I have lived in Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire, Dorset and currently I live in West Yorkshire where we have been for 11 years.
Before moving to West Yorkshire I was in Dorset for nine years where I spent a deal of my time playing in the country.
I have what I feel is an enjoyable and sometimes exciting life. Which I have shared with a group of friends I feel that it is only fair that I share some of the special moments that I have had with all of those people concerned. The best way for me to do this without causing to much offence, is to add them to my blog (the internet is only just in rural Dorset, and still on dialup)
These are the very true and real tales of my countryside exploits of when I became a Dorset Gun.
The people in these stories are were some of my dearest friends, and while at times it may seem that I am taking the pi$$ out of them. This is nothing that we don’t do to each other all the time. None of them, (to my knowledge) have yet to do so in social media.
All of the stories that I am about to tell are true as I remember them! To say that all characters and events are fictitious is not true. For each of them exists in full technicoloured brilliance.
To show that I have also been a victim of a sporting incident I share one of mine with you first.
First let me set the scene, I moved to Dorset in 1990. I had only been in Dorset a few months, when luckily I found my first patch of local ground over which I could wander with the aim of harvesting a modest crop. The ground was part of the local forestry area and in order to reap the best yield from the ground I required the services and skills of a well healed, and obedient dog.
The well-healed dog that I chose was a spaniel, an English Springer Spaniel, a local man “The Dog Breeder” (story to follow) advertised locally that he had English Springer Spaniels for sale.
I made a telephone call to him, and a man with a very distant accent, informed me that he had two litters of puppies that were read to leave their mothers, and he would really like it if I was able to come and have a look at them. “OH” he added “please bring the wife and children if you have them”.
I dutifully arrived with the wife in tow and the puppies were produced, they licked, ran, wagged, tugged, fought, rolled, retrieved, nipped, ducked, dived, played and generally attempted to impress.
Had I, taken the time and read a little more about the selection of a potential lifelong friend and part-time gundog, I might not have made the next mistake. “The Dog Breeder” tried to say that the two puppies left, had been together for so long that it would be very difficult to separate them. “The Dog Breeder” however had not banked on my wife, who has the resolve, determination, and immovability of the Hoover Dam, she is unbending in her resolution and informed me that I was not under any circumstances (that I was willing to continue to live with) having two spaniels. (In retrospect I think she had read the book form cover to cover) I made my selection, handed over my cash, and signed up for some lessons. Not as “The Dog Breeder” reminded me, to train the dog, but to train me.
After all of the hours of lessons that I’ve had I must be one of the top dog men in Dorset if not Britain!
“So what was the mistake I hear you say?” The mistake was in the cold light of the day and with hindsight a very simple one. I picked the wrong dog!
The dog that I had decided on, who was to be the corner stone of my future breading plans, the first dog in the new line, and in the mean time would be a partner who doggedly stood by me in all weathers and in all shooting condition. In the boat whilst shooting ducks in Poole Harbour. At the foot of the high seat whilst stalking roe deer. Devotedly looking up into his masters eye whilst on the peg of a large formal driven partridge and pheasant day. At my side in the hide whilst decoying a few pigeons in summer. These were my dreams.
This dog was often remarked on the, people would say, “the fastest, I’ve seen,” “hardest most determined hunter,” “I wish we could bottle that energy and spirit.” That dog was resolute in his ability to find all of the game in any drive, a skill which he had perfected. However, and there is often a however, he was a sprinter and not a middle distance runner.
Off he would go into all the cover, pushing birds up from everywhere, no point whistling, he inherited a hearing problem. To the end of the drive (some times back again, but rarely, most birds were flushed first pass) where he could be found sat in a puddle or trough panting hard, waiting for the other dogs. Who after working steadily were only able to find that there was nothing for them to do.
With the skills of efficiency, combined with speed he has managed to get both of our pictures in “Shooting and Conversation Magazine”. He has won bags of dog food for himself and Tankards for me, I was truly surprised by his abilities winning scurries and other competitions. He never chased rabbits in the rabbit pen.
What is wrong with a dog like that I hear you all say, the problem is he only behaves when he is in the rabbit pen or in a drive with an impenetrable fence around it. I walk him up the river or over the hill every morning and almost every morning he clears off. I get phone call from two main source, either the local police who tell me which good Samaritan has taken him in, fed, watered and warmed, the poor distressed thing. Or the local hunt kennels to tell me that he met up with the hounds and after twelve miles of exercise, he’s now tucked up with the lads eating local beef!
Let your Imagination set the scene. The summer sun was setting behind the trees on the hill. Children were sailing with model boats on the river, lovers were picnicking by the waters edge. Kind gentle folk were walking out there lap dogs. Dragon flies skipped over the waters surface, swans and cygnets swam happily together in all it was a most relaxing and peaceful evening. As I walked along the river bank the cygnets started to chase the spaniel who was only about 16 months old. I called him away from them and slipped his lead over his head telling him that he was a very good boy. We had moved down the river about one hundred yards, when I slipped him from his lead, and after a very brief moment to assess the situation, he turned, sat back on his haunches, and exploded from his blocks. The first twenty yards I swear were covered without him putting his feet on the ground. When he arrived back at the confrontation point the cygnets had been joined by their parents, the Cob ran at him and chased him into the water, once in the water the battle began. The swans chased the dog, the dog chased the swans, neither side willing to give in, as he chased the cob, the pen flew over him from behind, pushing him under the water. All this served was to test his resolve, and boy was he resolute, the more he chased the cob the more the pen ducked him under the water, by the time I arrived on the scene there were white feathers all over the water.
Despite the fact that my eyes were out on stalks and my ears ringing from all the blowing of the stop whistle. The dog failed to return and was still fighting with the cob and pen in the river. After some very careful consideration there proved to be no effective measure to stop the disagreement other than to get in and mix it with the dog and swans.
Off came the boots and shirt and in I jumped, the water earlier that evening appeared quite attractive, now as the water lapped at my chest and people started taking notice it was less attractive than it first appeared.
It became very quickly apparent that both the dog and the swans could swim faster than I could walk or run in the water. Nothing else for it but to front crawl after them. As I caught up with the dog, I was astounded that I had remembered all of the training and dragged the dog back to where he had first ignored the whistle. As I let go of the scruff of his neck he was off again, this time I caught him before he launched himself into the water. Only just mind, I was laying on the ground with one of his back legs in each hand. It took an act of great skill to move my grip from his leg to his throat, neck scruff before slipping the lead on. As I dragged the dog back to the car with boots and shirt in one hand, dog in the other I thought that it was time to finish this particular lesson. The dog has never forgotten this experience and whenever there are swans about he has to be on his lead. Nor have the neighbour though, when I arrived home in nothing but my dripping underpants, the whole of the neighbourhood were having a front garden lawn cutting party. Smiling I got out of the truck and splashed my way to the front door, water dripping from my sodden clothes as I went. Never once did any of them mention this event. Well, to me they never!