The Kennel

Naomi and I both love dogs (and cats). Dogs have been an integral part of our life together and there has only been one relatively short period of our marriage when we didn't own at least one. Dogs make you get out of the house and enjoy some fresh air and walking them gives one a fighting chance of retaining a degree of fitness. Unlike some cats, dogs are always very demonstrative of their affection.

Early Days

When Naomi first arrived at my Ramsbottom Flat in 1990, she had a long-haired standard dachshund called Sindy, a beautiful but stubborn bitch. At the time we also had a ginger moggy called Garfield that we acquired from a neighbour and the two were thick as thieves. We once caught Garfield in the kitchen helping himself to some left-overs, and pawing a share off the counter to the waiting dachshund below!

A short time late we rescued a stunning Doberman called Nero, one of the most handsome examples of the breed I've ever seen with a very chunky massive head. Nero was very affectionate, but his real passion was shredding footballs. Nero had a bit of a weak bladder and used to physically drag me out of bed at 5am to let him out for a pee!

Nero wasn't totally happy in our Ramsbottom flat and some years later we lent him to the girl running Mid-Gavin Farm near Beith and eventually rehomed him there, where he was happy as Larry, trotting around the stables all day, king of all he surveyed.

Many years later, in 2014, we rescued another doberman, Murphy, and the resemblance between him and Nero in looks and character (even down to shredding footballs!) was absolutely uncanny. Alas, Murphy wasn't with us very long. He was unwell when we took him on, and permanently on Metacam. We eventually had to have him put to sleep on the advise of the vet as his quality of life was really suffering.


We bought Sammy as an 8-week old puppy from a charming gay couple near Wolverhampton. We still had Nero at that point and Nero used to let the puppy chew lumps out of him and was really good playing with the wee bundle of fluff. Sammy quickly grew into one of the largest standard poodles we've ever seen, though.

Sammy was one of a kind and a tremendous character. He would speak to you with a look. For example, he adored swimming and would leap into water from any height with gay abandon, but he'd almost ask permission first by looking at the water, then us, then back at the water. Just before Naomi and I got married we were walking Sammy late one evening in the park across the road. Naomi asked me to teach her how to waltz, but when I did so, Sammy was most upset and went for us, trying to force us apart.

When we got married, Sammy came into the registry office with us. When he was about 12 his back end started to go and he collapsed a couple of times. We were down in London at the time. The vet we took him to in Hammersmith diagnosed the likelyhood of a large tumour and we had him put to sleep then and there rather than inflicting the indignity of lots of investigations and treatment on him. Sammy was a very proud dog and will always have a special place in our hearts.


Before Sammy passed on, we got a second standard poodle to keep him company. Zoe was a bitch and a lot smaller than Sammy, but another dog with a lovely temperament. She was very clever and as soon as Naomi started to train her, she showed a real aptitude for that kind of work, and Naomi ended up doing competitive obedience with her and dog shows entered our lives.

Even back then, Naomi's ability to cope with doing competitive obedience was somewhat limited, but she really enjoyed the rapport we developed with other obedience enthusiasts and were soon travelling as far afield as Scotland, Waldridge Fell in the North-East, and Lincolnshire & Birmingham as well as more local shows in Lancashire. Some of those shows were 2 or 3-day affairs and we'd take our caravan (and the parrots) and make a long weekend of it.

Of all of the dogs we've had since we acquired the parrots, Zoe is the one that really took to them, especially Gus. She would let Gus preen her claws without flinching or moving away, and Gus didn't seem remotely put off by her size. Most of the dogs we've had have respected the parrots and stayed clear of them (wise decision LOL), but Zoe developed a real relationship with Gus.

Unfortunately, Zoe's life was cut tragically short one day when she was chased out of our local park by two overly-friendly but very large bull mastiffs. They just wanted to say hello, but she was a bit of a scoobydoo and was overawed by their size. Before I could get hold of her she ran out of the park (closely followed by the aforementioned mastiffs), onto the road and got hit by a car and killed.


We rescued Rags from the Border Collie Rescue Trust after Sammy passed on to give Zoe a playmate. Rags was a very beautiful tricolour bitch, very affectionate, but turned out not to have any great aptitude for obedience. Like a lot of collies, she was a bit neurotic.

In particular, she was pathologically afraid of loud noises: She'd spook even at children playing tennis across the road from us and, as you might imagine, Fireworks were a very traumatic experience for her. In the end it got so bad we had to rehome her and were lucky enough to find a young family who lived out in the country, miles from other houses. They had young kids that Rags adored and she was a changed dog with them - result!


Naomi's always like small dogs. After we moved to Scotland and had acquired Pepper, we travelled down to the other side of Glasgow and acquired Chico, a Jack Russell, as a puppy. Chico was terrific and we adored him, but he really hated being apart from us and used to howl the place down if we were ever out, much to the annoyance of our neighbours.

In the end, we had to part with him, but were lucky enough to find a young girl in Kilmarnock. She and Chico hit it right off and Chico was very quick to make friends with her other dog (a chiwahwah bitch) and her cat. We still get regular updates on Chico via Facebook and he's obviously loving him new life.


After Zoe got killed and Rags re-homed, we spent a while without any dogs, and in the meantime we moved up to Scotland, but once we got settled we acquired our third standard poodle, Pepper, as a puppy from a breeder near Kirkudbright. A small bundle of fluff to start with, Pepper delighted in flattening our plants at Caledonia Road. Naomi started training her at a fairly early age, though, and she took to Obedience like a duck to water.

In time, Naomi started doing tricks with her and tried her hand at Heelwork to Music, training with Heather Smith from Troon, who has won the Heelwork to Music and Freestyle at Crufts with her lovely Bearded Collies. As with Obedience, though, Naomi's health would never allow her to compete, and even the training became too much after a while.

Pepper is now about 7 and has become very much a man's dog. She tends to look to me while Naomi gives her primary affection to Scampi. Pepper loves water, like most poodles, and had developed Sammy's knack of occasionally asking permission before she goes in for a dip. She's certainly loving Newmilns with the more interesting walks than what Saltcoats had to offer.


Scampi, our Yorkie, is the most recent addition to our household. We got her as a tiny puppy from Castlemilk in Glasgow and has been the love of Naomi's life ever since. Scampi is a tremendous character but very demanding of attention and affection. She's quite large for a Yorkie and totally fearless when it comes to saying hello to other dogs many times her size.

Pepper used to give he an occasional growl to warn her off in the early days, but is much more tolerant now and they are great pals. Scampers was a little wary of getting wet to start with, and even now is more likely to paddle than swim, but she loves chasing after balls even if she has absolutely no idea what to do with it in the unlikely event of her beating Pepper to it.

In our computer room, we have one of our old blue armchairs that we've had for over 20 years now. That's the dogs' chair when we don't have visitors. The dogs have their established positions on it, Scampi on top of the backrest and Pepper sprawled out below. The wingeing and moaning that goes on from Pepper if Scampi or a human sits in the main bit of the chair has to be seen to be believed.

These days Naomi has a mobility scooter that enables her to get out with me when I walk the dogs. If we're on a road, Scampi has her place on the scooter with Naomi while Pepper walks with me. Scampi loves her walks and trots beside Naomi's scooter when she's not off exploring with Pepper


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