Kis For Your Dog

*MWAH* – who doesn’t fancy a good ol’ snog, though I have not had one in a very long time and do not see me doing so anytime in the foreseeable future due to decisions I have made, but even though romance is a big thing this post is not what that is about – so I have deliberately missed out the double “s” due to a concept I have come up with on basic training of your furry companion. K I S for your dog, “keep it simple”…in that I refer to training your best K9 companion, but not the more complicated ideal such as protection training…the simple little things like stop, heel, sit, stay, lie down, kennel and the ever important “come here” and no. Obedience training is inherently important. Like teaching your kid…unless you are unfortunately one of those kind of parents who believes in letting your child get away with blue murder??? Not literally.

Although the above photo is of an MWD (military working dog) and is either about to commence or has just completed his/her “Hot Sauce” (basically attack training for the unaware civi) training but that is for the more advanced training and for the dog owner/handler who wants to put their dog through protection training. Which, in this day in age is important, especially for a wife who is at home with kids and with the amount of…well, (how to keep this as entirely politically correct as possible without upsetting the insanely political correct?) crazies out there…how politically correct is that not? Anyway, protection training for your dog IS important and it should be considered by any husband who is at work or away from home a lot and his wife and kids are on their own, or even for a woman who is single. Take it under consideration. I know if I wanted to go down that route I would. Short of that buy your wife (or yourself if you’re a woman on your own) a small handgun and buy her (yourself) skill at arms training (provided you live in a country that allows you to own a personal firearm and have a carry concealed permit). Damn, I have gone off on a tangent on protection training…right, back on track…

Anyway, I am avoiding the more advanced training and sticking to the basic dog training. I do not consider myself a qualified dog handler or trainer but I have enough experience with dogs to know what I am doing when  it comes to basic dog training and this is important for anyone wanting to invest in their K9 buddy because that K9 buddy will turn out to be more loyal than most humans are.

In Zimbabwe my mother had a black Labrador puppy, an adorable chap known as Nero and because I had experience from teaching myself my own very basic methods to my own dogs in the past (a Great Dane and a German Shepherd cross…I have NO idea) she asked me to train him. Knowing that training also breeds loyalty I advised her that she train him with me so there was no confusion for him as to who he belonged to but she refused and because I had already fallen in love with Nero I took to training him knowing how it would turn out, it was inevitable and so I went around teaching him the basics…simply and sure enough, he became mine…and so, here I was. I had a dog called Nero, a cat that I got when I was nine years old that I named Bagheera, after the black panther in Jungle Book and a horse which I inherited called Beauty (a dark bay named by his previous owner and mentioned in this piece).

What I have noticed is the amount of people who invest in their trusty, adorable K9 buddy…that investment is however monetary but not time and then they have a hard time controlling their dog in later years when it is grown up. Sure, as it grows up it is super friendly, which kinda goes along with the territory but with that friendliness comes everything that it should not be doing which is jumping, not coming to you on command, humping every other dog it comes across, whether male or bitch. This though is not the dogs fault, it is the owners for not taking time to give their buddy time and I don’t say buddy lightly…I say it earnestly because that guy/gal will be one of the family and so deserves that time. As time will go on with training the dog will become even more loyal and adoring because they love that quality time. And for a lesson in that all you need to do is look at wolves with their pups in or outside a den, or any bitch or dog with their pups to see how that works. Training is good for the dogs future and your companionship…and of course passers by or other people with dogs. There is nothing worse than walking through a field with your best K9 companion when there is someone coming in the opposite direction with their dog which is out of control and starts jumping all over you and your dog and does not listen to their owner.

My Message to Dog Walkers.

This applies to dog walkers too though and in some aspects is a lot more important, especially for your safety and the dogs. If you cannot get a handle on your charge which you are entirely responsible for the moment you pick he/she up from your client then you either need training yourself or should pick another line of work, once it is another life it ceases to become more than your wallet or bank account – have confidence in your abilities and knowledge in your inabilities too, if that sounds unkind I am sorry but you are being entirely trusted with that dog which is a member of your client (s) family and so you should create a rapport with not only the dog but also with the family. And with that rapport you should find out what they do and don’t do with the dog so as to not upset the apple cart and confuse the living day light out of the dog and so you should identify which areas (if any) the dog needs training in and what really helps is having a charge which is already extremely obedient and easy to get along with but as a dog walker and being responsible for someone else family member it is inherently important that you know what you are doing. Also, the dog will pick up on your lack of confidence and knowledge and play on it. So you really do need to know what you are doing from the offset. So please, identify with your responsibilities there.

Training.

So at the end of the day vet bills, pet insurance, food and love are great investments but the greatest is time so if you don’t know what you are doing take a little time to look in book shops or on Amazon for dog training books, watch videos on YouTube, try and develop your own methods but which are kind and thoughtful for the dog. DO NOT use fear tactics to make the dog obedient. Take some time to train your dog, take some time to learn how to train your dog, watch your dog and learn from it. If you train your dog the companionship will be even greater.

Take time to KIS for your dog because at the end of it you will get a big kiss from them and you will be the greatest thing on its heart.

Interview Etiquette and Being Fired Before You’re Hired!

This has everything to do with the above image and the title and people who know me will tell you that I like to go through things the long way round. If I am asked a question I will answer with a prolonged response, I don’t like to keep things “short & sweet”. Perhaps this is because I already have a brief police background. No matter the reason or psychology of why, that is just a part of who I am as an individual but I can assure you that I even find it annoying when I think back.

So, why fired? The best way to consider an unsuccessful interview if you have not bothered to view simple interview etiquette is being fired before you are hired. The majority of us, when we go for a professional meeting or for a job interview, and the interview for the job of our dreams already know the simple etiquette – not only the background of the job we have applied for, but also the company we are applying to, it all helps. Turning up prior to the meeting, or interview – so being of a punctual disposition always helps. But not only this, well groomed. Well styled hair, cleaned and ironed shirts/blouses with all the right creases in the right places, polished shoes, brushed teeth, shaven and smelling right and not only that, but…well presented. by presented I mean not slouched, sitting up straight, maintaining eye contact, smiling and speaking clearly and concisely and being able to answer all questions and asking questions when asked if you have any.

I have office and people management experience and so am all too well aware what us “managers” look for whilst interviewing and while these are things we look for we will never say. You will never find us going “sorry, your shirt is unclean and un-ironed and boots unpolished” but believe you me, we take note of these details, but why? Why should it affect how you do the job that YOU are applying for? Well, it is these things that prove to us that not only do you care about your presentation but it shows us that you pay attention to detail and detail is everything. Personal grooming shows us what you will be like in your professional life and professionalism in the workplace is everything. It helps you create a rapport and work with your fellow employees and workplace staff better and if you deal with the public, on a one-to-one nature or telephonically this shines through how you present yourself. Personal grooming is everything when it comes to interviews, not only for the interviewee but also for the interviewer. A trained and well adapted, experienced manager or human resources member of staff will always view these things. It takes a few seconds to view what may be right or wrong in your appearance and grooming standards. If you are like me and you look someone in the eye when you go to shake their hand you will notice a quick twitch of their eye? Well, that is them checking your standards out, it is technique, as well as utter confidence in their ability.

A few weeks ago I saw a person I know where I live who is a qualified chartered accountant but has a few problems in as much that unfortunately and very sadly lives with a severe case of bipolar but always tries very hard to view things on the brighter side of life, so much so that he refuses to accept that he has a problem. And anyway, he was going for an interview at a small firm but his shirt was horribly un-ironed, shoes unpolished and he was slouched. I can tell you now, that as a manager if I did not know him that I would not have given him a position and when I advised him of the way he was presenting himself he told me it would not matter. The buzzer from x-factor sounds in my head, of course it matters, everything about etiquette and self presentation in an interview matters. If you do not view these simple rules you should not be surprised when you get rejected. Rejection is not nice, at all, in anything but one cannot afford to be surprised when the interview has been unsuccessful as it does play a part.

I guess this piece is not only for the types of people like the guy I know where I live but also for kids who have just finished school or college and are going for their first interview. I realise that the day of the tie is coming to an end, a well presented and pressed suit and well ironed shirt and polished shoes go a long way, personally I always don a suit and tie, for whatever engagement I turn up to, no matter my station in life – if it is important, it requires you to turn up well presented. Presentation is important and whether you believe it or not, or think you know better and do not think it will affect your interview – I am sorry, you don’t, you are wrong. Presentation is everything and is a factor behind being successful or being unsuccessful in a job interview.

So, please – remember that this is everything in a job interview – it requires you looking your best, attention to detail is of prime importance. Do not kill your chances by not giving or deserving yourself 100%. If you cannot iron, ask someone you know to help you, if you do not own an iron someone who you know will own one, if you cannot polish your shoes, ask someone who knows how to to do it for you. There is never an excuse to be poorly presented, no matter your station in life. It will also help you feel much better inside about yourself, at the very least. Are you not worth that?

You deserve to give yourself 100% satisfaction.

Language and Culture – the Key to Humanity, Understanding and Acceptance.

Language and culture, those of us who have a greater understanding of language and culture beyond our own are truly gifted. That has been my interpretation of being multilingual for ages due to the fact that I speak one other language fluently, other than my own and speak notions of four other languages (French, Italian, Spanish, Polish) and can say a few words in Chinese and Arabic. I truly envy those who speak twelve languages fluently. However, my belief is that to understand culture is of more importance, and why? My reasoning with that is simple – we get to understand each other a lot better.

I have harboured a belief since I was in my early twenties that we can can all create an understanding of one another through an understanding of each others culture, wherever we are from. Whilst I have lived in the UK I have met people from all four corners of the globe. I have met people from Central and Eastern Europe, people from Italy, Spain France and Belgium, made friends with peoples from Poland, America, Argentina, El Salvador. I have made friends with people from Pakistan to Algeria. And though I have an Argentinian friend that I went to school and worked with in Zimbabwe I started to pick up Spanish from he and his family. Some of my cousins had a Belgian background and so started to pick up French from them. But my understanding of language & culture never really took off until I came to the UK. That is one of the beauties of the United Kingdom, its broad spectrum of different cultures and backgrounds.

I am no lingual genius, I do however wish I was but being able to speak the notions I do is gift enough but had I carried on with my Polish course I would be able to speak Polish fluently. But this is where I think the ultimate respect for other nationalities come from. Although I do believe that an understanding of another religion, other than my own helps. I do not believe that is where the ultimate in understanding and acceptance comes from – it primarily comes from language & culture.

So at the end of the day what is your understanding of the key to humanity, acceptance and understanding?

This post totally goes against what I have remodelled this site on but I think this is an important part of who we all are and who we should be.

Reflections

It all began with a single thought, lying in my bed staring out of my window at the night sky – starless, wet, and cloudy – a typical English winter evening. I began to think of home – my parents, my horse, the space, the farm – everything representing my past I began to think of and with this I became emotionally strained, tears streamed down my face as I recalled the past; I faced facts – I was certifiably homesick and although I had refused to face facts before I had to admit it as my mind stirred bringing all that filled my world. I thought of everything that was precious to me. All the anger, the pain and memories stirred up.

The last walk that my father and I had in search of poacher’s who we ended up apprehending after sitting on an O.P. (Observation Point) for an hour monitoring movement through binoculars, eventually catching the poachers who had poached Guinea Fowl, unfortunately it was nothing major like any antelope but they were still poaching, we apprehended them in the end letting them go their ways but confiscating their catch they had tried to hide once they saw us watching them which was unintentional, as far as my father and I were concerned our O.P. was well hidden, unfortunately it was not.

On the same farm we resided on in the Manicaland Province of Zimbabwe I had inherited a horse from the previous owners of the farm who had relocated to New Zealand within a year of the Zimbabwe land reform programme beginning. The horse was just short of 16 hands; he was dark brown – almost black known as a dark bay in equestrian circles. A stallion of eleven years, extremely powerful and very quick – his name was Beauty, pretty original and so I tried to change his name to Pilgrim which is the horse from The Horse Whisperer and it didn’t fit, so then thought of Destiny and that still didn’t fit, and so kept his name. Named by the mother of the previous owner who according to her son thought “she knew the world about equines but in fact knew nothing and would refer to “her” books claiming that they were the only things that were correct so practically she knew nothing about horses but when it came to the theoretical side’ – such as maintenance, handling and sheer up-keep “she knew everything”, any horseman will however tell you that practical horsemanship is different from theoretical – practical. It is the practice that makes a horseman great and able to connect with their horses. This I have always believed as in many corners of life practical outweighs theoretical, for if you cannot listen to a horse how on earth can you pay attention to a human? I am no professional horseman but this is a belief I have held for a very long time. Even though I have had to learn it the hard way in an accident which could have claimed my life, but that is possibly another story for another time.

Beauty was my friend – I don’t think there was one corner of the farm we didn’t cover; we rode fence lines, herded cattle in for corralling at night keeping them from Hyenas and cattle thieves, drove them in for dosing or dipping on a monthly basis; it was utter bliss and herding with him was heaven, he knew exactly what to do without me reigning him and was extremely affective – he kept the cattle in line and you could tell he was always at his happiest when droving. On one occasion whilst we were gathering the herd to take them for dipping a cow decided she would be brave and try take Beauty on and so she began to charge, Beauty then turned in and kicked out at the cow, she stumbled but lucky for me she was not injured, probably a bruised ego more like. Shortly after that incident that heavens opened up and we got the gloriousness of an African thunder storm.

One of my last rides on him was a moonlight ride, just him and I before I left for the other end of the country so stayed as much time as possible together because this horse had truly become one of the best friends I have ever had and through that a philosophy will always stick with me, “Never once do we choose the horse, we are chosen by the horse”. The night of our last ride was utter bliss; the moon shone brightly, the African night sounds stayed vibrant – crickets, nightjars and jackals would seem to be entertaining themselves and the odd cry from a Hyena would bellow out in the distance, and every now and then a slight breeze would kick up. As we rode I stared at the night sky, stars like diamonds on black satin glistened in the darkness, the odd shooting star would pass over head and burn up in the atmosphere. I would usher the odd reassuring word to Beauty as we continued our ride on the dusty trail. Eventually after a two hour ride we returned to the stables and we stayed in the yard for a bit after removing his tack and stayed with him for a while. I lay back on the empty feed trough and watched the sky, listening to the sounds that surrounded us. Beauty coming up and nudging my face and smelling my hair, sometimes nibbling my nose out of affection – after a while with him I decided it was time to retire. I petted him down, picked up his tack and walked back home with him following closely behind, I opened the gate, put his tack down, petted him down and hugged him one last time and locked the gate behind me and with that he returned to the stables of which were a lovely Victorian style design. The stable area was a square design with a cement feed trough in the middle, each stable was naturally big and had an individual feed trough in each corner made out of cement. In total there were fourteen stables, a feed room, and traditionally, a foaling stable – the stable area and yard was huge and when properly maintained was stunning. The stables had two entrances – one for a vehicle, another for when coming in from an outride or releasing the horses into the stable grounds or grazing pastures which in the nineteen forties and fifties had been a horse racing track on the farm which is what the stables were originally used for, the view from the stables and main house was stunning; we stared into utter vastness and down into the pastures which the cattle and horses would often share. In the distance lay foothills which would put Ben Nevis at Fort William in Scotland to shame. It was utter bliss and can happily say that it was possibly one of the best farms we resided on – the house was big and also a huge traditionally designed colonial era house.

I spent a few more days at home and as usual spent the majority of the remainder of my days on the farm known as Coldstream Estates with Beauty doing the norm; herding cattle, riding fence lines and being a regular “African Cowboy” and sometimes visited the former Zimbabwean minister of finance – Simba Makoni, if he wasn’t on the farm I would go and see his nephew and manager.
I understood from my mother when we spoke on the phone once from the other end of the country that Beauty would often gallop up and down the fence whinnying after I left as if he were trying to call me.

I then left the comforts of home to go work at Zimbabwe Online in Harare (Internet Service Provider) but later transferred to the west of the country to the country’s second capital Bulawayo to work in the office there which was by complete accident, I stayed there for almost a year and in that period realising that it was time to leave Zimbabwe in search of a better life so I could concentrate on building a future. Within that time I had organised for Beauty to go to a good home in the same area and not far from the farm we lived on. So, from March 2004 to November 2004 I lived and worked in Bulawayo. My time there drew to an end and I left to travel to directly the other end of the country to spend my last month with my parents, they had moved two months after I left home. It took me three days to get home to my parents as I spent two in Harare to finalise my travel plans and say goodbye to friends. On the third day I secured a lift to Headlands which was the area where we had lived for several years and had inherited Beauty, I was dropped at Halfway House in hoping that I’d be able to find a lift all the way through to my parents of which I managed to from a German expatriate who was a doctor in the eastern town of Chipinge. Whilst there I saw the person I had entrusted with Beauty, a brigadier in the Zimbabwe National Army. I enquired after my equine friend but the news was unfortunate and my heart sank. He told me that he had not been able to secure Beauty and that he had eaten a shrub which poisoned him – without him telling me the name I quickly deduced that he had eaten the same plant that had killed his mother two years before I inherited him called Lantana Camara which is hazardous to both cattle & horses in the tropical regions of Africa, America and South America, it induces Cirrhosis of the Liver and kills them slowly and painfully – my heart sank upon hearing the news – my friend I had shared good times, sad times, lonely times with was dead – he had made the world simpler than it was and had made more sense than any human possibly could.

At one stage in 2002, a year prior to inheriting Beauty I went to house/farm sit within that same area for an Australian expatriate who went away to Mana Pools and Chirundu Game Conservancies for a few weeks, the setting of the farm was absolutely stunning. I was allocated a horse, a South African breed known as Bosikop and was skewbald (white and brown colouring) – the name was Ziggie, he was an eight year old, 16 hands on the mark and having been of South African breeding was extremely rugged – whilst on the farm we rode the valley’s, stream’s & foothills and the views one would find are the kind to be ever captivated, ever beholden. I would awake at 0430hrs, go out, get Ziggie from the paddock, stable him and feed him – return to the house prepare breakfast which was often two slices of toast and a mug of coffee.

I would then get him groomed and tacked up and then depart on a days ride patrolling the gullies and streams, often running into a small herd of Kudu, a large troop of Baboons, and bumping into the odd Duiker or Klipspringer and passing the odd obvious lair of a leopard, with it being summer I would often end the day off watching the sun go down from a huge hill next to the house.

On one occasion I had been patrolling on Ziggie when I became bored and with it being mid October and the weather being inherently hot I needed to be kept occupied. I was riding in between two rock formations in a valley when I noticed a troop of baboons to my 1 o’clock so trotted roughly twenty meters ahead of the column and dismounted to face the troop of which had become curious and had stopped at my rear of which I was now facing; I kept my hands by the bit keeping the reigns on his withers so as to mount and depart immediately so knelt down on my haunches and sought out the ring leader, once I had spotted him I locked eyes and began to challenge him by barking at him in the typical baboon manner a “BAAA-HOOOW”. This being a challenge several male baboons barked back without moving, I again barked – this continued a few times before the “main-man” started to move forward. This, to me being a game barked twice of when I noticed the troop beginning to charge in my direction. I had one advantage, I had a horse so I quickly mounted, turned Ziggie in on the heal, barked once more and cantered away in the opposite direction, in front of us was a wide stream and then a semi-steep climb up the bank on the other side. Unwilling to be literally torn apart by baboons I crossed the stream and cantered up the bank on the other side and carried on riding. I had now kept active and my adrenalin had now got going as challenging a baboon is extremely dangerous as they have been known to tear apart leopards, humans and dogs. Having Ziggie as a trustworthy companion was a delight and even until today when I think back to the entire time there I smirk to myself; knowing that I only did what I did on that occasion because I had one advantage over the baboons and also with it being a very brief stage in my life of which I thoroughly enjoyed and loved every minute of, it is one of the few parts of my African life I can never regret.

All this I registered and remembered as I lay in my bed 5000 odd miles from my former homeland and feeling nothing but a heavy heart. I felt a heavy heart at the situation, a heavy heart as I now realised that I was homesick and missed my parents; that naturally wasn’t a realisation – I always did miss them from the moment I left, the moment I walked through those departure gates at Harare International Airport on the 16th of January 2005. I felt a heavy heart as the Africa I had grown up in was a different Africa and had learnt a different language & culture, liberalised certain viewpoints of past situations with the country and made friends with the majority of Africans I had met within my short twenty six years in Africa. What had happened to the country I had grown up in? The country which I had once loved, what had happened to the nation I had once served in pride as a police officer for two years?

I can safely say that I truly wish my children could have the upbringing I had – the space, a different culture, a different language – sadly, my children will not have that – I will not share that with my family. Times change, situations change, life changes but I guess who and where we come from will never change in our hearts. We will always stand proud, stand true and be who we are. Memories we will always have to remind us of where we are from and who we are.

I guess those of us who have left will always say “I had a home in Africa”.

Guy Taylor

January 2007 ©

Magnificent Seven 2016 Making

Well, who knew I’d ever write about the making of a movie and although this is in reviews it isn’t really a movie review because the piece is about the making of Magnificent Seven – well, lets just say its a making that blew me away and kinda excited me. When I described how I’d do movie reviews I mentioned they’d come with a twist and if really good then I would wait until they were released on blu-ray and DVD in order to be able to watch the making before watching the feature film in order to be able to write an effective review, so really, this should be an edit to my review of the feature film but in all honesty I think this deserves its own review, and why…well…like all the leading actors in the film I love westerns, my Dad loves Westerns – I’ve got to say that it has to be one of my favourite genres out there, since I was a kid. I think Vincent D’onofrio who played Jack Horne said it best ‘it has nothing to do with a good western, it has to do with morals and good and evil’.

For me the making of a film has everything to do with the film, it has its own backstory, through the cast and the crew; it is what they go through to make the story great, its who they are as people that they bring to the set and from what Chris Pratt said, its about what they have wanted to bring to the set. The role he played was a part that he wanted to play as a child and what makes it even greater is he looks as though he thoroughly enjoyed himself during the making, as I said in my original review, he made the film and is my favourite character in the whole film – his arrogant, amusing, cocky personality is what made him make the film. Even throughout the making he will keep you chuckling.

To me Denzel’s depiction of the film and its spiritual aspect of good against evil, which is a powerful statement to make, especially in a film of this magnitude, especially when you have an ongoing story of Magnificent Seven to live up to and keep it great, without disrespecting the original stars of this great western. Denzel also says that there are those of us that have been put on this earth to protect the innocent, to defend the innocent which is why I love the genre – it is not only that but it is the sense of freedom, it is the sense of being able to do what you please and go where you please, unhindered.

Ethan Hawke who plays Goodnight Robicheaux goes a step further and I quote “There’s something deeply American about the Western, there’s an iconography about it that I think has reached a lot of people. There’s something that is so heroic that we all long for that kind of heroism in our life’. I think its that quote that just labels it all because we do, remembering that I am the same generation of the majority of the main cast who grew up watching westerns. I grew up watching Clint Eastwood in spaghetti westerns, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, A Fist Full of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and then other Westerns like the older Magnificent Seven, The Lone Ranger, John Wayne westerns – it is iconic and I can definitely agree with Ethan Hawke because it is an iconography, its an iconography that led me to wanting to write the western that I want to write.

So, do yourself a favour, ignore the fact that Denzel Washington never runs out of ammunition and invest in this version, you will not be sorry, for the feature film or the making and I guarantee you that if you watch the making first you will want to watch the feature film…

Enjoy…