Oh, the gore!
The terriers followed the farmer into the grain barn. It was always one of their favourite places. There’s a tunnel which runs through the middle of the barn, and at the end of that tunnel, a massive, industrial fan. The job of the fan is to blow air up through slats in the wooden floor, to dry the tonnes of grain which (we hope) are heaped upon it after harvest.
So, quite a meaty fan then. This fan means business. It also comes into use when we’re cleaning the barns pre-harvest – blowing mice out of the channels which run beneath the floorboards. It blasts those poor little mites up and into the air! Great sport, I’m sure you can imagine, for two little pest-control terriers. The sound of that fan firing up was a siren call to work for them. Heads up, and they were off.
Now, I quite like mice. I can’t say the same about rats, but mice are pretty with their cute little faces and twitchy whiskers. I console myself with the thought that the mice who live beneath our barn have a pretty jammy life; making their nests and rearing their pups in the warm and dry, with more prime feed-wheat than they could ever eat dropping through the ceiling.
The ones the terriers catch get a swift and efficient end to their lives too. Not for them the slow decline of poisoning or the panic of being trapped. You’ll know this if you’ve ever watched a terrier working. One shake is all it takes. A toss of dead mouse over the shoulder, and on to the next (although Nutty Meg was inclined to hover behind Russ and eat the dead ones that he threw back).
The dogs would return home knackered and proud. But, on one occasion, Russ didn’t come back at all. The Farmer went to find him, and I knew something was wrong from the tone of the Farmer’s voice when he carried Russ into the farmhouse. The poor little man was in a terrible state (the dog, not the Farmer, although he wasn’t doing so well either). The blood and froth spraying from Russ’s face propelled us all into the truck for an emergency trip to the vets.
He’d followed the Farmer into that tunnel, and when the door was shut behind him he’d tried to find another way out. When an industrial fan spins at several thousand rpm it gives the illusion of disappearing into thin air, and Russ tried to jump through it. The thought still makes me wince.
We thought he was a goner, but no. He lost about 4 mm off the end of his nose, and I spent three weeks delicately inserting a cotton bud into each of his nostrils (several times a day) and rotating it to stop them closing up.
The things we do for love, eh. He was right as rain in a few short weeks, but forever stumpy faced.