their hearts back on Wikiup Bridge Way.

It turned out, it was the one thing they couldn’t leave behind.

A day and a half later, while the area was still smoldering and roads were still closed, Jack Weaver and Patrick Widen made the nearly-three-mile trek back to the house.

“It was incredibly important,” Weaver, who grew up in that house, tells MNN. “My mother was a wreck for having gone through that. Nobody wanted us to go back because they were worried we would get injured.”

‘I can see …’

In a video of their return, posted on Facebook and shared below, you can hear the men laboring to catch their breath amid blackened trees and still-crackling ruins.

“Izzy!” Weaver is heard calling into the smoky veil. Over and over again.

They push farther and farther ahead. “Izzy!”

“Almost to the house,” Weaver says in the video. “I can see … the gate. The gate’s still standing.”

The Weaver family home was gone. (Photo: Jack Weaver)

A moment later, he adds, “I don’t see the house at all. F$#k.”

It had burned to the ground.

But someone was still standing.

“Izzy’s here!” Weaver calls, his voice choked with emotion. “Izzy!”

“Oh my God! Come here, baby!”

The giant dog bounces into view, her tail whirring like a helicopter.

Izzy had stood faithfully by the burnt-down family home. (Photo: Jack Weaver)

“When she same running around — you can probably hear it in my voice — we were shocked and ecstatic,” Weaver says later. “I wish I could have filmed longer, the happy reunion, but I was so happy I dropped my phone.”

Since the family posted the video, it’s been shared more than 4,000 times. Maybe it’s a testament to the need for all of us to find a happy ending amid heartache.

In any case, Izzy is where she belongs now — in the arms of her family — a testament to faith under fire.

“She didn’t have a burn on her,” Weaver says. “It definitely lifted my family’s spirits.”

Izzy is back where she belongs. (Photo: Beckyjean Widen)


YouTube also carried a video:

Well done, Izzy, and Jean and I send you fondest hugs!

Picture Parade Two Hundred and Eight

“The best laid plans of mice and men!”

The post Floor Diversion Day Three has been postponed for twenty-four hours.

Simply because yesterday morning the installers contracted by Home Depot (HD) to rip up our existing carpet and start laying the laminate wooden boarding found underneath the old carpet underlay another carpet that some time in the distant past had been glued down. Why this wasn’t spotted by the HD measuring unit when they came here to look at the project and offer an estimate for the cost of installing the new flooring is a question that has yet to be answered.

However, while the majority of HD work the full weekend the ‘Chargeback’ department do not. This department had to hear what had been discovered in order for us to know what extra costs we might be looking at!

A long-winded way of explaining why it is a pleasure to offer you a regular Picture Parade for today.

Californian Surfing Dogs!






And last but not least, a surfing goat!!

Hope to return on Wednesday!

Another life-saving dog!

There’s no end to how dogs protect us!

Last Tuesday, I published a guest post that had been sent to me by my sister, Eleanor, who lives in Johannesburg in South Africa.

Then a day later I read on the Care2 site about a therapy dog that alerted a group of schoolchildren to potentially very unsafe drinking water.  I must share that with you as well.


Therapy Dog Helps Alert School District to Lead in Water

A therapy dog belonging to a San Diego elementary school teacher proved to be a potential lifesaver – but not for what you might think.

When the teacher filled his bowl with water from the classroom sink on Jan. 26, the dog refused to drink it. The teacher took a good look at the water in his bowl and noticed a sheen on its surface. Concerned, she notified school officials.

After testing samples from around Emerson-Bandini Elementary and the San Diego Co-Operative Charter School 2, which share a campus, results showed the water was contaminated with lead, exceeding the allowable level in the state of California.

School officials contacted the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department, which supplies the water. Because that therapy dog that refused to drink it, the city is now testing the water at each of the school district’s 187 campuses.

The tests, however, won’t begin until April 4, San Diego Unified Chief Operations Officer Drew Rowlands announced last week. In the meantime, students are getting bottled drinking water.

A notice sent to the schools’ staff and parents said the water is safe for handwashing. Since cafeteria meals aren’t prepared on campus, they’re not affected by the contaminants in the water, according to the notice.

The testing of the water, which is expected to be completed by the end of the school year in June, will take place early in the morning, before school starts. At each campus, up to five samples will be taken from water fountains and cafeterias where food is prepared. The test results will be posted online.

If excessive lead is discovered, the contamination source will be determined and school district staff will take “appropriate action on a case-by-case basis,” said San Diego Unified Chief Operations Officer Drew Rowlands. Those appropriate actions could include replacing plumbing fixtures and making repairs.

Making Drinking Water Safe for Schoolchildren

Coincidentally, just one month before the therapy dog refused to drink the San Diego school’s water, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) Division of Drinking Water launched a program that requires water providers to test for lead in the drinking water at all K-12 schools in California.

“Recent events in the United States have shown that lead in drinking water remains an ongoing public health concern, particularly for children,” the SWRCB stated on its website.

How does lead end up in school water fountains? Although lead rarely occurs naturally in California’s drinking water sources, it can contaminate water that flows through old plumbing fixtures or the solder connecting them. It’s less likely that the water came from a contaminated source, as was the case in Flint, Mich.

Children younger than six are especially susceptible to the effects of lead poisoning. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about half a million children between the ages of one and five have blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the level at which the CDC recommends the initiation of public health actions – although no “safe” blood lead level in children has been identified.

A problem with lead poisoning is that there are no obvious symptoms. By the time children show the signs, such as weight loss, irritability and lack of appetite, dangerous amounts of lead may have accumulated in their bodies.

This is a compelling reason for more states to follow California’s lead and require water to be tested in schools. Thanks to a teacher’s therapy dog, students at two San Diego schools got a jump start on having safer water available.

Photo credit: Irisdepiris


 There is no end to the way that dogs love us, protect us and make us better persons!

The book! Chapter Nineteen.

Apologies for the single post today.

But on Saturday night the temperature dropped to 10 deg F (-12 deg C) and the pipework above our well froze. Despite all day Sunday with the help of neighbour Bill to thaw out some of the pipes the job wasn’t completed by nightfall last night. Thaw coming on Thursday!

Learning from Dogs

Chapter Nineteen

It was difficult at first for Philip to embrace truly what had been opened within him.  Yes, there was one change that was clear and obvious.  Him now knowing that Maggie’s unfaithfulness was a blessing in disguise.  For the simple reason that the marriage would end without Philip having a whole pile of guilt sitting on his shoulders. Apart from that clarity, the other changes within him were much more subtle.  No better described than that there was a feeling of, how would he put it, a feeling of inner peace. Almost impossible to articulate any more clearly than that.  He had no doubt that there would come a time, possible a couple of years hence, when he would look back and fully realise the importance and significance of his time with Jonathan.  What an amazing stroke of luck to have met Jonathan and to have had his trust that they could manage their reversal in their relationship in the way that it turned out.  Golly, and how!

The weeks flowed by in a manner that could be described as tranquil.  It wasn’t until well into August that Philip started to kick around in his mind Lisa’s suggestion of spending his Christmas with her and Don out in Mexico.  Despite so much travelling around the world back in the days of him running his business, he had never been to Mexico, didn’t even have a clue about the place apart from the fact that the national language was Spanish, a language he couldn’t speak.  He rang and spoke with William and Elizabeth who, as he expected, were completely relaxed about the idea of their Dad being out of the country at Christmas time.  Then he called Lisa and Don to get a better idea of what to expect.  He had looked up the details of the San Carlos online but not found anything that really helped him.  Lisa explained to him that San Carlos was a very popular second-home destination for Americans and that not speaking Spanish wouldn’t be an issue at all.  She continued describing San Carlos as a great place to get away from the English Winter weather and, in answer to Philip’s obvious next question, said that it was mostly sunny with daytime temperatures around seventy-five degrees and not falling much below sixty degrees at night.  As they were chatting, Philip idly converted in his head the Fahrenheit temperatures to Centigrade: mid-twenties in the day and not below twelve degrees at night. Gracious, he thought, that’s not a lot different to Summer temperatures in the Western Mediterranean. In particular, thinking of Nice in Southern France, a place that he had been to several times. This might be a lovely, relaxing way to prepare for 2008.

Finally, he asked Lisa about the best way of travelling out there and she told him to take a flight to Los Angeles and then take the short flight from there to Hermosillo in Mexico, going on to explain that Hermosillo was just an hour’s run from their house in San Carlos and that she and Don could pick him up from the airport.

“So, Philip, are you coming out?”

“Yes, I’m strongly minded to do it.  But Lisa, if I was going to come out it would seem to make sense to come for three weeks or so.  Are you sure that’s OK with you guys?”

“Philip, absolutely.  It would be such fun.”

“OK Lisa, leave it with me and as soon as there’s a clear decision I’ll call you with the flight details.”

“Can’t wait, my friend.”

His next call was a quick one to Danny who immediately said that he would be pleased to collect him when he arrived at Los Angeles, have him stay with him and Georgie, and drop him back to the airport when he was ready to fly down to Mexico.

Danny went on to point out that for his return trip he could probably fly in to Los Angeles airport the same day of the evening flight out to London.  Just a simple change of terminals.  Philip made a note of that as it clearly made good sense to do it that way.

He then wandered out from the flat with Pharaoh to find Liz.  She was over in the milking area, raking up the cow pats and shovelling them into a trailer just the other side of the fence.

“Hi Liz, you not shovelling shit again!”

Liz laughed, “Always, got any of yours you want me to shovel up?”

Philip belly-laughed and even Pharaoh joined in by furiously wagging his tail and scampering around the yard.  Pharaoh had quickly settled in to the surroundings and even stopped trying to be boss dog around Liz’s pair of friendly sheep dogs.  He wondered if Tracy and Jack, Liz’s dogs, were teaching Pharaoh how to round up sheep.  For he had caught the three dogs out together in the large field where Liz kept fifteen or twenty sheep, the dogs  appearing to be instructing Pharaoh in the art of rounding up the woolly creatures.

“Liz, I came over to explain about going to Mexico over the Christmas holidays.”

“Ah, yes, you had mentioned the possibility when you first moved in.”

He explained what he was thinking of doing.  Liz responded by telling him to go for it; that it’s not every day that one gets the chance to swap Devon’s Winter weather for Mexico.

“You’ll put Pharaoh with Sandra?”

“Yes, Liz.  I mentioned the possibility of going to Mexico to Sandra when I collected Pharaoh last time back in from California and she said not a problem in the slightest.  Went on to say, in fact, that she was usually so quiet with dogs over Christmas that she could give Pharaoh extra special attention.”

“Oh that’s good, must reassure you hugely.”

“I wouldn’t leave Pharaoh for a minute if I wasn’t sure that he was being looked after fully.”

Later that afternoon and into the evening, Philip trawled online airline websites looking at flight prices, schedules and trying to put together an itinerary that felt sensible to him.  There was one schedule that would have him flying into Hermosillo airport at a little before five in the afternoon.  He called Lisa again,

“Lisa, I’m looking at a direct flight from LAX that comes in to Hermosillo a little before five in the afternoon.  Would that be OK?  Didn’t want it to be too late in the day for you.”

“No, that’s perfect.  There’s a Costco in Hermosillo and I can catch up on some shopping and then come across to collect you.”

He didn’t know what a Costco was but presumed it was some type of American discount store. “Great.  Will get the flights booked and drop you an email with the flight details.”

An hour later it was all done.  He would be flying out to Los Angeles on December, 12th and catching the AeroMexico flight to Hermosillo on Saturday, December 15th.

The weeks turned into months. November slid by and allowed in an unusually wet and warm December to blow over Devon.  While Devon had more than its fair share of rain, Philip had long been fascinated by living down here in the South-West of England because, so often, the arrival of a low-pressure weather system in from the Atlantic perfectly conformed to the classic meteorologist’s textbook description of a Low. In fact, he watched such a classic cold-front chasing him up the A303 as he drove from Devon up to London on the Sunday before his flight out to LA on the following Tuesday morning.  It was an opportunity to stay with his daughter, Elizabeth, for a couple of nights; these days he rarely came up to London without Pharaoh.

The long flight to LA was as uneventful as they always were.  Philip chose to re-read the David Hawkins book Power vs Force rather than watching whatever films were on offer.  When Jonathan had lent the book to him back in June he had longed to write notes over many pages. That had quickly persuaded him to buy his own copy and for a multitude of reasons he had never got around to that second reading.  Today’s long flight was the perfect opportunity to do just that.

He walked out of the terminal to find Danny almost parked in the exact same spot as that day back on the 8th May when he last come over; gracious, he thought, now over seven months ago.  They chit-chatted about what they had both been doing these last few months as Danny drove back to Costa Mesa, the multiple lanes of traffic just as disturbing to Philip as they always were.

Later that evening, as the three of them sat together at home after Georgie had served a delicious dinner, suitably gentle on Philip’s stomach as, once again, his body didn’t know if it was tea-time or breakfast-time, they wanted to know more about his sessions with Jonathan.  Danny had studied psychology at University and easily understood Philip’s earlier family experiences and the resulting long-term implications.  Georgie was just as interested, perhaps even more so. Later in bed, as Philip felt himself slipping into a much-welcomed sleep, he wondered if Georgie’s curiosity in his own emotional discovery was touching some deeper places within her.

The fifteenth, just three days later, came round so quickly. Danny dropped Philip outside Terminal Two back at Los Angeles’ airport.  It was a little after 1 p.m.  He couldn’t recall using Terminal Two before but quickly realised, looking up at the flights board, that many international airlines were coming into this terminal rather than Bradley International.  

Ten minutes later he was sitting in the pre-boarding lounge presuming that the Embraer aircraft that was coming to rest alongside the walkway was his flight to Hermosillo.  Yes, he looked at the tail fin and saw the AeroMexico symbol.  Good, he loved flying in high-winged aircraft because it provided such a great view of the land below, especially as today it would be all new country for him to look.

The flight promptly push-backed from the gate at 2 p.m. and less than ten minutes later was heading out over the blue Pacific before turning to what he guessed was a South-Easterly direction.  He was initially surprised that the aircraft, after gaining height, didn’t continue around to the left to cross the high, rolling mountains he could see in the distance; he presumed the southern end of the Sierra Nevada range.  But, no. They continued following the coast, perhaps only twenty-five miles off to the left, for a good forty-five minutes.  He thought he saw San Diego pass by and then the land started to look much more barren and desolate. He assumed that they were now flying seawards off the Mexican coast.

It all became clear when he was able to match the route map in the airline magazine to what he could see out of his window.  For the land off to their left had obviously become the Baja California peninsula, to the extent that he could see the waters of the Gulf of California beyond the narrow peninsula.  Not long after, the aircraft turned to the left crossing over the peninsula. Perhaps half-way over the waters of the Gulf, a slight reduction in engine speed signalled the start of the descent into Hermosillo.

Philip was now aware of two things.  Outside, a vista that looked very deserted, seemingly a barren, hot, landscape.  Inside, a rising feeling of excitement at his untypical, adventurous idea of coming to Mexico for Christmas.

Moments later, that delicious squeal of tyres on tarmac and the taxi up to the parking spot alongside a two-storey, glass-fronted terminal building.  The few steps from the aircraft to the terminal doors felt more like a hot summer’s day than the late afternoon in mid-December that it was.

Hermosillo was one of those lovely small regional airports that was a joy to pass through.  Even for Philip, suitcase in hand, immediately aware that this was a new country for him with an unfamiliar culture, found he was approaching the glass doors to the outside area in front of the airport terminal in less than twenty minutes from the moment the aircraft had come to a stop. He looked at his watch; it was a little after five in the afternoon. He was looking forward to seeing Lisa the moment he stepped through those doors.

The doors slid open and the heat struck him again.

He put his case down and looked around for Lisa.  Strange, no sight of her.  Even stranger when he considered that there weren’t that many people around. Her distinctive, waist-length plait of white hair would be easy to spot. Maybe she was running a little late. Perhaps caught up in the shops, but even as that thought came into his mind he instinctively rejected the idea.  What could have gone wrong?  Here he was outside a strange airport in a strange part of a strange country unable to speak a word of the local language.

2,212 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover

The book! Chapter Seventeen

Learning from Dogs

Chapter Seventeen

Adjusting back to Devon life upon his return from California could have been so much worse if Philip didn’t have that first meeting with Jonathan to look forward to.

The flight back to London had been uneventful and as soon as he had taken a taxi from Totnes Station across to Diana and John’s place, to pick up his car, he was off to Sandra’s to collect his beloved Pharaoh.

While that night flight home from Los Angeles was always a bit rough on the body, the morning arrival did allow most of a full day back in England.  The thought of waiting another day to see Pharaoh was unbearable.

As he pulled into Sandra’s parking area and opened the car door, the sound of the many dogs staying at Sandra’s kennels greeted his ears. He hadn’t even had time to close his door when Pharaoh came bounding across to him, tail wagging furiously. If ever a dog could put a smile on its face, and Philip had no doubt that dogs could smile, Pharaoh was wearing the biggest dog smile ever.

Philip sat on the ground and received a rapid succession of face licks. As soon as he stood up and opened both the car’s tail-gate and the door to the travel cage, Pharaoh gave one giant leap into the open cage, turned around and was indicating in very clear dog speak, ‘Dad, take me home, now!’.

He told Pharaoh to wait while he went across to settle up with Sandra.

“Did you have a good time in California?”

“Thanks Sandra, yes a great time.  Feel almost ready for what’s facing me these next few months.”

He paused before asking, “Tell me, Sandra, how’s Pharaoh been?”

“He was fine.  Same as he always is.  It’s almost as though he knows that he isn’t here for ever and that you will come back for him.  In fact, it must have been over half-an-hour ago that Pharaoh was telling me, in the way some dogs do, that you were on your way to collect him.”

“Wow! Sounds as though that was around the time I picked up the car from my sister’s place and starting heading your way.”

He continued. “Sandra, the reason I asked about how Pharaoh is with you is that I have been invited to spend next Christmas with good friends at their house in Northern Mexico.”

Sandra’s face showed that she was uncertain where Northern Mexico was.

“It’s a place called San Carlos, about a couple of hundred miles south of the border with Arizona but there’s a good airport quite close by.  What I have been thinking, Sandra, is that being away from Devon over the holiday period might stop me getting all caught up in the memories of last Christmas. But if I was to go, it would be for the thick end of a month and there’s no question of me going if Pharaoh wasn’t going to be happy and settled here with you.”

Sandra’s reply was immediate. “Philip, I’m usually very quiet over the Christmas period with most dog owners wanting their dogs with them at home, for obvious reasons.  So not only would I be able to give Pharaoh extra attention but during the day I could take him for a walk around our local woods and have him in the house as well.” Sandra hesitated before continuing, “Of course, I wouldn’t have him sleep in the house overnight, might start to confuse him as to whether or not this place was becoming his new home.  So, what I’m saying is that it wouldn’t be a problem for me or Pharaoh in the slightest.”

“Thanks Sandra, you are good to him, and to me.  Thank you so much.”

Philip was soon over at Upper Holsome Farm and as he parked up, about to let Pharaoh out and take his travel bags over to the flat, Liz came up to him.

“Thought it was you.  How was it? Did you have a good time?”

“Thanks, Liz.  Yes, it was a great time. Gave me a real break from the stuff of the last few weeks and months.

“So pleased to hear that.  I took the liberty of putting some fresh milk and bread in your refrigerator.  Thought you wouldn’t want the hassle of newly moving in and not having any food in the place.”

“Oh Liz, that was kind of you.  Yes, apart from going to collect his nibs”, Philip lifted the tail-gate of the car and opened Pharaoh’s cage. “I had no other thought than to get back here and rest up after what feels like two days of solid travelling.”

Pharaoh had a quick sniff of Liz’s outstretched hand and went off to check out all the new smells and scents around the place.

“Liz, while it’s in my mind, I’ve been invited to go and spend Christmas with good friends in Northern Mexico.  I’ve checked with Sandra over at the kennels and she is confident that Pharaoh will be happy with her.  Because, I’m thinking of being away about a month.” He immediately added, “Of course, I’m not asking for any rent relief for the month and I’m happy to have you use the flat if you are expecting guests over the Christmas period.”

“Philip, come on now! I’m not putting anyone else in the flat while you are paying me rent and having your things there.  When you have firm dates for your Christmas trip let me know; I’m sure you would have done so in any case.”

“Thanks Liz.”

With that, he took his belongings across to the flat, still familiar to him back from the time when he was living here before he and Maggie moved in to the Harberton barn.  For Pharaoh, however, it was another new place to check out.  He left him sniffing around the flat and went out to lock the car.  When he returned to the flat, less than two minutes later, and went into the bedroom, there was Pharaoh curled up in the bottom half of his open suitcase. As if to say that the next time Philip left Devon he’d better take his dog with him.  What a dog. What a relationship.

Later that evening, as the two of them were resting after both a human dinner and a dog supper, his mind came back to the relationship that he had with Pharaoh.  Of course, it was well known that dogs loved unconditionally.  But the phrase love unconditionally was too trite, too obvious.  What was the deeper meaning behind those words?  He went on to ponder that it must be so much more than that.  The closeness of the companionship, the easy way that Pharaoh signalled his feelings to Philip, the purity of those feelings. What was the word Jonathan had used about feelings?  Transparency. Of course! Yes, the transparency of Pharaoh’s feelings; that was it. He continued reflecting on the incredibly ancient relationship that had existed between dogs and man.  At least thirty-thousand years and, quite probably, as far back to Neanderthal times fifty-thousand years ago.

If only us humans could live so simply and straightforwardly as dogs.  For example, take how dogs live in the present for the vast majority of their lives.  Think what that would mean for humans if we stopped deliberating about the future in the way that most us do. Not so much deliberating about the future, more like worrying about the future. The fear that this must engender because the future is so often an uncertain one.

Philip was sure that if humans could live as fully engaged in the present, making the the best of each moment, as dogs so clearly do, then we would live a much more uncluttered life. Uncluttered in the sense of being unburdened by the many complex fears and feelings that we humans so often seem to have.  Let’s face it most of the time our fears never actually turn into reality.  Millions of people loving millions of dogs in the world, untold numbers of close relationships between people and dogs, and we are all missing the most profound lesson of all to be learnt from these wonderful animals.  That if we stopped obsessing about the future, turned down the noise of the outside world, we would have a chance of some silence and mental space. For it is only from that silence within us that we can become aware of ourselves. How that self-awareness allows us to better cope with the uncertainty around us, and more to the point, offers us greater happiness. Now that would have profound implications for society.

1,453 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover

The book! Chapter Fifteen.

Philip’s life continues to change and adjust.

Just a little reminder that as from next Monday, December 2nd, the remaining nine chapters will be posted here on Learning from Dogs at the rate of three per week: Monday; Wednesday and Friday.  On those same days, I will also be posting my regular style post.


Learning from Dogs

Chapter Fifteen.

Jeremy Stanton’s forecast had been accurate.  At eleven-thirty on that Tuesday morning, he called Philip.

“Philip, it’s Jeremy from Fulfords.  Mrs Fuller has signed an agreement to purchase Tristford Barn, subject to survey, for the sum of five-hundred-and-fifty thousand pounds, with vacant possession in effect from Tuesday, 1st May, 2007.”

“Wow, I better get my skates on!  Jeremy, do you know how long it will be before Mrs Fuller has the barn surveyed?”

“Not been arranged yet, but because of the shortness of the time before the exchange of contracts will need to take place, hopefully within the next seven days.  I will obviously confirm that with you.  Unless you and Mrs Fuller were to agree a shorter contract period, the exchange of contracts would be expected thirty days before close, the 2nd April in this case.”

“Thanks Jeremy. I’ll look forward to hearing from you with regard to the survey date.”

With that Philip and Jeremy ended the call.  He turned to Pharaoh and exclaimed, “Wow, my furry friend, now things are really going to change.”

His next call was to Liz Jones over at Diptford.  He quickly brought her up to speed about what had just happened.

Liz then asked, “So, Philip, when are you looking for accommodation?”

“From Tuesday, 1st May to be blunt about it.  How does that work for you? Or rather how does that tie in with your existing tenant?”

“Philip, after our last call I did speak to Mary, that’s her name, and she is likely to give notice on or around May 1st, vacating towards the end of the month.  Is there any way you can find temporary accommodation for the month of May?”

“Not sure, to be honest, Liz.  But can’t imagine I can’t work something out.  In fact I was thinking of going to California around that time.  Leave it with me.  But, Liz, can I confirm with you that as soon as Mary vacates I will be able take over the tenancy?  Happy to pay a deposit straight away, of course.”

“Philip, come on now, you don’t need to put a deposit down, for heavens sake!  As far as I’m concerned as soon as Mary vacates it’s yours.”

“Oh, just had a thought, Philip.”

“What’s that, Liz?”

“I have a decent size barn that is empty and weather-proof.  Would it help for you to store your house contents there until your future plans become clearer?”

“Oh, Liz, you are an absolute sweetheart.  That would take a huge burden off my shoulders.”

Philip and Liz finished the call agreeing that she would double-check Mary’s plans and him saying that he would arrange things for May and go forward on the basis that the rooms wouldn’t be free until the week commencing the twenty-eighth of May.

It was time to take Pharaoh for a walk and soon they were parking up at James’ woods and enjoying the afternoon air.  It gave him an opportunity to think things through; so much had happened in the last few days.

First up would be to work out finding somewhere for him and Pharaoh to stay during the month of May.  What came to his mind almost immediately was calling Danny and seeing if his invite to ‘get his arse out to California’ would extend to him coming out in May.  If he could get his belongings sorted and over to Liz’s barn in late April, then perhaps spend a few days with Diana and John in early May, and then fly out to California more or less returning to England at the end of the month.  It seemed like a plan.

After their time in the woods, he decided to pop in on the way back and see sister, Diana.  Both she and John were at home, as they so often were, and Philip gave them the news of the sale of Tristford Barn, then outlined his thoughts about the month of May.  As he anticipated, there wasn’t a problem.  Far from it, because John had long ago admitted that he enjoyed having Philip’s company.

Then back home to the barn, with a quick call to Sandra Chambers at the kennels establishing, as Philip anticipated, that there would be a kennel for Pharaoh in May.

He went to the fridge and opened himself a beer before coming back and picking up the phone again. Time to call Danny.

“Hey Danny, it’s Philip”

“How are you man, how’s it going?”

“Listen Danny, you remember telling me to get my arse out to California. Well you know I always hang on to your every word, so how about me coming out around the 8th May for a couple of weeks or so?”

“Hey that’s cool, no problem at all, we would love to see you out here.  Will you want to go and see Lisa and Don up in Los Osos?”

“Yes, that would be wonderful. Haven’t seen your sister for a while now.”

“OK, Philip, I’ll call her, but can’t imagine it will be a problem.  Want to use one of my cars?”

“Danny, is the Pope Catholic!  That would be fabulous. OK, I’ll look into flights and give you a call before I go firm on them.  You sure it will be OK with Georgie?  Don’t want to cause your dear wife any issues?”

“Hey, Georgie loves having you stay with us. And she’s been so worried about you these last few weeks.  Trust me, no problem.  Give us a call with those flight details.”

Thus it was that a week later Philip was back on the phone to Danny and within thirty minutes of finishing the call with him, he had booked tickets for the flight out to Los Angeles for the morning of the 8th May, with him returning back to London on May 27th.

This all set in motion an incredibly hectic few weeks.  Essentially, in a little over a month all the contents of Tristford Barn had to be packed up and taken over to Liz’s barn at Diptford.  There was another aspect as well. One that he wasn’t looking forward to.  That is that he had no choice other than to speak with Maggie and have her come over and remove many of her personal belongings that were still in the barn.  A couple of evenings later, he called Maggie’s parents home.

Her father, David, answered and, much to Philip’s surprise, Maggie was over at her parents house.  She came on to the phone.

“Maggie, it’s Philip.  Won’t take any of your time but need to let you know that Tristford Barn has been sold and it has to be emptied and vacated by the end of April.”

“Yes, I had a call from my solicitor to say that the house was close to being sold.  When do you want me to come across?”

They swapped a few dates around and agreed for Maggie and her father to come over on the 14th April, a Saturday.  That would suit him as much of his stuff would have been taken over to Liz’s barn by then.

After he had put the phone down, he wondered just what his emotions would be when Maggie came across. Plus he was unsure whether her coming over with her father was helpful or not.  There was not long to wait to find out.

Saturday, the 14th dawned clear and bright, thank goodness.  Philip took Pharaoh for an early walk around the village and had been back in the house for about thirty minutes when he saw David’s car arrive and Maggie get out of the car to open the gate.  He wasn’t sure what to expect but the one thing that he didn’t expect was to see someone he was married to for over six-and-a-half years come across not only as a person utterly remote to him but almost  practically a stranger.  He noticed that Pharaoh was unusually quiet as well, as if he was picking up on Philip’s feelings.

Those feelings persisted as he went down to the front door and let David and Maggie in.

After offering them both a hot drink, Philip said to Maggie, “You’ll find in each of the rooms that I have put your stuff more or less together.  Of course, if you think there’s something not there then shout out.  I’ll be sitting up here in the living room so come and see me if you want to open any drawers or cupboards.”

Maggie nodded in a reflective manner, her father seemed to want to stay away from any emotional aspect of this visit to Tristford Barn.

Thus over the next hour or so, David and Maggie were back and forth between the house and David’s car. It came to the point where it looked as though they had finished removing Maggie’s belongings.

David came up the stairs to where Philip was sitting, Pharaoh curled up next to him.

“Philip, we’re all packed up so soon be out of your hair.  Thank you and, how can I put this, I’m really sorry as to what happened.  I shall miss your company.”

Philip hadn’t expected that. “David, thank you and I feel the same way.  We saw eye-to-eye on many things.  You and Gwen welcomed me into the family despite the age difference between me and Maggie and that’s something that will be treasured in the future.  Give Gwen a hug from me and tell her I’m already missing her home-made cakes.”

He and David hugged. Pharaoh had come up to them and David stroked Pharaoh’s head. Then went down the stairs, let himself out of the front door and within minutes he and Maggie had driven out of the cul-de-sac disappeared from sight.

As Philip continued looking out from the front window, Pharaoh came and sat on his haunches next to him. Once again, this furry, loveable creature had picked up on his feelings and sensed Philip’s need for the closeness of Pharaoh.

What was he feeling? It wasn’t clear but it did have something of the feel of a termination.  Or was it more like rejection? He wasn’t sure but it did bring uppermost to his mind that he should speak with Jonathan and try and get a session with him arranged fairly soon after he returned from his trip California which, with a start, he realised was coming up in just over two-weeks time.

On the Monday, Philip was able to have a quick conversation with Jonathan and agreed that his first session with him, in his counselling capacity, would be Friday, 1st June, just a few days after his flight back from LA, hopefully with the worst of the jet-lag behind him.

Thus Philip’s new life was taking shape.  His sister, Diana, and John, were happy for him and Pharaoh to stay with them as soon as he had to vacate Tristford Barn; most probably on the last weekend in April.  Liz, bless her, had offered storage space for all his furniture and belongings. Then within a week, he would be going up to London in order to catch the flight out to Los Angeles on May 8th.

1,883 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover 


Picture parade thirteen.

Keep having those wonderful Sundays!

First, the last four of the gorgeous pictures sent to me by Cynthia Gomez.  If you missed last week’s pictures, then here they are.









Now more pictures from Neil Kelly, back from my Devon, UK days.  Neil’s last set of images were in Picture parade ten.















Two very different styles but equally enjoyable, don’t you think.

It’s also appropriate for me to say a huge thanks to Cynthia, Neil and so many others who send me ideas, stories and pictures.

Thank you so much.  Not just on behalf of me but on behalf of so many others who follow Learning from Dogs.