Posts Tagged: Hank

28 March
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‘Mission Marcy’: Dogs have feelings too!

Scientific proof, as any good politician knows, is very helpful to any successful campaign.  How kind then of boffins in Hungary to make a scientific discovery about dogs’ emotions just as I’m campaigning for ‘Mission Marcy’?

Regular readers will know that my husband and I bought a little schnauzer named Hank last summer when I arrived in France.  Lee named him after a character from the TV show Californication.  He’d not been with us long when my husband floated the idea that maybe Hank should have a Marcy (another character from the series) to keep him company.  Well, of course, that light-hearted mention is all a girl needs.  Like a dog with a bone (excuse the pun) I took the idea of Marcy and wouldn’t let it go until persuasion had turned her into a reality.

Little Marcy - as if by magic!

Little Marcy – as if by magic!

As if on cue, enter scientist Attila Andics.  His team were so determined to prove their canine emotion theory, that they first had to spend time training eleven dogs to lie motionless in an MRI scanner long enough for them to be able to record their canine brain response.   That’s dedication for you.

What they wanted to show was that our furry friends have some kind of emotional response to vocal sounds.  They played noises to them ranging from barking and whining to crying and laughing.  Then they compared them to how a human reacts to the same sounds.  What they found was that doggy brains respond in very similar ways to humans’ when they hear happy sounds or sad sounds.  The science boffins concluded that humans share a very similar social environment and claim it explains why vocal communication between the two species is so relevant.  In other words (as we’ve always believed but never known for sure) dogs have feelings too!

Meeting big half-bro!

Meeting big half-bro!

Why is this so important to ‘Mission Marcy’?  Well, from being a cute squeaking bundle of puppy fluffiness, Hank fast progressed to adolescence.  His voice broke. And he become an enthusiastic vocal communicator when he felt the need.  One of his favourite one-sided conversations, which started recurring whenever we left him on his own at home, was the howl of a lone wolf.   Well, on my (loose!) interpretation of the scientific evidence, I think I can safely say that this was Hank telling us he didn’t want his ‘pack’ to leave him on his own.  Ok, it may be a little far-fetched to translate ‘dogs brains react to vocal sounds like humans’ as ‘dogs can talk’.  But it served my purpose perfectly.

Little and large schnauzers!

Little and large schnauzers!

So, Merci to Attila Andics and your crew, we now have double schnauzer trouble!  Marcy has settled in nicely and Hank is her best buddy.  There are twice the number of odd socks being stolen from the wash basket, twice the beggars for dinner scraps… and, as for taking the pair of them for walks on their extension leads, well that mostly ends in a bizarre canine twist on maypole dancing.

Getting them into the sport early!

Getting them into the sport early!

But they make each other very happy.  They told me so themselves. ;-)

Mission complete.  Merci.

01 August
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Friends & Family

Hello again! Bonjour from me, Lee and little Hank from Clermont-Ferrand in central France. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog!

Lee has made his way to the Pyrenees for a pre-season training so he’s had a week of mountaineering, commando training, zip wires… oh and a couple of rugby matches thrown in too for good measure!

 

Lee doing his pre-season training

Lee doing his pre-season training

 

In his absence, I’ve been welcoming some visitors from the UK and attempting to give them a taste of the Auvergne. Although, as I’m still discovering myself, it’s been more an idiot’s guide than Lonely Planet! My oldest school friend (and bridesmaid) Lisa was first to land for a sneaky weekend break before she became too pregnant to fly.  The weekend’s itinerary started with obligatory pampering at the Royatonic baths and spa in the Royat area of the town.  It’s fuelled by the hot thermal springs of the Auvergne volcanic region and well worth a visit.   We followed that with a rooftop lunch at the gorgeous Princess Flore Hotel, taking in fabulous views of the city including Clermont’s iconic black gothic cathedral built from volcanic rock.

 

View from the Princess Flore Hotel

View from the Princess Flore Hotel

 

We rounded off the weekend with a drive up the mountain roads to the Puy-de-Dome, the king of the region’s chain of volcanoes which make up its unique landscape since erupting all those thousands of years ago.  However, not feeling it was fair to drag a heavily pregnant lady to the top on foot, we settled for eating ice-cream and watching other people either hiking up to the peak or parascending down (watch this space though – the latter is on my to-do list)!

 

Lisa and me at the Puy-de-Dome

Lisa and me at the Puy-de-Dome

 

Lisa flew out of Brive, which gave me an opportunity to take in another new town with beautiful views! Just a hop, skip and jump from the Dordogne, the area hosts many a Brit and their second home – and who can blame them?!

 

View over the Brive countryside

View over the Brive countryside

 

Best friend’s flying visit was swiftly followed by my mum’s arrival for a week. The ‘ladies who lunch’ theme continued and we headed to  Clermont’s beautifully groomed gardens, perfectly combining à la carte with a red and white pavement café vibe at Jardin Le Coq, where we enjoyed the dappled sunshine and delightful food.

 

Mum and me

Mum and me

 

Otherwise, chilling has been the order of the day.  Often, for us Brits, it’s simply too hot to do much else! With the heatwave lasting the entire summer here, temperatures touching 40 degrees and the absence of a pool at the house, we decided to invest in another cooling mechanism.  You’re never too old for a giant paddling pool!

 

The beloved giant paddling pool!

The beloved giant paddling pool!

 

Finally, for those following the progress of Miniature Schnauzer Hank, he too has been feeling the heat…

 

Hank hanging out in the heat

Hank hanging out in the heat

 

And he almost stumbled upon a unique way of cooling off…

 

Hank looking to cool down!

Hank looking to cool down!

 

Next time, my tribute to our Brit Tour de France champ Chris Froome as I get on my bike to explore the Auvergne…!

Back soon! Love, Ax

 

25 July
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Two become three ‘en France’… but it’s a puppy not a prince here!

So as we congratulate William and Kate on their new chapter with baby George, Lee and I begin our adventure in France with a new arrival of our own… of the canine variety! Meet Hank the miniature schnauzer (or Schnauzer Nain in French). He’s been with us for a few weeks now and has been keeping me occupied as I bid “Au Revoir” to ITV News for a few months and “Bonjour” to life with my rugby-playing husband in Clermont Auvergne, France.

Hank as a little baby pup - so cute!

Hank as a little baby pup – so cute!

The cute little fella has been settling in well. He’s been chewing everything in sight, except his own toys! We are now fully immersed in pup-sitting and pooper-scooping and, before you ask, yes he is named after Hank in Californication. Lee’s a big fan, I chose the breed so he chose the name. I trust his namesake is a good role model because I’ve never watched the show?!

We were lucky enough to find Hank at a breeder in the heart of the French countryside here. It’s amazing the places you can discover just by putting it out there on Twitter! When we collected him, the lovely family kindly invited us to stay for a BBQ. I was a little apprehensive about a dining experience entirely in French, but with the help of Google Translate and some memory of conversation lessons I’d been taking, we all muddled through: “Bon Appetit!”

 

Hank's breeders

Hank’s breeders

And fortunately, when the chat dried up, the language of sport doesn’t need translation – cue fierce competition of table football.

 

Lee (right) getting competitive at table football

Lee (right) getting competitive at table football

Over dinner they told us that Hank already had his own personality, ‘greed’ being the predominant trait! First in and last out at feeding time, good job I’m already used to a man constantly raiding the fridge then! My only hope is that a Hank is easier to housetrain than a husband…. I’ve made a good start teaching him to hang washing and change the remote to the news!

 

Hank doing the washing

Hank doing the washing

Speaking of la maison, prepping chez nous to be pet-friendly was a challenge all of its own – the language barrier getting the better of us. The French word for puppy is chiot – pronounced ‘she-oh’. Not, as we mistakenly said to the pet shop assistant, ‘she-ott’. The latter translates as a curse word for a toilet! I’ll leave it to your imagination, but it was little wonder she looked dazed and confused!

Hank chilling on the rug

Hank chilling on the rug

I’m glad to say it hasn’t all been dog duties (though it feels like it!). Before Hank took over our lives and Lee had to start pre-season training, we did squeeze in a pre-pup romantic getaway. We drove from France to Lake Como in Italy (where George Clooney hangs out!) and it didn’t disappoint. We stayed in a stunning hotel in Tremezzo with a floating pool and lush gardens.

Selfie of me and Lee

Selfie of me and Lee

Finally, before I go, I’ll let you into a little secret… Anglo-French confusion also caught us out when we chose Hank’s name. He is, in fact, actually called Iggy. Confused? Well in France, unbeknown to us, the rule is that you register any pedigree dog born in the year 2013 with a name starting with the letter ‘I’. Next year it‘ll be ‘J’ and so on and so forth. But our heart was already set on Hank so, whilst officially his first name is Iggy, he’ll be called by his middle name!

Until next time, must sign off now to rescue my flip-flop from the jaws of our furry friend …. Oh the glamour!

Ax

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