CAVE CANEM

Man, Dog, Stroke - cover
'Man, Dog, Stroke: Musings of a Deeside Whippet and His Master' was published in December 2011 by Deeside Press. It can be purchased as a paperback from any good bookshop, can be downloaded as an e-book or paperback from the Amazon website or can be ordered post-free direct from the publisher. Simply send an email to deesidepress@btconnect.com and you’ll be able to pay securely with your debit or credit card via Paypal. Proceeds of the book are donated to The Stroke Association in Scotland.
Hamish Sinclair

Hamish (pictured right) also now has a blog at www.mandogstroke.com where his thoughts will hopefully reside for eternity.

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Farewell

posted 1 Aug 2013, 05:00 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 1 Aug 2013, 05:01 ]

And oh for the touch of a vanished nose,
And the sound of a bark that is still. (Tennyson)

When Hamish’s ashes were returned to us, the invoice for his cremation bore the inscription “Let us never forget them, but learn from their silent wisdom.”

Of course, Johanna and I will never forget Hamish, but I’m not so sure about the “silent wisdom” bit. There were times when, like all of us – dog and human ‐ he could be far from silent, and far from wise. But one certainty he always offered was unconditional love. Now his beds lie empty and our home is the more still and quiet for his passing. No long nose pushes open a door to investigate what lies beyond. There is no purposeful trotting through house and garden in search of food and nonsense – just silence and happy memories.

Readers of this column will know that I moved from being “dog sceptic” to “dog besotted” during Hamish’s fourteen happy years. In fact, fourteen years ago, if anyone had told me I would weep for the passing of a dog, I would have told them to get a grip on reality. A friend remarked that to lose a dog is a bit like losing a quietly eccentric family member. One mark of the eccentric is that you are never quite sure what they will do next. That was certainly true of Hamish and the richness of his character is one reason why it was easy to write regular drivel in the Tattler about life from his point of view. His memorable character and gentle nature lie at the heart of why we feel his loss so keenly now.

As I look out on his final resting place beside a beautiful rosa glauca in a sheltered corner of our garden, I am grateful for a faithful friend, who brought love and companionship to our family through times of joy and sorrow.

Hamish Sinclair (Pepperoni Point Blank) 23 February 1999 – 20 June 2013


Eric Sinclair

© Eric Sinclair 2013

SW

posted 18 Jun 2013, 14:57 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 18 Jun 2013, 14:58 ]

If Master ever mentions the words “sponsored walk” to me again, I shall bite his ankle.

Apparently a sponsored walk is a “good thing”, “dog and human in partnership in a good cause” – that sort of stuff (according to Master). This may be all very well for humans – it looks very different indeed from a whippet’s perspective. Not that Master and Mistress often make that leap of imagination into the mind of a rather attractive, vaguely literate silver brindle whippet with a manly white chest and rather elegant gait. I’m talking about myself and my own mind, in case that description didn’t give you the necessary clues.

Sundays are usually notable for a couple of hours’ peace and quiet in the morning. This is our normal Sunday morning routine: Master goes out to do what he laughingly calls “singing”. Mistress disappears from our home – I don’t know where she goes. I sleep.

On the Sunday of the “sponsored walk”, or SW as I call it, things were very different.

For a start, it was a beautiful day. That in itself was notable. I don’t know about you, but I have found this winter long and tedious – cold wet walks, frozen paws and icy winds that rattle your teeth have been the order of the day here. Anyway, the sun was shining and the air felt quite warm. “Surely, surely,” I thought, “there will be no mention of SWs today. This is a day for lounging about on my garden bed, soaking up sunshine, eying up spring time rabbits. That sort of thing.”

Huh!

I was bundled unceremoniously into the car bed and thrown a biscuit by Mistress to keep me sweet. Instead of going singing, Master jumped into the car as well and we all drove off. The warmth of the sun shining through the glass soon made me drowsy and I slept for what must have been at least an hour. I awoke to find we had stopped near a large reddish building. The sun was still shining, but there was a fierce wind blowing which whipped dust into my eyes as I jumped stiffly from the car bed.

Despite the dust in my eyes I found myself gazing at a visual horror show. Master and Mistress had both donned horrible purple shirts and Master was carrying a long pole. He also appeared to be wearing black glasses over his eyes – “No dust in your eyes, mate,” I thought as we ambled off through the wind to meet some of Master’s friends.

“Not so fast, Hamish.” This from Mistress who was pulling something over my head. I have spoken before about the indignity of dogs being made to wear human-imposed clothes, but this was the worst ever. Purple is not my colour, yet here Mistress was dragging a purple shirt over my manly body. The three of us – Master, Mistress and myself – looked like a nightmare in purple.

Things got a bit better as we stood around with Master’s friends. Despite my horrific clothing, these friends seemed to want to pat and stroke me – something that appeals to my sense of value and dignity as a dog.

As for the SW itself – it was long, tiring and breezy. Lots of new smells, but not a rabbit in sight.

As I say, if Master mentions SW again, I will bite his ankle – hard.

Hamish Sinclair

© Eric Sinclair 2012

Eric would like to thank all members of St Thomas’s who sponsored Hamish and himself to walk round the grounds of Glamis Castle. As a result, over £275 has been raised for the work of the Stroke Association.


Four Strange Days

posted 25 Apr 2013, 11:23 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 25 Apr 2013, 11:24 ]

DAY ONE 

I can’t believe my ears. Mistress wants a dog that woofs. 

It is one of those grey, depressing days. The rain is beating on the windows and here is Mistress talking about getting a new, noisier dog. Okay – I’m old, but I’m not yet in my grave. Some sensitivity, please. A few more walkies in the old dog yet, I think, even in this dreadful rain. But, no, Mistress has definitely said, “I need to get a woofer as soon as possible.” 

I listen to the rain, consider her words and lie down in the kitchen bed to think. 

We whippets are not big barkers. Most of the time we just quietly go about our business, eating, sleeping and generally looking ornamental in a languid sort of way. But, barking? That’s not something we do much. Woofing? Not at all. Perhaps the odd high pitched yelp if requiring a warm blanket thrown over us; perhaps the occasional attempt at a single macho bark if the doorbell rings. But definitely no woofing. I’ve always felt that Mistress appreciated my generally cool, silent nature. Yet here she is calling for a woofer. I picture in my mind a large hairy dog with sharp fangs and mad eyes, slavering slightly and uttering deep loud barks in a ponderous, threatening way. 

At this point Master wanders past, looking even more gloomy than usual. I wonder to myself what he thinks about this sudden request for a loud barker – but as he usually agrees with Mistress, I don’t hold out much hope there. “We’re doomed, Hamish,” he says as he leaves the room.

I cover my eyes and dig deeper into my blanket. Clearly I have failed as a dog.

DAY TWO 

The doorbell rings and I try half‐heartedly to summon up a deep vicious‐sounding “Woof!” What comes out, of course, is a pathetic, whippety cough. Mistress sweeps past me and opens the door to someone called Jim. Jim carries with him all kinds of buckets and poles, one of which he leans against the house. Within a few minutes, and ‐ get this ‐ without Jim having to do what I have to do – i.e. plead and look soulful – Mistress provides him with biscuits and something to drink. She seems really pleased to see him. As it is a sunny day, I stay outside to watch what Jim is up to. And he might drop crumbs.

After he has eaten a biscuit, Jim climbs slowly up one of the poles he has brought with him and begins to take pieces off the roof of our home. After I’ve watched him for a while, I wander back inside for some sleep, wondering to myself what will happen when there is no roof left. 

Master is nowhere to be seen. Has he been replaced by Jim? If so, why is Mistress keeping him on the roof? 

DAY THREE

Not content with lifting pieces off our roof, Jim is now hammering and scraping away up there. He spends the whole day at it, though he occasionally climbs down his pole to eat the biscuits and drink the tea Mistress offers him. When she’s not offering Jim biscuits, Mistress bangs plates on the kitchen table. The sun is still shining, so it doesn’t matter if we don’t have a roof. Master has vanished completely.

I burrow in to my kitchen bed and shut out the world.

DAY FOUR 

Now Jim has disappeared.

There is a noise at the front door – and there is Master, large as life. I wag my tail with suitably understated joy and lead him gently towards the tin where I know my bones are kept. As I munch into my bone, I hear Mistress saying to him, “Jim’s an excellent roofer – it should be OK now. You’ve been lucky to be away during all the banging and clattering.” 

Suddenly, the truth dawns on me – four days ago, Mistress said “roofer”, not “woofer”. Perhaps I’m not a failure after all. And as for Master ‐ he was away on one of his “trips” as Mistress calls them (Master calls them “work”). 

Panic ye not – things are not always what they seem – or how they sound. 

As life returns to what passes for normal in our home, I think that’s not a bad lesson for a dog to learn in this life. 

Hamish Sinclair

© Eric Sinclair 2012

Sartorial elegance

posted 30 Oct 2012, 04:30 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 30 Oct 2012, 04:31 ]

I am the proud owner of a new jersey.

If you have read any of my previous ramblings, you’ll be aware that I have a love-hate relationship with human-imposed clothes. It is a point for discussion whether any dog should have clothes inflicted on him by a human, but I’m not getting into that argument. Let me just say that I like, or loathe, my clothes according to how they smell. For example, a long time ago Mistress presented me with a horrible smelling blue plastic raincoat. Not only did it smell disgusting, it also caused other dogs to laugh at me. So every time Mistress tried to force me to wear it, I adopted my “dig in the heels” strategy in an attempt to defeat her Iron Will.

The “dig in the heels” strategy works like this: Mistress (or A.N. Other human) holds out the raincoat. I, Hamish, turn my head defiantly to one side and curl my tail tightly under my body (not sure why I do that tail curl – it’s just a whippety thing, I suppose). This makes it impossible for Mistress to get the coat over my head. This is the end of Round One – which I always win.

Round Two begins when Mistress holds my collar tightly, and my head firmly. She then forces the raincoat over my head and along over my back, with her teeth if necessary. This is the end of Round Two – which Mistress always wins.

Round Three is my “dig in the heels” piece de resistance. In this round, I press my feet firmly into the ground and refuse to budge. Mistress pulls and pulls on my lead, and if I budge at all, it will only be to allow my paws to scrape for a few inches along the ground. She finds this infuriating. If I’m not on a lead, I simply stand stock still and refuse to move an inch - this works best with Master as he often forgets to attach my lead. This round can be won by either human or dog, depending on who cracks first. The human loses if he/she removes the coat in utter frustration. The dog loses if he gives in to a proffered biscuit and reluctantly accepts the need for coat-wearing in order to grasp the biscuit prize.

Oh, the games we play!

Anyway, this new jersey is different. Not only does it smell quite good, I have actually begun to enjoy wearing it. It is a dark blue colour and provides a great deal of warmth and comfort. I have found over the years that I have started to feel the cold more and more. We whippets have thin skin and short hair (and, as I have explained previously, I now have a bald patch as well) so I feel the chill of autumn and winter more with each passing year. So far, no dog I’ve met has laughed at me for wearing the new jersey and, in any case, the older I get, the less I care about what other dogs think.

In fact, the more I think about this, the more certain I become that there is an equation here. It would need a dog with a more powerful brain than I have to work it out, but let me make a start. Let’s say

A = Age, i.e. age of dog,

B = Bothered, i.e. extent to which dog is bothered about what other dogs think, and

C = Comfort, i.e. comfort of garment worn.

As I say the writing down of this equation would require a greater brain than mine (and opposable thumbs), but…..

….I wonder if the same equation could be applied to humans? Now, there’s a thought.

Hamish Sinclair


© Eric Sinclair 2012

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