Friday, January 26, 2007

Straya Day, and it is roast lamb

Do they look keen? Ooh yes. Straya Day Eve saw us all eating a roast leg of lamb, with roast potatoes, pumpkin, and beans. Sam Kekovich would be proud of us.

On the day itself we went to Bill and Alison's to have snags from their back yard barbie. We adorned ourselves with Australian flag stickers too. It was partly to celebrate their son Zachary's birthday, so there were a zillion kids there, from 3 months to our age. We enjoyed the chocolate crackles too. Yum! Good to see all those little taxpayers getting ready to support us in our dotage.

Majic went too. He was immediately pounced on by lots of little girls, and he just loved it. Then he saw Jazz. Jazz is the size of a great dane, she is ENORMOUS! They got along just fine, and Majic was a very tired boy when he got home.

So we thought we had done Australia Day proud, and thoroughly enjoyed it. On the subject of Majic, it feels like we have a pug-shaped slot in our lives, something like this:

He slotted right into that spot, and life seems complete. There seemed very little settling in period. He is very different from Jonty (or Bennie). More like Bennie in that he is a bit timid, not as boofy or active as Jonty. Being pugless is pretty desolate! Being pugged is definitely the state we prefer.

More knitting today. I have done the lace for the second sleeve of the black jumper (which is now covered with pug fur) and have made some progress up the arm. I think it is going to be nice, and will be finished soon.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Great Oyster Attack

Looks idyllic, doesn't it? Little did we know...

This is Great Keppel Island. I was there last May (2006) with a colleague from the US. We were doing some training at Central Queensland University, and had a weekend off.

"Let's go snorkelling on Great Keppel," said I.

"Yay," said Heather.

We organised it. On arrival, we hired some masks and snorkels and flippers.

"The best snorkelling is out there on the point" said the hirer. "Just nick around those rocks over there to the right."

Nicking over those rocks was not a happy experience. Those rocks were encrusted with oysters. As we were picking our way to the water, I cut two fingers on my right hand.

"Ouch" said I. "Oops" said Heather, as she nearly sliced off her big toe.

I got out of the water, leaving her on the shore staunching the flow of blood. I ran for first aid, and found some. We spent the rest of the day at Rockhampton Hospital getting Heather sewn up. Her toe is still numb.

In the light of this drama, I just bandaged my fingers and got on with things. They seemed to heal. But the fourth finger didn't heal quite right. I was SURE there was something left in it. I could see something black. Every so often I would dig around with a needle.

AFter boring friends and family with my whining, I set off to see Patty, my doctor. She dug around (without anaesthetic) unsuccessfully, but she did give me some more sterile needles to continue my own digging. She also suggested I get an XRay. I did. There was a chunk of something. I returned to see Stephanie this time, who did some major slicing and removed the chunk of oyster shell. Yay!

Not Yay. In November I realised that there was still something in there. Another Xray revealed nothing. Stephanie referred me to a plastic surgeon.

On Friday he sliced my finger open again, and extracted a lump of grit and another fragment of oyster shell. I have two stitches in my finger tip and typing is awkward. Please, let this be the last of it!

Moral of the story: eat oysters, don't try and shake hands with them.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Technomoment 4 - Who is the legend?

I think I have posted before about the intricacies of connecting the Legend digital set-top-box with the DVD/VCR combo, the television and the hi-fi. It was reasonably successful, but we were having problems getting the G-coder to record properly. It would never come on at the right time.

Sharp-Eyed Jackson realised one day that the time display on the set-top box was not right - it was an hour out. I navigate to the settings and discover that there is only one way to set the time - New South Wales. No manual time setting. Hmmm. SEJ goes to the Legend website to see their FAQs, and discovers that there was a bug. Despite having been around since forever, Legend does not recognise daylight savings time. It requires its firmware to be updated. How does one go about that?

First one acquires an RS232 cable, otherwise known as a crossover cable, or null-model cable. I am familiar with these from years ago using dialup modems attached to the RS232c interface. I don't have one, of course. Neither does Harvey Norman (who also had no idea about having to update the Legend box we bought there). Neither does Dick Smith. Sigh. I go to the web and order one from there, and it arrives the following day. In the interim I speak to the Legend tech support guys who tell me the simplest thing to do is pack up the box, drive to Silverwater to drop it off there, they will send it to Adelaide for updating, and some time in the future I will receive it back.

I decide to persist with doing it myself. The techies express their doubts. When the cable arrives I plug one end to the set-top-box, the other to the laptop which has a wireless connection to the internet. I download the firmware update with its instructions. Open the instructions. Hmmmm. Chinglish in the extreme. The screenshots are in Chinese characters. Oh dear. I am nothing if not persistent.

First you establish your HyperTerminal connection, setting all those lovely things like baud rate and parity (oh these are a blast from the past!). Then you invoke a terminal command which is very cryptic. Then what? The instructions are very unclear, but I finally manage to send the file I have downloaded. The screen fills with the playing card spade symbol, and keeps going for 25 minutes. I walk away, despairing, but leave it to run.

It stops, and gives me the PMON> prompt. This, in theory, means it is done. Heart in mouth I disconnect everything, turn off the box, and back on again. Nothing. No channels. Gulp! Menu works! I ask it to set the time, and lo and behold I have a new option - summer time!!! Yay!!!! I choose it. It needs to scan for all the channels again, and this time it does it in a much more logical fashion than it did before.

It looks like everything has worked. In case I have missed something, or there is something else I could do while it is all connected, I call the techos again and tell them what I have done. They expressed astonishment at my having done it. Well, I modestly declared, I have been playing with this kind of thing for a while - like thirty years. They are still astonished and tell me it wasn't easy. No, I reply, it wasn't easy at all, and it would have been nice to have English instructions. They agree heartily.

Can you believe that whole story? Wouldn't you think that technology would be a bit simpler than that these days? Why isn't it plug and play? Why does it happen to me?

Back to playing with the Pug, who is more adorable every minute.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Pug at rest and at play

Look closely. By my side, in his rightful place on the couch, is a little tired out pug. Majic had a big day learning how to live his new life, and finally he was tuckered out. For a little while he slept there, until he went to his crate for the night. He is very happy in the crate, and sleeps like a log.

Yesterday we took him to Sir Joseph Banks Park. (While looking for a link I found this National Public Toilet Map website - didn't know there was such a thing!) We let him off the lead, but left his collar on. He didn't like having a collar on at all, and alternated bouts of running with sitting or lying down sulking. He will get used to it.

You may remember the saga of Rachel and Jonty. Arch enemies. Not so with Majic. He simply adores Rachel. Do not scroll down if you don't want to be shocked by what cute little puppies can get up to when you aren't looking. Rachel has become a sex toy! I had to hide Rachel so Majic wouldn't work himself to exhaustion!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

We are cracking up and seeking stability

Not us personally, mind you, but our house. Like many houses in Sydney the drought is causing major problems. The clay foundation on which our old house (circa 1908) rests is drying out, and this is causing lots of cracking. We've patched over cracks in the past, but this time it seems more serious.

When my mother was living next door we took the opportunity to get a structural engineer in, and it was clear that the side wall was really moving a lot. You could see it kind of leaning away from the gutter. He recommended underpinning with five piers. This involves digging big holes in the clay underneath the house and filling them with money concrete. They have done three holes (you don't want to do all five at once because that might cause the house to collapse) and it is always interesting to me to see how the house is built.

We are built on rock hard clay, no rock underneath, but at least it isn't sand. It is interesting to see how the brick foundation has been stepped out for a bit of stability in two of the holes, like this one:

But this one has two big sandstone blocks used as a foundation:

It really is the renovation you have without any renovation. Biff, Thump and Digger come at seven thirty, they go next door and dig and so forth, we go and inspect, but there is nobody inside our house, no disturbance at all except to our finances. It would be nice to spend money on something else, like a new side fence or some garden design, but it is important to look after one's infrastructure.

Our new neighbours on that side are being so fantastic to put up with all this - they are bearing the brunt of it in their back yard. We all live very close here in the inner city, and good neighbours are very important.

Speaking of neighbours, there was a photo of a neighbour on the other side of our house (we have three on that side, being on a corner) in this morning's Sydney Morning Herald. She is a keen surfer, and was posed with her surfboard under her arm and her two year old son by her side. And then we noticed where the picture was taken - outside my mother's new house! Yes, my mother has a big mural on her house, and the photographer thought it a suitable backdrop.

Finally, little Majic is settling in perfectly. He can walk on the lead, he is learning how to sit on command, and knows just what to do with a bone. I did a cookup for him yesterday so don't feel guilty feeding him out of a tin. He is lying on my foot as I type this.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Some knit and some pug

His kennel name is Youshi Majic, named by Athol. We ummed and aahed about what to call him, and finally opted to keep that name, Majic. He is a magic little dog, and it suits him. Athol was pleased at our decision. Majic is a quick, smart boy. He has learned to walk on the lead reasonably well, we are teaching him the words NO, HEEL and STOP. We are making a start on the SIT and COME, and he is a quick learner. He's full of beans and wiggles, loves to play. Yesterday we walked down to the vet where we got flea stuff and heartworm stuff, and ordered him a name tag. We decided to make Christmas ornaments out of Jonty and Portia's tags, so we will bring them out every year and remember them. Here is the little Magic Man.

On the knitting front I have been continuing the V-neck black jumper. Finished the back and the front. I wanted to do something different for the sleeve, so went to an old book for a knitted lace edging. Therese de Dillmont's Complete Encyclopedia of Needlework has been in our family since I can remember, and I love using it for patterns. I chose one with little points. Here it is:

My plan is to pick up the stitches for the sleeve along the edging, do another lace pattern - a simple ridged eyelet - then complete the sleeve in veggie knitting. Perhaps, just perhaps, I shall sew small black beads to the points of the edging.

Life goes on.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

We must be crazy

Of course, we are crazy. I called Athol to let him know the sad news about our Jonty. We wept, as we still are. Athol has had a dreadful year, and I was sorry to compound it with our sad news. Earlier this year his partner of over twenty years, Paddy (David Fallon) died after a battle with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. He was only 42. Since then Athol has been at a loose end, staying with friends here and there, and downsizing his dogs. He had over thirty - a mixture of pugs and French Bulldogs. He is now down to 13, having had some of the older ones put to sleep and finding homes for others. He had kept one pug puppy, a male, because he was a good one and he might consider showing again, but his heart really isn't in it. He'd tried to sell him once but had no response to the ad. Did we want him? No no no, she cried! Not another one! No more dogs! My mother and I had had conversations about this. "Don't let Michael talk you into another dog" she said.

Michael was so miserable on losing Jonty. So sad, it was awful. One foolish night this week I asked him whether he wanted another dog. Yes, came the answer as quick as quick. We discussed it. Another breed? A female? A young puppy? You all know the answer. I called Athol, who is living with a friend in Goulburn temporarily. Yes, we could have the pug. Six months old (same age as Jonty when we got him) and beautiful. We got in the car. Along the way we followed and were followed by a car with the numberplate YAO. This was Jonty's kennel name, so we took this as a message from the universe that Jonty was with us and we were doing the right thing. So we popped him in the car and drove home.

He knew how to behave in the car, slept for some of the journey. We stopped off at the Pet Barn to get him some eats and a new welcome home toy. He has never worn a collar or been on a lead before, so he has some training ahead, but he is smart. He slept in the big dog crate last night without a murmur or any bother. This morning he went out on the lead to the park, and perfomed very well.

So are we mad? Yes, no doubt about it. Another twelve to fifteen years of being responsible for a little dog. More vet bills. More heartache and worry. But more life in the house, more parks to visit, more stories to tell. We look at him and tears well up again, we miss Jonty sorely.

He is Michael's dog. Michael has to name him. At the moment his name is Youshi Majic, but goes by the name of Little Pug. It will take time for him to carve a place in our lives. He will never fill Jonty's shoes, just as Jonty didn't fill Bennie's. He will have his own shoes.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Jonty leaves us

Multum in Parvo. That's the motto for the pug dog breed. A lot of dog in a small space. Jonty certainly lived up to that. For over twelve years he was a huge part of our family and as a Newtown identity. In his early years he was a major figure in the show world too. Now he is gone, and I have to write his story and cry some more.

In February 1994 we farewelled Previous Pug, Bennie. For months afterwards I cried, and declared I would never have another dog. A year went by. Michael understood from my frequent poring over pug puppy ads in the paper that I really did want another dog. One morning in February 1995 I got up to find the newspaper folded and an ad circled. Pug puppy, 6 months. Call the number. Really? Can't hurt to call. I called, and spoke with Athol, who asked very bluntly "What do you want him for?" I was a bit taken aback, and responded that I wanted a dog for the family, a pet, to replace Bennie. Athol said we could come and have a look, but that no promises were being made, we would have to be approved as suitable owners. He might even have to come and look at our house to see if it was suitable. We quaked in our boots as we got in the car and drove to Coogee to view and be viewed.

As we pulled up and got out of the car, Athol was leaning over the balcony. He looked down at us, and said "Are you the bastards come to take my dog?" We got to know and love Athol later, but this came as a bit of a surprise. "Yes, maybe," we said. Inside, we were introduced to Kelly, the mother, and saw a very cute little puppy. "Ooooh, how sweet!" we exclaimed. Then down the hall came lumbering a gawky gangly adolescent boofy bloke pug. This, we were informed, was Boofhead, and he was the one for sale. The cute little girl pug was Elsa, his sister, and she was not for sale.

We must have met with Athol's approval. He wanted to be sure that we were not interested in showing Boofhead, nor were we interested in breeding. We just wanted him for Our Pug. Apparently he had been sold before as a show dog, and had been returned for being unsuitable. Too big, too much nose. We didn't care, we scooped him up and took him home. You can't just "go and look" at a puppy.

Can you have a dog called Boofhead? While it definitely suited him - all his life he was a boofy bloke - we couldn't imagine calling him that forever. This was the time of the South African cricket team's first visit after the boycott. Jonty Rhodes was everywhere, and he was cute. Jonty the Pug was named for him.

He settled right in. We all adored him.

Some months later we went to a Pug Picnic. Yes, they have Pug Picnics. You can find out more at the Sydneypugs website. There were lots of pug people there, including Athol. Also in attendance was Electra, the doyenne of the show pug world. Jonty was about a year or more old by then. He had grown into his legs and was no longer gawky. He always had a presence about him. We were standing talking with Athol when we heard Electra say "Who is that pug? He's magnificent!"

Athol's ears pricked up. Afterwards, he asked us whether he could show Jonty. Thus began Jonty's double life, as a time-share dog. On the weekends Athol and Paddy would whisk him away to be taken to shows. He often came home covered with glory. We agreed that Athol and Paddy could keep the trophies, we could keep the ribbons. There were lots of those, and yesterday I got them out to iron them and photograph them. Jonty loved going to the shows. Whenever Athol and Paddy arrived at the door he would rush to their car and leap in without a backward glance at us. He loved being in the show ring, and would pose naturally, without any need for adjusting. He felt he deserved to be the centre of attention. In rapid quick time he became a champion.

He also became an occasional stud dog, and produced more champions for Athol and Paddy. Is it any wonder he got excited when Athol and Paddy came to take him for dirty weekends?

The time span for showing is short. There isn't any point in continuing to show a champion, you have to allow the young ones to take their turns. So Jonty settled into being home pug.

He had many loves. His dinner bowl, the heater, his toys and Portia's. He loved going for walks, sticks and balls, digging in sand, wading at the beach. He was Michael's chief Nap Assistant in the afternoons. He slept with us until he was about nine, and his soothing snores and warm little body were a great comfort. He loved to do the Pug Scuttle, doing mad circuits of the house from up on the bed, down and under the dining room table and chairs, into the kitchen, and back again. Around and around, ears flattened and tail unfurled behind him, until he was exhausted. He was indifferent to most other dogs, except for Grace, a white furry big dog whom he just adored.

Unlike Bennie who was a TV addict, Jonty showed no interest whatever in television.

He had lots of dislikes as well. He hated most of our neighbours, especially Alex and Mrs Alex, for no reason whatever. He would try to bite them and really couldn't be let out without a lead. He had no road sense at all. On one memorable occasion he was out walking with Michael and a woman with a pram approached. A tender little baby foot was poking out from the pram, and just as the woman was saying the usual "what a cute little dog!" Jonty tried to take a bite of the baby's foot.

The bags of leaves swept up by the streetsweepers were mortal enemies and had to be attacked and savaged.

He loathed all Border Collies, and could spot them a mile away. This hatred stemmed from an incident in King Street where he was attacked by one. The Border Collies didn't even have to be real. There was a big stuffed one in a shop window we passed regularly on our walks. Jonty would hurl himself at the barred windows behind which Rachel sat in her smug provocative way. He would bark and carry on while we laughed at him. Others observing this behaviour found it as hilarous as we did. I reported in detail on his run-ins with Rachel in this post.

You've seen other photos of him in other posts so you know what a part he played in our lives. But no pug lives forever. A couple of years ago he began losing power over his back legs. That resulted in a spinal laminectomy, which was quite successful. In the last months, however, he started losing the legs again. He also lost a lot of weight. There were other problems. Between Christmas and New Year we took him to the vet a couple of times. It was clear he had three issues, maybe cancer. We put him on cortisone to see if it helped, but it didn't. He had a couple of really bad nights and mornings, so on 2nd January we took the hard decision. This is one of the hardest things in the world to do - to say goodbye to your beloved Pug. I've put a gallery of some of his photos here. He'll be in our hearts forever.