Holding the fort

Behind every aspiring trials dog, there's a woman who knows where the kibble's kept.

It's all very well, but when someone spends an entire day gossiping at a sheepdog trial then someone else has to stay behind to look after the day-to-day stuff.

With Andy away testing his handling skills the care duties fall to me, not that I'm complaining. Apparently it was my nagging that drove Andy back out onto the trials field in the first place, so it would be churlish of me to object when he finally conceded. At least, I think that's what he meant.

Group of border collies, waiting for the next game
The dogs are keen to see if I'll throw the mug, now that I've emptied it.

Ideally I'd be at the trial too, filming Andy's runs as an aide-memoire for the post-mortem, but with so few local trials the combination of early starts, long days away, and puppies and young dogs at home makes it impractical.

In the event, I'm often surprised at how much I manage to achieve on the days I'm on my own (not that I'm implying anything, you understand).

So normal life goes on, with the usual comings and goings. The current crop of young dogs includes three bitches from Audrey's last litter (Bo, Dill and Faye), Kay's daughters Gretchen and Hayley, Meg's daughter Dash, and a dog, Martin, from Nell's surprise litter in March.

Black and white Border collie pup, at speed
Audrey's daughter, Faye, has inherited her mother's sense of humour and enigmatic smile

We've also added three new puppies to the mix (see the top photo).

Archie, Sybil and Eira are ISDS registered from two very traditionally marked trials dogs, and we thought they'd add a little variety.

It'll be interesting to see how they develop as their white bodies are already becoming heavily speckled with black.

I'm particularly pleased that Sybil, the middle puppy, appears to be smooth coated. I might think that a good dog's never a bad colour, but I'm a pushover for a bare-skinned dog (as they're known in Scotland).

Contrasting collies - white faced Madge and black faced Ezra
Contrasting collies, Madge and Ezra. I wonder what they're planning?

Keeping so many youngsters together is far easier than just owning one; they entertain each other, and fall into differing alliances, according to mood or circumstances.

They can also lead each other astray, but often it's mischievous grown-ups like Madge or Ezra who do the leading!

Border collie riding in the basket on a bicycle
Jack's European Tour 2014. He always did have great balance.

One dog who's left us is the intrepid Jack, famous for his climbing antics. Jack now lives in Oxfordshire, where he'll be doing a bit of everything - including travel.

Here's Jack with his new Dad, looking very relaxed during their Easter holiday in Germany. We're quite sure that Jack is very happy with his new life. Apparently he's very well behaved, learns quickly...and is becoming very interested in sheep! (I think we want him back!)

As well as comings and goings, we've had an "and back again". Late in 2012 we bought in four puppies, with a view to training them on. All four showed great promise and eventually went to new homes to start their working lives in earnest. They were all thoroughly nice chaps too, so we were sorry when we heard that one of them, Olly, was being sold because his handler had moved out of shepherding.

I wasn't quite so sorry though, when Olly's owner, Tia offered him back to us. From my point of view, Olly has so much to offer. He's characterful and affectionate, very well bred, keen to work and - most importantly - smooth coated.

Olly (now grown into an Oliver) has settled in well, reacquainting himself with old friends and quickly making new ones. He's especially fond of Gretchen, and can often be seen dragging her by an ear, pulling her tail, or harrying her in a general sort of way. They remind me of an Iris Murdoch novel.

(Maintaining the literary theme, anyone who's read Daniel Deronda would recognise Audrey and Madge's relationship as being akin to that between Henleigh Grandcourt and Lush. I have time to think about these things when Andy's trialling.)

Black and white sheepdog enjoying playing in a pond
Even Jan has no interest in my new dog bath while there's still a good muddy pond - so much better for the complexion.

Finally I must just apologise for the recent spell of wet weather in the UK. This is entirely my fault.

Whiling away a warm Saturday morning with the dogs, I decided to purchase a huge plastic dog bath for them to play in and cool down.

Sometimes I catch sight of it when the rain slows to a heavy drizzle. Perhaps the dogs will use it next year...




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