A Tale of Two Dogs (Episode 4) Don’t read while eating your supper…

A Tale of Two Dogs (Episode 4) Don’t read while eating your supper…

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.

A Tale of Two Dogs, episode 3 (my dog’s got no nose)

A Tale of Two Dogs, episode 3 (my dog’s got no nose)

How does he smell?
Awful!

Christmas casts my mind back to Hamgate (subtitled: The Year the Terriers got at the Ham).
Our lean-to doubles as a larder when the fridge is overloaded. The ham was jus’ chillin’ out there when my parents rose early and, being the thoughtful parents they are, let the dogs out for me…

Those dogs stripped that ham bone clean. It looked like a bleached carcass, after the hyenas, buzzards and ants have had their turn on it. Two terrier tummies were swinging like water-filled balloons. You could see they were going to blow. And blow they did.
Apparently, your sense of smell shuts down when you’re asleep, but I know it was the aroma that woke me. Suffice to say the clean-up demanded waders and a tea towel wrapped around my face, gallons of soapy water and frequent dashes outside to gulp fresh air.

At least the mess was sorted in time for our traditional Christmas jolly to the theatre. We went with the in-laws (best clothes and best behaviour, you know how it is). Eleven of us in a mini-bus and that god-awful smell still lingering.

Oh, the mortification. My smartly turned-out little family were all wearing coats infused with Eau de dog-diarrhea.

So my dog really does smell awful, and he’s really got no nose. But that’s a whole other story, which I might share in episode four.

A Tale of Two Dogs, episode 2 (Partners in Crime)

A Tale of Two Dogs, episode 2 (Partners in Crime)

As an only child, Russ was an itinerant, a bolter. We have far too many feral temptations on the farm: The hedgehog in the paddock, the muntjac in the woods, deer that will run for miles when there’s a dog (and me) chasing them. And the postman’s red van, although our postman isn’t feral. He carries dog biscuits.

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He’s thinking of going here – note the firm grip.

We hoped that having a friend would encourage him to stay home. Oh, the sweet naivety of that idea. We were about to encounter the full force of Border terrier itinerancy.

What had been solo, forty-minute forays became twenty-four hours of canine sortie when they were hunting as a pack. And Meg was fast. No point in me running now (phew), all I could see was two brindle specks on the far, distant horizon.

They never learnt recall. The best you might get was a contemptuous stare, and that was only if you were lucky enough to be within staring distance.

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You try getting both of them in shot

I’ve spent many hours on torchlight hunts, untangled leads wrapped around branches, apologised to too many neighbours (and to the security men at the nearby science park, who caught them on CCTV. They were chasing the swans).

I’ve retrieved those dogs from three different counties, but they usually turned up on the doormat after I’d spent the night sleepless with worry. Knackered, bloodied and bruised (that was them, I was just knackered), wearing mud-heavy clogs, their coats matted with our very own super-bonding clay, and frequently infested.

Have you met seed ticks? The veterinary nurse at our practice hadn’t, she thought I was being hysterical. ‘Bring them in, we can sort that out.’ And she came at them armed with tweezers.

Now seed ticks are not just your common or garden tick (I’ve tweezered off plenty of those little buggers. I recall that my best [or should that be worst] count was thirty-six ticks. Removed from a single dog, In one session).

She can’t say I didn’t warn her, that nurse. Her face was a treat, and I can’t deny the thrill of satisfaction that gave me. We were, at last, united in hysteria. Hundreds, nay thousands, of miniscule black ticks. Like poppy seeds, but evil.

The nurse put her tweezers away and sent me home with some Napalm.

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Oh dear

Tune in next time for episode three (My Dog’s Got no Nose).

 

A Tale of Two Dogs, espisode 1 (Game is Right)

A Tale of Two Dogs, espisode 1 (Game is Right)

The Kennel Club standard describes Border Terriers as ‘active and game’ and ‘essentially a working terrier, capable of following a horse.’

Game is right.

My little big man (Russ) arrived in our life in 1998, and he was game from day one: Tripping over my heels as I trudged to the stables, ready and willing to grapple with a 17 hand horse that didn’t want to share its breakfast. Plucky little chap, it was love at first sight. I was smitten, and I basked in the satisfaction of being his leader, protector and mistress.

For a few precious weeks, until puberty struck and he underwent a werewolf-like transformation, morphing almost overnight from mild-mannered pup to canine rebel commando.

Never nasty, nary a growl or a grumble at any human, but Lord have mercy on the rest of the animal kingdom. If it moved he wanted to kill it, and if he couldn’t do that his job was to tell us it was there, outside the window. He could tell us all night if need be. The word ‘dogged’ could have been coined for my little big man.

But I must be game too, because in 1999 I went back and bought his half-sister.

Nutty Meg spent her first night with us suspended over the wooden rail between the legs of a kitchen chair. I would like to stress that this was very much her choice, not mine. I wondered what the hell I’d bought into the house, and employed every method of persuasion that I had in my arsenal. None of them worked. The puppy bed and hot water bottle were rejected in favour of a wooden hammock.

Nutty Meg trembled a lot, a combination of attitude and several neuroses. Little big man found her existence beyond annoying, but he took it well. The mildest of profanities when she hung off his ears and attacked him in his bed. He told her off once, when she got over-frenzied playing tug-of-war with Youngest Daughter’s sock. That was the first and last time she listened to him. Or to anyone, come to that.

Nutty Meg wasn’t scared of any living thing, but she was phobic of crossing the kitchen floor, hated water but laid down in muddy puddles. She took on the farm truck (and lived to tell the tale), slept with the cat and washed little big man’s ears. Wouldn’t eat her food, but was ferocious if anyone tried to remove it. Would rather be carried than go for a walk, but could outrun a gazelle (if need be).

And I can confirm that Border Terriers are capable of following a horse… If they want to, and if the horse is going the way they’re intending to go.

A neurotic lap-dog/feral bitch and a canine rebel commando.

Two Border Terriers, about to gang up, and the adventure only just starting. Tune in next time for A Tale of Two Dogs, episode 2 (Partners in Crime)