Showing posts with label Fitzroy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fitzroy. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fitzroy is one year old

This afternoon, at the agricultural cooperative in Saint-Jean-en-Royans, I bought a huge buffalo-hide "bone" as a first birthday present for Fitzroy. As for Sophia, who'll be turning 13 in a fortnight, she's not particularly keen on foodstuffs that are merely chewed. She prefers the stuff you swallow, that fills your belly.

I was hoping to get a photo of Fitzroy fiddling around with his buffalo-hide trophy. But, during the minute or so it took me to go upstairs and fetch my Nikon, Fitzroy had dashed off down to the creek and no doubt buried his "bone" in a safe place. He's a down-to-earth dog, definitely not the kind of creature who likes to get involved in ceremonial photos. The look on Sophia's face, combined with the lovely expression of complicity between the two dogs, gives the impression that they both thought that hiding the object was a smart thing to do.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dog business

Some time ago, when I took the train down to Marseille, accompanied by my dog Sophia, I had an opportunity of discovering, thanks to the wonderful hospitality of my Provençal friends Natacha and Alain, that the challenge of having a dog in an urban environment poses problems. There's a morning ritual of taking the animal downstairs, as soon as the master has woken up, for a pee. And an evening ritual of leading the dog to a convenient place to "do its business" (that's to say, for a turd session). The problem is that a master can't simply flick a switch causing his dear dog to "drop a darkie" (as we used to say in Aussie talk). I can remember Alain and I, in the backstreets of Marseille, trying desperately to imagine how we might persuade Sophia that we were starting to get fed up, and that it was time for her to arch her back and deliver. I even recall wondering whether Sophia, perfectly happy to discover the warm odors of the charming Mediterranean metropolis, realized that the only way of drawing out the delicious twilight promenade was to resist resolutely any urge to defecate. When she finally got around to depositing her turds alongside the footpath, it was because she was no longer capable of blocking them inside her intestines… but she knew perfectly well—poor dog—that this act of abandon meant that she would be led straight back to the apartment.

When I stumbled upon this delightful cartoon by the Flying McCoys, I thought immediately of Alain, Sophia and me at Marseille.

[Click the image to obtain a slight enlargement.]

The depiction of the serious but correctly-collared bespectacled dog doing its business on the suburban front lawn is marvelous, right down to the open laptop and the framed family photo on the desk. I love the dog's ears, which have a Martian-antenna look.

Talking about canine defecation (isn't that a noble expression), I can say that, up until recently, I had carted away tons of Fitzroy's turds from around the house. These days, he has apparently changed his turd territory, to an unknown location... and I don't see them anymore. So much the better. The most amazing thing is that I can truly say that I've never once actually seen Fitzroy in the act of defecating. (It's a fact that, since he lives outdoors, he has a lot of time to handle such affairs well before I'm up and about.) In the case of Sophia, on the contrary, she has always taken pleasure in dropping turds in the middle of throngs of tourists on the banks of the Bourne at Pont-en-Royans.

We're dealing, need I say, with different generations of dogs. Sophia was a pure libertarian baby-boomer (who didn't mind getting screwed by a roaming dog from the neighboring village of Presles), whereas Fitzroy is a product of canine parents who experienced the backlash of the economic shocks of the last decade. Sophia, like me, is an atheist. All I hope is that Fitzroy isn't going to tell me, one of these days, that he has certain moral principles that dissuade him from defecating in public, and that besides—horror of horrors!—he believes in God. Shit!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fitzroy's works of natural art

In my blog post of 11 March 2011 entitled Fitzroy art collector [display], I drew attention to the fact that my dog appears to be a cultivated collector of interesting naturally-occurring wood objects. He's still engaged in this preoccupation, more than ever. Since Fitzroy has now evolved into a powerful animal, accustomed to twilight excursions into remote corners of Gamone Creek, the exceptional objects that he discovers and brings back to the house are becoming more and more sizable and significant.

I refer to them naively, in my inexpert language, as "works of natural art" because these objects appear to have been shaped and textured solely by Nature, with no creative interventions by man or beast. But Fitzroy might not be happy with this terminology, because I have reasons to believe that my dog considers that supernatural cosmic forces of a spiritual kind may have played a role in fashioning the objects that concern him. I would like to glean expert explanations on this vast subject from Fitzroy himself, but he's generally totally enthralled by the delicate handling and contemplation of his precious objects, and prefers not to talk too much about them. He tends to be somewhat elitist, and surely thinks of me as a Philistine. Let's call a spade a spade: Fitzroy's a nice guy, but he's a kind of art snob.

BREAKING NEWS (Thursday midday): My dog seems to be following me (as they say in Internet jargon). No sooner had I started to write this addendum than Fitzroy raced up the stairs, sat down on the floor alongside my desk, and reached up with his left paw and scratched my arm. What I wanted to say was that I had the impression, when I walked outside this morning, that Fitzroy had read the above blog post, and wished to confirm that my opinions were spot on. During the early hours of the morning, he went out on a search expedition and brought back an even bigger stick than the one in the above photo, and laid it down alongside the first one. Then the post woman Martine pulled up, in her little yellow van, and said to me spontaneously (as Fitzroy jumped up on the door of the vehicle to greet her): "I often notice half-burnt sticks in the middle of the road, left there by your little black dog." I really must start looking around for an academy of fine arts (maybe in nearby Provence) that would be prepared to accept my artistically-gifted dog as a student.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Portrait of dogs

I shot this video clip this morning, at the top of the stone staircase (which I built last year) leading down into my flower garden. Sophia, constantly impatient, is letting me know that she's not particularly keen on posing in front of a camera. So, she wants me to hurry up. Fitzroy, on the other hand, seems to like being treated as a video star.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fanette and Fitzroy, friends

These photos indicate clearly that Fanette and Fitzroy are friends. Very good friends. Did we really need proof? Look at the way they're staring fondly into each other's eyes.

They're a little reluctant, however, to let the wide world know that this relationship exists. They're modest. Maybe they themselves are not quite sure yet that it's a genuine love affair. Don't forget that even Kate and William spent a decade together before taking the big step. Meanwhile, Fitzroy has been edging cautiously his big wet tongue into the vicinity of Fanette's tender pale snout, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if actual contacts had already been made.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ears, donkeys, a dog and birds

In 1987, on the sunny sidewalks of Fremantle (Western Australia), we often used to run into the mayor John Cattalini, who had the habit of strolling around his territory, soaking up the spirit of his electorate. My son François was amused by a facial detail. The mayor's prominent ears, protruding at right angles to his skull, seemed to flap in the America's Cup breeze as he strolled gaily through his city. "When Cattalini walks through the streets of Fremantle," my son used to say, "the city is being swept by a mobile radar system. The mayor's ears are detecting the pulse of his citizens."

These days, at Gamone, whenever I admire the marvelously mobile ears of my donkeys, I think of the mayor Cattalini in the Antipodes. Why didn't human evolution pick up this trick? With directional ears, we would know what people are saying behind our backs. As for my donkeys, the reason why they're preoccupied by what's going on behind them can be summed up in a single word: Fitzroy.

My smart dog is a cruel and cunning little bastard, who seems to have decided that those dumb donkeys need to know who's the boss at Gamone. And his technique of persuasion consists of darting in at dog speed and nipping gently the donkeys behind their rear legs, a little like leaving a business card. Fitzroy's business is simple, straightforward: "I've arrived at Gamone, I'm the new chief, the Boss, and you donkey folk had better understand it!" With the arrival of the warm weather, the Boss resides nightly in a luxuriant leafy straw-based outdoor residence that looks a little like a giant bird's nest.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to see that, for the second year, little tits (Mésanges) have made Gamone their nesting base.

Birds, still attached to our place, were darting in and out of the tree box this afternoon. Apparently, Gamone is a good address.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Greenness and shadows

Although I continue to spend a huge part of my time in front of the computer screen—where I've been examining the interesting rapidly-evolving question of the inclusion of videos in HTML5 websites (which I will deal with shortly, briefly, in this blog)—I take advantage of the splendid weather to fiddle around out in the garden, where I'm planting a further assortment of perennials. The following photo shows my garden and rose pergola viewed from the northern end (as opposed to the view from the southern end, shown in my earlier article on the garden at Gamone).

The single word that best characterizes Gamone at this time of the year is greenness.

This abundant all-invading greenness came upon us quite suddenly, when we were almost not expecting it. The warmth, too, is surprising at this time of mid-spring. Figuring out that the forthcoming summer will no doubt be hot and dry, I decided to do a bit of preventive burning-off, a week or so ago, on rock-strewn slopes close to the house, between the roadway and the creek.

The dogs are happy to be able to romp around in the long grass.

Sophia is completing her second intensive session of antibiotics and cortisone, and I have the impression that she has been reacting positively. If it's a fact that she has some kind of a tumor in the upper region of the left-hand side of her snout, causing her to breathe audibly from time to time, then it's certainly not visible from the outside.

These days, I'm more concerned by news about Sophia's daughter Gamone, in Brittany. Christine tells me that her marvelous little dog appears to be prone to epileptic fits. Consequently, like her mother Sophia, she's now under constant medication.

As for Fitzroy, who has now been an inhabitant of the planet Earth for three-quarters of a year, the sun's rays have been initiating him into an awareness of a mysterious phenomenon of a new kind (for him): sharp shadows. An hour ago, I saw him dashing around furiously on a patch of bare earth alongside the house, trying vainly to capture the shadow of a butterfly that was hovering a meter above his head. Then we were all treated to a most disturbing big shadow, which flashed across the grassy slopes of Gamone, accompanied by a terrifying noise (enough to drive a dog crazy). It was the rapidly moving shadow of a Mirage 2000, maybe heading back up to the base at Dijon after a stint down in Gaddafi's combat zone. Fitzroy stood on the edge of our terrace, gazing in bewilderment at the point on the north-eastern horizon where the noisy aircraft had disappeared. I would have liked to be able to tell my dear little dog what it was all about, and maybe reassure him. But, before tackling the shadows of jet fighters, it would surely be better to start with butterflies.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring revival

In an earlier life, at an epoch designated communally by archaeologists as BF [BEFORE FITZROY], this excavated textile specimen was no doubt a sock… but my image is of poor quality, since I don't have the necessary photographic equipment to record forensic scenes.

Today, alas, in spite of our unbounded faith in the great annual revival orchestrated by the Creator and His Hordes of Heavenly Angels, there's no way in the world that I'll ever again be able to put a foot into a resuscitated version of that sock, which has clearly gone far too far beyond the Third Day. Be that as it may, I'm determined to make a massive spring effort to restore my Gamone house and property (maybe with the help of historical photos from the present blog) to something like the state they were in back in the BF era.

Talking about my second dear dog, here's a photo of the residence that Fitzroy has set up for himself (with a minimum of help from me) after his spontaneous decision to move out of the magnificent wooden mansion that I had built for him just a little further up the street.

An obvious advantage of this new place (I'm obliged to admit) is the fact that it offers an uninterrupted day-and-night outlook over the valley: that's to say, primarily, the Cornouze. You'll understand that, for an esthete such as Fitzroy, the constant presence of this beautiful view is essential, indeed vital. Dogs do not live by bones alone.

Meanwhile, Fitzroy's sporting interests remain as usual. In that domain, I have to correct remarks I've made in the past about his activities in hose handling [display]. Maybe it's because I'm growing old—or maybe simply because because I'm not a dog—but it takes me time to understand certain things. I had imagined the case of the long hose wound around my young plum tree as a screwed-up session of hose running [display]. It is in fact a totally new sport, named hose curling. It was only this morning, thanks to the persistence of my dog, that I became fully aware of this.

Any old idiot (such as me, now that Fitzroy has made it clear to me) can tell at a glance whether we're observing hose running or rather hose curling, because they're played with quite different lengths of hose. And hose running doesn't require the presence of a tree.

Talking of plum trees and spring revival, you may recall the January anecdote about the horses of Will the Welshman and my donkeys devouring the bark of young trees down in front of the house.

Following the departure of the horses, I modified the position of the electric fence in an almost certainly vain attempt to save these trees. Well, I prayed fervently to my compatriot saint Mary MacKillop [display]. It's still too early to believe in a miracle, but this photo I took this afternoon seems to suggest that the good old sheila might have heard my pleas, and acted upon them. If so, thanks a lot, mate!

Meanwhile, since the sunny weather is, in itself, a mini miracle at Gamone, I decided—as I said earlier on in this blog post—to get stuck into cleaning up Fitzroy's winter mess. Sophia, of course, couldn't give a damn about whether or not the lawn is strewn with sticks. She's even more Zen, more of a lazy existentialist, wise but unworldly, than I am… which is saying a lot, particularly in the domain of spring cleaning. As for Fitzroy, he's clearly shocked by the idea that I might be about to get rid of all his stuff.

To be perfectly honest, for the moment, I've left the tangled twigs lying there. Fitzroy will have a chance of deciding, during the night, whether he should make an effort to redistribute them all over again. As I always say (and I'm sure my two dogs agree with me): Live and let live.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fitzroy art collector

I haven't had the courage to fill in Fitzroy's water hole yet, because he seems to like to take a sip there from time to time.

Judging from the muddy appearance, it's surely a more exotic beverage than the clean spring water that I offer Fitzroy in a glass bowl. There is now a network of half-a-dozen similar holes in the vicinity, and this means that I have to pay attention when I'm walking around there. For example, when I was gazing into my Nikon to take the following photo, I put one foot in this puddle and fell backwards onto my bottom.

These are typical specimens of the artistic objects that Fitzroy collects in the early hours of the morning and lays out all over the lawn. The pieces I picked up and placed on the table have forms that I too, like Fitzroy, found attractive. But they're a small proportion of his total collection in front of the house. Although he has access to a huge pile of sawn firewood behind the house, Fitzroy always prefers these natural wood forms—often fragments of fallen branches—that he finds on the outskirts of the house. Personally, I would say that he has good taste.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Problem still unsolved

At the end of my recent article entitled Hose running [display], I said that Fitzroy had been trying to figure out how to run around on the lawn with one end of a long hose in his mouth. Here's a photo I took early this morning.

Clearly, the problem hasn't been solved yet. I try in vain to imagine the turmoil in Fitzroy's brain when he discovers that, the more he runs rapidly around the young tree, the more the situation worsens. At no moment throughout the day has he decided to try to untangle the hose. Maybe my dear dog, realizing that the challenge is more arduous than what he had expected, has drifted into a state of frustration and discouragement. I don't think so. I certainly haven't noticed him acting like a despondent dog. But would he be hiding his despair in the depths of his soul? I hope I don't have to find him a psychoanalyst… unless, of course, I were to read up on this subject with the help of Wikipedia, and do the job myself. The problem, then, would be to get Fitzroy to lie down calmly on a couch while I analyze him. I could always put him on my knees, but he would fall asleep instantly, as he always does, which would prevent him from hearing my words of Freudian wisdom. So, we still have problems.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hose running

No, I'm not talking of running hoses, such as when you forget to turn a tap off in the garden. Hose running is a totally different affair. It's an outdoor occupation, a game… or indeed a sport. It's a straightforward activity, which consists essentially of grabbing a length of hose and running as fast as possible, and often in circles, while taking care not to let go of the piece of hose, or have it knocked out of your grip by an encounter with an obstacle. My dog Fitzroy (seen here from an upstairs window, in the middle of his untidy little universe of sticks and twigs) has become a top-class performer in this sport.

Sophia, on the contrary, has never been tempted to get involved in this sport. She looks upon hose running with disdain, considering that a dog has to be rather empty-headed to get a kick out of such a silly activity.

In fact, Sophia has never even bothered to take the first step for a future hose runner: acquiring the basic equipment, which consists of finding a hose and biting off an appropriate length for hose running. Fitzroy performed this task ages ago, not long after his arrival at Gamone, which means that he has now acquired some three or four months of solid experience in this sport.

Fitzroy is becoming competent in another occupation: pool construction. Maybe I should speak rather of making puddles.

The trick, here, is to do your digging at a spot where you've detected the presence of water. Fitzroy, who has always been particularly observant, noticed that there's a link in the hoses from the spring that allows a tiny quantity of water to escape. So, he calculated the ideal location of the excavation operations, which were carried out in the early hours of the morning. And the puddle was full a few hours later.

I now believe that Fitzroy's deep attachment to humans is permanently wired-in to the synapses between the neurons in his brain. Besides, I'm convinced that this wiring-in got under way right from the first instants of his encounter with Christine, who nursed him tenderly in her lap during a lengthy car trip from his birthplace in Risoul up through the Alps to Gamone. These days, of an evening, Fitzroy likes nothing better than to crawl up onto my knees when I'm seated in front of the fireplace, watching TV. The presence of the little woolly dog on my knees is warm and cuddly, and it's marvelous to see him fall asleep almost instantly, apparently in a state of serenity. But, with the weather about to warm up, it would be unwise of me to encourage this habit, because of the possible presence in Fitzroy's fur of ticks and fleas, both of which can cause terrible afflictions in humans. So, sadly, I'll have to draw a line that limits our cuddly proximity. There's another risk in these fireside sessions with Fitzroy half-asleep on my knees. Periodically, he decides to adjust his position, and this can result in his lashing out drowsily with his paws to get a grip on the surroundings, which can be my face and neck. So, I really must cease behaving like one of Fitzroy's favorite dogs, and leave that role solely to Sophia.

BREAKING NEWS: Even an experienced hose runner can encounter problems when new sporting equipment is being tested on inappropriate grounds.

In fact, when I first dashed for my camera, the hose was wound several times around the tree. In the time it took me to get my camera ready, Fitzroy had already started to solve the problem. And half a minute later, the hose was completely free. But Fitzroy has apparently sensed that something's wrong with this king-sized equipment because, for the moment, he has abandoned the hose on the lawn.

More precisely, although he's completely soaked by the light rain that has been falling all day (resulting in insufficient light for me to take acceptable photos), Fitzroy seems to be deciding what to do next.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Almost like spring

The sun was shining, yesterday, at Gamone. It was almost like a warm spring day. So, I went out walking with the dogs.

As usual, Fitzroy takes advantage of every opportunity to joust with his senior companion. As for Sophia, she remains alert and slim as a result of all this unsolicited exercise.

Fitzroy was visibly impressed by the cascades in Gamone Creek.

I had some work to do there. Just below my house, the creek runs through a big pipe under the road. A fortnight ago, when a thick blanket of snow covered every detail of the landscape at Gamone, the municipal snow plow appears to have bumped into a few big blocks of stone that formed an irregular wall around the upper extremity of this pipe. Broken fragments rolled over into the hole in the creek bed where the underground pipe starts, blocking it. I first noticed this problem a few days ago, when creek water started running over the road instead of through the pipe. Yesterday afternoon, I decided that the best solution would be to solve the problem myself, instead of waiting for the municipality (made aware of the situation) to get into action. It's amazing how a few chains, a block-and-tackle and a conveniently-located tree can be used to dislodge huge blocks of stone. (I believe the Ancient Egyptians made a discovery of that kind, long before I did.)

The water is now cascading perfectly, once again, down Gamone Creek.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Snow fodder

Winter has hit us earlier than usual in France (the winter solstice only arrives on Tuesday), and we've had exceptionally big snowfalls. At Gamone, I'm reassured to have a good supply of hay for the two donkeys. They only need this fodder, of course, when the snow prevents them from getting at the grass.

I've adopted the convenient solution of storing the hay in dry conditions at a spot (50 meters up beyond the house) that's out-of-bounds for the donkeys. Twice a day, I put a small heap of hay onto a tarpaulin and drag this light load down the road to the donkeys' paddock.

In that way, we waste as little as possible of the precious fodder. Whenever I smell the wonderful aroma of this top-quality hay (which was mowed last spring up on the Vercors plateau near Vassieux), I'm reminded of my childhood days on the farm of my Walker uncles on the outskirts of South Grafton. They used to do their mowing using a pair of draft horses, and the hay was piled up in a single giant heap inside a wooden barn. For hens, the hay stack was a favorite spot for laying eggs. I don't think my uncles were in dire need of winter fodder for their herd of dairy cows, who could generally find enough grass to eat all year round. Maybe it was useful to have this stock of hay in the case of an exceptionally dry spell.

In France, we've inherited a marvelous old recipe from the ancient Gauls: filet mignon of pork roasted slowly on a bed of hay, which adds flavor to the meat. The pork is served up on its steamy wad of hay, accompanied by wild mushrooms, but the hay is not to be eaten.

Moshé and Fanette are now covered in thick fur, like a pair of baby mammoths. They stay out in the open, no matter what the weather's like. There's a shed in which they could be protected from falling snow, rain and sleet, but they never use it.

I intend to construct a small system for holding the hay up off the ground, with a roof. I ordered the four posts of Douglas pine a week or so ago, and they're waiting to be picked up at the sawmill (as soon as the snow disappears, and I can drive into town).

Talking about feeding the animals, I've run into an unexpected hitch. To feed the wild birds, I put sunflower seeds inside the bird house for the tits [mésanges], and I throw other assorted seeds on the ground for the finches [pinsons].

I've been amazed to discover that my dog Fitzroy, who consumes huge quantities of the finest dog foods (pasta and croquettes for pups), likes to round off his meals with bird seeds. He doesn't digest them, since the seeds reappear all over the surface of Fitzroy's turds, which look a little like Oriental pastries covered in sesame seeds.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

First snow for Gamone newcomers

I've had an outage of the Internet and my house telephone for the last couple of days. Funnily, I don't think this breakdown had anything to do with the violent winter weather that hit us at the same time. It's more likely due to a mishap brought about by the armada of earth-moving engines that are working nonstop, down on the road below Gamone, installing a new sewage system for the entire district. These huge renovations (which will prevent us from driving through the main street of Pont-en-Royans for another month) don't concern me personally, because my house was renovated according to the new sanitation legislation in vigor in 1993, and I have an excellent ecological system of sewage disposal—inspected annually by the competent authorities— installed underground on the slopes below my house.

Meanwhile, Fitzroy has had his first in-depth contact with snow… and he loves it.

That's to say, he sees it as a marvelous soft support for his never-ending jousts with Sophia.

The little donkey Fanette has also experienced, for the first time, the slight discomfort brought about by the disappearance of the greenery (grass and weeds) under a 25cm-thick blanket of snow.

I prefer to speak of "slight discomfort" rather than of hunger, because the two donkeys are obscenely fat, after dining regularly on apples and walnuts over the last month or so.

As for the mésanges (wild birds, known in English as tits, which spend the winter months at Gamone), they've been happy to discover a big stock of sunflower seeds in the bird-house, and they swarm around it as a throng of a couple of dozen tiny black-and-gold creatures.

As of this morning, the sun is shining, the snow is melting, the road has been cleared by Frédéric Bourne in his tractor equipped with a giant steel blade… and my Internet is up and running. All is well at Gamone.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Kindling carrier

The firewood that my neighbor Jean Magnat recently delivered, which I've just stacked up, is yellowish acacia. It comes with a lot of loose bark, which is good for kindling. Fitzroy is fond of this bark, and he spends a lot of time (often at dawn) going around to the back of the house, selecting a piece of acacia bark, and then bringing it to the lawn in front of the house, which is now adorned with an assortment of bark fragments (alongside the other rubbish he deposits there).

Up until now, this habit of Fitzroy has annoyed me a little, but I don't see how I might let him know that I'm not happy. After all, he even sees me going around to the back of the house, from time to time, and bringing back wood for the fireplace. So, he might imagine that he's simply imitating the Master (that's me).

Well, I've decided that the best approach is to pick up the kindling bark left there by Fitzroy, and put it into a wicker basket in the living room, ready to be used. I seem to recall that people used to refer to this kind of wise collaborative approach by an adage: If you can't lick 'em, join 'em. I should be happy—n'est-ce pas ?—to own an intelligent dog that carries kindling wood to the house. But I draw the line at picking up banana skins and oyster shells dragged out of the compost heap. On the other hand, I think I should look into the idea of investing in a sealed compost box, which not even Fitzroy should be able to break into.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rear view of Fitzroy

This has become a frequent view of Fitzroy. You see, I place his food dish just inside the door of his kennel, in the front left corner. There are several advantages to this technique:

— The food won't get wet when it rains.

Sophia will be less tempted to gulp down Fitzroy's food (in the wink of a dog's eye) when she just happens to be strolling around in the vicinity of his kennel. In other words, Sophia seems to realize that the interior of the kennel is definitely out of bounds for her, since it's Fitzroy's territory.

— In this position, with his head in the semi-darkness, Fitzroy is less likely to get distracted in the middle of his meal. In the outside world, he jumps constantly from one preoccupation to another. And, if he runs out of plausible preoccupations, he resorts to racing around furiously, like a greyhound, in a big figure-of-eight trail.

In any case, Fitzroy eats heartily, as expected: warmed-up pasta of a morning, and croquettes later on in the day.

His body is a solid mass of muscles. I realize that he's a very physical dog, who rarely calms down. In fact, the only time he's totally calm is when I pick him up of an evening, bring him into the living-room and let him lie on my knees in front of the fireplace (for ten minutes or so) while I'm watching TV. His presence at Gamone has brought me a lot of joy, and I'm convinced too that his nonstop jostling with Sophia, when she's outside for a walk, has done her a lot of good from a physical health viewpoint. She needs all that exercise. In a way, Fitzroy has become Sophia's aerobics instructor.

Recently, during our frequent walks up the road beyond the house, the dogs inevitably discover a large male ring-necked pheasant that beds down overnight in the weeds of Gamone. The bird only darts off when the dogs are right alongside him, and he flies rapidly in a straight line to the opposite side of the creek, making a weird clicking noise like a motor. Of an evening, the dogs start barking as soon as they pick up the scent of the pheasant who has returned to roost in his usual corner of the weeds. I'm starting to look upon this bird, reared to be shot by hunters, as a new member of our Gamone family. But I wouldn't bet on his lengthy survival.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fitzroyalty update

Sophia had grown accustomed to a pair of pillows in her wicker basket. It had been an idea of my daughter Emmanuelle. But Fitzroy believes that pillows are not for sleeping on; they're for tearing apart.

Here's a photo of Fitzroy playing with a doormat, taken from a first-floor window:

Did I say "playing"? Here's what the doormat looked like this afternoon:

Fortunately, Fitzroy lives outside, day and night. By now, he has destroyed almost everything that was offering. So, I'm hoping that things will improve from now on. The relationship between the two dogs is excellent.

Fitzroy is constantly challenging Sophia to jousting competitions, but Sophia's weight and size advantage mean that she's always in control of the situation. Meanwhile, Fitzroy tries out every combat strategy he can imagine, and only stops his jousting when he's exhausted.