Intense Heat

Well this Summer has been glorious! It’s the first time in a long time that I think we’ve had this many sunny and warm days. Of course this requires a bit extra work in terms of the dogs. Both of our boys suffer terribly in the heat, I don’t know if that’s because they are black or due to the size of Zeph and the energy that Echo exudes but regardless they don’t like the heat.

So this has led to early morning walks, which granted are potentially still a little on the warm side and on a few days we’ve had to avoid evening walks altogether! But on the days we’ve made it out, the pair of them have had a great time as always!

The above pictures were taken at about half 9 at night, and the boys were still panting away but we had an easy stroll.

The down side of the heat, a lot more house time to keep the boys cool! We’ve been bonding a lot though:

We’ve managed a little trip to the beach, during which Zeph wanted to chase some birds:

On the one cool day we’ve had, we managed to fit in a wee game of fetch:

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…with plenty of breaks of course.

With all my worry about the heat and being very careful with the pups, it seems Zephyr was worried about me! I tried to get in a little sunbathing and Zeph was not happy about it!

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I could almost hear him going “Mum, I’m not allowed in the sun, neither are you!….Mum, mum….muuuuuuuum”. It was followed by kisses and pawing. I gave in eventually!

 

Adventure Weekend

I have recently started back onto shifts and so I have a few days here and there that I can have to myself. Due to a short run of nightshifts, I’ve had a long weekend, Friday to Sunday. I managed to keep most of Friday to myself, after having a sleep, and with B away to the Highland Show as part of his work, I thought the boys and I could explore the Highlands!

To make sense I need to go back a week. Last weekend B and I went for a drive with the dogs around Loch Ness.

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We had a few stops and short walks and then enjoyed some fish and chips.

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It wasn’t until after we had stuffed our bellies full of food that we stumbled across a gorgeous woodland walk called: Allt na Criche. Unfortunately, with rather full bellies, we didn’t walk as far as I would’ve liked, only about a half hour or so, but I liked what I had seen:

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Friday:

So fast forward to this Friday, I am at home with the boys and at a loose end with B away. So I took the perfect opportunity to drive all the way back to Allt na Criche, and I took one of the longer paths. I would like to take this opportunity to drive home the fact I went on my own!! On my own, with both dogs! We had a little setback with Zeph last week with a runner and a loose dog having a go at Zeph but I am taking the victory that despite my still useless hand (!), and a dog back to square one essentially on his training, I went on my own! I am feeling very pleased with myself. Anyway, back to the woods! It was a pleasantly warm day, and the woods weren’t too busy. The pups and I had a lovely walk:

It amounted to about an hour with us only covering about 2 and a half miles, but he had a nice stop at the top of the hill and a little break.

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And then onto more adventuring:

Before heading back the car for a much needed drink of water and a cuddle:

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Saturday:

Our plan for Saturday had been to go camping. We packed up the truck, tent, dog beds etc and off we headed toward to Loch Assynt. We chose this location because I’ve read that you can camp right on the loch side which would’ve been great. Anyway, off we trooped, all of us in tow.

It’s quite a drive and as always on any long journey we stop for various walks, and I can’t remember the name of the first walk we stopped at and bizarrely we didn’t take any pictures! So I’m not really sure why I mention it…Anyway, as we drew closer and closer to Loch Assynt, the rain began. And it got heavier. And heavier.

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The picture really doesn’t capture the high winds and battering rain. It was pretty miserable. And nothing worse than sharing a tent with wet dogs. We made the decision to drive a loop back to our house (2 hours in the car) and if we saw anywhere good to camp and it wasn’t raining we would stop. Well the weather didn’t get too much better although it did stop raining but the closer we drove back to the house, the allure of our own bed and a hot cuppa was too much. We ditched the idea of camping, at least for this week.

However, we did stumble across another woodland walk: Lael Forest and Forest Garden. It was a good point to stop to give the boys a break from sitting in the car and B and I needed the stretch as well. This is a lovely forest walk near Ullapool on the A835, if anyone is interested. There is plenty of sensible walking and picnic benches in the two carparks so you can waste a few hours here. All in all, the boys had fun, B included, and there are some spectacular trees there:

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By the time we drove home, we were greeted with clear blue skies and no winds. Perhaps we should’ve waited a little longer at the Loch, but you never can tell

Sunday:

By this morning, the clear blue skies and sunshine have amounted to a glorious heat of about 20 degrees. It is now officially the height of summer in Inverness. We were somewhat frustrated by the fact we had abandoned camping only to be taunted by such beautiful weather. So to try and make the most of it, we headed off in the car for a third day running. Our destination today, Glen Affric. It is gorgeous. The walk we did was just over an hour, although you could easily stretch this woodland out for a half day if you picnic too. The dogs had a great time! as did we, and there were plenty of streams for everyone to cool off:

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As you can see it has been a very busy weekend. The dogs are sound asleep already, and I am not far behind them I think.

So we got Married!

Well it’s been a long year so far but it was all worth it. I finished my degree (with distinction), and our long awaited wedding rolled around! We were married on the 26th of May, surrounded by our family and close friends. It was a good day, everything we planned went smoothly, just the usual drama that weddings seem to attract but nothing all that major in the grand scheme of things. And of course Gran was missed and mentioned in my Dad’s speech, it was a nice little tribute. But all in all, a good day!

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We have just returned from a two week honeymoon, which we spent in Singapore and Bali. It was amazing! Nice to get away from it all and switch off.

Unfortunately, our ‘boys’ had to go to kennels for just over two weeks. We have a good kennel that we use and trust of course but that doesn’t make it any easier to leave them.  The universe obviously didn’t want us to forget about the dogs either while we were away, and bizarrely, during the first week we visited a local art gallery and what are the first two paintings that we came across:

We couldn’t believe it and we had a good giggle over it. All the way to Bali and our dogs are still making our decisions. So of course we bought both paintings, much to the delight of the local artist. They thankfully survived the journey home and are now hanging up on the wall in the living room. Love them!

Before we could get back to our boys, we had a one night stay with my parents when we got back as a quick stop over before driving back to Inverness. It gave me a chance to see this old boy:

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My very first dog, he’s still on the go. He’s not ageing very well unfortunately. He had a really bad ‘episode’ a few years ago which required him to go to the vets for a few days, on drips etc. He nearly died and they don’t know from what and since then, he seems to be ageing quicker than it seems fair to. My mum now has to carry him outside in the mornings because he struggles so much with the step out the door he panics. But, as you can see, he still has a good life. He enjoys sunbathing and on this occasion the free food that was going, we had a bbq so a few sausages went ‘missing’. Lovely wee dog.

Despite the great time we’ve had away, by the end of the honeymoon we were both keen to get back to our boys and get home. The pups have been so clingy and sleepy, I just can’t get enough of them so I’ve spent a lot of time lying on the floor with the two of them playing with the toys they got for going to kennels.

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I am under the dog in this pic, not sure how that happened.

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We are not back to work yet (that’s tomorrow – eugh!), so we are taking full advantage of the day we have left. As I write this, the dogs have gotten very comfy around me:

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And we are clinging to our honeymoon by enjoying some the gifts everyone was kind enough to bestow upon us:

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How to cope with loss. Live.

I found myself wallowing in my grief at the weekend. It hit me that my Gran has gone. But as my last post suggested; She has not gone, she is just less orderly. I suddenly had the urge to runaway. To escape and be free. In times of struggle I have strange ways of coping. Before I could understand myself, I used to self harm. It was a release. A way of venting my stress/anxiety whatever you want to call it. As I got older I would push myself in the gym, walk further, work longer. Now I realise that all I was doing was making myself miserable to make myself feel better. I realise how that might sound counterproductive! But, at those moments when you reach your breaking point and you push through it, you win, you are rewarded with Dopamine. The brain party drug!

So, in my quest to feel better. I chose to live. Gran always liked to hear about my adventures. So I should keep doing it. Gran had 90 years, full of adventure and she would want us all to have the same.

So, I decided to climb a Munro (I tackle one every few years or so). B was kind enough to join me and we had a very strenuous but enjoyable day, dogs included. The walk was tiring, through intense heat, cold, rain and snow! But I got the reward. The summit was peaceful and calm. I feel really proud of all of us. It gave me peace and quiet. A chance to think but also a chance to think of nothing else but the hike. It was much needed therapy.

To Ben Wyvis we trekked.

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That’s not the summit either. That is just the start!

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Those steps were killer on the thighs. And the sun was beating down on us for a stretch. I was worried Zeph would over heat! Originally, we weren’t going to take the dogs, but they got so excited while we packed our rucksacks it seemed harsh not to take them with us. And look how smiley they are! It did get too hot at one point so we stopped for lunch and got the boys to lie down in the heather, in the shade of some rocks.

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Thankfully, it got windier and cooler as we made the ascent,

And colder still, the further up we went:

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And snow. Snow in APRIL! The dogs were in their element as we made it to the summit.

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A little break at the top and time for some family photos!

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I think I will get a few of these printed out and framed. And of course they will be part of next years calendar!

The boys love playing in the snow and Zeph took the opportunity of us walking off the summit to play some tug of war with his Dad;

We made him wear the hat of shame:

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We managed to get some nice pictures as we hiked. Unfortunately, with the summit in cloud, we couldn’t get an all round view. But some nice pictures none the less:

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Some food for the soul. It was a good day of bonding for the four of us. The dogs and us were exhausted but I felt accomplished by the time we headed back to the truck. That’s a real smile. When we got back to the house we all flumped onto the sofa, ate some pasta and drank tea. I was in bed early and my legs are only just recovering now!

I don’t think I will ever know how to deal with loss, but doing something a bit out of the ordinary certainly helps.

My New Dog

This was my Gran’s dog. I am now the proud owner and he sits on the stairs watching over the living room. The boys have had a good sniff at him and welcomed him into their home. This has helped.

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The End of an Era

I have been avoiding updating on here this month. I have found it hard to be motivated. My gran, at the age of 90 (she would’ve been 91 in July), has passed away. We had her funeral last weekend. It was a tough day, gran was the last of the grandparents. Despite her age, it still came as a shock for some reason. Gran always seemed invincible. We were certain she would’ve seen 100. She was relatively healthy for her age, and mentally she was as sharp as ever.

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On the day of the funeral, a tiny bird stopped by each car. It was the strangest thing. The driver very kindly took a picture for us. It was an oddly comforting moment for us all.

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I wrote a little something for the ceremony. I’ll be honest, I didn’t come up with any of it. I knew what I wanted to say so I copy and pasted from a few things and in particular, from a physicist – what a physicist might say at a funeral. Gran always appreciated my sciencey point of view and as I was in a bit of a haze (I still am), I didn’t think she would mind me borrowing other people’s words. I said the following and I hope for any of you who have felt loss, that these words might be helpful for you too. I’ve never been good at grieving. I don’t really know how. Over the years, like everyone else, I have lost a large number of my family. In fact we have halved. There are only 9 of us left. The following was read for me on my behalf:

“In my search for comfort at the passing of my Gran I have turned to Science and Literature and what I found, for me personally, is a comfort that I could not gain anywhere else.

It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited and yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know and love. However, the span of  someone’s life is only the core of their actual existence. We are made from the energy of the universe, it has been around for billions of years and will be for billions more, and for a brief period of time it assembles into a human form.

The first law of thermodynamics in short; states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only change shape and form, but will continue on forever. Scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time.

The energy that is in us has come from the universe around us, from the sun and the stars. The same energy that created the big bang billions of years ago, is the same energy within each of us. It has all come from the universe that we are but a tiny part of.

Gran borrowed her energy from the universe, as each of us has, she has used it. Used it to live a long life, one in which she has had influence over us all, and she has passed on this energy in different forms that will never go away. Every ounce of heat produced by Gran, every breeze created by her movements and every calorie she burned is still here in the energy around us. As her family and friends, we have absorbed some of the heat from her body and some of her energy lives in all of us. Every photon of light that reflected off of Gran’s face, every breeze that blew through her hair, and the warmth from every hug continues on. Gran has changed the path of history in many ways and according to the laws of science, not a bit of her has gone, she is just less orderly.”

It may be a while again before I update. My gran loved dogs. She had numerous dogs over the years and she loved my two boys. I feel bad that she didn’t get to see them except when they were pups. She was a small woman, and with her on warfarin and being a little unsteady on her feet I always worried that my boys would cause her to fall, or bruise her. I think either way I would’ve felt guilty. If I’d taken them round and she got hurt I would’ve never lived it down. Instead I chose to disappoint her. I would show her pictures and videos and we would share stories, I hope that was enough. Gran had an Alsatian ornament at the foot of her fireplace, complete with collar. It was her reminder of her favourite pet. A large Alsatian, called Laddie. I am now the proud owner of Laddie (the ornament version), it felt right that I should look after Gran’s dog for her, being the dog mad one in the family. I hope she would approve.

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April Update

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It can take quite a few attempts to get a perfectly posed picture. Sometimes The boys are just not in the mood for a camera in their faces and that’s ok! Maybe I need to share more of the blooper reel with you! This is one from Echo, he tends to me more physical in his protests:

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Talking of protests, we had a minor slip up on Zeph’s training but I think I’ve cracked it. A squeeky tennis ball! Echo brought it home after a walk one day and I noticed how enamoured Zeph was by it. I use it as a distraction and as a reward on our walks. He gets to ‘win’ it for a little bit of the walk if he passes a dog without making fuss. It’s been a great tool and works better than food.

Echo is due his haircut for the summer and it’s like he can sense the impending bath time. He is using every walk to take a dip in the mud/streams.

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I’ve moved onto shifts at work again and it’s taken the boys a bit of getting used to. Although I think they are much more settled these days. I have packed away the cages so the boys have the kitchen and living room between them while we are out  and the two of them seem much happier (and I feel less guilty!). The good thing about a late shift (1-10) is that I leave at half 12 and B is home about 6. So the pups have more company during the day. Currently having a lazy morning. With me being away till 10 B has taken on the mantle of chief dog picture taker in the evenings. Echo has been lookout for me coming home and Zeph occasionally takes a turn:

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But with Echo on the watch, Zeph has taken to relaxing, he’s not fussy when I’m away:

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However, While I’m in the house in the mornings, he won’t leave me alone. He has no idea what personal is:

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And should I dare get up for a cuppa, he is right on the warm patch of the sofa:

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All in all, life has been quite settled here in a sense. I will share in the next update.

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On Repeat

In follow up to the beach visits in the last post, I’ve now been to the Fort George Beach numerous times and I am loving it. It’s a good excuse for me to run about like an idiot with my dogs. It is absolutely necessary. How else is Zeph supposed to run about on the end of the lead?…He’s getting more time on his stretchy lead so he’s hopefully feeling a bit more fulfilled and relaxed after his walks. We’ve been back and forward a few times now and it’s a nice wee supplement to our usual woodland/housing scheme walks.

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I just about managed to get a wee clip of them running about. The water is a nice depth at this beach so they can jump about quite safely. It’s not often that Zeph and Echo get to play like this together on walks so before the summer kicks in and the beach gets busy, we are making the most of it!

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We have also found another woodland to walk around and it is massive. It took us 2 hours to follow the trail we chose and we only covered about a third/quarter of the wood. We didn’t see any other people/dogs until we were nearly back at the car so plenty of time for the boys to roam around and have fun.

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I have to say, we were all shattered after this one. Lots of nice smells for the boys. Their wee noses didn’t stop the whole time. Lovely woods – if I remember rightly it’s Culbin Woods, worth a nosy. There is a reasonably proper path all the way around, but I would still suggest wellies or good boots.

All in all, we’ve been having a good time. Zeph is still a work in progress but we’re getting there, albeit slowly. Some helps us to get through it all:

And when in doubt, treats and training in the house!

Beaches

So by now we are all aware that I have been very anxious in regards to walking Zeph, particularly with the still broken hand (yes, it’s still broken and useless). I also get a bit anxious about going to new places with Zeph if I’ve never been before. However, feel pretty good about yesterday. I wanted to go to a beach with the pups but I was on my own so had to take one at a time, which gave me an excuse to scout out a new beach with Echo.  I went with Echo first to a beach at Nairn. Beautiful day for it, if a little chilly:

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The beach wasn’t a bad size but a lot of dogs at the time of day I was there, Zeph would’ve been struggling with all the dogs but maybe at a quieter time of day it would be ok. Echo and I had a lovely walk along, played in the water and met some pups for Echo to run about with, we really enjoyed it:

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Love his wee crazy face. Well, on the way back to the house I did wonder if I would have time to go back to the same spot with Zeph before it got dark. And I didn’t want to play favourites; So, I did something I haven’t done in a while. I found a beach closer to our house on google, and off Zeph and I went, just the two of us. I had no idea what the beach would be like or how busy it was going to be but we went. I always like to see a place first before I go with Zeph so I have a mental picture and an internal map of all the places dogs can appear from, escape routes etc. This time, I did not. And we had a great time! A few dogs but none too close, Zeph growled at one dog in the distance but I quickly got his attention and other than that, we had a whole beach to ourselves and the night was just perfect. A lovely romantic walk on the beach with my handsome boy with the sun setting. A good experience for us both I think.

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For interest, this beach as Fort George, Ardersier.