Posted on March 4, 2013 in Life, the Universe and Everything, Oddities by Jay11 Comments »


Well. You did have it pretty easy for Macro Monday last week, didn’t you?

Clues? Let me think …

This is something everybody has, these days. You all probably have several, in fact, and they’re considered fairly essential to modern life. It’s a functional object, and most people hardly give them a second glance as they use them (well, I guess that’s true of a ton of things, huh?) but others like to decorate them and dress them up a bit, or even give them names … or perhaps I should say ‘titles’? Yep, they’re that important to us!

They don’t all look quite like this. This is a very basic example, but we have others, and some are quite fancy and multi-functional. In some countries they may look a little different, but really, when it comes down to it, they’re all pretty much the same – you’d recognise most of the common ones whether you were in Antarctica or Paris or in your nearest town.

Although …. it is true to say that some are quite specialised and look entirely different!

So, now you’re (hopefully) nicely confused, I’ll leave you to ponder. When you have an answer, write it in the comments. The answer will appear as if by magic in the form of a picture link, probably about 10pm Tuesday evening (UK time).

See you then – and have fun!!

I’m going to try something new this week. I’m going to edit the comments so that the guesses are hard to read. This will prevent everyone getting hit in the eye with suggestions! Tee hee.

So. You really ARE a clever lot, then, aren’t you? Because OH and I both thought this one would really fox you, and … well, most of you still managed to get it right, even though I edited the comments to make it harder to see what other people had guessed!  Go here to see the answer.

First place goes to Shooting Parrots, who was in fact, um, first. Then we have Lori of What Remains Now, Don’t Bug Me, and Babs, Jeni, Karen, Rob Lenihan (yes, I’ll allow your rather cryptic answer, Smartypants!), Herman Turnip and Those Brindle Kids. Herman Turnip – I’m allowing yours too, even though you gave me TWO answers. Well done, everyone – come back next week and I really will try to find you something worth cudgelling your brains over!

Thanks for playing!

Posted on March 3, 2013 in Hounds, Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay16 Comments »


Today, 3rd March, has been designated as Triday by a large online community of dog-owners*, so I’m doing my bit by adding a post in Sid’s honour.

The community is a forum called Tripawds, and exists to provide help and support for owners of amputee dogs, from newly diagnosed cancer victims to long-term survivors like Sid. I first heard of it because they use forum software written by OH, but they have been very helpful with some minor problems we’ve had, and they do such a great job to support those actually going through the amputation process. It’s an extraordinarily traumatic time and I don’t know who gets the worst of it, because while owners don’t suffer the physical pain, the mental anguish of making the decision and watching a beloved pet suffer is very, very real. I think most ask themselves if the decision was the right one, and go through a stage of thinking ‘What have I DONE??”, but in fact once the surgery is over and the heavy duty painkillers are out of the system, dogs tend to cope very well indeed – far better than humans in the same situation.


As you know, Sid is a ‘tripawd’, and has been for over five years now. He gets a lot of attention from people who’ve clearly never seen a three-legged greyhound before. Comments range from ‘Oh look! That poor dog … he only has one leg!’ through ‘do you know your dog’s limping?’ to ‘Well, I think that’s just cruel’.

The first, I hear all the time. Usually it’s from children letting their parents or companions know, at the top of their voices, about this Most Unusual Sight. If they’re close enough, I point out that he does, in fact, have three, but I try never to make them feel silly. The second (‘Do you know your dog’s limping?) always tempts me to retort ‘So would you if you had a leg missing’, but I usually remain polite. The last is just sad. Anyone who can look Sid in the face, see how happy he is, and still think he should have been put down isn’t worth arguing with, and I usually smile faintly and move on.

Mostly, people are simply interested. They ask Sid’s name, and want to pet him, and some use the opportunity to educate their children which always pleases me. I like it when parents ask first before letting their children touch my dogs, and then gently instruct their offspring on the best way to do so. I always, always, answer children’s questions patiently and I’m happy to stand there as long as they like (providing I’m not in a hurry) talking to them about tripods, dogs in general, and greyhounds in particular.


Many of you know Sid’s story. He is not one of the many victims of osteosarcoma (a very aggressive form of bone cancer which is more common in large, long-boned dogs), or in fact of any other type of cancer. He broke his leg at the track one night, when he was a racing greyhound. This was before we adopted him, but I adopted him from his trainer at Brambleberry Greyhounds, and I know exactly what happened. I’ve even (accidentally) seen the race in which he went down in a heap at thirty miles an hour and smashed his hock to smithereens.

Judging by the numerous little scars all along his flank and down his remaining hind leg, I imagine that some of the other dogs trampled him. But however it was, when S, his trainer, picked him up from the track where he lay stunned, she knew something very serious had happened to one of her kennel favourites.

The vet at the track examined him and gave it as his opinion that it was a very bad break indeed. He was given painkillers and taken into hospital, awaiting The Decision, but in reality, there was never any real danger of Sid being put to sleep. S rang Sid’s owner and told him that Sid would never race again, and E (Sid’s owner), said he’d pay for an op to try to fix the leg providing S made sure that Sid would get adopted into a pet home. S, who handles adoptions for retired greyhounds anyway, gave her promise, and the next day Sid found himself on the operating table, where two vets studied the x-rays and the mess that used to be his right hock and shook their heads. It simply could not be put back together and give him any quality of life. So E paid, not for an op to fix a broken hock, but for an amputation, and Sid went home that evening to S’s house and would never again go down and live in the kennel block.

S tells me she had never, ever seen a dog in so much pain as Sid was that first night before his op. Afterwards, he came home drugged up to the eyeballs, minus his smashed leg, and happier, if extremely groggy. To this day, he thinks kindly of those vets. They are still our vets, and unlike most dogs, who try to escape home, every time we take Sid to the surgery for a consultation, he tries to sneak into the kennel area because he remembers it as the place he went in hurting, and came out feeling better. The fact that he also came out without one of his legs doesn’t seem to bother him at all.


This week, Sid has again had a problem with his single back leg, and began collapsing when he tried to walk. We took him to the vet who gave him stronger painkillers than we had at home and some antibiotics for a possible infection** and he’s been a lot better – partly due to the painkillers but mostly, I think, due to the fact that I discovered by observation that he galloped along without a care on grass, but came to a staggering halt when he hit tarmac. I wrapped his foot firmly with some lint as padding, and he’s back to normal. We’ll try without the padding tomorrow and see what happens, and then report back to the vet.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Sid, Triday and Tripawds. So many people have no experience of amputation in dogs, and Tripawds is such a wonderful resource. I hope also that if you are ever in the position of facing this choice, or know anyone who is, you’ll pop along and check them out. They’re a very friendly bunch, and have at least two veterinarians ‘on staff’ to help out with Q & As and chat sessions if necessary.

We even have a UK Facebook page!



*Well. Mostly dogs.

** You probably don’t want to know where.

Posted on March 1, 2013 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay16 Comments »


This week I took so long to produced something that I’m actually too late to link it to Illustration Friday, because they’ve moved on and already given us the new prompt for the week. Oh well.

I tell you, this challenge is definitely challenging. I look at the prompt each week and think ‘what they heck am I going to do with that?‘ And I take a few days to think about it, and so far I’ve come up with something each week, but it’s been close. My imagination and fledgling painting and drawing skills are getting a really good work-out here!

What could I possibly do with ‘Whisper’?

I could paint a mouth close to an ear, or two heads together (no doubt like a lot of other people), I could draw St Paul’s dome, or a diagram of a very quiet soundwave. I suppose I could fill a canvas with the particular shade known as ‘whisper’ on the paint charts. None of these options appealed to me. And then I had an idea: there is one place where I imagine everyone whispers, and that’s in the confession box*. Nobody wants anyone but the priest to hear what their sins have been, do they?

I used acrylics and a piece of acrylic canvas board for this one, and began by drawing the outline of the penitent in soft pencil. I decided to use a cool background instead of the conventional dark wood and warm light, so I chose a ‘shadow’ colour (purple), but made it bright between the man’s hand and his mouth to bring attention to that area (it is, after all, meant to illustrate a whisper).

Next I cut a potato. No, seriously, I did. That pattern in the background is done with a potato cut – well, two, actually, one large and one smaller – to give the impression of a confession box screen. I mixed a much darker purple to fill in the silhouette of the man, and then sliced a piece off the end of a bit of foam board to stamp the shape of the crucifix.

Looking at it, I could see that the background was far too light and airy, so using a bit of household sponge, I smudged some darkness into the corners. It still didn’t give quite the right impression of someone closeted within a space, so with yet more of the foam board, I stamped the faint trellis marks which did, I think, add to the screen effect.

Lastly, I added some faint shading to the silhouette which was looking a bit flat, and a few tiny highlights to the crucifix.

And that’s it, really.

This is only the second painting I have done in acrylics and I can’t remember attempting a silhouette before, which is not as easy as it looks. The painting went a lot easier this time, though, because I’ve invested in some gel drying retardant and a wet palette, so there were no problems with the paint drying too quickly. Do tell me what you think, and please DO point out any problems you see with my technique or the results.

Sorry about the flash flare at the top right. I should really have waited for daylight, but … well, then it wouldn’t have been Friday any more, would it?


* Not being a Catholic, I actually have no idea if this is true, but it feels true!