When I was born we lived on a farm, so had farm dogs. I think I can remember the names of all the farm dogs we have had since I learned how to remember things.My Grandfather, Grampie, (The All Black) had an old dog called Rough. I only remember him very vaguely, he is on the periphery of my knowledge but mum talked fondly and often of old Rough. I always thought rough was a great name for a dog.
The oldest dog of ours I can remember was Bounce. Bounce was near the end of his working life when I was old enough to try to help on the farm. Bounce spent his final years in retirement mostly loafing on the veranda. When Dad came up the drive on the horse with the other dogs after a days work, Bounce would get to his feet, ruff once to say hello to them and then lie down again.
Bounce was a huntaway. In New Zealand we have two types of working sheep dogs. The huntaway and the heading dog. The huntaway is usually a dog rather than a bitch in my memory, certainly on our farm, I can’t speak for others. He needs to be a big loud fellow as his job is to run out to the far reaches of the farm paddocks to bark and bring the sheep from their peace and quiet into some form of order for movement to the sheds or the yards or just the next paddock. When you need to get your sheep together in a flock for dagging, drenching, drafting, shearing, dipping and so on, they are spread far and wide over the farm and that’s where the huntaway ply’s his trade. Running the paddock boundary to wake the sheep up and get them moving. Usually to some choice commands and curses sending him on his way. My favourite of all Dad’s instructions to his huntaways was “Get away back up here”. Dad also, like most shepherds, used a variety of whistles to issue instruction to the dogs.
When the sheep have come together at the insistence of the huntaway, the heading dog will pick up the baton. The heading dog is usually a border collie type, they don’t bark, they use the most extraordinary skills of movement and eye contact to control the sheep. They are also known as eye dogs. I never ever tire of watching a good heading dog doing her stuff. Ours were usually ‘her’. The best of all of them was Janey. There is a very sad story about Janey. That’s for another time maybe. If you would like to know though, ask me.
We must have had dogs up at Mahia of course, but I was little and they lived out at the sheds and worked on the farm so I never really met them or knew their names. The farm dogs I do remember were in rough order. Bounce, Ned, Nell, Smart, Fay & Janey. I don’t doubt there were others and I am sure when she reads this, my Mum will recall them to me. Ned, Smart & Bounce where huntaways. Nell and Janey where heading dogs. I don’t recall Fay being much good at anything but she was a lovely dog. Ned was a bit of a grump and bit me once. Smart was a real character but quite poorly named though if you get what I mean. Janey was a beautiful natured girl and probably Dads favourite ever working dog. She would also work to my instruction but I used to think it was just because she instinctively knew what to do regardless of what I was saying to her.
We had a handful of pet dogs as well over the years. The first was a Golden Lab called Kruen. He had to stay in the North when we moved to Mahia. I can’t remember why. At Mahia we got Toby, a Corgi cross. He was a great little chap and sadly got ill when we were on holiday once. Poor Craig Percy who was minding the place while we were away, couldn’t find Toby the day we were due to return and in the middle of the night we heard him crying under the house. Dad broke up the veranda to get at him and we put him in his bed but he died in the night. We buried him in the garden at Ormondville. We had a couple of Fox Terriers as well. Timmy and Angus. Timmy was a bad one. Not quite right somehow and he made the immediately fatal error of chasing sheep. Dad had a sort of zero tolerance policy on sheep worrying funnily enough and Timmy didn’t survive the day.
Angus was my little mate. We would hunt rabbits together. He would walk to heel and when I found my target rabbit I would lie down to sight the shot with my .22 rifle. Angus would lean against me to see what I was aiming at and actually look down the barrel himself. The second I fired he was off like the proverbial shot. Going to finish the job in case I missed.
I left home and that was the last of my dog relationships for a while, as when you are in the Army or flatting you don’t really have the wherewithal to look after a dog. Mum and Dad had acquired Jodie though. A great big Golden Retriever who had been re-homed with them as her owners had retired and moved into town. They felt she was better off in the Country so she came to live at the Abbots. She was a fabulous dog. She used to find bits of dead things on her walks and bring them home and bury them carefully in the gravel on the driveway. The most amazing thing about Jodie though was her ability to recognise my approach on my rare visits home. We lived out in the sticks and whenever a car came up the driveway Jodie would call it in as it arrived. Stand on the driveway barking gently to let us know we had visitors. Never at my car though and she couldn’t know it was my car as I never went home in the same car twice. I always found that strange but nice that somehow she knew it was me.
Fast forward many years and now I am in the UK married with a house and garden I have been able to get the hairy children back around me. When I met my wife, Jenny, she had a little Lucas terrier called Pedro, also known as peds, pedders, and bear. Pedro was a TV dog as Jen worked in the TV industry and the company she worked for produced a show with a lady running around doing big projects for people by blagging favours. Pedro used to be part of the show. He just wandered about being Pedro while the star did great works in a short space of time to improve people’s lives. He used to get fan mail (including from other dogs!) When we lived in NZ in ’95/’96 Peds went to live with his greatest chum Daisy until we came back.
Meg came into our lives next. That was 14 years ago and she is still with us. Meg is a Westie. We reckon she was handed over too young and she is an amazing little girl. Incredibly gentle and affectionate, yet quite independent and with extraordinary levels of patience. In the country you will sometimes get rats in your vicinity. Pedro used to run to and fro going ballistic at the slightest hint of rat movement under the garden shed, digging and snuffling and snorting furiously after his tormentors. Meg would figure out where the rats where coming and going from and just stand there, stock still until eventually one might appear. Then in the blink of an eye, it’s an ex-rat.
We had moved out to West Sussex from where we lived in Wimbledon, Ped’s and Meg had many great adventures and on more than one occasion led us a merry dance while they were in pursuit of things far more important that our commands to return. The best one was when Pedro was after deer or rabbits or who knows what on a short walk after work. I was calling and whistling for about an hour in the increasing darkness until Jenny came out into the field to advise me that Pedro was now at home in his bed. He had decided to make his own way home and I just walked into the kitchen and glared at him. What can you do?
We decided if you have two dogs you might as well have three so we set about choosing some company for Peds and Meggie. In 1997 we saw a small French hound make the finals of Crufts as the winner of the Hound group. The Hound is called a Petit Bassett Griffon Vendeen. This fellow was so handsome and full of character we wanted one. They are rare though and it took us a couple of years to track one down. We went to Hertfordshire and met a lady who bred them and she asked how we had come to know the breed. We told her about Crufts and she said “Oh! Come and meet Cedric.” We were introduced to the very hound we had seen on Crufts in the final. He was the father of the puppy we had come to get. Pure chance.
The puppy was to become known as Bruno. He still is, he is now 10
We refer to Bruno as “a special needs hound” He is by some margin the friendliest, most charming hound you would ever wish to meet but he is not the sharpest tool in the box. Bruno does not embrace change and struggles with positioning. If you are walking towards something the Hound has an extraordinary capacity for knowing your next move and getting in the way of it. He will reverse into a place you wish to stand. He will lie on a floor you wish to use and if you walk around the kitchen he will literally dance with you. Arguably the most common phrase in our house is “don’t you get out of the way houndy!” Followed closely by the also sarcastically delivered,”don’t you move Bruno” . Bruno or Houndy as we also know him has a sole passion in life and that passion is Deer. Houndy on his walk has one focus alone. Deer. He is a scent hound and when he gets a scent he has to let you know all about it. He will speak from the minute he get’s the scent to the minute he loses it. That can be some time. It is a wonderful hound sound, it makes you smile to hear him so happy doing what he loves. What doesn’t make you smile though is the sound of the hound speaking growing fainter as he vanishes into the distance. Luckily Deer usually run in a figure of eight so you figure out where they are heading, with luck you can cut him off and catch him when he next comes by.
Here is a short clip to give you an example.
We keep Bruno on a lead mostly but we have some walks in big fenced common land areas where we let him run his heart out..
Pedro sadly died too young at just 12 of a disease and Jenny was heartbroken, we had to take the day off work!
Next along was the greatest little Jack Russell ever which was Jeff. Jeff came from good stock and was a very biddable, friendly, well mannered little Jack who loved his mother (Jenny) more than anything. He would do anything for her. Jeffie was like he was radio controlled. He did everything you told him to, the minute you asked him.
He and Bruno used to sleep in a heap as I called it. Bruno being a hound likes to snuggle up with his chums and Jeffie would just lie next to, on top of, under or over Bruno. Then after 5 years of living happily together they suddenly decided they hated the sight of each other. They just would fight at the drop of a hat. We tried everything, but it got so bad they couldn’t even be in the same room. We had them separated for 2 weeks while we tried to find a new home for Jeffie. Imagine trying to live like that. You have one dog locked away in a room while you spend time with the other and then you change them over. Poor Meggie was caught in the middle and it was all just hideous.
Jeffie got the re-homing short straw because we couldn’t re-home the hound as he is “special needs”. We eventually found a lovely young couple who took him in and he is very happy in his new home with new friends and has even been on a trip to the continent and had a canal boat journey. We know he is loved but it is actually worse than your dog dying because you know what a great little chap he is and he is still out there. Jeff will be 9 this year.
As dreadfully sad that all was, If we had still had Jeff we would never have met Jessie. Our little ink-faced, puddle puppy. Ink faced as she has a black muzzle, puddle puppy as puddles are her passion. If there is a pool of water Jessie will use it. Jess is a Cairn Terrier and a very poor example of the breed. When I say that I just mean she is too small, not hairy enough and doesn’t look much like a Cairn at all. While she may be a poor example of a Cairn Terrier to look at, she is the sweetest, funniest, most affectionate, good-natured, loveable little dog anyone could ever hope to meet. She is 3 now but still looks and acts like a puppy. she is never without a toy. He preferred toy is the tennis ball material covered bone shaped one. She has 3 and she uses all of them. When we go out with her, we have actually had people queuing up to say hello. In that I mean while one person is saying hello to her you can often see other people hanging around nearby to wait their turn to meet her. Jessie loves her adventures out and is so well-behaved she pretty much goes everywhere with us while the hound and Meggie get some sleep. Jessie is loved by all and greets everyone she meets with a huge waggy welcome. Just don’t turn up with more than one large boisterous black dog though as Jessie isn’t the bravest of souls. She will submit to every other dog she meets and has even submitted to a 13 week old Black Labrador puppy. Jessie will never be in a dog fight.
Update: 14.12.2011. R.I.P Meggie, passed away peacefully today. she was 15 and just ran out of steam. Our grand little Westie, she ruled the roost with a rod of Meggie’s version of iron. She is buried under her favourite sunbathing spot. With a little cairn of stones to mark her spot like she would have had in the West Highlands.
Our dogs are a massive part of our lives and we hopefully will never be without one, or preferably, some. They are, as I have said, our hairy children.
A big shout out though to the other dogs in our life as follows, forgive me for any not mentioned. These are some of the current and ex-dogs of friends and family. Sterling, Sammy, Bonnie, Amy, Spot, Muff, Muffett, Hamish, Delphie, Fanny, Willy, Coco, Rosie, Foxie, Tiggy, Daisy, Harry, Bella, Angus, Lola, Oscar, Bertie, Pickle, Sprout, Badger, Dotty & Ted. I shall also mention a little Jack Russell I met once, just because I loved his name, Dennis.
Each a gem in their own way, every one, even Harry.
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