Soon after I started this weekly blog (just over a year ago) Chris and I took the momentous step of adding a dog to the household. No big deal there, you might say, but the previous twelve months had been difficult dog-wise, with us losing two young Border Collies, one in a road accident and another through epilepsy. We decided to go to the Freedom of Spirit Trust (FOSTBC), our local Border Collie rescue organisation, with the idea that we would just “have a look” – a week later ‘Mist’ moved in!
In post #5 I explained why we had gone for another Border Collie …. “The breed was developed by working shepherds who wanted a dog to herd sheep in the upland areas of the UK, not by members of the Kennel Club designing a pretty looking dog. Over a couple of hundred years those shepherds have given us the best possible dog for the hills – a medium sized dog with strength, speed, agility and endurance”.
“The looks of the dog were never important, but temperament was. The BC had to be gentle enough to round up a newly born lamb, but bold and courageous enough to turn an aggressive ewe protecting her young. Often working long distances from the shepherd, the BC had to be intelligent and able to ‘work things out’ without having to be told what to do. The BC can do all that, and do it all day and in all weathers”.
‘Mist’ is the fifth Border Collie I have had. Her job is life is simple – she’s a companion dog who can fit into our outdoors lifestyle. My first two Collies were working dogs though, and ‘Matt’ my second dog was a graded mountain rescue search dog. In post #9 I told the story of ‘Matt’s first encounter with a helicopter twenty five years earlier –
….”Penrith Mountain Rescue Team is on a winter training exercise, with about twenty members and two search dogs. The radio crackles into life – an ice-climbing accident in the next corrie. We set off at a good pace, working round the base of the ridge between us and the incident, all out of breath but trying to keep something in reserve.
Suddenly a loud noise from behind. An RAF Sea King helicopter, callsign “Rescue 131”, is hammering up the valley towards us. Graham’s dog “Rick” flees downhill with Graham trailing behind – it would be almost a mile before he caught up. Meanwhile my dog “Matt” is also running, but running uphill, the same way as “Rescue 131”, heading towards the incident. We arrive to be told that the climber has died.
“Rick” was a well-trained, obedient dog, probably a bit brighter than my “Matt”, but after this he hated helicopters, and became nervous about all loud noises. “Matt”, on the other hand, was blasé, and would leap aboard a helicopter as if it was the family car, before curling up under the seat behind my legs…..”
Over the past year ‘Mist’ has been on virtually all of our hill trips, except for a break of three weeks after she was spayed. She’s typical of the breed – quiet and calm but strong and always ready to go. We’ve even got a harness for her now, for any difficult ground we encounter, but the dog’s agility and strength usually get her over obstacles whilst we are still thinking about it!
So, for the non dog-lovers out there, apologies for letting the dog take over this post – she’s a quick learner, and as soon as I’ve taught her how to use the keyboard she can have her own blog!
In the meantime, I’ll be back next week with something about hills or mountains in the UK (and possibly a photo or two of a Border Collie having a good time).
Text and images © Paul Shorrock – Images tagged (JB) © John Bamber
p.s. ‘Mist’ was re-homed to us by the Freedom Of Spirit Trust for Border Collies. If you are in a position to offer a home to one of these fascinating (and demanding) dogs, visit the website then get in touch. Alternatively, you can help the work of the trust by sponsoring a special needs Sanctuary Dog. Details on their website at http://www.fostbc.org.uk/