The Last Furlong

Comments on the race of life.

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Sharp dog – concentration problems

Many years ago, I was given a class to teach, that the headmaster suggested I would need all my skills to cope with. I don’t know why I got that class – punishment? admiration of my skills? But I did manage. I learned the skill of “outwitting”. They were sharp kids.

I learned those kinds of kids, from poor homes, with career criminal parents, thrive on routine, praise and affirmation: that they are cleverer than you are in every way, except in book learning. I learned that their naughtiness was just their humour playing out in class. I learned little boys have about the same concentration level as this six year old rescue dog named Bass, that I am teaching to read; in almost every way.

We are having similar problems.

I must go into “outwitting” mode.

We have Routine – yes. At eleven a.m. we enter the sitting room. Mr and Mrs Furlong proceed into Tai Chi moves, while Bass lies on the carpet in front of us, making sure we do it properly as we follow our instructor on the TV. Reading Lesson comes afterwards. Bass likes Reading Lessons. Just like the boys in my class liked anything that made them the focus of attention. Yesterday he read beautifully. SIT, ASK, DOWN.

Though sometimes SIT and ASK get confused. They are the same length. Whereas DOWN is clearly different. He reads DOWN well.

After Reading Lesson, is the Walk. The routine needs to change, for by now, Bass knows Reading Lesson is followed by Walk and it severely affects his concentration sometimes. He prefers Walk. So just like my little boys in my naughty class, he does anything he thinks will generate a quick treat, before I’ve even got the flashcards off the mantelpiece. DOWN, ASK, SIT, ASK, SIT, DOWN, in any order, just so he can get released from “school”.

To outwit this, we will now Read before Tai Chi, as a routine. Or perhaps we should have Reading after lunch instead?

I have only presented three words, ASK, SIT and DOWN. The next two are DEAD and ROLLOVER. There won’t be a problem with ROLLOVER, but DEAD is the same length as DOWN. That means a dog has to differentiate between the actual letters.

My class had a problem with that too, but despite their deprived backgrounds, some of the boys in my class that year, went on to do amazing things!

I’m expecting the same from Bass….


Teaching the dog to read

I started teaching the dog to read.

Yes, it’s possible.

So I started with flash cards saying SIT, ASK, DOWN, DEAD, ROLLOVER. I mixed them up. First I said the command with the appropriate card. Then I only showed the card. I was astonished at how quickly Bass got it. Especially DEAD. He does a really good ‘dead’. But ASK was a problem. I realised that when we do ‘ask’, I hold the treat over his head. If I don’t do that, he don’t ask.

Likewise with ‘down’, if I don’t do the hand action, he won’t go down on my down command, let alone read a flash card.

So I consulted the Oracle, the Internet. Oh no. I was doing it all wrong. I needed large print flashcards so I made some, and I must work with one word at a time. So, ‘ask’ being a problem, I worked on that.

I got Bass to ‘ask’ without me holding a treat above his head. Then I introduced the ASK card. He did well. I did well. Success! Bass can read ASK.

Oh wait. He now ‘asks’ every time for all the cards – SIT, ASK, DOWN, DEAD and ROLLOVER. A card, any card, means ASK.

Damn. How am I going to get out of that trap?

I have an idea……..


The new tenants in the bumblebee house

Mr Furlong and I got into the garden at last. We opened up the section behind our shed, where old pots are stashed.

It’s been fenced off from the dog because it’s not escape proof, and also it’s where our woodmice live.

It’s where, two years ago, I built a bumble bee nest. That has appeared vacant. No bumble bee has even looked at it, I’m sure.

The place behind the shed is where the footballs from next door collect. Where stuff gets dumped. Where there is a bag of tar mix for the pothole that is our responsibility on the private road we call the ‘back passage’. Where there are things that should be dumped stay. It’s the ‘to do place’.

So in the tidying it up, I discovered the upturned pot with its underground tunnel where I’d imagined the bumblebees. On the top was a glass plate to keep it dry, that allowed air in underneath but kept the rain out.

I thought to dismantle it. So I removed the plate. As I bent over to take hold of the pot, I smelled a familiar smell that stopped me in my tracks. I remember that smell. That smell always had me yelling at the kids.

“Go and clean that damn hamster cage!”

But for the first time, I was utterly delighted. It means my bumblebee house is being used.

By the woodmice.


Smiling is good


Lockdown Syndrome

I see people are doing all sorts of things during lockdown. They have changed. Depending on their proclivities and interests, people are :-

  • Shaving the head
  • Not shaving the face
  • Going naked
  • Porn watching
  • Escaping to the Tool shed
  • Revamping the home and DIY
  • Distroying furniture through using it as gym equipment
  • Skipping showers or baths
  • Wearing the same clothes for days
  • Not putting on makeup
  • Not wearing a bra
  • Wearing robes
  • Snacking
  • Putting on weight
  • Chocolate bingeing
  • Book reading
  • Listening to podcasts
  • Consulting the I Ching, Tarot or Runes
  • Praying
  • Drinking
  • Useing foul language
  • Beating the children, wife or husband
  • Blaming the Government
  • Making obnoxious tweets or inspirational ones
  • Making long phonecalls
  • Having regular panic attacks or comforting someone who does
  • Re-watching old movies
  • Maxing out on phone data
  • Checking the news constantly
  • Shouting at the TV, children, neighbours, dog, cat, inanimate objects
  • Blessing the children, neighbours, dog, cat, inanimate objects
  • Taking selfies or photos of inconsequential things
  • Staying in bed
  • Staying up late
  • Going to bed early
  • Doing favours
  • Joining charities
  • Worrying about money
  • Giving away money
  • Rationing food
  • Hoarding food
  • Cooking for others
  • Getting to know hardship
  • Counting blessings
  • Complaining
  • Attempting to find someone to blame

But there is one thing we are all doing together

We are ALL using TOILET PAPER, most basic in the hierarchy of needs!

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This time of year, two things in my life drive me nuts.

The Holly tree sheds thousands of leaves that blow around the garden and that savagely pounce on your hands and feet at unexpected moments. The only solution is to constantly sweep them up every day from under the tree where they fall. It drives me nuts. The tree belongs to us, but the chap in the flat upstairs has begged us not to cut it down because it shields his balcony from prying eyes.

And then there’s the dog. We have now had him long enough to know that he sheds. He SHEDS.

He sheds in the Autumn and then in the Spring. The Spring shed is the worst.

The best way to keep on top of it is to brush him every day. Otherwise he drops clumps of fur in unexpected places like the bathroom floor where you suddenly discover them lurking like black spiders at you feet in the dim light of a night visit. The scare stops you sleeping for the rest of it.

So we need to be grateful at this time of Covid19 lockdown. At least we have something to DO!