The Deer Hunter

Cue Cavatina. Have it playing in the background as you read. You can think of me as Robert De Niro as well, if it’s not too great a challenge.

Yesterday. Rufus and I went off to one of our regular locations, the hills above the Upper Lliw reservoir. I always check to see that it is cow and shgeep free and sure enough, all the cows were on a different hill. So I parked up and off we set. We had just got to the man-made ridges where the US army trained during World War 2 when I heard and saw in the distance a pack of dogs, a rider and a quad bike. I managed to get Rufus on the lead and we headed for the high ground, the four foot mound, just before we were engulfed by the dogs. They were hunting dogs, out having exercise I assume, and I was worried about how they would react to Rufus.

Rufus was right next to me and clearly overwhelmed by all the hounds. They were all around us, stinking of dead things and shoving their noses into everything. Rufus was growling and I would have been too, if I hadn’t been trying to calm him down. The hunt master (I assume that was his title) was blowing on his hunting horn but didn’t seem that interested in controlling the pack. Fortunately, the dogs were in a good mood and Rufus was his usual restrained self, so there was no trouble and the pack moved on. All the way back to the car I could hear the hunting horn being blown, a brash, childish sound.

Today, after we’d been for a nice walk around the estate, I left Rufus guarding the house and went off to hunt deer. Margam Park has a herd of wild deer consisting of Fallow, Red and Pere David breeds. They’ve been on the site since Medieval times and there are references to deer there in Roman times, too. October is the rutting season and I’d long planned to try and get some photos of the bucks in action as they battled for top spot in the harem.

Fortunately, I met a jogger who told me where the deer could usually be found. I decided to climb the hill behind the park to get an idea of the layout and sure enough, I spotted a herd of about 15 deer in the fields below, right where the jogger said they’d be. I dropped down the the fields but the deer had disappeared. I’m a novice deer stalker but I understand the principles – stay down wind of them, move slowly and quietly and slowly. It only took a few minutes to spot them in a mud hole and although they had seen me as soon as I had seen them, they didn’t seem spooked, possibly as I was half concealed behind bushes. I was about 200 yards away but I couldn’t get any closer without being in full view so I backed off and headed around a low rise in the ground towards another bush, staying below the brow of the hill and trying to remember where they were in relation to my position.

Eventually, I reached the bush, which turned out to be an overgrown stone monument of some sort. I was now within 100 yards of the herd. They were still aware of me but as I was not moving, they didn’t seem concerned. The big male was more interested in something on the opposite side of them, which was closer to the main part of the park. I used this distraction to make my way a little closer, using another clump of bushes to approach without being seen. Eventually, I was within 70 yards of the group and I got some nice photos.

All this time I was eyeing up the path that would take me back to the park. I’d read that one thing to be wary of was the rutting males, full of testosterone, might decide I was a threat. I was aware of my escape routes, should I need them. But the path would take me closer still to the herd and in full view. I decided that they would probably run away rather than charge me, so I made my way along the gravel track, slowly getting closer in a round about way. I ended up around 50 yards from the herd, and apart from watching with some curiosity, they showed no real concern that I was there.

It was only while putting my camera away again later that I realised I had dropped a lens cap and a body cap somewhere along the way. They’re probably in the trophy cabinet of the male Fallow deer.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Getting back to normal

Not one to encourage the jinxes to strike, I am reluctant to say that Rufus is back to normal after his recent illness. The best you will get from me at the moment is that he seems okay, and all the tests show improvements where we would expect them. If pushed I might even say ‘he’s getting there, slowly’.  It’s hard to explain how I know when he’s ill and when he’s better. It’s like trying to describe the subtle characteristics that define a loved one. One of the tests I always apply is the ‘stair test’. Basically, I watch how he goes up and down stairs. If he’s under the weather or his leg is aching, he takes it easy going up and hops down one step at a time. If he’s really not well, he’ll be very slow and hesitant in both directions. When he’s well, going upstairs is a race that he always wins, and coming down makes me hold my breath as he charges off, often two steps at a time, leaps the last two steps and only barely makes the turn at the bottom to miss the front door. I’ve seen more of the latter recently.

I have to keep reminding myself how ill he has been, as he has a tendency to bounce back from ailments very quickly. Last night, after our usual evening walk, he was very tired. Well, no wonder as he’s still a bit anaemic. This morning, on our stroll on Cefn Bryn, he was almost back to normal as he ranged far and wide from the path. Only his jogging rather than running betrayed his recovery is not yet complete. He’s snoring on the sofa now.

This afternoon, I decided it was time to plant the spuds. I first grew potatoes three years ago and I was very successful, with a huge harvest of over 22lbs. This year I dug the same patch, forked it over, added compost and weeded like crazy. As you can see from the photo, my crop of stones was mightily impressive. Bearing in mind this was the same patch I used three years ago, I don’t know where they all came from – particularly the big, head sized one. It took over an hour to dig the two trenches with all the stones I had to remove. That big one took 15 minutes of excavation to remove.

This year, in addition to the spuds, I’ve planted some carrots. I’ve never grown them before so it’s very much an experiment. Watch this space for more updates on the veg patch.

What does this have to do with Rufus’ recovery? Well, I knew he was back to normal as apart from a few checks to make sure I wasn’t having a sneaky snack of biscuits, he remained in the house, lying in the sun streaming through one of the windows in the hall. He knows about comfort and has no need to show off his energy levels.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

Fun Wednesday

I knew it was going to be an eventful day when I woke at 4am with cramp in my left leg. Proper, painful, grunt-out-loud cramp. Although the pain subsided after a few minutes, the dull ache in my calf muscle stayed there are threatened to become pain again with every movement. By the time Rufus popped his head around the door to remind me it was time to get up, it felt better but once I put my weight on it the cramp started again.

Accepting no excuses, Rufus insisted I let him out in the garden. I hopped downstairs and hopped to the back door. Rufus charged out into the white garden, undaunted by the snow that had fallen during the night. I paced up and down the hall, as the movement was easing the ache.

Minutes later we were both back in bed for a lie-in. Today, Rufus was having his hair cut and I’d taken the day off, as the timing meant I’d either have to leave him at the stylists for too long or spend a couple of hours travelling back and forth.

By the time I’d had breakfast, my leg was better and we set off for a walk on Cefn Bryn. The sun was still shining but a cold wind made it a little uncomfortable. Nevertheless, I hobbled and Rufus ran and we did a circuit of the top of the moorland.

The it was off to the hairdressers. I dropped the hippy off and set off for the Neath canal. I’d wanted to take a stroll down there before the weather closed in but I wasn’t sure how far I’d get with my still dodgy leg. I ended up doing about 2 miles and every step eased the aching muscle. I was disappointed at the amount of rubbish in the water; the canal runs right by an industrial estate and a lot of it must come from there. The built up land on which the estate sits seems to have been created from landfill, as where it has eroded, old tyres and other crap are poking through. But typically, on the return I managed to slip on a bit of loose gravel and twist my ankle. On the opposite leg. At least I was now hobbling evenly.

Next, it was shopping and lunch and I decided (just to be awkward) to tackle them in reverse order. But while I was enjoying a chicken salad sandwich (I weighed this week and it wasn’t pleasant reading), the phone went and it was the groomer to tell me Rufus had been styled and was ready to be picked up. I raced through the shopping and sped up to get him. With rough weather forecast for the afternoon, I wanted to let Rufus have another little walk before it got too stormy so we drove down the road to the old engine house of Scott’s Pit. It’s all that remains on the surface of one of the many little collieries that were scattered throughout the Swansea valleys.

Rufus wasn’t keen to stay out long and he turned around to head back to the car when the rain started. He was feeling the cold. Back in the house, he flopped out on the sofa and was soon snoring away. It’s a hard life being a hound, and more so when you have to keep your appearances up!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Managing expectations

Another in the occasional series of management guides by Management Guru Rufus Blue.

Managing expectations is key in any business relationship. In this case, the relationship between master (me) and minion (Dave). This is best illustrated by an example this morning.

We have been having a run of bad weather, with heavy rain and strong, gusty wind. I require a walk every day and Dave is the means by which that walk is facilitated. He has a grasp of weather conditions that I don’t really have time to develop, and that’s fine (I can’t be perfect at everything). So I rely on Dave to pick the right moments to avoid the worst of the weather. But underlying this is the ongoing requirement for the daily walk.

This morning, it was raining. It had been yesterday as well. The aim was to build an acceptance that walking in the rain was okay and so yesterday, using the simple but effective technique known as ‘puppy dog eyes’, I ensured a walk in the drizzle. It set me up for this morning. Although the rain was coming down, Dave was already influenced by yesterday’s decision and was more susceptible to suggestion. Thus, there was no question over whether we were going out. It was a case of when and where.

Dave’s pretty good at finding decent places to go so I have no worries there and leave those decisions to him. Giving your minion some responsibility makes him feel valued, as indeed he is. But I didn’t want the effects of yesterday’s walk fading as time went on, so the puppy dog eyes came out again. Sure enough, and as expected, Dave started to get ready to go out. A triumph of the management of expectation by example and repetition.

We ended up at the Brynllenfrith plantation again. The name sounds grand, but it’s just some trees a little north of the Upper Lliw Reservoir. Nevertheless, it’s a great place to explore and, as usual, we had the place to ourselves. Once we were in amongst the trees, I let Dave off the lead (it’s so touching that he think’s I’m the one on the lead) and while he scrabbled around taking photos of the mushrooms and drops of water on the fir tree pines, I explored, made sure he didn’t get into any difficulties, and took my exercise. When he fell over, I didn’t laugh, even when he tried to make light of it by claiming it was a wet and slippery tree root he’d stepped on.

An added bonus was that we didn’t actually get wet because it held off raining until we got home.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

The things humans do

By Rufus. Typed by Dave because I told him to.

I’m staying with Dave at the moment because my skills as an escape artist proved too great in my temporary home. To be fair, I never signed any agreements not to try and escape. Life with Dave isn’t too bad as I have him trained to a very high standard and I reluctantly admit that the service level and living standards are quite good in his house.

But he has some quirks. I may have mentioned before that he likes taking photos and I think it’s becoming a bit of an obsession with him, Every time I look, he has a camera in his hand. He has several cameras – why do you need more than one?  These days he tends to point them at very very small things in the garden. Yesterday I caught him trying to photograph a fly! As a reward, he turned the camera on me and started taking my portrait. I was trying to get my best side (right, if you must know) into shot but he kept moving. So I flopped down in the garden. Well, it was really warm out there and I hoped he’d get the message and leave me alone.

He’s off this week so we get to see a lot of each other. That’s fine, I like Dave. This morning I was looking forward to a nice lie-in (until about 5am) but there was thunder outside. I don’t like thunder. Don’t judge me, we all have our little phobias. Dave doesn’t like spiders. So It was nice to have Dave to cuddle up to until the thunder had stopped. And his bed is nice and comfy, so rather than disturb him when everything was quiet, I stayed there. It was so comfy that I over slept until 7am!

Later this morning, he was out digging holes in the garden. Now I’m not one to boast, but I am the king of holes. I can scratch a pit in the hardest of ground in minutes. But he didn’t want my help and instead proceeded to dig a deep hole and then plant a stick in it! Admittedly it was a big stick, but even so! Sticks are meant to be thrown, not buried. He spent ages putting big stones in the hole to prop up the stick, and then he filled the hole in and did a little dance on it!  He said something about birds and hung a very nice smelling fat ball on it.

I’ve got to stop now as I’ve asked Dave to finish off the bathroom. While I dislike taking showers, when I have to, I would rather do so in a completed bathroom rather than the half finished building site. There, that’s told him.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Contract

An agreement in law between Me (Rufus) and you (Dave), setting out the terms and conditions by which you must abide when playing host to Me.

Rufus on his bed

1. A bed must be provided, with clean bedding. I am not required to use it, but it must be available at all times.

Rufus in the garden

2. Access to the garden must be provided on call, 24hrs a day, 7 days a week. Weather conditions will not prevent access. Interruption of a good film is not a sufficient excuse to prevent access. Neither is reading a good book, enjoying a cup of coffee or using the computer. Being asleep may, depending on the hour, be used to delay the garden visit, but in any case by no more than 30 minutes.

Rufus looking at me

3. Food must be provided on tap. Your food is my food but my food is most definitely not your food.

4. If I am lying on your lap, you may not disturb me. You do not need to get up. There are no circumstances that require you to disturb me except for paragraph 2, above.

Rufus in the shower

5. I do not at any time require a shower. If I smell like a farmyard, it is because I want to smell like a farmyard.

Rufus on the sofa

Rufus and me on the sofa

6. The sofa is mine. You may have paid for it, but it is mine. I allow you to use it at my discretion. You do not need more that 30cm width and any more is a luxury.

Rufus and Dave’s lads week (by Rufus) day 5 – rain

Hi, Rufus here. It’s my turn to write the blog as Dave is taking photos of the rain in the garden.

After yesterday’s marathon walking session, in which I had to repeatedly slow down to allow Dave to catch up, (he’s so unfit), I found myself a little fatigued this morning. Nevertheless, I made the effort to check on Dave to see that he was sleeping well. He wasn’t but I didn’t make a fuss. I got him up at 6am so that he could work the locks on the doors to allow me to patrol the garden. I spotted a cat in there the other day and chased it off. But it’s important to make sure the darn thing doesn’t come back because it will scare the birds away and might even catch one.

Dave was so tired he went straight back to bed so I did the same – just to make him feel better. But I made sure he didn’t lounge in bed all day and got him up at 7.30am. Yesterday, he’d muttered something about rain coming in today but it wasn’t so bad this morning. The sun came out a couple of times and it was warm. So we spent some time in the garden. I checked out the gaps in the hedges; Dave kept digging little holes in the patch of earth he calls ‘the spud patch’ (as in ‘mind the spuds, Rufus’). Of course I don’t mind them.

There was no sign of rain so I persuaded him to get out of the house. We ended up at a place called Fairwood Common – we’ve been there a lot. We walked over the common, across the road and right up to the fence of the airfield. When they’re flying from there, he’s always taking photos of the planes and the people who jump out of them. There were no planes today, so we explored the ruins of old buildings scattered around the common. We even walked up to a large white post he called a ‘trig point’. It was quite boring but he does tend to walk up to a lot of them and he always gives them a pat. It’s not as if they’re done anything to deserve a pat, though.

It was good to see that he wasn’t too tired to walk after yesterday and we spent ages just tramping around.

When we got home, it was time for lunch. Dave is always considerate and makes sure I get my food first. But his food always smells better than mine so I always wait for him to finish, just in case I get a couple of bites from him. He’s nothing if not generous.

Then it was time for my afternoon siesta. Dave makes a good pillow and since he was watching some film on TV, I was able to get really comfy and have a good long snooze.

Tonight, I think I shall dine on fish.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Running

I’m Rufus.You’ve probably seen me on here before when Dave talks about me sometimes.

Dave takes me out all the time. I think its because he need to exercise or he’ll get fat. Fatter than he is already. Anyway, it’s always good fun when we’re out as he’s so well behaved. I’ve spent ages training him to feed me snacks and treats, throw stones and find the best stick for me to chase. He never runs off and always comes when I call.

It’s been a hot summer and I tend to over heat unless I’m allowed to play in the river. In fact, any water will do, but I prefer the River Tawe as there’s so much of it, and so many stones for me to rescue from the water. It’s starting to cool down now and that means it’s hill climbing season again. I expect I’ll have to drag Dave up the steeper slopes and encourage him to keep going when he starts to slow down.

Below are a few photos Dave took to show how dashing and active I really am.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Life is hard…

…when you’ve spent the morning exploring the river, wading through torrents of water, searching for the right stone, catching pebbles, barking, entertaining your friend, putting up with his driving, patrolling his garden to see off the cat that pees in his house and chases birds and finally playing with him by getting him to chase you round the house.

Rufus asleep on the sofa

Stoned

For hippy related ‘stoned’ stuff, please click on the link to the late 60s. This is a further chapter in the tale of Rufus and the Quest for the Perfect Stone.

As has been mentioned in several posts from the past, Rufus does love me to throw stones for him to fetch from the depth of any body of water larger than a raindrop. Today was no exception. As I walked along the bank of the Tawe near Cerrig Duon, he walked in the river. I threw stones and he tried to dredge them back out. I am still an amateur stone thrower so there was lots of barking and yapping as he tried to teach me the art to the standard Master Rufus expects.

When I throw small stones for him, he will often leap to catch them. Today, I used the burst function on the camera to snap him as he jumped. He pulls some faces, twists and turns and more often than not catches the stone. You can see from some of the photos that he also kicks out with his front paws and this generally soaks me and the camera.

Great fun was had by all.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.