A dog’s life

Just under two weeks ago my daily morning routine changed. Instead of the usual lie-in before showering and breakfast there’s now a one-hour trek with the dog. We usually take the path beside our house up into the hills and follow it for a kilometer or two, then either turn back or follow a track down to the road and walk back along that. It must be doing me some good, and I heard only a couple of days ago that people who keep dogs live longer. Or does it just seem longer?

There are some side-benefits, one being the free breakfast, which at this time of year is blackberries and figs. Blackberries carry an official green stamp of approval for dogs, and Buffy loves them, having quickly learned to help herself to those close enough to reach. She puts the whole bunch inside her mouth then carefully sucks the ripe ones. Though it’s always easier to beg a human to provide ready-picked berries. Sometimes I even get to eat a few myself.

1409-1Then there’s figs. I always carry a supermarket plastic bag, just in case, and this morning I picked 2.5kg – well when it’s free, why not? While I was thus occupied Buffy carried out one of her favourite experiments, being to find out how many windfall figs can be fitted into the stomach of a small dog. Quite a lot, it would seem. I read that ripe figs can have an adverse effect on some dogs, causing coughs, wheezing or diarreah, and the recommendation is to limit them to 1 or 2 per week. Oh dear; this morning she must have taken a whole month’s worth. Still, she’s been doing it for a couple of weeks and I’ve seen no signs of any ill effects. Figs are full of potassium, sugar and fibre so I’ll let Nature and Buffy have their way.

1409-2The figs in my carrier bag are destined for the freezer. I halve them and lay them out on trays for freezing, then pack them into plastic bags. I’ll miss the free breakfasts once the crop is finished but at least we’ll have them for cooking. Figs are a versatile fruit and can be used in surprising ways. Our favourite is to stand them upright, slit an X at the top and squeeze them so they open up like the pupae in Aliens (but without the slime), then wrap them in Parma ham or speck (bacon) and drop a knob of Gorgonzola into the X before baking them for ten minutes or so. This makes an excellent starter.

1409-3The other day we took Buffy to the beach. It soon became apparent that this was an unfamiliar experience and revealed that she has a fear of water. This particular stretch of beach is where the river Roya exits into the Mediterranean, and there’s a narrow shingle shoreline with a freshwater lake behind it. Even though the latter is mostly as flat as a millpond, the slightest ripple spooked Buffy. It took me half an hour of standing in the water to get her to venture close enough to drink from it. Whether I’ll ever get her to swim and enjoy water like other dogs only time will tell.

Italian beaches are plagued by salesmen. Africans and people from the Indian subcontinent patrol up and down the beach all day and the restaurants at night hawking cheap jewelry, sunglasses, straw hats or umbrellas (in summer?). Most are fairly polite and go away when asked, but others can be rather persistent, especially to single women. Every now and then the police have a purge and move them on, but it’s only ever temporary. Buffy took considerable exception to one who was wearing a huge hat and waving an umbrella at her:

1409-4It’s just as well I don’t like to stay long on a beach. With its large pebbles, this part of Ventimiglia beach is extremely uncomfortable to lie or walk on barefoot, and when not barking at salesmen Buffy just wanted to run off and play with other dogs, a practice not always welcomed by other beach users, so I attached her lead to a large stone to slow her down. I had a couple of swims but the pleasure was largely spoiled by the discomfort of clambering out of the water and back to my footwear. I think a pair of plastic sandals might be a good idea for next time.

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