Category Archives: Whilst walking the dog

Are You Dependent on Technology?

Last Tuesday, I went out for my afternoon walk with George with a plan to really enjoy what could be the last sunny day of the year. Unfortunately, 5 minutes into it I realised I’d left my mobile phone at home and the mood was ruined.

I could not help feeling uneasy. Bad and worrying thoughts started going through my mind against my will and I could not brush them off. Why had I not checked my pockets before I left? What if we bump into that vicious Husky that attacked George last year? What if George gets scared and runs away? What if he breaks his leg or I slip and twist my ankle? How am I then going to contact my family and ask for help?

I felt exposed. I also felt really upset and disappointed with myself for feeling this way and thinking all those horrible thoughts. As a sane, reasonably intelligent person (which I’d like to think I am), I was completely aware that it was all silly. It was just another normal walk on a beautiful mid-autumn day. Nothing was different and nothing was going to change just because I’d left my phone at home. I don’t even answer my phone when I’m out with George anyway. It’s only there, in my pocket, in case I need it.

So, then, why this feeling? I tried to work it out in my head. I didn’t even have a mobile phone until about 10 years ago, and neither most of the people I know. We all coped OK without being ‘connected’ every second of our life. My mum trusted me to go out by myself and come back for dinner without worrying too much, but my husband and I got Brianna a phone for her 8th birthday. How much has the world changed in 10 years?

Technology has taken over pretty much every aspect of human life and we cannot live without it. We’ve been conditioned to use it and think we need it in order to survive. We can’t take one step out of the comfort of our homes without a phone or GPS device on us. This way, we can call whenever we want and will never get lost. Which is a sweet thought, but I’ve met too many people who can no longer read a map or find their way around without such a device in their pocket or stuck to their windscreen. And what about the spirit of adventure? The thought that we could get lost during a hike used to excite my friends and I when we were younger.

Whilst I’ve been resistant to the whole GPS craze and can still read a map, I have succumbed to the mobile phone. Because I hardly ever use it, I hadn’t even realised how much I’ve come to depend on it until I accidentally left it at home. I’m not entirely happy about it, but I’m not going to fight it either. I like the feeling of knowing that I can contact another human ‘if anything happens’.

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As you can see, my mobile phone is nothing special. It's old, but I'm not planning on changing it anytime soon, and the thought of a Blackberry or iPhone does not fill me with excitement. However, it looks like I've come to depend on my little communication device more than I thought...Hmm, this requires a bit of introspection...

Having analysed my own behaviour and the behaviour of other people I know, I am amazed how, although we know we can be tracked wherever we are and our personal freedom is a concept of the past, we’re happy to embrace technology because it makes us feel safe. I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one who feels this way. This is a global issue. And I’ve got to ask: How do you feel about technology? Are you dependent on it? If so, to what extent?

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A World of Whippet Paraphernalia

This morning, whilst I was drinking my tea out of my whippet cup (pictured below), I realised that we don’t have many whippety things around our home. You know, ornaments, vases, lamps…things that would tell the world we’re into whippets. Statements of our dedication to the breed and love for our dog.

I know a woman – let’s call her Sue – who has built her whole life around whippets. Her house is a “whippet shrine”, as she likes to call it. You know that whippets rule around there before you even get to the house. There’s an oversized whippet statue guarding the end of the drive, plus a number of other garden ornaments scattered between the flowers, in front of the house. The door is, again, guarded by two identical marble whippets (which must have cost a fortune). The first glimpse of the interior decorations can struck you like lightning. Everything is whippety…I mean, everything. Whippet paintings on the wall, whippet ornaments in the glass cabinets and pretty much everywhere else, whippet blanket and cushions on the sofa, whippet rug on the floor, whippet vase on the table, whippet lamp in the corner of the room, plus a big box full of  whippet toys. And, of course, real whippets. 8 of them, to be precise. She’s even personalised her car registration plate to include some sort of abbreviation of the word ‘whippet’!

I’ve only got the whippet cup and a small photo of George on a bookcase shelf. Whilst I’d like to acquire a couple of whippet ornaments for my display cabinet and maybe have a portrait of George painted by a real artist, I’m not planning to go much further than that. However much I love George and like his breed, there is a limit beyond which my love and interest could border on madness. Too much is too much. Although Sue is a lovely person and I appreciate her dedication, I won’t be visiting her house again. I found her obsession with whippet paraphernalia very off-putting. Some of those objects were real gems that I would have liked to have in my own home (like the sculpted floor lamp in the corner of her living room), but the overall effect was just too overwhelming.

So here’s my only piece of whippet paraphernalia. So far. My precious whippet cup. Isn’t it beautiful?

https://mylittledog.wordpress.com/

https://mylittledog.wordpress.com/

Do you have any dog, cat or other pet-related decorative objects on display around your home? Are you a collector of such treasures? Do you know anyone like Sue?

And yes, before you say it, I’ve used to word “whippet” a lot in this post. 23 times, if my maths is correct. Hopefully, by doing so, I’ve managed to render the feeling of suffocation I got when faced with Sue’s obsession.

*****

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I’ve Got a Dog, Talk to Me!

Yesterday we nipped to the shops for a few bits and bobs. Since we were struggling to fit this unexpected, yet necessary trip in our busy schedule, we decided to take George with us. After all, a dog does need the occasional road walk to wear his nails down, so a visit to our local supermarket instead of the regular afternoon stroll through the marsh sounded like a good idea.

When we reached our destination, I sent my husband in to fight his way through the wave of early afternoon shoppers and sat on a wall to wait for him. Finally, a few minutes peace and quiet whilst George investigates the nearby bushes. Or so I thought.

During the 20 minutes wait, four people stopped to talk to me. One was an old man who had a little Jack Russel and wanted to make friends. Two were elderly couples who used to have dogs and knew a thing or two about whippets. The last one was a young woman with a little girl who wanted to make a fuss of George.

Maybe they couldn’t resist his sweet face?

https://mylittledog.wordpress.com/

I can’t deny that I’ve quite enjoyed talking to these people. They were all nice in their own way. But I can’t keep wondering…Would they have stopped to talk to me if I was alone? I don’t think so.

We grow up hearing that we should not talk to strangers in the street. People we don’t know can be dangerous. You never know what criminal thoughts lie hidden inside an innocent-looking 85-year-old lady. You can never tell. A young(ish) person – like myself – perched on a brick wall around the back of a supermarket is surely up to no good and to be avoided. But…Hold on!…She’s got a dog! Oh, she’s all right then, let’s stop for a chat!

So what is it about having a dog that draws people towards you? Wandering the streets with a dog by your side seems to somehow label you a model citizen, making it OK for you to hang around in the strangest of places. It kind of makes you safe to interact and talk to.

It’s the same with kids. As a decent person, you would never contemplate approaching a child other than your own in a park or in the street. This kind of misdirected friendliness would attract at least a few condemning looks from passers-by and could land you in a lot of trouble. But if you’ve got a child with you, then you’re suddenly a trustworthy person and everybody relaxes around you. If you’re the join-in-the-fun type, you could even end up with a bunch of little people clinging onto your trousers and jumping on your back. Oh, isn’t he/she good with children!, you’ll hear the sit-on-the-bench-and-watch-type (grand)parents whisper to each other approvingly.

I’ve heard of a number of men who have ‘borrowed’ their friends’ children to pick up women. Successfully. Films have been made about this. Films have also been made about men using dogs to pick up women. Successfully. (Think of 101 Dalmatians).

No wonder the strategy works. In today’s world, children and dogs seem to qualify you as being safe. It’s like having a safety certificate tattooed on your head. Or like an invite to an intimate, friendly chat. Or both. To me, sitting on that wall with George felt like I was wearing a big sign that said “I’ve got a dog, talk to me!”.

So here are my questions for you. Do you find yourselves the centre of attention when out and about with your dogs? Do you suddenly become Mr. or Mrs. Popularity when you’re attached to the end of a lead? Do strangers ever approach you to tell you how beautiful your dog is and half an hour later they’re still telling you their life story?

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Good Luck, Kate and Will

Ok, so this is a dog blog, I know that. But I couldn’t let such an important and exciting event like our Royal Wedding pass without writing a little something about it. After all, it is the biggest thing that’s happened in this country for a long time and the two young people involved are so loved by everyone here in the UK that their wedding has become our national celebration, too.

It can’t be easy to be hunted by the more or less critical eyes of billions of people on the most important day of your life, when you’re supposed to concentrate on being happy and enjoying yourself rather than worry about your hair not being perfect or messing up your steps as you’re going down the aisle. As I think they are really nice people, I really hope that Kate and William manage to ignore the world, shake the pressure off their shoulders and make this truly their day.

Of course, like many others, I’ll be watching the highlights of the wedding on TV. However, I promise I won’t be looking for mistakes, fashion crimes, bad hair or faulty make-up. I didn’t care about these things when I was a bride and still don’t care about them now. I’ll be looking to see a page of history being written by a young couple radiating with happiness and love.

Have a wonderful, happy day, Kate and Will, and best of luck for the future!

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Do Animals Go to Heaven?

Brianna brought home a thick collection of children’s poetry last month. Apparently they’d run out of books in the classroom, so the teacher brought in one of her own from home.

I couldn’t resist browsing through, and I came across a nice poem about the dilemma a child is posed with when their beloved pet dies. Although not the obvious choice for a children’s book due to its rather sad and philosophical subject, it is a beautiful poem which I thought was worth sharing. Here it is:

          Burying the Dog in the Garden

                                                 by Brian Patten

          When we buried

          the dog in

          the garden on

          the grave we put

          a cross and

          the tall man

          next door was

          cross.

          ‘Animals have no

          souls,’ he said.

          ‘They must have animal

          souls,’ we said. ‘No,’

          he said and

          shook his head.

          ‘Do you need a

          soul to go

          to Heaven?’ we

          asked. He nodded

          his head. ‘Yes,’

          he said.

          ‘That means my

          hamster’s not

          in Heaven,’ said

          Kevin. ‘Nor is

          my dog,’ I said.

          ‘My cat could sneak

          in anywhere,’ said

          Clare. And we thought

          what a strange place Heaven

          must be with

          nothing to stroke

          for eternity.

          We were all

          seven.

          We decided we

          did not want to

          go to Heaven.

          For that the

          tall man next

          door is to blame.

This poem brought tears to my eyes and stirred the inevitable discussion of what’s going to happen when George dies. A subject that I’m not very comfortable with and prefer not to think about just yet. At the end of our little talk, Brianna decided that she believes animals have souls and although she’ll be sad when the day comes for George to go, she understands that this is the cycle of life and knows he’ll be up there watching over her. What a wise child. I just blocked out the thought and took George for a walk.

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2920 Days of Christmas

With my daughter’s birthday coming up on Friday, I felt that writing a short off-topic post about the event would be a nice surprise for her. After all, she is my little blog advisor and one of my two favourite models – I’ll let you guess who’s the other one!

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As Brianna’s special day approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about our role as parents and how parenthood has changed who we are.  Although I am the sole bearer of words on this space, it is only fair to write this post in the plural since, just as it takes two to tango, it also takes two to create and raise a human being as part of a loving family.

With this in mind, whilst out and about with George this morning, I remembered something profoundly beautiful that a friend said to me in one of her letters. She said that since the birth of her daughter “it feels like it’s Christmas every day”. I cannot think of better words or a more succinct way to describe how we feel and all the wonderful things she’s brought to our life.

The sense of wonder as we rediscover the world through her eyes. The fun of splashing through puddles on a rainy day. The thrill of joining in her favourite games. The worries of each new beginning and the pride of seeing her develop into a free-thinking person. The privilege of sharing in her dreams, the overwhelming love that makes her the centre of our universe, and the excitement of the years to come.

It’ll be 2920 days of Christmas for us soon. 2920 happy, wonderful days that we will cherish forever.

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Open Your Heart for Red Nose Day

Not long before my daughter was born, I purchased a little photo frame from a market stall. It wasn’t anything special, but it carried a message that I really liked: “Whenever a child is born, the world lights up with possibilities”.

Recently, whilst walking through our peaceful forest with George, this message sprung back to my mind. Such simple, wonderful words, but are they always true? Are there real opportunities for the countless children who are born in the wrong place, at the wrong time or to the wrong parents? What hope is there for them? What can we do to make their lives better?

 Today, these questions will be on everyone’s lips and none of us will be able to turn our eyes away from the uncomfortable reality of how some of the most innocent live on this planet. In the 21st century.  This is what Red Nose Day – or Comic Relief – is all about:

Publicising the sad stories of less fortunate children in Africa and the UK and turning their tears into smiles. Employing the art of comedy, in all its forms, to raise money for charity. Coming together one day a year to try to change things. In a world where the rich-beyond-measure reward themselves with millions of pounds they don’t really need, it’s up to the rest of us to make a difference. It always has been. And we’ve proved, year after year, that there is enough compassion in our hearts to find the means to make this difference.

Tonight my family and I will be watching the Red Nose Day fund-raising programme on TV. We will laugh at the gags and gasp at the acts of bravery put together by celebrities and common people alike in their attempt to raise awareness and money. We will cry at the sad stories of children working in slums for a penny a day, dying of hunger or sleeping in the street. We will be moved by the desperation of these children’s parents and their genuine gratitude for any act of kindness they are shown. We will cuddle up together and be thankful for our privileged life. But, more importantly, we’ll press the ‘Donate’ button or make a call.

This is one of those days when I wish I was rich. Not for my own gratification – we’ve got everything we need – but to be able to help and share. But, since this is real life, I’m not in that position and have to settle for a modest donation. I have to be honest, I used to wonder whether our humble contribution would really really make a difference. Surely, a few pounds can’t go that far. Well, you’d be surprised! They say that my £5 can save 4 children from dying of malaria. It’s only a tiny amount and a small gesture, with an amazing result. Imagine what can be achieved with a hundred, a thousand or a million times that!

I no longer feel isolated and powerless. We’re only weak as individuals, but we’re powerful together. I strongly believe that and days like today prove me right. The social movements in the Middle East do, too, but this is not the time nor the place to go into that.

Times are hard for everybody, but the truth is that there’s always someone out there who is less fortunate, poorer or in a more desperate situation than us. Today is about opening our hearts to them, listening to their muffled voices and helping them however we can. Last year we calculated that we spent more on butterfly netting to protect our cabbages than the price of a mosquito net which would save a child from becoming infected with malaria. This makes me think that we can all find the means, however small, to show that we care. All we need to do is sacrifice something which, come to think of it, we may not need in the first place, like our butterfly netting or your bottle of wine.

So put on a red T-shirt, do someting funny and join in the charity express. You may wake up a happier person tomorrow.

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If you’d like to find out more about Red Nose Day and what some of the celebrities involved in the fund-raising events have to say about it, click here.

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