The Racing

It is rare to come across a situation in my life these days that makes me consider something that I haven't already considered. What I mean is that I have already made up my mind about a lot of what makes me "me", and day to day very little I encounter acts as a change in view point. If I hear someone being homophobic, I will say something because I find it intolerable; if I hear someone being sexist, I'll say something; and when I see something happen that is transphobic, or anything else that I find bad, I'll say something.

These things have been formed over quite sometime, and I have found that these things can piss people off. I recently lost a friend when I pointed out that he was being homophobic, sexist, misogynistic, and racist. and that I found it offensive. He told me he wasn't being offensive, and that I shouldn't be worried about it anyway. To be honest, torching that friendship didn't hurt as much as I expected it would.

Recently though, contrary to the above, I've been made to consider my position ethically and morally on something that I haven't before, and that is racing - animal racing. Horses and dogs specifically. Several years ago I was asked to put a £1 bet on the Grand National, and I refused because it was a waste of money (betting is a whole other quandary that I don't get but don't have any objections to on principle, but I do have serious reservations about the culture of betting we have in the UK, but that's another post for another time). I didn't consider the welfare of the animals at all in my decision. It was last summer when, as a team building exercise, the department in work decided to go horse racing.

I told my wife this and she was intrigued - surely that wasn't an all-inclusive event? I started to think (really think) about the event, and what it meant, and the more I thought about it the more I realised I found it sickening - that these animals were raced and potentially hurt (and destroyed) during the race.

I don't like bull fighting. I reconcile with the concept of Zoos due to conservational and educational reasons, but they still worry me, and so horse racing was a natural extension. Horse racing is something that is culturally engrained in the UK, what with the Grand National, the Cheltenham Festival, and others taking place and getting massive press coverage. Jockeys are celebrities; horses are famous; owners are rich and well known.

I told this to my colleagues who were asking if I were going, and I explained my position. They understood and respected my opinion, and I respected theirs to want to go. I mean, at it's base function, the event was meant as a team building exercise more than a endorsement of racing.

This summer they are hosting another event, this time at the dog racing. This is another event I won't be going to because of several reasons, but mostly for similar ethical reasons above. Did you know that around 10,000 dogs are retired from racing a year, and only around 20% are rehomed? The rest go to shelters, or are simply destroyed. And that's just the dogs that are racing - there are many more puppies not "good enough" to race that are destroyed or left to be rehomed, unwanted by their trainers and teams.

It actually taps into a more interesting culture that I have noticed with work events (and not exclusive to this office or these colleagues, to which I mean no ill) that they are very much geared towards getting pished. I get that - I have been more drunk at work events than not drunk at work events, and for a time they were a great vehicle to getting smashed on the cheap. But as I have got older (and with more responsibility, natch) not only has that kind of binge-ing became lost on me, but that I've lost the part of me that enjoys it! If the 18 year old version of me could read this now...

I don't mind the idea of being left out of the events that build the team when it's my choice to do so (ethically or not), but when it's starting to be a pattern it is hard to not feel a little left out or put out.

So yeah. No horse racing or dog racing. Maybe just a meal and a bar next time?

NOTE: These are my personal opinions and as stated in the bottom part of this blog they do not reflect the opinions of the company I work for, or their clients.

Frank's Life Through a Lens Part One

Have a look at my recent Life Through a Lens series here.

A happy wee Frank out on a walk.

A lovely shot of Frank and Tiggsy sleeping. Tiggsy is Frank's "girlfriend'.

Skinny shot of a young Frank. This is a young shot of him.

Commandeering our bean bag.

Sleeping in the sun on the spare bed in our old flat was Frank's favourite thing.

Frank getting in the Christmas spirit.

In the long grass.

A happy Frank smiling.

An evocative shot of me and Frank shaking paws when he was very young.

Frank meeting a highland cow.

A recent shot of him after swimming.

Uncle Frank and His Names

Frank has joined a long tradition of pets in Connie’s family – both her sisters have dogs and Connie has a puppy back in Canada herself, the furiously handsome Mr Benson, currently residing with her brother Abraham. Benson has many nicknames; Benny Boy, Pumpkin, Chocolate Babies etc. Even I acme up with my own nickname for him – Charles. Not sure why, but it fits.

Frank too has followed in this tradition. Starting with the much applauded name Uncle Frank, his name has been shortened to simply Frank, then Frankie (much to Connie’s annoyance) and then to many further places. So below is a current but not exhaustive list of names Uncle Frank has had to contend with:

Uncle Frank
Golden Baby / Golden Babies
My Baby

The currently one is the rather fabulous Popey Francis (a play on Puppy Frank).

Uncle Frank's Procedure

Frank has had “the chop”. Basically (and I am certain this is the medical term) he had his baws deleted. I think it is more commonly known as “castration”. Now, when Connie and I got Frank we had already decided that this was the course of action we’d be taking. There are several major reasons for this, of course, which are that
a) It will reduce his need to hump things
b) it will calm him down in many other ways
c) it reduces the chance of infection, complications, and cancer in that specific area.

When we finally got Frank, it was also suggested that it was the humane thing to do. Frank, despite being sired by a pedigree dog and a delivered by a pedigree bitch, cannot be registered as pedigree because his mother was nine years old, with eight being the limit of a pedigree mother. What this means that despite having a lineage leading back eight generations of dogs (seriously) on chart that we got and his hip score being great, we can’t breed him with a KC (Kennel Club) number. Not that we would. I mean, someone could’ve ask us for him to father a litter of puppies but I’d feel rather strange about that, especially considering it wouldn’t be us. The major advantage of this arrangement was that we got a fully healthy, gorgeously handsome, well bred pedigree dog for about 40% of the normal price.

If you really need to know, Frank was the result of a sexy sexy accident between his mother and his father (Ellie and Tam). Unplanned litter of puppies!

There was a difficulty for me to separate what he had done to what I would feel like if I had it… done. Especially now. It was even harder to deal with when almost all of my friends were making the same joke – even saying he’d never forgive me. This is plaintively nonsense, because as the person who gives him food and rubs his belly, he appears to forgive and forget within seconds. I’ve stepped on his paw too many times to not know that he is like this. He has already been overly excited at being back home. Spending a full day in the vets is nothing short of… well, unfair on him.

But as I say, it had to happen.

You will be glad to know that despite all this he has basically returned to normal within a few days. His six month birthday was the 3rd of December, which is startling actually, but it makes me so excited for the next six months. 

Uncle Frank's First Four Weeks

On the 27th July 2012 Connie and I moved into our new flat in Glasgow and brought home for the first time our new puppy, Uncle Frank. Once you get to know him you can call him Frank. The first four weeks of his life with us have been pretty interesting from the perspective of someone that has never had a pet before. 

There are five things that I will bullet point here that instantly stick out in my mind.

  • I have never enjoyed hard work this much in my life.
  • His antics are forever going to be the source of anecdotes and could, in theory, sustain this blog for as long as he lives.
  • His joy at being allowed to do things and his pride at working things out are things that Connie and I notice on a hourly basis.
  • Dog pee doesn’t smell as bad as you might think, but dog shit is one of the worst smelling things I’ve ever came across.
  • People who have dogs love to talk to other people who have dogs, no matter if they are strangers or not.
 Let’s start from the start then. His first night in the flat was a manic one – it was simultaneously his first time away from his mother and litter-mates, but also the first time in a cage. And, the first time he’d came up against a bunch of our friends who had came over to help out move stuff into the flat and had stayed to drink. It was also the first night of the Olympics. The summer will be defined by the Olympics and the puppy – I mean, who even remembers Euro 2012? He was cute, peed once or twice on the floor, and mostly was cuddled and petted. He was very tired and slept on and off. Considering his removal from his home that he knew he did incredibly well – he slept all the way through the night and I woke in the morning to a peed in crate and a happy sleepy puppy, a sign of things to come. The breeder would later call and remark that “sleeping through the night? That won’t last!”, as she chuckled away to herself – she was wrong.

In the first week we struggled with his house training. Living on the top floor Frank’s propensity for peeing in the hallway, the front room, and that bathroom frustrated more than it angered. He appeared to understand the need to wait, but still didn’t. His progress has been slow, but steady – now he won’t pee in his crate, thankfully, and whines more when he needs to be let out. We are trying to bell train him – this technique involves ringing a bell each time we take him out to pee so that he makes the association. This should’ve taken already, but we think that the walk down stairs probably doesn’t help his link between the two. Slowly we are getting there. Another barrier to this seems to be his laziness. He doesn’t make any effort when he’s tired or just woken up to avoid peeing. We can trust him during the day, as he holds his pee now, but in the mornings or after a lengthy nap he will likely need to carried down stairs. The close stairs are now our new hallway – he is getting closer to outside, but not quite there.  Thankfully, so far, he’s yet to shit in the house.

He has his quirks, and these make it worthwhile having a puppy for sure. He likes to bite, of course, but that’s slowly going away. His teeth are sharp but his jaw is less likely to bite down but just to “mouth” as it’s known. He is teething, like a kid, but instead of crying he bites. It makes for a difficult time though, as it’s very constant. And my sleeves have yet to be free from broken skin since we got him – my right hand has taken most of the punishment.

In the last four weeks though he’s started to respond to his name, sits on command more times than not, and in a brilliant feature has started to ring the bell to go out to pee. In saying that… learning that a bell = go outside might also mean a lot of spurious bell ringing, it is better than the opposite.  In the next few weeks we will work on his stay command, rolling over, shaking the paw and a few other neat tricks. No point telling you them though; I’ll save that for the surprise when I can on command make him do the Archie Gemmel goal for Scotland against the Netherlands.

It has only been in the last week that it has felt like we have a proper dog, however. Because of his age and the city environment we weren’t allowed to walk him until a week after his final shot – his 12th week. And so, to Troon, Loch Lomond, Largs, Pollok and Rouken Glen park he’s been, and he’s loved it – the best part is meeting all the other dogs, him tentaivley going into the water at the beach, and his perceived smile – something my parents don’t believe.

I can only imagine what the next four weeks will bring.