Friday, January 18, 2013

Fitzroy's new cousin in Brittany

Christine went on a car excursion with François to an ancient manor-house at the western tip of Brittany to pick up this magnificent little Border Collie called Noushka.


  1. Noushka looks delightful - tri-coleur, like the French flag!

  2. They're also the dominant colors of the cliffs surrounding Gamone: white limestone, ferric ochre and black manganese dioxide, with traces of ashy grey. These same colors can be found (in varying proportions) in a dog that has become quite popular in France: the Australian Shepherd, which belongs to the collie lineage. Incidentally, Christine (aware of the personality and behavior of Fitzroy) is prepared for the fact that a Border Collie is a demanding athletic dog. She tells me that both of Noushka's parents were active in the context of sheep and cattle. Fortunately, Christine lives in a big old house on the edge of her Breton village, with lots of space all around.

    In the case of Fitzroy, I'm amused by a recently-revealed anecdote. Since the start of the cold season, Fitzroy has become accustomed to sleeping on the hard floor alongside my giant jarrah-wood bed (which I brought here from Fremantle). All my life, I've had the habit of sleeping with a handkerchief tucked under my pillow, in case I have an urge to blow my nose in the middle of the night. These days, although I hardly ever wake up with a nose problem (since settling down at Gamone, and receiving annual vaccinations, I've never been afflicted by common colds or influenza), the habit of a handkerchief under the pillow remains, but it has been replaced by a Kleenex. Well, when Fitzroy realizes that I'm sound asleep, he apparently places his front paws on the thick wooden frame of the bed and raises his snout just high enough to nudge the edge of the pillow and raise it (without waking me up, of course) so that he can grab the Kleenex. The next morning, I find a neat circle of tiny torn fragments of the Kleenex on the floor alongside my bed. (Maybe some pieces have been consumed.) And this happens every night.

  3. Another curious anecdote. Fitzroy seems to find it hard to believe that I might ever wish to talk to our donkeys, as I've been doing for ages. So, he intercepts my least words such as "Bonjour les ânes" (hello donkeys) and interprets them as an order, from me to my dog, to intervene... which he does, immediately, by jumping all around the puzzled donkeys and barking furiously, trying to get them to move. When I hold on to Fitzroy before talking gently to the donkeys, Fitzroy strains wildly to escape from my clutch. He cannot understand why I seem to be preventing him from executing an order.

    And another tiny anecdote. A few evenings ago, Fitzroy went crazy when a doorbell sounded in a TV movie. I was obliged to let him out into the snow so that he could pursue the mysterious would-be visitor. And my dog wandered around in the darkness on the freezing slopes for an hour or so before returning home.

  4. It's possible, of course, that Fitzroy's pursuit of the invisible doorbell-ringer was a calculated strategy enabling the dog to enjoy a nocturnal outing in the sweet aroma (?) of damp leaves, wild boars and mud.

    Another anecdote. I may have mentioned that I'm proud to have taught Fitzroy (or rather encouraged him) to howl like an ancestral wolf, whenever I ask him to do so. It's a kind of party trick. Well, this has become Fitzroy's style of responding to any noise from the donkeys (my two, Jackie's four or those in neighboring Châtelus). I'll let you imagine the startling combined harmony, particularly in the quiet evening hours, of a donkey's hee-haw and a lupine howl.

  5. Thanks, William, for all the extra stories about your Fitzroy - particularly the howling one!

    There seems to be a craze on beagles as pets here in Sydney's inner west. And they are certainly dogs that need a lot of exercise. We rarely see any other than overweight beagles. Except once, but that one only had three legs!