The Grand Old Duke of Walk

Every morning, come rain or shine, dark or light, Angela takes our three lovely Labradors out for a walk between 6:00 and 6:30 in the morning. She often claims to enjoy this thinking time, shared with her 3 best friends; other times she deserves a medal for her dedication and devotion. I occasionally think I would like to join her but the only time I go walking at 6am is in a dream. Her morning walk takes her to a big field with footpaths and a steep hill; we call it “Cow Field” for obvious reasons. Out of interest, we have names for other local dog walking landmarks such as “Cow Field 2”, “Cow Field 3”, “Shit Snicket 4”, “Mossy Snicket” & “Fleet Snicket 5”. I digress.

Stan and Olly in Cow Field
Stan and Olly in Cow Field

Last week on their morning walk, Angela endured her worst nightmare. On a wet and dark morning, she started to connect their leads ready to exit Cow Field. Olly was first, Stan was sorted out second, then, “Wait, where’s Duke? He was here a second ago.” He does have a tendency to ‘mooch around’; we sometimes call him the “Moochy Poochy”. Using a torch and attempting to backtrack to look for him, Angela became increasingly concerned. The calls grew louder before the panic set in. 15 minutes later, she took the decision to leave the field and head back home with Olly and Stan, clinging on to the faint hope that Duke would have made his own way home and he’d be sitting on the doorstep wondering what all the fuss was about.

As she reached the main road, she saw a car about 30 yards away with its hazard warning lights flashing. She feared the worst and ran to the car, only to see it drive off into the distance before she got close enough to draw any attention. They returned home, but Duke was not there on the doorstep. Utterly distraught, she burst into the house.

Meanwhile, I was still in bed. I had been awake for about 20 minutes and had been checking the BBC news website on my smartphone. About one minute before Angela came home, I had opened up my Facebook app, and there was a notification posted 22 minutes earlier from a member of a local community group. These postings usually turn out to be a complete waste of my time, but it doesn’t stop me opening them. Imagine my surprise to see Duke in his raincoat sat in the back of somebody’s car with the caption “Anybody lost a dog?” Well, that woke me up! Seconds later, Angela burst into the bedroom and before she could say anything I said “It’s OK, he’s safe”, and showed her his picture on my phone. For Angela, this was a terrifying experience. For me, I had found out he was safe before I even knew that he wasn’t!

We managed to contact the kind soul (“Bob”) who rescued him; he had taken Duke to a vet in the town centre who, in turn, scanned his chip, and the vet was also able to contact us. The power of Facebook (the post was shared over 130 times) and canine micro-chipping was more evident today to us than it ever has been. Bob told us that he had seen Duke running down the middle of the road; Duke went to meet him when he stopped and basically jumped in the back of his car, probably looking a little upset.

For the rest of the day, Duke was a little clingy, to say the least. Angela bought him a separate dog collar to use when he wears his coat, and she also purchased a bright multi-coloured beacon which can be seen from the International Space Station. Since that day, we have unintentionally met Bob walking his own dog, and Duke has taken a real liking to him.

Duke’s Version of the Story

I do like my sleep, but I also love it when my Mum takes me for a walk with my brothers first thing in the morning. One morning last week, it was chucking it down, and Mum had to put my coat on. Labs love water, but even for me, it was a bit on the damp side that day. We got to the big field, as usual, there were no cows as far as I could tell but I had to check around when I was allowed off my lead. I was investigating, partly to ensure the safety of my team, and partly to examine some of the delicious soft brown goodies which I call “Freebie Frisbees” or “Beef Patties for Dogs”. They are my breakfast supplement.

I don’t know how it happened but Mum, Olly and Stan had disappeared. I know it was dark, but they were nowhere in sight. I searched around for a little while without success; had they left me to fend for myself? Surely not. I knew Mum would be going through the main exit gate so I decided to head her off at the pass. Not counting the entrance to the field, about a third of a mile away, I remember once walking through a small alleyway as an alternative way to exit the field. I made it onto the road and gently jogged down the middle. In the map below, the red route is where we generally walk; the white route tracked my journey.

Cow Field

There were some headlights behind me, so I stopped, was it my Dad’s car? Unfortunately, it wasn’t, but on the plus side I made a new friend who introduced himself as “Bob”. He looked like a nice man so I figured he would probably take me home; assuming this, I jumped straight into his back seat with my wet, muddy paws and posed for him to take a photograph of me. There were some flashing lights on his dashboard, I remember thinking it was a bit early in the morning for a disco.

Bob didn’t take me home, but he looked after me and took me to a place where someone in a white coat brushed the back of my neck with some kind of magic wand. He sat with me for 20 minutes and then I saw Mum and Dad walk through the door. They seemed really pleased to see me, but I don’t honestly know what all the fuss was about. I think I received a ‘telling off’ for about 15 seconds before they took me back home and treated me like a hero. I’m not sure what I did to deserve it, but I’m not complaining!


Pet Names for Pets

Most family pets have a name; in our house, our dogs have a “main” name. Depending on whatever mood takes us, they can be referred to in a whole myriad of terms, and the beauty is that they can always tell when we’re talking about them. We have three Labradors; their given names are “Olly”, “Stan” and “Duke”, they are the best four-letter words that exist in the English language!

Labs in the Sunshine - Edited

Olly’s full name is “Olly Bear”, I have no idea how that came to be, or indeed why we named him after Olly Murs.

Stan came to us from a foster home as a four-year-old, he was called “Ben”, but we renamed him to give the pair that Laurel and Hardy reference. He embraced the name straight away and answered to it from day one.

Duke is also a rescue dog; we didn’t change his name because it suits him very well. Stan and Duke came from the same foster home in Derbyshire; together we call them the “Bolsover Boys”.

Here are some of their alter egos:



“Oliver” – his naughty name.

“Mr Bear” – his regal name, used when we ask him to look after the house in our absence.

“Cheese” – OK, we have never called him this directly, but all you have to do is to say the word “cheese”, and he comes running!

“Heimlich” – because he sometimes greets you with an ‘eye-lick manoeuvre’.



“Stanley” – his naughty name.

“Stan the Man” – whenever he’s doing something really cool.

“Stanev” – when the weather starts to turn cold, his fur puffs up to the point where he could survive in Russia.

“Stanistan Man” – it’s possible he originated from his own Eastern bloc country.

“Satan” – for no other reason than other people misread his name on the side of his harness.



“Dooky” – his fun name, usually adopted when he goes into puppy mode even though he’s a seven-year-old, 40kg Lab.

“Pie and Chips Boy” – this came about when he went for a walk across a field covered in cowpats (which we call “Cow Pies” from old Desperate Dan references). He can’t resist helping himself when he thinks we’re not looking. That’s the “Pie” bit, but on the same walk home he found a giant splat of puked-up chips on the path and grabbed a mouthful before I’d spotted it.

“Sir Munch-a-lot” – this pretty much sums him up.

“Dukos” – we imagined him as the Greek God of mischief and gave him a name to match. We probably call him Dukos more than we call him Duke. The Roman God equivalent is “Dukio”.

“Barry White” – we rarely get a peep out of Duke, but when he does make a noise, it’s a deep baritone.


Nero and Julius

We often look after our daughter’s dogs, Nero and Julius. As a pair, we call them the “Needy Boys” or the “Reprobates”. When Nero does something good – a rare event – we call “Nero the Hero”; when he does something bad – a common event – we call him “Nero the Zero”. “Cadbury” was a favourite name for a while; as a puppy we once caught him nursing an empty bag of giant chocolate buttons. Julius has the moniker of “Dyson” because he vacuums up any scrappy old piece of food crumb from the kitchen floor, no matter how minuscule.

Another alternative name which I found funny was told to me by a fellow dog walker who called her highland terrier “Monty”. When he manically dashes around the house, she calls him “Monty-Zoomer”.

Do you have any pet names for your pets?

Olly Bear – A Forest Holiday Adventure

Olly on the Beach

Day 1 – Getting There and Settling In

To say I was excited about going away for a week to a forest was an understatement. It was only a two hour trip to Cropton in North Yorkshire but every 5 minutes I thought it would be funny to ask “Are we there yet?” by popping my big head over the back seat. I quite like having a sneaky lick of Dad’s ear while he’s driving at 70 mph on the M1, oh and depositing a bit of my gourmet-class dog drool to create a puddle right where Dad likes to rest his left elbow. I offered to help drive but Dad said my lack of opposable thumbs would be a disadvantage when taking the steering wheel… that and the fact I don’t have a licence.

The forest cabin was brilliant I particularly liked the hot tub but Mum wouldn’t let me in with her, there was some rule about it apparently.

Photobombing the Hot Tub Chad PhotoAn Indian takeaway meal was delivered to our door and Grandma Becky could barely muster up the energy to go mental like she usually does when someone has the temerity to knock on the door at home, I think we had already walked the legs off her by then.

On the first night I couldn’t settle and kept knocking on Mum and Dad’s bedroom door until they let me in. I then took up my position right in the middle of the bed between the two of them. I want a duvet from now on. I slept with my long legs resting over Mum; Dad slept with his arms around me. When Dad woke up he surprised himself at his unconscious display of ‘bro-love’ and quickly turned around.

Day 2 – Whitby and River Fun

Glorious sunshine welcomed the first full day so we went to Whitby with the intention of taking a walk in the dog-friendly parts of Sandsend beach. Unfortunately we hadn’t allowed for the fact that other people were also on family holidays and everywhere was packed with no place to park up so Dad took us directly into Whitby. There were loads of people and I was a bit nervous at first but I thought I hid it very well. Becky demonstrated her nose-stamping technique which she had perfected in her early years at Centerparcs – I don’t know where or what Centerparcs is but she told me I’d find out someday soon. Nose-stamping involves pressing her nose against people’s legs as they walk past without them knowing until later on in the day when they discover a mirror impression of a Becky’s nasal features.

We had fish and chips from the Quayside takeaway because the wait was only 25 minutes instead of 1 hour at the world-famous Magpie just down the road. Whilst tasting the wonderful fish batter Becky said to me, ‘A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips’….. No, I have no idea what she was on about and carried on devouring. Returning to the car from the harbour involved a long and winding road back up the hill rather than a more direct route of around 200 steps; Dad said this was for Becky’s benefit, but was it really?

Whitby Day Out

In the car on the way back, Dad took a sharp turn and I unbalanced and landed on a sleeping Becky, she called me a “Clumsy Oaf”. Care was required driving across the moors, there were loads of sheep roaming around in and amongst the roadkill. At one point we slowed down so that I could pop my nose out of the window to take a closer look and I came to the conclusion that if sheep are supposed to be moderately intelligent then I must be Stephen Hawking; good grief, they are thick creatures.

We had a bonus stop on a riverbank for a bit of fun at Castleton on the River Esk. It was my first sighting of a shallow river and after dipping my toes for a few minutes I dived off a semi-floating log thinking it was only a few inches deep on the other side, it was probably a couple of feet and it was quite a shock. I now know why Labs have webbed feet. Becky drank so much of the water she that it ended up more like a stream than a river, the fish and chips must have made her thirsty. Some people came to warn Dad about parking near to an entrance and said that the farmer gets very cross if he can’t get his tractor through. He then told a story about a young couple that decided it was a good place for a picnic and outrageously sat in the small clearing on a summer’s day munching on some sandwiches when the farmer came along and was livid with them. Just behind the guy telling the story we noticed his wife setting up two director’s chairs and unfurling a picnic blanket – pot… kettle…. black. Shortly after this ‘misunderstanding’ we decided to leave but Becky couldn’t climb the small uphill mud track to get back out and had to be rescued, Mum lifting her collar and Dad with two hands under her wet and muddy back end.

River Fun Stewart River Fun Angela

Day 3 – Cayton Bay

Mum decided to take me and Becky for a walk early the next morning. She got up at 6:30, pottered around, fed us then checked the time; it turned out to only be 5:30. Becky’s body-clock is all over the place. We left Dad dozing and went for a long walk in the forest for 90 minutes, got lost and had to retrace our steps. In a repeat of an incident yesterday, Becky managed to fall into a deep puddle and had to be yanked out, she was a right mess.

Cayton Bay is a dog-friendly beach and at last I was able to set foot in the ocean. I met loads of doggy pals but one little yappy thing decided to chase me around and my only option was to go bombing into the sea, a move I regretted and didn’t repeat. On the steep walk back up the track from the beach Dad pretended he was going slowly because he was worried about Grandma Becky getting exhausted. As it turned out, Becky beat him to the top by about 45 seconds, I laughed my jowls off!

Olly Cayton Bay

We had a very late lunch at the Bull pub in Gristhorpe near Filey, Mum typed in “dog-friendly pubs” into Google Maps and it returned with this little beauty. On the way back to Pickering we came across a farm shop to get something for a late supper but Dad left me and Becky in the car with the windows half open and locked it. I thought it would be fun to set the alarm off so Mum had to come back out of the shop to switch it off. Two minutes later I did it again so in order to avoid a telling-off me and Becky put our best cheeky smiles on after she came out again.

Day 4 – Robin Hood’s Bay

We spent a long time in the car today, partly navigating through very thin winding roads around the North Yorkshire Coast and partly trying to find somewhere to park. Eventually an opportunist pair of very nice hippies decided to ‘make a few bob for themselves’ by renting out their back garden to use as a car park at a fiver a time. The man actually had a bit of pork pie stuck in his 12 inch grey beard but we hadn’t the heart to tell him and, as tempting as it was, I hadn’t the nerve to tidy it up for him.

If Cayton Bay was good yesterday then Robin Hood’s Bay was fantastic. The beach wasn’t very big and it was full of holiday-makers – many with dogs – but we had a great time. Becky got into the swing of things and showed me how to chase into the sea after anything that Dad decided to chuck in. Normally a grumpy old Grandma, today I caught a glimpse of what she must have been like as a puppy. Although it wasn’t nice to think about it, Dad said that if today turns out to be the last time she sees the ocean then she isn’t going to die wondering.

Ocean Action Lets Explore

Unfortunately Becky suffered a bit of burnout and Dad had to carry her up some steps from the beach as all the people around kept saying “Aw, bless her”. It was a fair old walk up the steep hill back to the car and Dad was huffing and puffing a bit by the time we got there.

Clearly Unfit
Clearly unfit!!

Each day of our holiday has ended up with Mum and Dad relaxing with a beer / glass of wine in the cabin’s outdoor hot tub. I liked to pop out from time to time to make sure they were OK and we all watched the swallows work the thermals. I have to say it was a beautiful sight until one of the blighters crapped right on my head. Dad told me it was a sign of good luck but I beg to differ.

We celebrated the last night with a Chinese takeaway which Dad fetched from Pickering. It has to be said that I do love a prawn cracker.

Day 5 – Epilogue

When we arrived home – after Mum and Dad had rather cruelly laughed at all the Bank Holiday weekend traffic jams around York heading in the opposite direction – Becky was reeking and had to have a bath; for the first time in her life she appeared to enjoy it. Afterwards the bath was a third clogged up with Becky fur, a third was disintegrating mud and the remainder consisted of a Cayton Bay beach takeaway. I hid behind the door in case I was next in line but kept peeping round to see what was going on. I think I got away with it (for now), Becky’s tight perm has now returned.

Mum and Dad keep talking about “Stan”… I dunno what they’re on about but my canine instincts tell me there is something afoot.

Olly Bear

This is Olly, affectionately known as Olly Bear, and today the 10th of November 2014 is his first birthday.

Olly Watching Cricket
Olly Watching Cricket

Cuteness in Canine FormOlly with his dummy

He has given us laughs and tears and sometimes tears of laughter. He is perfect in pretty much every way but he does have one flaw which does not relate to the end of his body containing a head.  So when I said he has given us tears they are the kind you associate with tear gas, but more about his bottom later.

Olly First Cuddle

Olly loves to chew things just like any puppy I guess. Nothing is safe; toys, rugs, carpet, chair and table legs, cushions, shoes, boots, cables, wires, remote controls, bushes and even laces while the shoe is still being worn, here’s the proof:


…and here is an example of what happens AFTER the chewing, all I can say is that it’s a good job we love him.

New carpet in the conservatory



It’s a fact that Labradors are greedy. Olly will eat anything and keeps coming back for more no matter how full his belly is. Given the opportunity he can eat until he’s sick and then clean up the mess as a second course. He needs to have controlled food portions but we must be very careful about what he has access to or he will change from his sleek athletic physique to something significantly more circular in shape. Having said all that, he is ultra-active by nature, I know a butcher and Olly is fitter than his dog. He can run for miles with Angela, he has even perfected the art of skimming the top off cowpats with his long tongue whilst jogging along. His running ability is unlike our other dog Becky (who we now call “Grandma”). I recall that as a young dog Becky once went out for a first run with our daughter Loren and the following day Loren went for a repeat performance only to find Becky hiding behind the settee when she saw the running shoes make an appearance.


Let’s return to Olly’s bottom, not because I particularly want to, but there are so many stories relating to his natural emissions. Last January after some worming tablets he had a poo in the garden, nice and solid(ish) but topped with some frothy foam, I called it a “crappachino”. Some of his excretions as a young puppy were borderline artistic, we used to refer to them as “Mr Whippies”. As he has grown into a much bigger dog, the sizes of his poos are definitely in proportion and equally artistic. Now he can create the type of thing you see in a gourmet restaurant where bits of food are assembled in a well-constructed pile in the centre of a plate with bits of veg balancing across the top and drizzled with some kind of ‘jus’, I hope you get the idea. A normal scooper no longer does the trick unless you chop it up a bit first, I am thinking of getting some all-year-round use out of the snow shovel.

Another time whilst working at home I went downstairs from my office to make some tea and was greeted with an odour that can only be described as “hazardous”. This is the text from a mail I sent to Angela to explain the situation:

<sentence one>

 …… on the plus side that will be one less huge dollop of puppy poo to pick up from the garden.

 Complete <sentence one> in your own words.



This is the right time to introduce Loren’s dog ‘Nero’ to the story. Nero is an Australian Sheepdog, slightly younger than Olly. After getting to know him I likened him to an American cheerleader, great to look at but you wouldn’t want to spend the rest of your life together. Here he is:

Nero PortraitExif_JPEG_PICTURE

Butter wouldn’t melt, right? …… Wrong! I could write a whole novel on the mischief and carnage this often loveable creature has created in his first year but I’ll keep it to the way Olly and Nero became partners in crime, a canine Bonnie and Clyde. Nero likes to dig holes, we are not talking about a putting green golf-hole size here, more like Colditz escape tunnel quality. Last July, Olly and Nero had the run of the back garden while I was working upstairs. Earlier in the morning Nero was absolutely filthy when I first came downstairs and he needed a wash in the back garden with a bucket of warm water and a towel then I left him for a short while to dry off in the sunshine. About 45 minutes later my next door neighbour knocked on the door and told me Nero is in her back garden, he had broken into a bag of compost and then run around in their paddling pool, he was in such a state. He had dug a proper breakout tunnel under the fence, fortunately too small for Olly. I offered to help clean the mess in next door’s garden but Mick said it was OK and he’d get his daughter to do it because she had been told to bring the paddling pool in the previous day and “couldn’t be arsed”.

A week later the sunshine had turned to rain and Olly and Nero had been for a scamper around the garden. I returned to check on them and saw that our living room carpet resembled Derby County’s football pitch back in 1971….

Derby County 1971

Nero has form for eating chocolate, LOTS of chocolate. With Olly’s help he has developed unique abilities to destroy marker and ballpoint pens, straps on bags and coats, ornaments, toys, garments, cutlery, boots, mail, anything left on a worktop, jellies, the telephone and even Savlon. One time I noticed Olly and Nero sat next to each other looking at me as I walked into the room and noticed that a bag of Cadbury’s Giant Buttons had been devoured. It was easy to see who was guilty when I noticed the empty bag lodged over Nero’s snout. On another occasion he managed to purloin an iPad cable. The plug was dragged around too but that survived. The end of the cable that connects to the iPad went missing but the rest of it had been chewed to bits. Now I didn’t look very hard for the missing attachment but there is an outside chance it might have been consumed and decided that if it starts peeping out of Nero’s bottom then we might be able to connect him up directly to Facebook. One day in September they actually ate my lunch including the plastic sandwich wrapper. I was livid and told Angela in an e-mail, she replied with “On a positive note I had a very nice egg sandwich”. It was not much in the way of consolation.


Finally for now (although would you believe there is much more to tell?), I return to the story of the escape committee. I had placed an old rather large puppy crate in the gap leading into the kitchen to prevent access. Nero turned up in the garage (accessible from the kitchen) when Loren was in there and she asked me if I had moved the crate. I hadn’t, so Loren plonked him on the other side again and said “show me how you get through”. Nero looked at her, walked to the side near the wall, gripped the cage with his right front paw and gently slid it away about 4 inches – enough for him to slink through. Olly just sat back and watched open-mouthed and I swear if he could he would have been laughing his big head off. The crate was dismantled on the grounds that it was as much use as a chocolate teapot.

Thirty minutes later on the same day, another adjoining neighbour Glenn called my mobile and asked if I had lost two dogs. I said, “No, they are playing in the back gar….. oh, hang on”. They had escaped again, went through Glenn’s back garden and he said they were “bombing it up the main road”. I thanked him and went tanking up our street. I saw a lady just pulling into her driveway and mentioned it, she said, “Oh yes I’ve seen them, they’re having a whale of a time going into all the gardens at the top of the street”. I called them and they came running to me but Nero wouldn’t let me get within grabbing distance and he went into as many back gardens as he could. Olly looked very proud but just stayed by my side all the time. I eventually got my hands on Nero and carried him home kicking and screaming.

I know Olly is not completely guilt-free in these outbursts of mayhem, I imagined him being the mastermind that sent the soldier into war, or perhaps like Pinky and the Brain.




In September, Olly and I were watching a game of football on TV. He said to me, “Dad, is there any team sport I can play?”. For a short while I wondered who had taught him to speak English but replied anyway saying he should get his Mum on the case. Angela discovered Flyball, a highly-organised nationwide agility team sport for dogs involved running, hurdling jumps, bouncing off walls, hitting targets and catching and carrying tennis balls. She booked him on to introductory Saturday morning training sessions in a Sports Hall in Huddersfield. Apart from the occasional travel sickness on the 40 minute journey he not only loves going but he is taking to it like a duck to water. We think the instructors have spotted some natural ability are already lining him up to replace an ageing Labrador in their team. Here are a couple of photos.

Olly at Flyball Training 8th Nov 2014 (3)      Olly at Flyball Training 8th Nov 2014 (1)


Lately Olly has perfected a new way to wake me up in a morning. He rushes upstairs after an early walk, jumps on the bed and let’s just say that I don’t have any use for cotton buds for the foreseeable future! To add injury to insult, he waits until you open an eyelid for the first time in the day and then takes the chance to continue the greeting with a good old-fashioned eyeball licking.


He’s a gentle giant, a lover not a fighter, a proper pal to everyone he meets and we’re all just a little bit in love with him. I know every dog owner believes they have the best dog in the world, all I can say is that every other dog owner is wrong.

Happy birthday big ‘fella.