Thursday, 29 May 2008


We always had dogs – when I was a child, a teenager, and after we got married we had several. Our kids grew up with a dog, but when our last and much loved dog died after our kids had left home, we said ‘No more dogs’.
We generally had ‘bitzers’ that someone was giving away, although in the list were a Corgi and a Red Setter. We were pretty laid back about dogs in those days, but then, wasn’t the whole community? Children could walk up and pat a dog with confidence, dogs didn’t throw themselves against the fence and make you fear for your very life as your walked past, and attacks on people as have been reported recently were pretty well unheard of.
You shouldn’t really have a dog when both people are working and you’re very busy. It’s not fair to the dog, home alone and prone to mischief. We’ve had mischievous dogs before – why, one of our dogs (in the days before you had to make sure you dog was fenced in and not roaming at large) came home once with a note pinned to his collar which read ‘Public Nuisance No 1.’ Really!
And so we resisted the urge to get another dog. Years passed, we retired, our yard returned to some sense of normalcy – no more dogs the size of a small Shetland Pony digging holes. We even landscaped, and made everything – well, in our eyes – beautiful.
But, but, we always traipsed past the pet shop window and drooled over various puppies, but dragged ourselves away without being seduced by little noses, and little pink tongues, and eyes that said ‘Take me home, love me, I won’t dig your garden up, and I’ll never, ever bark, or make a mess’.
After our grandchildren were born we started to say to their parents that all kids should have a dog, but as was kindly pointed out to us by said parents, perhaps not in the city, not when you don’t have a yard, not when you don’t have a fence, and not when both parents work, and kids are at child care and school all day.
Still we kept saying to each other ‘Kids really should have a dog’, and then that evolved into ‘We could get a dog, then the kids could have the fun of it too!’ What a good idea. But we still valiantly resisted – after all what would we do with a dog while we were away on a trip or a weekend or even for a day out?
And so our resolve held until the day just recently when we saw four puppies in the pet shop window. Four gorgeous puppies, and not these strange mixtures of poodles and spaniels, and dauschaunds and chihuahuas, but a real dog, pure bred and just beautiful. Perfect little white balls of fluff, guaranteed not to grow too large, easy to maintain, loving towards kids, good guard dogs, healthy and sound.
‘Oh’, I moaned pitifully, ‘If I could have any dog in the world that would be it’. ‘Come away!’ my husband said, grasping my by the collar and hauling me away.
However, the following week when we passed by the pet shop window again, there they were – still there, and still gorgeous. ‘I’m going to ask how much they are’, I said, and bravely walked into the shop, and weakly crawled out after picking myself up off the floor on being told the price. Good God, I could buy a small car for that, and so I put the whole idea out of my mind. Which is a very good thing to do, because having been married as long as we have, there’s a sort of thought transference thing that goes on – as soon as I go off an idea HE gets onto it!
A week later there were only two puppies left. We stood and stared, and this time I hauled him away by the collar. The next morning much to my surprise he said ‘I’ve been thinking about that dog all night. Would you like to go and have another look?’ In marriage speak, ‘have another look’ means ‘we’ll get it!’
And we did.
(1) bought a dog. And anyone who has a dog knows that that is not the final paragraph.
We then bought
(2) a collar;
(3) a lead;
(4) a water bowl;
(5) a food bowl;
(6) a bag of dried dog food – the very best quality there is, of course, and then we went home with our gorgeous purchase.
Almost immediately we found that we also had to buy
(7) a bed;
(8) a ball of twine to extend his lead so he could gambol freely whilst learning to stay home;
(9) shampoo – he’s white – why did we buy a snow white dog? Don’t ask me!
(10) A grooming brush;
(11) pet mince;
(12) marrow bones;
(13) disposal bags for his errrmmm ‘waste’;
(14) a ‘going out’ lead, as his first one got dragged through his errrmmm ‘waste’.
Then we decided he should have a kennel. He was sleeping locked in our downstairs laundry so a
(16) kennel was purchased, at about the same cost as a small cottage.
We then enrolled in
(17) Puppy School – what fun! If you’ve never been to puppy school I suggest you buy a puppy right this minute and go! Puppies everywhere, puppies barking everywhere, puppies fighting, playing, biting everywhere. Somehow in all this bedlam we learnt how to train him to sit, stay, heel and have some manners. So far the command ‘drop’ has eluded us, but I’m sure another course would put that right. And to teach these commands what do you need but treats –
(18) liver; and
(19) chocolate
He needed more vaccinations of course
(20) and
(21), and had to have some
(22) tummy bug tablets.
Then we bought more
(23) tablets which treat fleas, worms and almost all diseases known to the canine world, and at a cost to match.
(24) Witch Hazel is good for keeping ears clean we were told, used on
(25) cottonwool balls, and by this time we had amassed so much stuff we bought
(26) a plastic storage box to keep it all in.
At puppy school I was told sternly that my dog needed toys –
(27) a soft toy to go to bed with (I kid you not!);
(28) a rope toy to chew on – what’s wrong with the shoes, towels, chair legs and so on he’s already chewing on I want to know?
(29) A squeaky toy – and even though we bought him the cutest squeaky toy you ever did see – in the shape of a well known fast food chain’s red container of French fries, he’s not the slightest bit interested in it; and
(30) a rubber bone with knobs on it for his teeth and gums – fair enough!
(31) Tennis balls to play fetch with;
(32) a large rubber ball to play soccer with;
(33) a raw hide Frisbee; then
(34) a Kong - what on earth is a Kong I asked naively – well, it’s a marvellous toy which you can fill with treats and plug up with
(35) peanut butter to keep your dog amused for hours whilst you are away from home. I can tell you it kept us amused for hours watching our poor little puppy trying to un-clag his mouth of peanut butter. But he loves it, so all is good!
Then of course we needed
(36) plastic storage box No 2 for storage of his toys.
Then the little rascal learnt to chew through his twine extension rope, so we bought
(37) a length of chain with
(38/39) two cunning clips to thwart his escape plan. Not that I think that he wants to escape – I mean, he knows where his next meal is coming from!
You must cut his toenails I was advised –
(40) toenail clippers; and
(41) scissors to trim his cute little furry feet with.
A disappointing purchase was
(42) a car harness – we have no idea how to clip him into all those intricate straps and then clip him to the seat belt, and anyway – apart from licking the insides of the car windows – for some reason he’s perfectly well behaved in the car.
Then, if you are not a dog owner you may want to turn away now – we had to buy
(43) a pigs ear. I kid you not, a real pig’s ear complete with veins and so on. Or we could have chosen a pig’s nose! They sell these things! Someone at a party somewhere will be asked what he does for a living and he’ll reply ‘I cut off pig’s ears and noses and sell them to pet shops!’ And the questioner will promptly faint – as I almost did when the young man in the pet shop first drew my attention to them. I was in a state of disbelief – a neat little basket of pigs ears on the counter! The pig’s ear is for him to chew on. He seems to like it. I on the other hand pick it up by the very tippy tips of my fingers
Next we found out that shampooing our little puppy was out of the question – he’s a no wash sort of dog. Great, I hear you say, I should get one of those! But he still gets dirty and so I discovered that you have to ‘dry’ shampoo him. Thus I’ve ordered
(44) dry shampoo;
(45) plus postage.
I started his own
(46) file in our filing system – a record of micro chipping (which was included in the purchase price – whew!), and dates of vaccinations etc.
We have taken a million photos of him so I’ll just allot one number to them (47),
and no doubt there’s a million more to come, plus
(48) a dedicated photo album.
Now we have on order
(49) a medallion for his already heavily laden collar – microchip information, and
(50) Council registration. The medallion is perfectly plain and will have etched on it his own name and our surname (how cute!), and our address and our phone number. There is no way on God’s green earth that we will be buying diamante studded collars, jumpers or any other tizz for him! He’s a dog, for God’s sake!
While he’s still a pup he’s reasonably easy to contain, but soon he’ll be bigger and must have his freedom. We don’t have a fence – what to do? Why, buy a fence of course! Fence providing firms must just love pet shops – they sell dogs to people without fences, who then purchase fences, and so the world goes around. We have
(51)our fence on order – not just any old fence, a powder coated aluminium fence from the side of the house to the boundary fence, and not just one fence, oh no, but
(52) one for each side of the house, and each with
(53/54) a gate. I think we could have had an overseas trip for that little expense!
Now although I’m up to over fifty purchases – and we’ve only had him three weeks – I do believe there will be many, many more. I’m sure there’ll be vet visits, and kennel stays, and food, and more food. And he’s going to be
(55 coming up) desexed.
However, I must say in his defence that when he runs to greet me in the morning, and jumps all over me, and says ‘I love you, I love you, I love you, hurry up and give me my food’, and when he sits on command and looks at me with those gorgeous black shining eyes, I just melt and hole in our bank account seems quite worth while!
Oh yes, and the grandchildren love him!

Saturday, 12 January 2008


Now there’s no middle ground with mobile phones – you either love them or loathe them.
I’m in yet another camp - I’m terrified of them! Just absolutely scared witless.
We have had our mobile phone for about five years. Its been used, oh, about ten times. Now they’re changing the system, and we had to get a new one. My husband decided he should have one too. Why, I enquired, as I know he is even more scared than me. (And less technically astute! If ‘technically astute’ is knowing how to turn the damn thing on and off).
Anyway, I’ll draw a veil over the argument that ensued, and needless to say we marched off to the phone shop to buy two new phones.
‘Now’, I said firmly to the boy – and I say ‘boy’ advisedly, as he must have been all of fourteen years old – ‘I just want a plain simple little phone, to make a call and receive a call. I’m not interested in any of this texting stuff or anything’.
He just prevented himself from rolling his eyes, and from therein on treated me like the mobile phone moron that I am. When he saw our apparently absolutely ancient phone he also almost laughed out loud. We must be the last people on the planet with that particular model.
To my shock I discovered that the standard mobile phone now comes with – wait for it! – internet, video (you can take a video and send it to someone – Why? Where? When? And most importantly, HOW?) You can subscribe to something and watch movies on it. Yeah? I just prevented myself my rolling my eyes when he told me that. Have you seen the size of the screen – yeah, sure, I’d love to watch ‘Gladiator’ or something on that!
And you can play games. And you can take a photograph – but what you do with it then the book does not explain. I can transfer media files – huh? I can also send emails – why when I’ve got a perfectly good computer at home? – There’s a calendar and a voice recorder ‘to record memos or sounds’ – memos I can understand, but why on earth would I want to record sounds? And there’s Bluetooth – I thought that was what kids got when they ate too many Smarties.
I thought to myself that we wouldn’t use any of these things, we’d just make and receive calls, so wearily I agreed.
Well, reluctantly we handed our money over. I can tell you that the only moment I really became interested in the whole transaction was when I got to choose the colour of my new phone. Mine is red, his is black – and I have lots of little grey cords, and he has lots of little black cords, which I’ve put away somewhere carefully somewhere in case I need them one day!
My husband wisely said when we got home ‘Just give it to me when you’ve got it working, okay?’ He then went away to read the paper or sleep. I sat surrounded by user manuals, pre-paid manuals (for you see we are far too wise to get involved in the dreaded ‘plan’), re-charge guide (oh yes, they devote a whole book to how you can give them the money) and a computer disc (which it hurts my head just to think about).
I sat down with all the bits and pieces spread out before me and actually wished my four and a half year old grandchild was there to help me. Taking a deep breath I opened the user manual.
Open the battery cover. Okay, simple, I thought, and ten minutes and two broken fingernails later I was still struggling. I heard our teenage neighbour arrive home in his car and I dashed out, no pride at all, and begged for his assistance. With a disdainful flick of his thumb the cover flew open. His friend valiantly tried to hide his smirk. I slunk back home.
Put the battery in. Yes, okay, but which object was the battery. I thought batteries were round and long with thing-o’s at their ends. From the illustration I deduced that the battery was this flat thing, so I popped it in and hey presto! It fitted!
Great, Nothing to it, I thought. Then the instruction book said to insert the sims card. I vaguely knew that this bit was probably essential, but was it that whole credit card sized thing, or was it the little bit that looked as if you should push it out of the card, and if I did so, and I hadn’t been supposed to, what happened then?
Peering at the tiny, tiny illustration I gathered that it was that wincy bit in the middle, so I pushed it out, but where to insert it? I turned the phone over and over, and tried to poke the jolly thing into several little slots, none of which turned out to be actual openings. I tried and tried. My pride prevented me from going back to the aforesaid teenage neighbour.
Finally, almost crying in frustration, I rang the phone people – on my land line of course, my good old reliable, no frills, land line. Well, the gentleman explained ever so patiently – but I bet rolling his eyes at the same time – it goes UNDER the battery.
Well! Wouldn’t you think the book would tell you that? Wouldn’t you think that would have been Step No 1. Now I had to open the battery cover which I’d closed with such a triumphant flourish, and broke another fingernail in the process! I really shouldn’t bore you about trying to put the sims card in its little place, but half an hour later I found that you sort of slide it in under some miniscule little flap things.
Now I needed to charge it. This should be easy I thought, after all I’ve charged my old phone many times. You see I was trying to be this frugal person who didn’t waste the battery, and so I hardly ever turned my old phone on, and consequently the battery didn’t like that very much and even to get a few minutes use out of it I had to charge it all the time.
With this new phone I was determined to leave it on all the time. Which is probably just as well, as I can’t work out how to turn it off!
Once again, where to insert the charger bit – finally I found a hair’s width wide little piece that I had to lever up with one of my unbroken fingernails and put the charger in and put it on to charge for a while.
‘Got it sorted out?’ my husband asked when I appeared hot and flushed from my struggles. It’s a wonder he didn’t ask if I’d been on holidays I’d been so long doing just this bit.
Then I had to ring up to activate the phone. That entailed going through huge amounts of prompts, listening to a robotic voice, which occasionally chided me by saying ‘I don’t detect a choice’, and endless repetition of their terms, their conditions, their plans, their pre-paid offers, and did I want friends and family (what, would I prefer total strangers?), did I want my credit to run out before the recharge, after the recharge, could they please keep my credit it I didn’t use it, and on and on and on!
Finally someone repeated back to me what I had apparently chosen, and I meekly agreed. Then I had to repeat the whole sorry saga with my husband’s phone. By this stage I was feeling a bit cocky and tried to pre-empt one of the choices and ended up cutting myself off!
But, the phones were working, colours were flashing, little beeps and trills were happening as I dialled the numbers for the phone company.
I heaved a sigh of relief and decided I’d leave making an actual call until I was feeling a big better. I’d ring my husband’s phone, I decided cleverly, and then save his number, and he’d do the same to my phone.
Well, there are no simple instructions for saving numbers. I dialled his number, and pressed heaps of little buttons with heaps of little strange symbols on them. Finally one popped up that looked as if I could actually use it to do it. I tried to text in his name, made an error, and the jolly thing gleefully saved that. Now if I want to ring him I think he’s called ‘ppjk’ or something.
I wisely put the phones down for a bit. I’m not even sure that they’re turned off when I close the cover, even though I held them right up to my eye and tried to detect whether the little coloured screen went off as I snapped the ‘lid’ shut. I still don’t know.
Then a bit later I heard a beep – a message! Someone was trying to contact me – yes, the phone company offering me all the things they’d told me about via their female robot two hours earlier. It must have just been sheer willpower but I managed to delete this ever so useful message!
I should try and master this, I thought determinedly. But where, oh where, was the book that said ‘to turn your phone on do this’, ‘to save a number do this’, ‘to send a text message do this’, and so on. Just simple instructions please. The dummy’s guide! Treat me like a dummy, I don’t mind at all.
I dread asking someone how to use it – they’ll roll their eyes (both before showing me, and after!) – and they’ll flick around the teeny tiny buttons and show me things on the tinsy tiny screen at such a speed I’ll just be saying ‘yes, yes’, and it will all have gone straight over my head.
I’m not going to give you my new mobile number. I really don’t want any calls.