Showing posts with label Sophia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sophia. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My tastes in French words

Certain words and expressions in the glorious French language correspond, in my mind, to opposite extremes on the scale of beauty and ugliness. Let me start with the latter.

• I'm annoyed by the French adjective moelleux, which might be translated as "mushy". It's a texture reference to the slushy matter inside our spinal cord. This adjective, in French, is a favorite of distributors of foodstuffs such as yoghurt, cheese, etc.

• I detest the French expression baume au cœur. Theoretically, this means "heart ointment". Metaphorically, it designates soothing effects of all kinds. Each time I hear this expression, my auditive system records the nonsense expression beau moqueur ("handsome mocker").

• I react unfavorably every time I hear of an alleged ville d'étape. This means a town for an overnight stop. But what makes one town more favorable than another to be stopped in for an evening and night?

• An old-fashioned word I adore in French is sapience, which exists also in English. It means wisdom, like Sophia: the name of my deceased dog.

Once upon a time, there was a weird German medieval mystic named Heinrich Seuse (in English: Henry Suso).

He was an adept of practices known as mortification, designed to promote personal pain conducive to an assimilation with the sufferings of the Lord. He wore underclothes studded with nails. Like a Hindu fakir, he slept on a bed of nails, even at the height of winter. And it is said that he never washed himself for a quarter of a century. Still, he succeeded in producing a fabulous illustrated masterpiece, Horologium Sapientiae (Clock of Sapience).

Its general theme, in a nutshell, was that the acquisition of philosophical wisdom is rhythmed by the metronomic ticks of a clock, which remind us constantly of our imminent encounter with death.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Albertine in bloom

During the night after Sophia left us, the Albertine came out in bloom.

[Click to enlarge]

That will be an annual reminder of Sophia's departure for the stars.

Also, yesterday happened to the birthday of both my son François and my Choranche neighbor Serge.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lady Sophia has left us

b 25 July 1998 Beauvoir-en-Royans
d 29 May 2012 St-Jean-en-Royans

During the final weeks and days, I appreciated greatly the wise and kind words of many friends.

Christine, Emmanuelle and François have learned, through the bitter death of Gamone (Sophia's daughter), that the loss of a dog is the disappearance of a precious piece of the Cosmos.

— I thank my Provençal friends Natacha and Alain, who knew Sophia so well, particularly when she accompanied their aging Geoffroy.

Annie, in Australia, has comforted me constantly in the domain of dog drama, just as she has applauded regularly in the domains of dog marvels. I don't know Annie personally, but she sounds like the sort of intelligent and sensitive Australian lady whom I would love to meet.

— My Swedish friends Eric and Marita have sent me marvelous Scandinavian blessings, full of canine understanding and sympathy.

— My Choranche neighbors Madeleine, Tineke and Serge were special friends of Sophia, and they often commented upon her sleek elegance over the last few months. (A few years ago, Sophia tended to put on weight, and I put her on a special diet.)

— My veterinarian (who euthanized Sophia this afternoon at 3 pm) is as cold as ice... but that's fine, indeed necessary. Behind his cool calm, he has a tender heart of gold, and he knows how to console a grief-stricken dog-owner such as me.

— Conversations with my childhood mates Bruce Hudson and Ron Willard have eased my grief.

On the final trip from Gamone to St-Jean-en-Royans, I talked non-stop to Sophia... who may or may not have heard me. (I like to believe that she was lapping up every word.) My declarations were totally unplanned and spontaneous. I even found myself apologizing to Sophia for having suppressed some of her progeny back at the time of the birth of Christine's dog Gamone.

For Sophia, there have always been two magic phrases: "Tu veux manger ?" (Want to eat?) and "Tu veux te promener ?" (Want to go for a walk?). This afternoon, on our journey to the end of the road at the veterinarian's clinic, I repeated ceaselessly to Sophia:

"This evening, Sophia, you're going to walk with the stars."

That's where she is now.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Jungle excursion

On the slopes just above my house, the gully where Gamone Creek flows (when there's rain) is, at present, a dark and humid jungle. And that's where Sophia has always gone to do her business. Yesterday morning, I took this photo of her as she was emerging.

[Click to enlarge]

Fitzroy joined me, and we waited for Sophia to wander back up onto the road.

Instead of that, Sophia suddenly decided to stroll resolutely into the depths of the jungle, into a zone that is too steep for me to explore. It was only an hour or so later that she reemerged calmly, down at the corner where the road crosses over the creek. You can imagine that, during that hour, I had visions of my dog having wandered off into oblivion, to a place that I would never locate, meaning that I would never find traces of her. Worse than there, Gamone Creek was running violently in a series of cascades, and I feared that Sophia could get drowned. When she suddenly reappeared, and I led her back up to the house, I was like a disciple on the road to Emmaus.

I rewarded Sophia by subjecting her to a warm bath and a shampoo, to get rid of the muck that has been accumulating on her fur since she entered her disturbing state of food aversion... which continues, unfortunately. All I can say for the moment (as I know that many friends are concerned by her condition) is that Sophia spends most of her time sleeping on the warm kitchen floor, and that she does not appear to be unduly distressed. But she's living dangerously...

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.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Saving Sophia

Over the last week or so, my lovely 13-year-old dog Sophia has been affected by alarming health problems, and I'm trying desperately to save her.

For ages, she has has been afflicted with a "running nose": that's to say, a daily effusion of greenish mucus from her nostrils, which has never seemed to worry Sophia and which I simply wipe away with absorbent paper. The veterinarian has explained to me that this mucus is no doubt an external symptom of some kind of serious internal problem. Unfortunately, this superficial symptom doesn't indicate automatically any kind of effective medication. And it's a fact that none of the several products suggested by the veterinarian have succeeded in stopping the mucus effusion.

A week or so ago, things became more dramatic when Sophia started to lose her appetite. The veterinarian put her on cortisone tablets, and this seemed to produce a positive reaction. Since yesterday, though, Sophia has refused all food, no matter what appetizing products I've offered her. Worse still, she refuses to eat additional cortisone tablets. So, this evening, I'm terribly anguished...

It's all very well to say that she's an old dog, and that her time is up. Fair enough. But I'll be devastated if and when she goes. Sophia is Gamone, and Gamone is Sophia.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.