Thursday, 2 February 2017

Socially Disadvantaged

Someone who has known me all my life recently commented that I am socially disadvantaged  because I have so many dogs.  I wasn’t sure whether to be annoyed or amused.  To be honest, I am neither of those things, but it has certainly made me think.

What does it mean to be socially disadvantaged?  Surely it must mean that you are unable to partake in a social life, or social situations, that you would like to.  So, a young mother who cannot go out to a night club with her friends must be “socially disadvantaged”.  An elderly man who cannot meet his mates down the pub because he has broken a hip must be “socially disadvantaged”. 

Then you have the young woman who says that being a new mother is hard work, but she wouldn’t change it – she made a choice and accepts that there are now certain limitations on her life.
Am I unable to partake in situations that I would like to?  That is debatable.  Perhaps it is more accurate to say I am financially disadvantaged, or time disadvantaged.  But my current situation, for the most part, is my own choice.

I can no longer go on holidays like I used to when I was married, had a thriving business, and my parents were able to look after the dogs while we went away.  But in those years I went on sea kayaking expeditions in Doubtful Sound and Charlotte Sound in New Zealand, went on a 10 day horse trek in New Zealand, walked the Dusky Track, took a float plane over Fjordland, sat in hot pools on a mountain side.

In Sri Lanka, we travelled round the country by train, climbed Adams Peak and saw the sun rise, stayed at the Hill Country Club, discovered the joys of good tea, watched turtles come up the beach to lay their eggs, listened to thousands of frogs singing by the ponds.  India brought river boats, wonderful food, traditional ayurvedic massage (that is a story in itself!).

In the Maldives we snorkeled for hours and saw rays and sharks and clown fish, watched a bait ball, watched pipe fish on the sandy ocean floor, watched a nurse shark as it slept on the reef.
The Seychelles gave me the chance to hold hands with a wild turtle under the water, scratch the throats of giant tortoises.

We cycled round Antigua – sleeping under picnic benches, in beach huts, under bushes, and took a helicopter trip over the island of Montserrat with the money we saved by sleeping rough.

At home here in Scotland I have seen the sun rise in the mountains, seen the sunset in the mountains.  Watched mountain hares, golden eagles, slid on polythene bags down snow slopes, camped in wild places, swum in the sea, the rivers, the lochs.

I could go on and on, but the gist of what I am saying is that the holiday experiences I have had remain as memories in my mind, and they will always be there.  

My career has been varied, too.  I have picked mushrooms, and potatoes.  Worked in an ironmongery shop and a bank, went back to college, then was a secretary in the membership office of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, personal secretary to a community consultant paediatrician (that was an eye opener) and then assistant in accommodation and group services at St Andrews University. 

Then I left my home and moved up to the north east to join Chris – we walked the beach at midnight as it was so light in the summer, watched the northern lights in the winter, caught our own food.
The Isle of Skye beckoned where we ran our own restaurant – very successfully.  We discovered the joys of fossil collecting, finding ammonites, belemnites, a plesiosaur paddle, and part of the first dinosaurs to be found on the island.

Then we found our way (reluctantly to begin with) to the Isle of Seil where we had our hotel for 14 years.  We hand fed the swans that lived locally, fed hundreds of garden birds, and ducks.  We planted trees and shrubs and flowers, raised two orphan hedgehogs and eight orphan ducklings.  Watched otters swimming off the garden, deer grazing in our garden, stoats on the front doorstep, found a sparrowhawk in our sitting room.  I started riding again and got my first horse, then the second and a third.  We lost old dogs, and got young puppies.

Nowadays, my family is my four dogs and three horses, and the small group of friends I spend some time with.  I take part in the annual local pantomime, having a ball running round like a loon, I go to Zumba, I visit friends for coffee, go visit my family when time and cash allow.  But on a winter's night, I am happy by the fire, knitting, watching TV, ignoring the housework.  In the summer I like to be out in the garden if I can, perhaps a late walk with the dogs, listening to the birds singing.


But am I socially disadvantaged - by some people's standards and ideals, yes I am.  By mine?  Not so much.

I went to look for some photos, but there were just too many to choose from - here are some of my favourite memories.  There's lots more.

Abel Tasman National Park - South Island NZ

High above the river - NZ

Climbing tree roots on the Dusky Track NZ

Caving in a kayak, Charlotte Sound

River crossing on horseback

We have a convoy!

And even a hovawart in The Seychelles

A bit of a love-in

No words for this

Donkeys on Barbuda

Not quite the Titanic

Roe deer and rabbit

Humble or Pie - can't remember which


Mr & Mrs D52 and family

Our duck family waiting for supper

Sun bathing wild goats

One of my very favourite places - not telling you where!

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The Pantomime of Breeding

When I got Tussock, my first hovawart, I really wanted to breed from her.  It seemed a shame not to let such a gentle character pass on those easy going, steady, loyal genes.  But, living in a hotel as I was at the time, and with someone else having a say in the matter, it just never got beyond wishful thinking.  Then when the proverbial shit hit the fan and my familiar life fell to pieces, I had no choice but to forget the idea for the time being.  I really wasn't in an emotional place to consider it.  River came along - taking a pup from that particular litter was a conscious choice to use new blood into the country to breed with.  I figured I had a few years to get my act together, straighten out my life, my mind and so much else.

But I kept finding excuses not to get on with it - work was busy, the house is too small, I don't have time, I don't have money, I don't have experience, negative influence from other people.  The penny finally dropped and I realised the only thing stopping me was my own negativity and lack of confidence.  The voice inside my head now said "Get on with it".  So, for the last six months I have thought about things, loosely planned how I would cope with a litter of pups, the other dogs, creating a private space for River - knowing damn fine that all the planning in the world would likely go out the window anyway.

My next issue was a dog...... I had two in mind.  One was a young dog that River has met, and likes, and he really is a handsome lad - that would be a natural mating.  The other would have to be artificial insemination from another very handsome lad.

I guess things went a bit wrong right at the beginning when River came into season a few weeks before I expected and I was already on the back foot.  The young dog hadn't had all his health tests, and going on the "usual" way of things, we would only have 10 days or so to be organised on that front, so it possibly wasn't going to happen.  Then his owner decided that perhaps she didn't want to introduce him to the joys of wanton females in season!  I totally understand her decision.  He is a calm, good natured boy, and she didn't want to risk ending up with a dog whose eyes went out on stalks every time a girl walked by.  AI could be an option, but that was just another complication to cope with in the time allowed.

So, AI from the other dog it would be.  The semen would come frozen, and River would be inseminated on the appropriate day.  No travelling involved..... seems a good option.

I visited my vet to get a first blood test to check River's progesterone levels, and a chat about AI.  First hurdle was dealing with a rather negative vet that I had never met before, and her announcement that they had never done AI in a dog before!  Cows, horses, sheep, yes, but not dogs.  So, a few days later I spoke with one of the regular vets who was quite enthusiastic, and keen to learn about AI.  He phoned the other vets where the semen would be coming from, had a good chat with them, only to then let me know that they didn't have the equipment to do it, and I might as well  throw my money away.  He was very helpful, though, and said he would see if he could find someone who could do it for me.

And he did.  Either a vet in Dewsbury (about 8 or 9 hours away) or one in Dunbar (about 4 hours).   By now we were on Day 5, and I needed to get the semen organised to be here in time for day 10 as that is when "most" bitches start to become receptive.  The vet contacted the lady in Dunbar, but she never got back to him.  I had ordered the semen, and then had to email them to cancel it.  Then the Dunbar lady phoned my vet.  We were on again.  I tried to make contact with her to chat it all over, but to this day, I am still waiting for her to call me back.  With little faith in her services, I regretfully cancelled the semen again.  There was no point going to all that expense only to end up having to send it back again.  We were now on about day 9.

During this time River had had several blood tests, and her progesterone levels were still low.  Great, I still had chance to work out Plan C.  Enter into the arena a trusty old lad, experienced, wonderful temperament, and a line I would be delighted to help continue.  And not too far away.  Wonderful.  Sorted.

Now to wait for the progesterone levels to rise......and wait.....and wait......!  A blood test on the Monday came back as a bit more elevated - the results came in on the Tuesday afternoon (Day 16) and the vet was suggesting another test on the Wednesday morning.  Now I was running into sticky territory.  That test wouldn't come back until Thursday afternoon by which time I wouldn't have time to do anything about it.  With a long standing commitment over the weekend I had to be at home from the Friday.  By this time River was happily standing to be bonked by Talulah so I thought I would take a chance.

So on the Wednesday morning (day 17) we all piled in the car at 6.30 am and set off.  We got to His house about 10.30, and we let her into the garden to leave some scent about the place, and let Him out.  Ooooh!  She was delighted!  Flirty flirt, a bit of coy running about, a bit of courting from Him, and then she so beautifully stood for him.  He obviously thought she was ready too.  Yes!  I thought - seeing little bundles of joy in the future!  But despite several attempts, they never really got a good go, and certainly didn't tie.  She was perhaps a bit tall for him, so we tried on a slope to give him the advantage of more height, we gave him a leg-up..... we tried letting them run up the top of the garden to a private space, which is what River seemed to want to do.  But... no go.  And the poor lad was getting a bit tired.

Okay, we will try again tomorrow we thought.  And we did, but with the same results.

Whether her progesterone levels weren't high enough, whether the result might have been different in a couple of days (days 19/20!!!) I will never know.  I had to go back home for my part in our local pantomime although it did feel as though I was starring in two pantomimes at this point.

Whilst slip matings might sometimes result in puppies, I guess that is only when you don't want them to.  We are all back to normal now, seasons finished, no more bonking.  I am not expecting the pitter patter of little paws, but you never know.........   I can dream!      



Sunday, 27 March 2016

Laying Blame

I have been mulling over this for the past week, and have written and re-written something in my mind several times over - I doubt I will remember much of it now that I have sat down!

We had an "incident" over a month ago - nothing outrageous, just one of those things that happen when you have dogs - and especially if you have several of them, and perhaps even more so if you happen to have bitches.  I may be wrong on the last point.

Anyway.  One day at work, I was working away in the laundry.  The dogs were in the car - Tussock in the cab, and the "rabble" in the pick-up bit.  The bottom tailgate was shut, but the top bit was open allowing them to see out, and to have ventilation.  I wasn't going to be long, so didn't bother to set up their outside pen.

River snoozing in the back of the pick-up
At the other side of the laundry building is the main track in and out of the "business" part of the estate.  I have windows on three sides so can see anyone who is coming and going - but the car was parked where the dogs can only see across the fields and to the sea.  That is deliberate so they don't bark at anyone coming by.  If they happen to be going to one particular cottage which is near the laundry, or someone comes to my door - that is a different matter.

This particular afternoon I saw a couple of people known to me walking down the road towards the building I was in heading to another building close by.  They had two dogs - on on lead, and one off lead.

Suddenly a rumpus kicked up, my dogs were barking.  I went to the door to find that the off lead dog had run round to the car, kicking off the barking, and Skara (little monkey) had jumped over the tailgate and gone to play.  I didn't want Skara to learn that jumping out was a good idea (for a whole host of reasons) so went to get her and pick her up and put her back in the car.  This is where things unravelled, a lot like the original chicken shit.

I grabbed Skara, she yelped at the surprise of my grab (and because she is a little wuss).  I carried her to the car, lowered the tailgate, and popped her in.  At this point Talulah jumped out, despite my instruction to stay, ran to the off-lead dog and said "grump grump grump leave my pup alone" and ran back again and back into the car.  And the off lead dog followed her.  At which point River jumped out, grabbed the dog's muzzle, and did a death shake (well, it looked like it) whilst shouting and bawling..  As I yelled her name, River backed off and got in the car, and the dog ran off.  I shut up the back of the car, and went round to where the dog was back with its owner.  I checked over the dog's muzzle and could find no blood, not even any wetness where River's mouth had been.  I checked again, and again - really could find no harm done.  I apologised to the owner for our part in the incident and went back to my work shaking my head and cursing the world.  But after that I really didn't think much about it, other than to consider finding a method of preventing Skara jumping out again.

However, just last week, the husband of the ON-lead dog and I were chatting, and he said "Please don't take this the wrong way" (alarm bells go in my head!) "but I see that the next booking at Forest has a dog coming".  Thinking he was on another tack, I said "Oh, don't worry - I will go into clean up", as sometimes my dogs go in there for a dump when given an opportunity.  "No no - I wasn't meaning that - I was referring to the 'incident' the other week - we wouldn't want a repeat performance".  I reassured him that I had no intention of it happening again.   I have been parking in that spot for four years, and that is the first time it has happened.  Yes, we have shouting matches, but never a jumper!!

I didn't take offence, or the wrong way, or anything else.  But it did start me thinking about where "blame" should, if at all, lay.  As I see it, Skara shouldn't have jumped out, I shouldn't have dropped the tailgate, nor should Talulah have jumped out, nor River, and River shouldn't have given a death shake.  Perhaps I shouldn't have left open the back of the car.  BUT - none of the events at my side of the building would have happened if the off-lead dog hadn't wandered round.  And had the owner got hold of their dog at the same time as I grabbed Skara, then again the rest would have been prevented.  From there - okay, I take responsibility for my dogs' actions, that my dogs didn't do as asked, that Skara doesn't yet realise that jumping out is bad.  But I do feel that the whole thing has landed on River's court - she is the bad girl, she is the aggressor, she is a nasty dog.  Or is that me taking it "the wrong way"?  Perhaps he was just meaning Skara jumping out.....but given that he didn't see what happened, I doubt it.  Actually, the only person who saw it all was me.

In thinking this through, I began to think about it more deeply (one of the hazards of working alone) and how things are differently perceived by different people.  The owners of those two dogs are first time dog owners - and the person I was talking to has the sweetest, gentlest little bitch you could ever meet - what a gloriously easy dog to have for your fist one.  But it is the difficult dogs that teach you the most - Sisko was my teacher - I guess, in hindsight, he wasn't really difficult, it was just that he and I never really gelled, and he came with a few behavioural issues that I wouldn't bat an eyelid at nowadays!

Bless him, he wasn't really a bad dog!

Sisko was a true thief at any opportunity
I think that what those folks see is simply an act of aggression from one of my dogs - but I see it as far more complicated than that - a series of actions and reactions which, to be honest, we cannot always foresee.  But I honestly think they don't recognise their dog's part in this - or their own.  Do I have more understanding of dog behaviour?  That is debatable, but I do have more experience, I think.  It is impossible to stop all shit hitting the fan, but we learn by our mistakes - I certainly try to.  And I try to protect my dogs from situations where they may present "unwanted behaviour" - big black dogs, in packs, are always going to be blamed!!

I keep thinking about what I could have done differently, and really haven't come to a conclusion.  I could have shut the door on Talulah and River and let Skara play - but that would send too strong a message to Skara that jumping out was a good thing - you get a game and make a new friend.

As a post script, the day after this incident I was out walking my lot when I saw the off-lead dog with its people coming in our direction.  I took mine off the track a few metres and asked them to sit and wait (yes, treats were involved) which they did.  And I was proud of them for that.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The Journey to Crufts Part 4

Finally on the M74, we settled down for a long journey south, and agreed to stop off at our usual services to gather our wits, have a coffee, and let the dogs have a stretch.

However, it would seem we had another problem in the form of River who was beside me.  She just could not get comfortable.  In my haste to get the hire van packed up and get going again, I really didn't look at the size of the front bench seat.  I was sat in the middle and she in passenger seat, but there just wasn't enough room for her to lay down, not enough room to curl up, she didn't want to go in the foot well, and so she just sat up watching the road like Min and myself.

But she was tired and every now and again she would put her head on my shoulders, gradually sliding down the back of me, then she would sit up and lean on me.  Then she started to shake.  And pant.  Oh boy.  I came to the conclusion that she needed the loo not having had much opportunity to poo since the morning.

The services eventually loomed up and I got out River and Silkie - both of whom gratefully peed and pooed.  Great, I thought, River will settle down now.  Next were Chief and Larney.  And finally Min and I went in for a coffee and sat down with relief that we were on our way properly.  And now we were suitably fuelled with coffee.  Did we eat?  I can't remember!!

River seemed happier for the next bit of the journey.  Not long into our journey, a police car passed at high speed with all lights flashing.  He was certainly in a hurry.  And five minutes down the road we saw the queue of red lights stretching ahead........

We came to a halt, and then inch by inch we moved forward.  After a while it transpired that all the outside traffic was coming in to our lane, and there was traffic coming on to the motorway - int our lane.  It seemed every other lane was moving faster than we were.

Finally, about 45 minutes later, the cause of the bottle neck became apparent - a three vehicle crash on the outside lane - somebodies' journey had come to a halt on that Friday night.  I guess we should be grateful it wasn't us.

Once we got going again, the road became quieter and quieter as the evening went on - and we munched up the miles efficiently.  River was starting to shuffle again - poor girl - there was nothing I could do to make her more comfortable.

As we neared the services where we would be staying, I commented that we had managed to retain our humour despite all that had happened, and that we hadn't shouted at each other - quite a feat, I think!  I suggested that if we swore at each other in the morning that we shouldn't take it personally!  Agreed.

At 3.00am we arrived at our hotel.  Dogs out for a pee, watered, back in the van - we were on autopilot by now - bags in hand we staggered in, got our room key and went upstairs.  Double bed.  Hmm - don't mind sharing with Min, but I did feel we would sleep better not sharing.  Luckily I had said yes to Min's question "do we need the foam mattress with us?".  I went back out to get it and River and I made up a bed on the floor.  I don't remember much more.

We had to be up at 7am......I might tell you about the day at Crufts another time.  We were just grateful to get there.

Monday, 21 March 2016

The Journey to Crufts - Part 3

We were finally on the road again to Crufts.  We knew we were going to be late but it was that or not at all.

My first task was to get the trusty TomTom going so that we didn't miss our junctions on the complicated bit around Glasgow, especially as there were roadworks.  I looked high and low but could not find a charging point.  Min wondered if it was because they discourage smoking in cars now, but I argued that people want to charge phones and such like.  I kept looking, and eventually found a small drawer containing a cup holder, coin holder, and - ta da da dah - a charging point.

I pushed the Tomtom plug in - and it popped back out again.  I pushed it in again - it popped out.  After several repetitions of this manoeuvre, I accepted that the Tomtom plug was not going to go into the socket and stay there.  The only way I could get it to stay in and connect to charge the Satnav was to push in on the plug.  Only that then closed the drawer on my fingers.  So, push the plug with my thumb, and pull the drawers with my fingers whilst bending down low to reach.  Oh!  And keep the plug at the right angle to keep the little red light on!  Okay.....sorted.

That left my free hand to enter in our destination on the screen which was balanced on my knee.  If I took my eye off the plug, the connection would be lost and the screen would go out.  Lose concentration on the screen and it would fall off my knee to the floor.  After several attempts, I finally got there and got the route on screen.  Except I lost the connection again and the screen went blank.

I should say that at this point there was a running commentary on my right:

"Where's the winkers?  I don't want the wipers, I want the winkers.  Stop giving me wipers - I want winkers.  Now I've got the winkers and I want the wipers - it's all on one stick - what kind of useless set up is that?  Where is the swisher - I can wipe, but I can't swish - if I wipe with out the swish it makes the screen worse.  Oh, go away stupid winkers."  Okay, it might not be verbatim - but you get the idea.

The next question was "where do we turn off?"  -  "I don't know, I can't get the screen on for long enough to see".  And I was too low down to see the road or the signs.

"Oh shit" says Min - "We should have been off there"

Okay, I will get this thing going to find our way back on - who on earth was I kidding???

There is a wonderful little ditty about a Satnav - you will find it here https://visitstothepark.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/i-have-a-little-satnav/

This is my version

I have a little satnav, it sits there in my car
But unless you plug the damned thing in, you don’t get very far
The charging socket is down below in a silly little drawer
And even when you find it, the connection’s very poor
You push the charger in with force but it just pops out again
So you push the charger and pull the drawer – oh what a bloody pain!
And just when you get the connection and get the damned thing on
You find the junction you were looking for has been and bloody gone.

Several roundabouts, a few miles, much cursing, and half an hour later, we found our way on to the M74.  We no longer need the satnav.  We knew where we were going now.

Crufts here we come!!!!

To be continued.......

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Journey to Crufts Part 2

So.  There we were, going in the opposite direction to which we wanted to.  Min and I were in the nice warm cab of the AA recovery vehicle.  The dogs, however, were all in the van which was on the back of the recovery truck.  They must have been wondering what the heck was going on .


We had already started to discuss options, and had three plans in mind.  Plan B was to hire a similar kind of van, transfer everything over and set off again.  Plan C was to leave Chief and Larney behind with Min's husband and take my pick-up, and Plan D was to not go at all.  Each plan had its issues.

Plan D was something neither of us wanted - we were all geared up to go, all packed, all prepared.  River was in super condition, and Min - well, Min ALWAYS goes to Crufts!

Plan C - yes, we could take two dogs, but we wouldn't have got Min's mobility scooter in.  My thinking round that was that I could show Silkie for her, and for getting to the NEC from the car park, Min could sit on the trolley with all the stuff (!!!) and I would pull her in.  Yes, I could just see Min sitting in the dog crate surrounded by bags and bowls and leads.

So it seemed Plan B was by far and away the best one - we just had to find a van.  The first few phone calls drew a blank - they didn't have a van the size we needed.  Then we phoned Thrifty.  Yes, they had a suitable van, but they closed at 5.30.  It was now 4.30.  Our driver had asked us where we had been headed, and had seen our disappointment.  And he had obviously been listening to our conversations - he turned and said "I will do my damndest to get you to Perth for 5.30 to get a van and get you to Crufts!" And he did.

At 5.30 we raced in to Thrifty to claim our hire van.  We were relieved and happy to get there - but our cheerfulness was met with a blank wall in the form of the chap at the desk.  I swear his face would have cracked if he had smiled.  I suppose we did hold him back by 10 minutes on a Friday night.

Michael had very kindly waited outside for us.  On looking at the map to find where Thrifty were based, Min discovered they were just round the corner from her regular garage.  She phoned the owner and told him our dilemma - he very kindly said to abandon the broken down van at the gate and he would deal with it the next day.

Abandoning Min's trusty wheels at the garage

Now we had to push it!
The next move was for Michael to unload our van at the garage gate and for us to transfer everything over to the hire van.  To make sure we didn't leave the van in the way of anyone, we had to push it up the kerb onto a verge.   Amazing the strength you can find if you are determined enough!

We waved Michael off with profusive thanks - what a nice man, a very, very nice man for those of you who remember the old AA adverts - and set about our next task.  Oh boy, was there a lot of stuff to move!  And the dogs all need to stretch their legs.  It was quiet about the place so I just let River out to mooch as I didn't think she would go too far.  She surprised me though, that said.

The scooter alone is quite a task to carry out.  The mobile ramps have to be placed in the correct positions in relation to the van and each other.  And of course the new van had a slightly different side door entrance so a bit more man handling was required.  Backwards and forwards between one van and another - four large dog crates, one scooter, mobile ramps, dog bowls, dog food, leads, bedding, bags, food, water, dogs (let's not forget the long suffering dogs!).  We didn't make such a good job of loading the van in that there wasn't room for River's crate on the floor - and she couldn't go atop Larney's where she had been, as there was nowhere to anchor her.  And we couldn't see very well by this time as it was getting dark.  She can come in the cab with us, I said.

Our new chariot.
At 7pm we were ready to set off again.  I think both of us were thinking our thoughts of how mad we must be, but neither of us voiced them.  I also think that if either of us had been alone, we might just have gone home, but we quietly thought the negative stuff and brightly got on with the task in hand, each of us using our individual strengths and ignoring weaknesses.

As we set off down the road towards Glasgow, the song "Davy's On The Road Again" kept going through my head.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDjrFpt-wt0

Crufts here we come!!!

To be continued.........








Thursday, 17 March 2016

The Journey to Crufts

It was time for Crufts again, and with it came that usual mix of excitement, apprehension and a desire not to go.  Of course I wanted to go, but there is always so much to do before and I am always aware that I need to get out more – the thought of going into busier places fills me with a bit of dread.

But, we got organised, Talulah, Tussock and Skara were left behind with Chris, and River and I set off on Thursday afternoon to go over to my parents’ in Fife.  From there, it is only a 45 minute drive to Min’s house on Friday morning.

On arrival at Min’s house, I could see River thinking “Oh.  Not THIS place again!”  But she sniffed about, familiarising herself with the scent of Min’s dogs. 

We loaded up, dogs in crates, water in dishes for each of them, water and food in the cab for us.  We didn’t even bother to have a last coffee before setting off – we just went – we were keen to get on the road, red rosettes were beckoning, and the thought of a sociable couple of days was something we were looking forward to.

A quick stop to get fuel, and we were on the road properly.  Our first stop is usually at the services at Annandale water – it’s one of the better places to let dogs have a good walk – and depending on how busy it is, even some time off lead.  But we never made it that far…..

We weren’t that far out of Glasgow when Min suddenly said “We have a problem.”  We had gone over a large pothole on the motorway just a couple of miles back, and my first thought was that we had a puncture, or something wrong with the steering.  But no – the engine had just died.  Min got us on to the hard shoulder and we sat there a few minutes discussing our situation.  Tried the engine again, but with no luck. 

Out came the AA card and the phone call was made – the usual advice was given – get out of the vehicle and on to the hard shoulder.  Only we couldn’t!  Beside us was a wall covered with wire.  I might have made it up there, but I had doubts about Min doing so!  And besides – neither of us were prepared to leave the dogs.  So we sat there, and suddenly I realised just how frighteningly dangerous a position it is to be in.  Every car, every bus and lorry shook the van and the speed of the traffic was scary. 


Not sure we can climb this!
We had been told it would be an hour before recovery arrived, but in fact it was only about 40 minutes before a delightful chap called Charlie arrived.  He explained he was going to put the van on the back of the truck and take us to the next services where it would be safer for him to take a look at the engine.  So at that point we had to abandon the dogs and move into the back of the recovery truck.  It was lovely and warm (and palatial!) and we both realised how cold we had got sitting still.

A warm and palatial cab.
The van was winched on to the truck and off we went – at least heading in the right direction.  A few miles down the road, we pulled off to services and the van winched back off again.  Charlie had a quick look at the engine, but couldn’t find anything obvious – he would have to call a mechanic, and that was going to be another hour.  Our day was disappearing.  But, we went for a coffee, to the loo, got the dogs out for a stretch and chatted.  We were trying to be positive, and not think of the situation should they not be able to get the van going.

Going up the ramp.

Goodness knows what the dogs were thinking.

Charlie the recovery man.

Min looking a bit worried and fed up.

Charlie - a smiling gentleman.
Enter the mechanic.  Hooray!  We would soon be on the road again.  But the news wasn’t good – the timing belt had gone.  We were no longer going to Crufts.  The mechanic was ordering another recovery vehicle to come and take us back to Perth. 

And coming off the truck again.

Enter the hero mechanic.

And finally on our way back to Perth with our third knight of the road, Michael.
So.  There we were, all dressed up and nowhere to go.  Two tired people and four tired and fed up dogs.

To be continued.......