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

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sophia's stayin' alive

Over the last week, Sophia has been avoiding all meat-based food including, above all, her customary croquettes. She's surviving on raw eggs, fragments of apple and bits of bread.


Last Friday, I described this situation to the veterinarian, who said that my dog's self-imposed diet was indeed unorthodox, but by no means catastrophic.

These days, since the weather has been warm and dry, I've been encouraging Sophia to spend her nights out on the lawn with Fitzroy, instead of on the kitchen floor (her customary bedroom). If she has an urgent need to urinate or defecate, being outside is convenient (rather than barking to wake me up in the middle of the night, to let her out). Well, when I got up yesterday morning, I was surprised to find that Sophia, for the first time ever, had apparently spent the night as a squatter in Fitzroy's kennel.


This unusual behavior alarmed me in that I couldn't help wondering whether Sophia was maybe searching instinctively for a place in which she might doze off into eternal sleep. Twenty minutes later, she emerged from the kennel, did her business up alongside her familiar track, and promptly took off in the wrong direction, sliding down the grassy slopes through the weeds, and ending up in a spot that was too steep for me to access. She continued her descent, guided by Fitzroy, until she reached the road. Then she decided that it would be a good idea to quench her thirst in the creek and to take a bath in a waterhole. I had to go out of my way to persuade her to stroll back up to the house.

Back home, Sophia chose to take a nap in another unusual setting: on a mound of rocky earth at the far end of the ancient cellar behind the house. Normally, she only goes there on exceptionally hot days... which was not the case yesterday. Later on, she decided to spend some time in the most unusual spot of all: a narrow tunnel dug into the hill behind the house, which I've always imagined as an ancient hiding-place back in the days when the prosperous vineyards of Choranche were often attacked by Protestant bandits. When Sophia emerged from the tunnel, I began to wonder whether my dear dog might be the victim of a sudden onslaught of senility. To rule out the possibility that she might wander off down the road in the early hours of the morning, I decided that it would be wise to attach her to Fitzroy's chain alongside the kennel. Meanwhile, I boarded up the entry to the tunnel.

Yesterday evening, I was so enthralled by a TV show that I didn't even realize that it was raining heavily. When I went outside, around midnight, Sophia had left the kennel and was lying down in the wet grass, totally soaked. I rushed the two dogs into the kitchen, put Sophia onto a cotton sheet to dry her out, and turned on the heating. There was a marvelous moment of complicity as Fitzroy started to lick Sophia's wet fur.

This morning, everything seems to have returned to normal... and Fitzroy is still watching over his old aunt. If the two animals appear to be wet, it's because they had just spent 20 minutes on the slopes, in the rain, while Sophia went about her business. With the rain and mud outside, and all the coming and going, the kitchen floor is like a pigpen... but I can't be worried about that. My only aim, in the immediate future, is to take care of Sophia as best I can.


Once again, Sophia downed three raw eggs for breakfast. I remain worried, of course, by the fact that she's unenthusiastic about any other food. Still I'm relieved that she never whimpers, and does not seem to be in pain. Curiously, her nose hasn't been running at all since yesterday... which might (or might not) be a positive sign.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dogs and stars

For the last two days, my memories have been dominated by images of Christine's dear dog Gamone. In the stark clarity of the death of a dog, I find a distilled paradigm of the tragic brevity of our human existence. I am shocked by the abrupt flight into nothingness of the simple beauty and nobility of the departed animal. It is a theme of immense melancholy, of celestial emptiness. And yet the cosmic messages of a dog's existence are no less real than those that emanate from us humans. Their existential photons end up hurtling towards the stars, just like ours. We're all on the same wavelength, as it were.


Sophia pursues her calm existence, apparently oblivious of the fact that her daughter Gamone has now been totally metamorphosed into a burst of something heading out towards the confines of the Cosmos. As you can see from this photo, Sophia looks quite slim and alert. In fact, in spite of her advanced age, she's in good shape. As for Fitzroy, he remains relatively earthbound for the moment, in the sense that he is capable of meditating deeply, for long periods of time, on the mysteries of a jet of water emerging from a hose.


But a canine philosopher is capable of interrupting his cogitations, maybe in the twilight zone of a warm spring evening, to go out hunting. The following morning, I admire the catch:


That's the first time I've ever seen a gray rat in the vicinity of the house. It's reassuring to know that Fitzroy can apparently find and destroy such a pest.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mondo cane

Sophia's primary wish, as she grows older, is to lead a peaceful and lazy (non-strenuous) existence... like all of us, you might say.


Whenever I happen to wander up the road on my own, to fetch water for the donkeys, Sophia gets upset and starts to bark. She wants to keep me in sight all the time (except, of course, if I go out in the car, which doesn't seem to bother her).

In the turd domain, Queen Sophia has become a little like the French "Sun King" Louis XIV at Versailles, who apparently had the habit of sitting on the royal chamber pot every morning, and doing his business, in the company of selected members of his court. My dog Sophia expects Fitzroy and me to accompany her to a precise place on the slopes, 50 meters beyond the house, and to wait there until not the least fragment of a turd remains to be ejected from her anal tract. I'm always amused by the way in which Sophia, up until the latter question has received a definitive answer, continues to beat around the bush, coming and going, hesitating, and turning in circles. It's clearly a fundamental matter of making a good decision.

Fitzroy now accepts the principle of being chained up for certain periods during the day (in the middle of the morning or afternoon, for example, after having eaten), to remove the temptation of setting out on exploratory expeditions along the roads, no doubt in pursuit of magic female odors. He doesn't seem to be traumatized by this necessity, as he comes readily when I call him to be attached to the chain.


During the night, he's totally free to do as he pleases. And one of the activities that pleases Fitzroy immensely is the destruction of colored plastic objects.


It goes without saying that I'm not happy to see the nozzle of a hose subjected to this treatment. But how can I possibly explain to my dog that I need those plastic objects for several good reasons? Just imagine if a grass fire broke out, and I suddenly found my hose nozzle in that state. Fitzroy, of course, would never worry about such things as grass fires. On the other hand, he has always been infatuated by water hoses.

We humans see the Large Hadron Collider and its beams of particles, beneath the Franco-Swiss border, as an extraordinary tool capable of maybe providing answers to some of the basic mysteries of our existence. Fitzroy seems to see the jet of water emerging from a hose with a similar degree of awe. Even if it means getting soaked for the nth time, Fitzroy would like to break through this mystery, and get to the bottom (or maybe rather the top) of it all.


My dog performs astonishing jumps of well over a meter into the air. I tried to manipulate the hose and take photos of Fitzroy's spectacular jumps at the same time, but my images cannot possibly hope to convey the intellectual rage of my dear dog.


A jet of water emerging from a hose looks like a tangible thing... and yet it seems to evaporate into thin wet air as soon as you attempt to grasp it. Maybe it's a matter of adjusting one's angle of attack, even in mid-air.


Fitzroy's determination to solve this problem knows no bounds... apart from his own, which are truly superb.


I would never dare attempt to explain to my dog the curious physical nature of liquids, because he has clearly discovered these mysteries all on his own. I prefer to leave Fitzroy with his permanent determination to catch the Snark one of these days. Others might wait for Godot. Meanwhile, Fitzroy jumps.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Donkey fur, donkey thoughts

The state of the donkeys' fur is like a natural barometer indicating that winter is not far away.


In the following photo, Moshé's ears are pointing back down towards Fitzroy, sensing the dog's movements, and the donkey seems to be saying to himself: "If that bloody dog tries to bite my hind legs one more time, I'll screw him."


Maybe Fitzroy sensed that Moshé might even be getting ready to transform his thoughts into action.


In any case, the dog reckoned it was no longer a good idea to hang around in the vicinity of the donkey.

Frequent view of Fitzroy

Several times a day, this is the view I have of Fitzroy:


That's to say, he's settled on the floor beneath a corner of my desk, and staring up at me while I work at my computer. From time to time, he gets tired of holding his head up, and he dozes for a quarter of an hour. When he's really bored, and wants to get out of the house, Fitzroy has developed an excellent technique aimed at letting me know that it's time to interrupt my use of the computer. As soon as I reach towards my mouse, Fitzroy simply raises his snout ever so slightly and bumps my wrist aside. When this happens, it becomes impossible to carry on using the computer, so I have to get up and bundle my dog down the stairs and out through the kitchen door.

Fitzroy has an even more eloquent way of letting me know that a break is necessary. He simply scrambles up onto my knees and places his head between me and the Macintosh. Clearly, there are limits to Fitzroy's patience with computing.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fitzroy has a new ball

Late yesterday afternoon, in the semi-darkness, I came upon an elegant soft black-and-white leather ball in the middle of an almost-empty parking zone at the supermarket in St-Jean-en-Royans. It had no doubt fallen out of a car. So, I brought it back home and gave it to Fitzroy.

It's just the right size for Fitzroy: that's to say, a little too big for him to get his teeth into it firmly, destructively. So, the ball might survive.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Autumn dogs

The weather at Gamone has been mild, and the dogs have been lounging around lazily in the sun.

They get on wonderfully well together. This afternoon, a local hunter, Daniel Berger, strolled past the house, with one of his hounds on a leash. When I went out to say hello to him, my dogs accompanied me. Suddenly, Fitzroy decided that he didn't like the look of the poor docile hound, so he sprang on him. The surprise attack wasn't particularly vicious, and only lasted for half a second. I was amused in that it was the first time ever that I've seen Fitzroy lose his temper.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fitzroy excavator

This photo, taken this morning on the road just up from my house at Gamone, shows Fitzroy posing proudly in front of a hole that he had dug in the embankment some 24 hours earlier.

[Click to enlarge]

Yesterday, I happened to be located some 20 meters further up the road (but without my Nikon) at the instant when Fitzroy decided to carry out this excavation. I was strolling up the road when I heard a kind of dull rumbling sound behind me. Turning around, I was amazed to see Fitzroy in full action, engulfed in a cloud of dust. His robust front paws were rotating rapidly, gouging out earth and stones that flew over his head. This was the first time I had ever caught Fitzroy in an act of excavation. (Normally he works alone, stealthily, in the early hours of the morning.) The entire operation lasted less than 20 seconds, as if a powerful machine had been set in operation, and then turned off.

What in fact was the purpose of this unexpected excavation? Like any self-respecting fossicker, Fitzroy refrains from revealing details. In the case of potential seams of precious metals or gems, you don't go around town shouting out about what you're doing. You simply shut up, keep quiet about your findings, and continue to dig. I suspect, though, that my marvelous friend Fitzroy might have sighted a tiny lizard.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Working alone

At Gamone, every outside task that I'm called upon to perform must be done on my own. For example, I decided to move this old roof beam, which had been an acceptable rustic bench, up until it started to rot.

[Click to enlarge slightly]

If there were somebody here to help me, we would have picked up this rafter and carried it a few dozen meters to the place where I wanted to discard it. On my own, though, I had to be more imaginative. So, I used a pair of rollers, which made the task simple and effortless.

This is the spirit of my American hero Henry David Thoreau in his humble cabin (constructed by himself) in the woods of Massachusetts, alongside the lake Walden, whom I've already mentioned in this blog [display]. But don't get me wrong. I don't advocate living on one's own and being obliged to invent creative solutions to daily down-to-earth problems as an ideal lifestyle.

In the photo, notice the presence of an admirer of my ingeniousness.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dog loves books

I like to be surrounded by all kinds of books, so that I can pick them up at random whenever I feel like reading something different. And I've always found that one of the most convenient places to store the books that surround me is on the bedroom floor. Well, my dog Fitzroy seems to share my tastes at this level.

Sophia's joints have become a little too old for climbing up the stairs to my bedroom, but Fitzroy seems to like this place, and he dashes up here whenever the doors are open. He's capable of taking a nap there in the middle of my books, without ever bumping into any of them. But, after a while, he feels that it's time for action. So, he'll suddenly jump up onto my knees, occupying all the available space between me and my computer. When this happens, my only solution is to lead him downstairs, where he's happy to romp around with Sophia on the lawn in front of the house. Then I close the doors, and get back up to my computer.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fitzroy socializing

I don't have any photos, because it all happened unexpectedly. Towards the end of Monday afternoon, my new Gamone neighbors phoned to inform me that they were about to throw a house-warming party, and that I was invited. Realizing that I had less than an hour to get shaved, showered and spruced up for a social evening (local etiquette), I darted away to St-Jean-en-Royans to purchase a couple of bottles of wine. Returning to Gamone at about 7 o'clock, I had a single thought in mind: lock up Fitzroy in the kitchen, along with Sophia, so that the dogs wouldn't follow me up to my neighbors' party. But Fitzroy was nowhere in sight. So, I set off on foot, with my bottles of wine. On the way up to the lovely new home of Jackie and Marie, Fitzroy was there to greet me. He had already sensed that a party was underway, and he got up there early, without waiting to be invited along by me or anybody else.

Well, to cut a long story short, it was a wonderful evening, both for Fitzroy and for me. My dog was socially faultless. And he even had an opportunity (a must for every French dog) of tasting bones of frogs' legs. I drank glass after glass of rosé wine, and talked on with guests from Louisiana. The former owner, my friend Bob, was present, along with his companion Kiki. Towards the end of this marvelous evening, we all sat around a log fire, looking out over the Cournouze. Then I strolled back home with Fitzroy… who had behaved excellently, won many friends, and succeeded brilliantly in his social coming-out.

Asleep in the kitchen, Sophia was totally unimpressed, indeed uninterested, by our descriptions of this splendid evening of frogs' legs, rosé wine and a log fire. It's a fact: Sophia has never been a socialite.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Comfortable dog bed beneath the foliage

Inside the house, whenever Sophia leaves her big wicker basket empty, Fitzroy has the habit of hopping into it, and often falling asleep. Fortunately, Sophia seems to find it perfectly normal that her basket should be borrowed, from time to time, in this way. As I've often said, she's imbued with a profound Christian spirit of charity. Outside, Fitzroy has always had a fine kennel, but he prefers to sleep out in the open, on a thick wad of straw in front of the wall of the house. This afternoon, for the first time ever, I was amused to discover that Sophia had borrowed Fitzroy's bed for a short nap.

It certainly looks like an attractive place to rest on a summer afternoon. The straw is surrounded by lavender, in full bloom. The shrub on the right is a white-flowering wisteria, whose foliage is sufficiently thick, at this time of the year, to act as a canopy capable of protecting the dog from rain. The plant on the left is a wild dog rose (Rosa canina, called églantier in French), which produces pale pink flowers.

I was wondering why the name of this wild rose (apparently the ancestor of cultivated roses) evokes dogs. In ancient times, people believed that the root of this plant could cure a person who had contracted rabies, after being bitten by an afflicted dog. I'm always amazed when I hear tales like that. I try to imagine the scenario: A gravely sick individual, on a stretcher, is carted along to an apothecary who—for reasons that are hard to fathom—gives the patient a concoction containing the ground-up roots of a wild rose bush. How and why did apothecaries decide that such a preparation might play a positive role in healing such a serious affliction as rabies? More to the point: Did the concoction actually produce positive results?

Maybe, an ancient apothecary happened to notice, like me, that his dogs liked to lie around outside on a bed of straw surrounded by lavender, in the shade of Wisteria and wild rose bushes. So, when one of his dogs went mad and bit people, the apothecary might have asked himself: "Before that animal went mad, what were the plants and flowers associated with its normal state of harmonious well-being?" And maybe the apothecary imagined that these same plants and flowers might play a role in restoring the health of victims of rabies.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Circus of Choranche, Bastille Day

One of my greatest pleasures consists of simply gazing out over the circus of Choranche from a first-floor window of my house at Gamone. Whenever I detect some special magic in the view, I take a photo. This one, for example, is a Bastille Day symphony of clouds rising over the eastern horizon:

This morning, down in front of the house, Fitzroy detected the presence of an alien visitor:

The blue balloon and its attached card had been sent into the air by a girl named Clémence, on the eve of Bastille Day, from an agricultural village up near Lyon. I mailed the card back to her, as requested, so that her village would have a record of this flight of one of its balloons. I imagined myself as Neil Armstrong on 20 July 1969, radioing back to Earth: "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

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.