Saturday, 2 February 2019

Annual Holidays & Miss Betty

We had our last shoot day of the season yesterday, in spite of the snow. All of these photos were taken by Alice. She's one of our regular beaters, earning extra money while she studies to be a vet. Alice also looks after me when we hunt on horseback, and we work together at the pub on Sundays. That's life in a small village for you.

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. 

We celebrated the end to a good season, and lamented the loss of underkeeper Ian, who is moving on to start his own game farm and shoot. We wish him well, and we will all miss him.

Mike & Jen


With Mal, my Welsh Santa

Today, the 2nd February is the official start of my annual two week holiday. My holiday was over by 2am this morning with the delivery of 2 healthy lambs, a ewe and a ram lamb. We now have 4 girls and 3 boys in the nursery barn so that's worth the lack of sleep. Mike has headed off to Cornwall for a few days to see family, and bring them all a selection of meat for their freezers.

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 suckers gamekeepers.

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.


Hazel said...

So glad Miss Betty found her way to you. Hope you got to read your book, at least for a while.

Cottontailfarm said...

So glad you're blogging again. Thank you for telling the stories of a wonderful life far away from our home.

Maria said...

Hi Jen! It's so nice to see you blogging again. Really lovely photos of the last shoot day (and I heart your big furry hat! much needed in this weather).
Miss Betty sounds fantastic, and I'm glad she's found a good home with you (we won't even touch on what kind of person abandons a dog like that, as I try not to swear online... grrr).

Kristin W. said...

I’m loving Alice’s pics! It’s so nice seeing you in front of the camera. So hurrah to Alice for the lovely pictures of the dogs and the people.

I’m glad shoot season went well and now you are on break for a couple of weeks. Enjoy your champs! And your book!

Poor Miss Betty. She’s lucky to have been droppped on your doorstep. I can’t fathom why someone would turn any dog out, let alone a dog such as her. When we lived in TN there were packs of dogs that used to roam around. I don’t know what kind of mischief they got into, nor if they belonged to anyone (as in they went home each night and just met up with each other during the day) or if they were all homeless. But I never saw a dog such as Miss Betty. Thanks for sharing more about her. Can’t wait to read about the rest of the dog pack.


Jayne said...

Lovely account of the last day of the season, and super update on The Pack. Poor little Miss Betty, you will never know what she endured before you came into her life, it’s the same with our darling Daisy. Sometimes I think that makes these little ones even more special. She’s certainly a lucky little girl to have ended up with you and Mike. Xx

Phyllis said...

So glad you’re writing again. We devour it and your dad has shown your blog to everyone within 300 miles!

Seester said...

Oh Miss Betty... in a future blog you will have to post some recordings of her unusual — and persistent — grousing vocalizations. She sure does let you know when she is. not. pleased.

Considering all the excitement I got to experience in my 3 week stay last summer (Miss Betty's arrival, Prick's untimely death, your tricky goat births, pheasant escapes, cakes for days, and the pheasant chicks hatching) I think you should start a Farmward Bound experience for city folks like me! I know a bunch of Silicon Valley folks who would be very interested.

17th stitch said...

"Four Pounds of Fury" sounds just about right. So glad you and Mike were there to take her in and give her a good home.