Thursday, 18 June 2015

History and Adventures with Border Terriers.

I've had dogs all my life. One of my earliest memories is curling up with my Mum and Dads old sheepdog (Wendy) when I was about three. Wendy was the sort of dog that any child would love and I did dearly. Even now over fifty years later, I still remember playing hide and seek with her; and I know now when she let me win it was because it was her deliberate decision, not because I was a skillful "hider."

My Grandparents bred Dachsunds and they were quite successful in County shows and although Dachsunds were smart they never really appealed to me. I was used to working dogs that my parents had I guess. Not that they ever worked for a living herding sheep or hunting, no their job was part protection, part educational for me and my brother but mostly as friends. No, they were more than that, they were part of the family and on some occasions were higher in the pecking order than the children (meaning me and my brother and cousins). My Dad was an Engineer and we moved to wherever his jobs were. Sometimes working on major Gas facilities in the South of England or helping to build Redcar Steelworks in the North (yep that was my Dad). 

Later on my Mum got a Beagle and she was my friend and confidant during my impressionable teenage years. A little more stoic than Wendy, Sheba was nevertheless fearless when it came to spotting prey and giving chase. Mostly this was the neighbourhood cats who quickly learned that although this dog was fast, it could not climb fences or jump onto cars. In all her years of chasing she never caught anything. 

Later on in life I discovered Cairn Terriers and then Border Terriers of which I now have three.

It was a completly different story when the Terriers arrived. The Cairns were fearless in hunting vermin and animals that disappeared down holes in the ground, including digging their way in so that they couldn't get out.

The Cairns, although expert diggers never caught anything. The Border Terriers however have a little more intelligence and diligence built in. Not that Cairns are not fantastic dogs but they are quite different to a Border Terrier.

Once when they were very young and whilst out deep in the Somerset countryside we strolled through an old woodland and came into a clearing at the bottom of a steep hill with so many Rabbit holes in it that the hillside resembled Swiss cheese. I knew we were in for trouble and I called my Border Terriers back, but in vain. Too late, they had scent of the chase and their minds and ears were completely closed to my plaintive attempts to recall them. The girls (sorry can't call them bitches) chased anything that moved as the rabbits hurried and scurried down any hole they could fit in. My boy ran and watched and then took up position near a hole at the top and sat down just watching the hole from above. I had given up on getting them back and waited at the bottom of the hill with leashes ready for when they were tired enough to come back.

Buster sat still as a statue and then one unlucky Rabbit looked out of the hole. In a flash Buster seized it at the back of the neck and a second later the Rabbit was dead. Carefully he brought it back down the hill, stumbling sometimes but never losing his grip and instead of coming to me as I expected he took his prize to the base of a nearby bush and started digging. He was clearly intent on burying the Rabbit he had caught. I saved him the trouble and walked over and put his lead on almost without him noticing. The Rabbit was small and I did bury it in the hole he had made. 

By now the girls had got tired chasing shadows and the fast Rabbits and came panting up. Their leashes were on before they knew it and we headed home.

I have never been back to that hill side and since then have them on extendable leashes when we go anywhere near Rabbit country. Even as older dogs their ability and willingness to chase down vermin is unabated; but now I know how to avoid dealing with their "prizes" and I avoid taking them to target rich environments.