Thomas, my adored chocolate bomb. Has, ever so slightly ‘gone off the whistle’. Hey, at this time of the shooting season, IE at the very end of it, he is in a VERY large club of other ‘not quite nailed’ dogs. But Thomas, being Thomas, if he does something, has to do it REALLY well. There are no half measures with our Thomas. That would be boring. And Thomas is ANYTHING other than boring! Hence, in recent weeks, the phrase ‘Thomas… Jesus Christ!’ has been coined as almost a picking up team chant….
The source is one of those things you HAVE to see. Possibly one of the most memorable You Tube clips ever. And hilarious! ‘Fenton!! Jesus Christ!!’ As Fenton clears Windsor Great Park of deer in a stampeeding mass sweeping like buffalo across a Wild West plain! As his horrified and helpless owner legs it after him and the cameraman falls to pieces laughing….
Now Thomas is a dedicated soul. He has had a brilliant picking up season. On a shoot morning he starts pacing and chatting to himself about 6am as soon as he senses a certain routine is occuring in the household. He heels to the start of the first drive grumbling and muttering to himself, deep in his own joyous thoughts, often completely not noticing I have actually stopped…. wandering on jabbering on, tail waving, eyes slightly glazed. Everyone loves Thomas. he’s easy to love. I spent a couple of years of his life trying to make him into a Bondy or a Fish, and he can’t. He’s not. He’s Thomas. And I’ve finally, this season, settled on that. And frankly, we are both 100% happier for that decision.
Thomas has two great loves. One is birdies. The second is running. The fact that, when on a shoot, he can run, finding birdies, makes every shoot day, Thomas’s birthday. Now the only thing being, my little hunting machine has only two speeds…. very fast or stop. Thomas is VERY sociable. If he was a bloke he would be raving every weekend and staggering into work on Monday completely shot to bits. Hes a grafter, there is no doubt about it, he’s not just a party boy, and to be fair thats what makes him such a shoot day asset. You point at some brambles and say ‘back’…. and Thomas is in there…. mashing about, belly crawling, giving it his all… often to the detriment of his ears, eyes, end of his tail…… he’s nothing if not dedicated to duty!
The only problem can be over ethusiasm CAN be a slight hindrance at times. Folks tend to stand on our shoot, chuckling at the bellows of ‘Thomas!!! Thomas!!!’ He gives me a full body workout occasionally charging to find ‘the bloody dog again!’ and for that, approaching the wedding, I am, of course, entirely grateful. Well, not ‘entirely’…. the whole ‘Thomas Jesus Christ’ thing started when, when walking up beating a drive through before we took our picking up spots… just a few short days after the clip came out. I sorely misjudged how ‘off the whistle’ thomas had become over the weeks… and walking up offlead, sent him out infront to beat like a Spaniel… where upon he promptly put up two deer who gallops straight down the line of guns and very important shoot people who like to see dogs under control with me shrieking ‘Thomas!!! Tooooooooomaaaaassss!!!’ Of course, down the line came the bllows of laughter and yells of ‘Thomas Jesus Christ!!!’ When Tom realised the deer didn’t have wings and weren’t terribly ‘pickupable’ he charged back to my side, as fast as he went out in his usual form, screeching to a halt inches from my kneecap and a very slightly bemused Bondy who was ‘horrified at such behaviour’ and gave his halo a quick polish before popping it back on his head.
Is Thomas a thick chocolate? No. Yes. No. Yes. No. He’s as slim as Bondy. He’s as fit as a flea. YES I have seen him try and attempt THREE times in a row to get through the small squares of sheep wire without success on any of those attemps…. yet kept banging away trying, like a duracell bunny, till i politely suggested he use the gateway three foot to his left….. Just a suggestion Tom. He’s learnt SO much about birds this year. He genuinely hunts a likely pattern when he pushes into an area where a runner may be. He has found more runners this year than our trial dogs put together on our shoot, and whilst when he gallops into view in a cloud of dust with a bird with its head up, I always slightly curl my toes till I have found the place where the bird IS actually HIT (so Thomas hasn’t just stumbled over one and nailed it…) they ALWAYS are.
Thomas has had a wonderful season. He’s been invaluable to me and will remain invaluable to me for many years to come I hope. he’s a clown, and a sweetheart…. but he’s a steely eyed driven tiger when he hears his name used in the same sentence as a ‘hunt command’. The ONLY conundrum is, we have to find him a summer hobby….. He’s wasted sitting at home! It would HAVE to be an extreme sport though…. he wouldn’t settle for anything mundane