‘Thomas!…. Jesus Christ!!’

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  ;-)   ;-)

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Mia babies hopefully on the way!

Life wouldn’t be interesting if we didn’t change like the wind, here at Wylanbriar ;-) In an ideal world, mating Mia late next summer was not what we would of wished for, because we REALLy don’t like shooting season puppies. So when a good friend amazingly offered, if we did mate her *this* season, to have the puppies whilst we were in Mexico, we ripped her arm off for the offer!

So because at such short notice a little visit to Yorkshire was not going to happen, we looked slightly more locally for an excellent sire for Mia babies and decided on FTW Bedgebrook Harlequin, who Allan handled to first place in the Field Trial class at Crufts a couple of years ago. He is a dog we know well, and is a handsome, well constructed great working boy with a fantastic temperament. Mia went calling to Mr Quin, and decided he was the man for her! ;-)

She is now strolling around here, acting like she already thinks she has a bakers dozen in there and stealing food for England! If she isn’t pregnant she is a very good little actress! They will be such lovely little MiaQuins!!! All black and a lovely mix of substantial trial lines and moderate showlines… I am very excited and Allan hopes to run on a boy (which will be a Fish grandson!) so we await good news! Mia will be due to whelp around the 4th February…. so by the New Year we should know for sure by her expanding tummy!

Wylanbriar babies! Woo woo! We don’t have a full waiting list at the moment so enquiries welcome!

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‘Seasonal’ Changes here!

APART from all the trialing, training and picking up we have been doing over the last few weeks there have been a few huge changes here at Chez Wylanbriar.

Firstly, its been a hard decision, but we decided to spay Shiney and not have a 4th litter from her. Shiney doesn’t DO litters by half, she throws two litters at a time, with 11, 11 and 10 puppies for her three litters. So we decided she had done her bit for society. Now Shiney enjoys her picking up, but what she loves more than ANYTHING is sofa laying! So in a joint, they begged us and we knew it was 100% the right decision, we decided that Shiney would go and join her Auntie Kerry to live out life on their sofa and with her daughter Evie and good mate Lyra! Kerry is kind enough to of had Shiney for her last two seasons, when she hasn’t had puppies, and for assorted breaks and holidays and so she is very familiar with her, and frankly, Shiney adores their life there! So she has gone to be matron! She was spayed today and is home safely (if sorely) from the vets to recoup and never have seasons again! Woo! Lucky girl….. So the win/win is that we will be seeing her ALL the time, and she can still come out picking up on our shoot in Kerrys hands along with Lyra! I’m not saying its an easy decision, but she will love being 1 of 3 housedogs, rather than 1 of 7/8 and a kennel dog here. She has settled like a pea in a pod. We will miss her very much, day to day, but look forward to regular cuddles!

NOW…. fate and good luck has brought us a new arrival here at Wylanbriar. Young Ruby. 14 months old and a showbred chocolate bred by Tracey Parker of Lightbringer kennels. Ruby has come basic training with me since a small puppy and i’ve always loved her drive and will to please. Tracey felt she was in need of more stimulation and a lot more opportunity to be gundog trained, and so after discussion, Ruby has come to live with the gang! Ruby is facinating. A wiggly, needy girl who desperately wants to be part of everything and is very sweet and kind. She has endless drive for working, and her training in the few short weeks we have had her has come on a bundle. She wants desperately to get it ‘right’, and that helps so enormously. You can see her brain fog over and her saying ‘I KNOW I’ve been taught something here…hang on, hang on…YES!’ and she does it…. She needs her confidence building, and her enthusiasm taming, but we are thrilled with her and she is what I call my Winter/Spring project! Alongside Otter she will hopefully run in Puppy tests next summer…. lets see how she goes. All good so far! Thank you Tracey, we are most honoured to be trusted with her and she will love life here!


OK, so after tearing my hair out on firstly who would be Mia’s first husband, and secondly on ‘when the heck would she come into season?!’… I have finally settled on a good proven working chocolate dog owned by the Brocklebank Kennel (John and Nina Halsted) which is probably one of the most prestigious in the UK, AND Mia has finally started her second season which gives us a good idea of the timeline to her third! So she has gone 7 months, which means hopefully, if she keeps to this pattern roughly, she will be back in season middle of June, mated end of June, so potentially, puppies end of August, leaving end of October. Its not ideal for us, we like the shooting season clear of pups, but its important to us to not hang on and hang on for a bitches first litter, so thats the plan. Not possibly ideal, either, for some of the waiting list who were thinking ‘early summer’ but do contact me if you are interested OR if you are already on the list and thats too late. There is a chance she will come in earlier than this, her mother was a solid 6 months between seasons girls…. and now we have several unspayed bitches here she may cycle quicker, so we shall see! But thats the plan!! So black and chocolate puppies are planned for 2012!!

Little Ruby has also been pulled into her first season at 14 months by Mia being in season, so we have two girls and are heading currently down the ‘hormone highway’, and it will be all fun and games in a week or so’s time!! Mia is currently day 10, and Ruby day 2, so all we need is Otter to discover womanhood and we will have the ‘full set!!’ (and its looking likely!!). Hang on to your hats boys!!!!!!!!

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“You’ve got to have a dream…..

…. if you don’t have a dream.

How you gonna have a dream come true?”

…..So the song goes. And I sit here, just a tiny bit overwhelmed thinking about this last two and a bit months. Is it REALLY only two (and a bit!) months? Since the start of the Trialing season it all feels like a bit of a blur. I think I could ACTUALLY have started this blog by simply putting on a serious face, nodding to the room, sitting down in a circle and saying ‘My name is Diana, and I am addicted to Trialing, however I have been ‘clean’ for two whole days now but only because I won out of Novice on saturday!!!’  WoooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!    ;-)   ;-)

Trialing. Never, EVER was there such a aptly named sport. Field trialing. ‘Trials’ in a ‘Field’. A crazy game that starts as ‘something you might like to do just to see’… and snowballs into an obbsessive compulsion which you think about all year, talk about for weeks coming UP to the season, then for weeks AFTER the season, feel terror about DURING the season, and pine for and miss terribly OUT of the season!! Mental. ;-) I have to say I went into this season dying to win a Novice trial. I’ll not lie. Really I did. But funny enough as it went along, Bondy threw me a couple of quirks that I hadn’t really stumbled over before with him, namely, repeatedly ‘asking’ whilst he was hunting in the open (not in a wood or ditch or hedge though interestingly…), and spinning as he went out within paces of leaving me, and the extra push ‘back!’ with a far less specific arm than the one which he lined out to, would usually throw him off the good line he was taking. MIND YOU, maybe I had better go back a bit…. Back to September. To rolled up shirt sleeves, and debating if we were taking enough water with us when leaving the cars for both dog and handler. To ask around if anyone had any Ambre Solaire factor 30! To days of partridge, and ground you couldn’t shove a stick into without a neumatic drill. To weekends of a strange mix of a working test on the Sunday, a field trial training day in sugar beet on dummies on the monday, and a All Aged field trial on the Tuesday!!

When I sat Bondy up on 6th September with ‘number 2′ on my armband at the UGS Herts Beds and Bucks All Aged trial there were three slightly unusual things about us. Firstly he hadn’t yet had a bird in his mouth since last January. Secondly, we hadn’t ‘eased’ our way into the season with a few Novices before an All Aged we had just banged straight into it…his first…. MY first….. OUR first! Then of course there was the small matter of it being the first DRIVE he had sat in since the previous January, and then as a leggy, gangly, immature, wide eyed baby of 18 months old. So, to be fair, there was no pressure on us at all…. but by god, he went GREAT! Steady, confident, taking working test style lines on one back… and you could of picked me up off the floor when we made it to the end of the trial in GREAT company, and the judges gave us second!! SECOND!! REALLY!!?? Jesus, can life get any better!!! (Well, as Bondys breeder thoughtfully pointed out, yes it COULD, why wasn’t it a bloody FIRST!! Not that shes competitive!!). So we move on, still no training days, still no picking up, still no more birds for Bondy, to Saturday 10th Sept and, again, rather crazily, ANOTHER All Aged trial this time at Orsett and for UGS kent & East Sussex. The mad story continued…. we made it to the end of the trial. he went like an angel, if a tiny bit green in places, but solidly nevertheless…. and we were THIRD!! COULD that be the best week EVER in my dog life….?? Well it certainly was THEN!!  ;-)

So then the training days start, and before my next trial, I was lucky enough to be asked on three training days on birds up at Steve Kings Knowle Game Farm. Happy days. the boy went well… started a slightly odd quirk of spinning a little and asking not far from me, but by the third I thought that was ironed… he hunted well, handled well, got some (infamous) eye wipes (You mean you aren’t meant to punch the air and yell ‘YES!!! Get in!!!’ when you eyewipe someone? OHHHH you are meant to keep a politely smug face and shake their hand!!! Ohhhh I seeee!! Must try and remember that…. big grin!). Fish was going well with Al, and had some wonderful opportunities to take himself and the Fishmeister up to Ampton, the famous Great Livermere and training, which gave him no end of confidence.  I went there twice. The first time Jade coursed a hare in the first twenty paces of setting off and I cried. The second time I was running in a trial and she picked the wrong bird in the first three minutes…. and I cried….  GOD I was a wimp back then ;-)  ;-) Note to self, MUST go back to Ampton someday and actually show I have a backbone!!  ;-)

So onwards To Thursday 6th October. A walked up trial, to ease Allan and Fish into THEIR season, with many more nominations in to come to start to get it together. Its stuff of legend now…. but they only bloody stormed it!! WHAT????? Yesss but nooooo but yessss but wooo hooooo but OH MY GOD NOOOOO!!!! Absolutely fantastic! Totally gobsmacked at the thought that we had BRED a field trial winner (did I mention he is half show….?? OK, best not….). I think its well documented how much stick I got for that from every single angle. Even my own MOTHER started on me one evening, gently chuckling to herself!! The texts! The jokes! The walking into the pub having had  a CRAPPY day at a trial on the first day of our shoots season to be greeted with shouts of ‘best AL runs the picking up team in future as he is the better handler!!’ …. etc etc…. BUT…. You people know THIS! I will REMEMBER your jibes, and I plan to heartbreakingly eyewipe every SINGLE one of you at some sweet point in time just when you think you have a trial sewn up….. jabs her finger randomly at viewers…. I have a LONG memory (as long as I haven’t had more than three wines….)  ;-)

It was fantastic, but the pressure loaded on my poor weak, blonde shoulders the very next day to go out and win at the UGS West Sussex and Surrey trial at Firle was almost unbearable… I was tense, nervous, all confidence gone, I overhandled, the dog got me out of a few fixes and was confused by my sudden change in handling back to the flappy numpty I once was, and whilst we were so pleased to get a COM and make the last round of the trial, I look back now and think WHY did you do that, WHY did you do THAT? Thinking of nearly every retrieve! But anyway…. hey, two cards in a week for us, and one a WIN, we were surely easing into my dream of a win somewhere…. and now I’d had my ‘lucky escape’ trial where it FELT awful but didn’t look quite as bad as it felt… we must be onwards and upwards – well, me and the Meercat anyway. Al now could put his feet up and rest on his laurels and drink whiskey from his enormous cup that glinted at me every morning!!! i refused to dust it. I refuse to dust at the best of times, but there was no way I was touching it…. ;-) (wink!)

So on we plod, opening envelopes with draws in them and not really being anywhere on the orders. Then, a call from Liz Barnes, we have a run with the Guildford on the 17th October! Swiftly followed by another call to say we had a run the next day with Arun and Downland!! HOW lucky could one girl be! Now just not to be at home to Mr Fuckup!!

There is no way I would make excuses, because the problems that struck us at these trials were lurking before this, but we had some really bad family news a couple of days before, and I was a mess. Jittery, neurotic and not nice company, to be honest…. ao therefore it was only good and right that my fellow TRIAL competitors thought so too and I was eye wiped in the first and second round on BOTH occasions! Both occasions saw Bondy hunting in a lack lustre, paint dryingly boring way, checking in with me every few strides, and it was almost a relief to be asked by a gently dozing judge, to call him up before we all laid down in the cabbages and fell asleep!! It happens. We all clap eavch other on the shoulder and say ‘bad luck…. it happens… dogs are not machines… you can only do your best….’ etc…. but when your best is NOT what was produced at the time when it really mattered…. twice! I wanted to go home, sell up shop and move to somewhere where field sports are banned….!!! ;-) Well i did for about the drive home… and upon arriving home, there was a call saying I had a run on SATURDAY with Hampshire Gundog!! Woo hoo! Another chance at the death of my self confidence! it had to be a sign! there would be no endless fields of cabbages to relive the non hunting Meercat, everyone running was friends, the judges were all people I really liked…. and well, maybe, just maybe!!

Getting off the gunbus at the Hampshire trial to see the biggest fields of bastard leafy cabbages you could ever imagine about as far as the eye could see, made me nearly climb back in again. I should have. Rome doesn’t pick itself up and replace itself somewhere near Barcelona overnight, and nor does a Meercat learn the joys of open field hunting. I’ve never liked cabbage. its green, its pointless and it makes you fart. Its also EXCELLENT for, yet again, managing to be eyewiped in the first round by a ‘not very hunting Bondy’. To be fair, the phrase ‘OK Number 5, if you could go fishing please’ was NOT what i needed to hear in anyway. that basically means ‘let you dog have its head and hunt a large area because we don’t really know where the bird is….’ the chances of the ‘checking in queen’ doing that was akin to flying to the moon…. to be fair, he did pull me about a little bit, for him, and I was pleased about that…. but we covered about one third of the ground the next guy to go did, and he did so effortlessly! He also went on to win the trial, but that doesn’t make the drive home any less tourturous!! So at this point, I hadn’t just MOVED to a non field sports country, I had stayed in this, joined the league against cruel sports, and was actively campaigning to have field trials banned in the UK!!!   ;-)  ;-) Often whilst waiting to be called into line, in trials, competitors look at each other, catch a certain look in one anothers eyes…. uncork a hip flask, offer it to them, and say ‘WHY do we do this? WHY do we put ourselves THROUGH this!!?? Why??’ Its a mystery to most of us… its a drug akin to Crack Cocaine I think!!! you know its a mental thing to do, and can only damage yourself in numerous ways longterm, but you HAVE to have some!!  ;-)

November arrives. And the big coats come out. I have a couple of weeks to get myself back into the land of the living, and I do NOT train Bondy at ALL! Keep him mean and keen said everyone who has ever known him! Days roll by and I shove in lots of nominations. I admit defeat on the idea of a win by Christmas and I put in for everything in January! I help at a couple of trials that I’d taken days off for. Some worthy winners and some great work. I was obsessed by how dogs hunted in the open. I was driving myself loopy about it. The turning point came when I took Bondy out picking up at newhouse. Within minutes he was shaking and dancing and I gave him a standing ovation when he shot off into a wood and hunted it like mad completely out of control, and totally unasked for! FANTASTIC!! He went to run in at one point! I praised him like a Grand National winner!! The soft brown eyes turned steely grey and he forgot all his heelwork to music moves! It was magnificent! it was only one day but hey, could it be enough??

So Saturday 12th November dawns. We had been out the night before at a posh dinner thingy after the first day of the SEGS two day open which Allan had run in (without huge success but knocked him off the mark with Open runs and experience anyway!) and I had helped at. I had driven (gasp!) so was sober. I was knackered tho. However the Meercat looked thrilled as I filled my flask (which always means something gundog!!) He bounced into the car… and when we got to the UGS kent & east Sussex ground in Essex at blackmore he lept out the car and we headed to the exercise area. Then I stopped in my tracks. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Its not POSSIBLE!!! The bastard stuff has FOLLOWED US!!! Leafy green rotten, stinking, wretched kale/lindseed/cabbage stuff!!! Hunty stuff!!! I was devestated!! I couldn’t stop mentioning it to people till they gently moved away from me… ‘I can’t BELIEVE it, cabbages!!! Nooo! I thought we left those in Sussex and Hampshire and every bloody OTHER where… now they are HERE!! I could of sobbed.

However…. whilst the dog didn’t, I will admit, have any long long hunts in them during the trial, he picked 4 of his 6 retrieves out of them and one memorable, runner duck he worked BEAUTIFULLY. When he picked it I knew if it wasn’t our day that day it NEVER would be. And it was. It was that dream come true day. We won. I could breathe (it felt like I hadn’t for about 10 weeks!) I could ring Allan and Graham, and Gilly and Mum and give them well deserved GOOD news for once for putting up with me!! I will never feel like I felt when Jane Tydeman said we were first. I wanted to run and hug her and hold on and cry my eyes out!! Everyone was so cheery and clappy and it was so flattering (I bet they were all just bloody glad to see the back of me and my neurotic emotional moments quite frankly!!) and Bondy…. we had WON!

I will never ‘get’ like this again. I sit here praying that Otter comes behind Bondy as my next trial dog. She may. She may not. I may never be that lucky again. I will never want it quite so frantically I don’t think, and part of it is how much i adore, really love this little dog, Bondy Meercat. A soppy name for a clever, smart, dignified, steady, self controlled, generous, sensitive, fast, powerful, needy, adoring, fantastic little dog. I will be nothing but calm, dignified and experienced in how laid back I am about training and trialing subsequent dogs in the future. Of course. I could NEVER live another 10 weeks like these last ones…. that would just be CRAZY, after all!  

Now i’m just off to start worrying about something that happened whilst training Otter today………  ;-)   ;-)


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A day on the Rabbits!

Rabbits. Rabbits are one of those animals that seem to fall into most peoples idea of ‘good’. Bright Eyes and fluffy tails. Well not for many landowners who use their land for a variety of industries. They are a menace and their notoriously fast producing can overun areas without control.

However landowners that are prepared to allow people other than guns to come and be part of a controlled cull day are few and far between, so I was extremely lucky to be invited by Dan Higgs (Higgscroft Gundogs) onto a rabbit day in kent today.

Now today was a ‘special’ day on the M25. It decided to celebrate me going on said rabbit shoot by having one of the longest junction closures in its history. But by way of good luck and the mighty Sat Nav we made it in good time (which is a miracle in itself). Friends will know I am always late. Last. later than late. So to arrive somewhere and have to call the organiser to ask directions because I was PATENTLY in the wrong place because NOONE was there… to be told, no you are in the RIGHT place, just have arrived FIRST, made me get a urgent need to go drive round the block a few times! I was immediately into unfamiliar territory and that feeling would last all day Wink

So 7 pickers up and several beaters, the keeper and 8 guns set off onto the unbelievable flat land of Kent. The terrain was rough, course thistles, thick long grass, dried out dykes, stingers, areas of gorse….and MILLIONS of rabbit holes…. They were everywhere. You could only picture the scene below ground, a network of tunnels. Not currently being at my most ultimate bodyweight at the moment (I change like the seasons….grin) I did worry about crashing through and landing on some rabbit equivalent of Blue Water or something…. but luckily it didn’t happen. These bunnies dig DEEP!

The day was Walked up. The folks there to pick up were all experienced handlers but, some, like me, didn’t have a lot of rabbit experience. Or some who were incrediably experienced, but had their young dogs. i kind of sat in the middle. My dog is just over 2, but we both had little rabbit experience (well almost none really…I’d watched Watership Down as a child… Bondy doesn’t watch Television).

We walked on…… Wink

The line – The Terrain

The other end of the line….

The fantastic thing about this day was you picked and chose what you sent your dog for. Noone was running the line in terms of who was sent for what. It was all about being realistic about your own abilities and having manners. A few times two dogs from opposite ends were sent but good humour prevailed and a dry hunt for one of the two was heralded with cries of ‘It’ll do her good!’

As the day progressed you could see some dogs rising and rising to the test. The steadiness needed has to be seen to be believed. Rabbits flushing literally under your feet. Maybe three foot from you. Turning back and running between you and your dog. Rabbits behind. Rabbits infront. The guns were to be hugely admired because all their shots were sporting, they were extremely safe (something that worried me senseless!) and we couldn’t of had a better day and learning experience if we tried.

My fear was that Bondy would bowl out to his first rabbit, hunt and stand over it saying ‘what IS this???’ but no, his first rabbit didn’t take much thinking about. ‘Walk on!’ said the Keeper. ‘Flush’ Went the rabbit infront of my nearest gun. ‘Bang’ said the Gun. ‘Game over’ said the rabbit. ‘Bondy!!’ said I. ‘marked it leave it to me!’ Said he. ‘Hunt, hunt, PICK’ said the Meercat. ‘Good boy said I! BEST boy infact!’.

And on it went. Field after field. Area after area. The adrenaline was amazing. There were few wounded rabbits but dispatching fast was the name of the game. Some handlers swapped dogs between fields but with Fish with a seriously heavy case of cold tail and Tom with a lady to court today it was all about Bondy for me.

I’m not going to pretend it went like a textbook. Training is not really meant to is it? I can honestly say that 10 or 12 retrieves down we decided to get a bit brave. Bondy was getting tired and a tired young dog is not a thinking dog. I sent him on his first only lightly wounded rabbit. (its a bit wierd to call it a ‘runner’…. have you SEEN all rabbits go???’) He took a great line, he flushed it, he chased it down, he picked it, he started to come back….. then it started to thrash and move in his mouth and make some rather unnerving noises. As any gentleman would he apologised profusely for obviously picking something LIVE and spat it out and stared at it. ;-0 I encouraged him to pick it up and he started to hunt for ‘whatever i obviously wanted him to pick!’ He patently didn’t think it was something still all very live and kicking Wink Some helpful hands shoved me out there pronto, and I encouraged him vocally, and he picked it again and brought it in fine…. but all the time giving me the slight ‘you nutter, this is patently in the bloom of good health Mother!’ look. Wink That will be something to cement for another day Mr Bond as we ran out of runners at that very late point in the day to try and replicate it….

This report is long. I have worked dogs for 16 or 17 years and never had this experience before. I was extremely lucky. The bag was 181. The dog was exhausted. I was elated (and exhausted!)!

Thank you Dan! Thank you guns and beaters and keeper.

Good lad! The obligatory ‘posed’ picture for the website Wink


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