Tuesday, 25 August 2009


Resuming my 'keeper's wife' role means DOGS: feeding, exercising, training, cleaning, kennel work, and sundries like vet visits and administering meds. Times 8.

I LOVE our dogs and growing up we had a family dog. One. singular. And it was a lap dog. It's been a big leap from pet to working dog. The outside may look the same - big smile, waggy tail - but DO NOT be fooled. These are bred to work tirelessly, in all weathers, day after day. It's like they are wired into the mains electric.

And they are smart. I mean SMART smart. They are expected to find not only dead birds but wounded ones; uncooperative birds which ensure they use their final breath to crawl to the most inaccessible place to die: in the forks of trees, in holes under the bank of a flowing river, in rabbit burrows, or smack in the middle of a bramble patch. Pheasants are not going gently into that good night - you want me, come and get me.

The spaniels and labs have to work out how to get at these birds. And get them back to us. They might cross through rivers, over fallen trees, under fences or over fences - all with a couple pounds of pheasant in their mouth. They need to work independent of directions from their handlers. We might be out of sight in dense cover, hundreds of yards away. But they work it out. They find us, deliver the bird, and turn around to do it again. Over and over. And they love it.

See?! That's the dogs exiting the back of the truck ready for the next drive. And this is the end of the day.

So we have 8 writhing bundles of smarts and energy, managed by a keeper's wife learning as she goes. Last night I took all 8 out together for the first time for their evening walk.

I don't know about dog whispering, there was a lot of dog hollering: "Don't eat that!" "Leave it!" "TSsst...LEAVE!" " Here..come HERE!" "Good girl..NO..good gi..NO i said!!". Dulcie worked the hedge so far away she was like a dot on the horizon. Podge disappeared, then reappeared having rolled in fox poo. Jazzie was being accosted by an invisible nemesis which made her scream and stick by my leg. Nellie refused to come out of the garden because there was a cow in the field so she serenaded us with a plaintive howl our whole walk. Dakota randomly duffed up the others to remind them who's boss. And Pip and Spud were bringing up the rear, mooching along eating dried cow pats. All in all, not a raging success. I was frustrated and completely wound up by the time we got back.

It's even more frustrating because Mike takes them all out (minus puppy), and he comes sauntering back into the garden, relaxed, with a pack of dogs mulling obediently around his ankles.

The first shoot day is less than a month away. On their own or in selected pairs, they're great. Not perfect, but fine. Directable. And everyone's dog gets a bit overexcited the first week. I'm just hoping I can learn to train them quicker than they're learning to train me.


Poppy Cottage said...

I think I'll drop Lily over and come and get her in a months time!!!!!

Are you going dancing on Wednesday evening? I will be babysitting!

Come and make flowers anytime.

Colette x

Sara said...

Great pic of the dogs!