Young dogs came out for their first taste of the field and future gun dog roles; old dogs came out for a last hurrah, in case they are too stiff and can't come out next year. My team of four, who were very strong this year, enjoyed their day too.
L-R: Molly, Spud, Quincy, and Gertie waiting patiently for the action to start
My experienced retrievers carry the team, for now -
The spaniels are still learning their trade, as demonstrated by Gertie's retrieve -
Her second retrieve was tidier -
Both Molly and Gertie certainly show the requisite enthusiasm for their job -
Even the mature dogs aren't always that mature, especially in fresh snow -
We had an extra companion for the day too - a lamb that Alice found cold and alone in the snow. I put it in the Land Rover and wrapped it in a dog towel.
After a few hours in the heated Landy, it warmed up but was still unwell. I dropped it off to the farmer to keep in his barn, with his other lambs needing extra care.
Mike & Jen
With Mal, my Welsh Santa
The rest of my first day off included removing a hay seed from a goat's eye and butchering the last of our meat chickens and one big turkey, to replenish our freezer. There's turkey soup cooking on the stove right now, and turkey trimmings and offal in the oven for dogs' dinner. I'm planning to have a glass of champagne (a kind gift from a client) and to read my book later, if no more lambs pop out.
As some of you noticed, we've added a few more dogs to the pack. Shall I start by telling you the story of Miss Betty?
In June last year, our estate's maintenance guys showed up at the house at breakfast time, with a bundled up fleece coat. Inside was a tiny, terrified dog. Half her fur was missing, and she had scabs all along her sides. Maintenance Stu said he saw her on the side of the road, coming home late the night before. He brought her to us, because everyone brings lost or surplus dogs to the local
My sister was visiting from California, and she chose the name Betty, in honour of Betty White from the Golden Girls. Betty recovered quickly with some care and vet intervention, and we realised that she had a big attitude, and the "Miss" was added as a mark of respect. We searched for her owners, but no one came forward, and she had no microchip. Mike was instantly smitten, so she now lives here with us.
Her fur has grown back, long and silky. The vets cured her mange and fleas, removed her rotten teeth and cleaned the others. I cut her toenails back bit by bit, which were growing into the pads of her paws. And she now has drops for her eyes, to correct for poor tear production.
Her legs are so short, that she can't really navigate the rough terrain on the estate. When we take the other dogs for a walk, Miss Betty rides in a sling around my shoulders. She may be small but she doesn't want to be left out.
Miss Betty loves fish for dinner, and has a particular hatred for owls, which she barks at when they hoot at night. She's incredibly friendly, even to strangers, and prefers to sleep in a lap or on a hot water bottle. Her other nicknames include: The Angry Burrito ( when owls are around), Four Pounds of Fury (food or owl related barking) and the Bonsai Rottweiler.
Little dogs are a small package of health problems, due to poor breeding. The vets suggest Miss Betty is around 7-8 years old, and they say they've seen a lot of "handbag" dogs abandoned recently. The result of a fad for buying them, but sadly, their owners soon lose interest. Especially when the medical bills start piling up.
Luckily, both Mike and I are mad about dogs, and we have funds and time to devote to dogs, even the ones that need eye drops twice a day forever, and bad knees that need operations, or retirees that need meds and supplements to stay mobile and comfortable. It sounds corny, but they more than repay us with their personalities and their company.
I will tell you about Biscuit and Daisy in the next post.