Gromit – Shine on you Crazy Diamond

On Saturday 1st of March our beautiful dog Gromit was killed on a busy road in Wales having unexpectedly forged his way across a small river and a large marshy area in pursuit of some sheep he had spotted way over the other side of the valley.

We were staying at a camp-site that we had visited many times, a location we believed to be a safe place to let him run free, unfortunately this didn’t turn out to the case. Thankfully Gromit was killed instantly and will not have felt any pain or even been aware of what happened to him.

I cannot begin to describe the loss my wife, Barb and I felt on that day. Gromit was a ‘Tour de Force’ bursting with energy and endless vitality. Many times he left us feeling exasperated, as he always remained a very wilful dog, despite the hundreds of pounds we spent on training. We’d tried many times to teach him recall but with no success. In many ways it was the wilful aspect of his personality which made him the dog he was, the dog we loved so much, but unfortunately it also ultimately led to his untimely end at only 21 months of age.


Our beautiful boy. Gone in a heartbeat.
It was the best day in a dog’s life,
Running with the lurcher, learning fly ball.
Such high hopes for his skills,
He was intelligent, smart and so very fast.

Camping at our old haunt, visited many times
Our kids, many friends…..all have been there.
So many happy memories, now tainted for ever.
A moment’s lack of attention, ears flattened to head,
And he was gone, running with the wind.

And it was over, no pain, just so still.
The well-meaning farmer, used to the death of animals
Awkwardly comforting, offering a puppy to ease the pain.
And the pain was as never endured before.
A loss so profound, life changing. Final.

And then the chance to give love to his brother.
Poor neglected boy, now here to fill our days
And ease the pain of the loss of our beautiful boy.
The human capacity for love and Borys’ need for love
All melded together for our new journey.

Barb Mclean

Welsh Perry and Cider Festival 2013

During the Spring Bank Holiday we met up with our friends Rachael, Barrie, Lee and Darren on a camp-site in Gloucestershire for a couple of days. While we were in the area Barrie suggested that we all visit the Annual Welsh Perry and Cider Festival being held in Caldicot Castle over that weekend.

We had an excellent time there, certainly helped by the beautiful weather and the beautiful surroundings. This was the 12th year of the festival and the first time it had been held at Caldicot castle, The event generally runs all over the weekend and camping facilities are available at a very reasonable rate.

We just went for the day on this occasion but will definitely be keeping our eye on the Welsh Perry and Cider Society website for details of next years festival with a view to camping throughout the event.

It cost us £6.50 entrance fee each, for which you are provided with, a guide to the available ciders and perrys, a glass for sampling the aforementioned drinks, lots of entertainment and live music and a fantastic atmosphere. You also have to buy a sheet of tokens which you then exchange for those perrys or ciders that you decide you like after enjoying a few free samples of the available choices. There are also plenty of stalls selling food and craft items.

Best of all, well behaved dogs, kept on a lead, are also allowed in, so Gromit got to enjoy the event too :-)

LHPS ‘Modern Times’ themed Photo Competition

Well I’m the last person who would have thought it possible but I’ve managed to repeat the success rate I had in the ‘Work’ themed competition by collecting all three top places and a highly commended again in the  ’Modern Times’ competition.

All four images where taken with my HTC One X mobile phone camera. Since getting the phone I’ve developed a real interest in the art of mobile photography and love having the ability to take, process and post shots all from the same device and the fact that you can get your images out there sometimes within minutes of taking them.

Here are my competition entries;

The Latest Fashion

First Place – The Latest Fashion

Second Place -  The New Three Graces

Second Place – The New Three Graces

Third Place - A digitized world

Third Place – A digitized world

Highly Commended -  Urban Respray

Highly Commended – Urban Re-spray

LHPS Work themed Photo Competition

I’ve been a member of the Liverpool Hope Photography Society (LHPS) since it was founded almost three and a half years ago, and, whilst I’ve had several ‘Commended’ and Highly Commended’ competition results, up until now I have only had one top three placing in any of the competitions. It came as quite a surprise, therefore, when I took all three top places and a Highly Commended in the ‘Work’ themed competition held late last month.

Needless to say, I am very pleased :-)

Here are my winning entries;

First Place - Carrying Passengers

First Place – Carrying Passengers

Second Place - School Work

Second Place – School Work

Third Place - Railway man

Third Place – Railway man

Highly Commended - Late Night at the Office

Highly Commended – Late Night at the Office

Gromit’s Attentiveness Training Program – Session Three

Monday evening – 22 April – Birkenhead Park

It seems my optimism following yesterday’s training was entirely misplaced.

BulldogWithin minutes of arriving and beginning training we were joined by a 12 month old Bulldog called Spence. Spence and Gromit immediately hit it off, and, as Sharon also told us it was very important that Gromit got as much interaction with other dogs as possible, I decided to let them play. Not that I appeared to have much choice at the time!

Because Gromit and Spence were playing quite boisterously I ended up having to let go of Gromit’s leash, which was ok for about 5 minutes, after which both Gromit and Spence spotted another, smaller, dog and decided to involve it in their game. Fortunately the owner of the small dog knew George, Spence’s owner, and, whilst clearly panicking slightly, was also relatively understanding whilst we attempted to extract her dog from ours and restrained our, much larger, dogs from swamping hers.

Having resolved that issue, I was trying to explain to George why I had to keep Gromit on a leash, particularly in wide open public spaces. I wasn’t entirely convinced that George fully appreciated my problems. His dog ran after other dogs, he said, and he wouldn’t always come straight back, he assured me, but he didn’t think it too much of a problem, just dogs having fun, he said. Gromit must have been listening in to this conversation because he then took the opportunity to fully demonstrate his capabilities and headed off across the park at around 40mph pursuing some joggers he’d spotted on the horizon! Within seconds he’d disappeared!

Whippet in full flight

I left the ‘now fully up to speed’ George and headed in pursuit of the ‘now at full speed’ Gromit!

After a few minutes desperate calling, Gromit reappeared on the horizon. He appeared to spot my frantically waving form and headed back towards me at top speed only to effortlessly pass by me at the last-minute as he headed back in  Spence’s direction. Fortunately I managed to get my foot on his trailing leash and brought him to an abrupt halt.

By now the entire parks attention was on me and I started to feel somewhat foolish as I marched up and down the park dragging a clearly reluctant dog behind me and after a few minutes of total in-attentiveness I knew this session had been blown out of the water!

From Gromit’s point of view this was an excellent session as he had lots of exercise and doggy interaction. From my point of view it was a total disaster!

Gromit’s Attentiveness Training – Session Two

Sunday afternoon – 21 April – Birkenhead Park

It rained throughout the session, which was almost certainly the reason why there weren’t that many other people or dogs around to act as distractions. Had a 20 minute training session during which Gromit started to show signs of improvement.

We then went for a walk around the upper lake. I finished training off with a quick 5 minute session before heading home. Gromit continued to show good levels of attentiveness.

Quite pleased with progress, however, I think he was definitely in a subdued mood owing to being wet.

Gromit’s Attentiveness Training – Session One

Technically the first training session took place on Saturday the 20th April, when we met up with Sharon and were instructed on how to do it.

During that session I walked off in one direction, trailing the lead behind me, while Gromit looked at a variety of dogs, in a variety of other directions, until the lead inevitably went taut and he was gently dragged in the same direction as me. At that point he would grudgingly trudge after me whilst still managing to remain focussed on everything else going on around him other than me. By the sheer law of inevitability he would eventually come alongside me and I would immediately change direction at which point the whole process would start again.

It sounds a fairly simple procedure but if you just keep turning right every time he comes up on your left side, it’s not long before you start to feel a little dizzy, however, if you try to head left when he comes up on the left you can tend to get a bit tangled up! It’s also possible, if the area your working in isn’t large enough, to walk yourself into a corner. Needless to say I did all those things several times during the session.

The general idea is to keep going for a maximum of 20 – 30 minutes. If you find you are starting to feel less tug on the lead after each turn, and your dog is starting to head in generally the same direction as you on each turn, then you can probably stop after 20 minutes, otherwise keep going for the extra 10 minutes.

At the end of the training it is also a good idea to take your dog for a more relaxed walk so he/she still associates the training sessions with having an enjoyable time.

To be honest I couldn’t tell if Gromit was being more attentive or not at the end of this session, however, Sharon and Barb thought he showed some signs of improvement.

Gromit Asleep