……” Something’s afoot isn’t it? !!!…… “

Thomas, my boy, you are dead RIGHT. *Things* ARE indeed afoot. Things which would of happened anyway, but needs must and they need to happen…like, NOW.

Thomas, between now (Sept 5th) and October 23rd, you have to become a whizz bang picking up dog. You have to stand at heel with the lady with the walkie talkie (IE….me!) and you have to give a good impression of both the Wylanbriar young entry AND chocolate labradors in general. You have to act like an old hand, whilst never having seen a feather in your 17 months of life. You have to be a natural and yet, bottle your enthusiasm till I give the word. You have big shoes to fill my boy! You have Jade the runner queen, Deeds the steady as a rock specialist, Mallie the *enthusiasm kid*…… and your mother who hunts till her legs fall off, to follow.

So no pressure. Don’t panic. Its just the whole of the Newhouse Farm Shoot AND supporters of the colour chocolate, in general, are depending on you and will be watching….

Thomas, We are NOT at home to Mr Cock up! 😉 😉

Now you may be wondering how this suddenly rise to fame for the man known as Mr Twoshoes, has *occured*. Well, now, you might be aware that in the course of the last twelve months we have lost our Jade way before her time. Deeds has also left us to live elsewhere. Those very sad events we have known for MONTHS. Therefore, on our shoot, which is not hugely taxing, a hundred birds a day or so between 4 of us usually, picking up, Mallie and Shiney would be quite sufficient, with Fish and Bondy carefully *stage managed* in the background on certain days.

Newhouse is a wonderful shoot. We adore it. Love the people. Love the pub. Love the good natured enthusiasm for anything that even VAGUELY resembles a decent retrieve even if it would of been *hometime before they had even left your side*, in a trial. But its a shoot, like very very many others, who want the birds picked, and that includes DURING the drive if there is the slightest doubt the bird may not be dead. There is also a LOT of running water on our shoot so if the DEAD bird falls even vaguely in the direction of the many brooks and streams, the dog needs sending. Its fantastic fun for getting lots of work in. There is never that much sweeping afterwards to do because its mostly been picked in the drive (I know!!…. I know!!…. I feel many of my trial pals wringing their hands and sobbing into their newly opened Partridge season hip flasks at the thought…..)

However, as you can possibly imagine, its not *that great* for a wannabe trial dog. ESPECIALLY a young, new to it, wannbe trial dog! You can picture it can’t you…. one week every time a bird hits the ground a gun is frantically signalling you to send your dog, over and over, even for dead birds…….. the NEXT (in a trial) you can’t even tell it to ‘wait’ as something hits the ground and runs right infront of it! Tricky one, Mr Mannering…..

So therefore, Allan and I need what we call ‘throw around dogs’. Deeds and Jade were the ultimate throw around dogs. Shiney, never taking much to tests and suchlike, is the perfect ‘throwaround’ dog. Retired trial dogs are made for the game as you CAN throw them around, but also then bollock them for being unsteady 😉 Because they genunely know ‘both ways’. But you can’t ask that of a youngster, not to understand the difference, not initally anyway. Allans picking up dog this year is Shiney, ablely and quietly assisted in a minor way by Mr Fish.

Our retired trial dog here is Mallie. Enthusiastic beyond belief, but somehow, and GOD knows how, quiet and basically steady enough to trial, despite being raised, of a winter, the *Newhouse* way! However Mallie made me old. You never quite knew with Mallie, at a trial, what would happen. She could be fantastic! She could be awful! She could make the final round with flying colours making it look pretty easy in the main. She could run in on the first bird (thank god only happened once but I shall never stop sweating about it!). She always shook so hard sitting on a drive that her teeth would chatter. So would mine (and you can ask countless people who usually had to remind me to breathe as I stared at Mallie with such concentration I turned some very odd colours!)……. so basically, Mallie, I love you, you have been a revelation to me, but by GOD you tested my ticker and made me have to start dying my grey hairs at thirty!

Old Lady Overhead Mask

Old Lady Overhead Mask

(Me, at 36 after trialling Mallie for some years….)

So therefore….. NEVER again will a dog have grey areas on whether drives mean retrieving! The trial dogs do not retrieve during the drive. The throw around dogs do 😉 I don’t think I would survive another five years like that with Bondy on a knife edge….. I think I would, literally, have heart failure! 😉

BUT, Mallie, poor Mallie, started limping last season. She’s never quite thrown it off, and hard work inbetween made it really ignite. Rest, Metacam, supplements etc etc were all useless, so this week, with her on three legs (but happy as a lark I have to say!) she went in for Xrays. Not great news. Real serious arthritic bony changes in her left shoulder. Elbow, knee and fetlock joints clean as a whistle. Whilst we can manage this, day to day, with painkillers and a bioflow magnetic collar, and cortisone injections, she is never really going to be sound again. Not ‘sound-sound’. Not sound enough to take picking up and not CONSTANTLY have to excuse why you have a heavily limping dog with you (‘Honestly Sir, she broke the door down when she saw me pick up my Game Carrier and boots! I couldn’t leave her – she threatened to set the house on fire if I did…….!!’) 😉

But, there is no doubt, she can’t come (whispers…..) and will have to stay home. And therefore enter THOMAS stage LEFT… (Trumpets!) Dahhh dahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh………………….!

My next throw around dog! 😉

Now thats a TERRIBLE label really that they don’t deserve. Thomas is a lovely worker. He is my perfect picking up dog. Fast as lightening. Not the brightest tool around so will lean when he needs to (and probably not before…sigh….. however hard I beg….!) BUT he hasn’t had the work put into him that say, Bondy has, by any means, and so is raw, with everything in there, just nothing polished or hugely reliable…. IE he has a fantastic accelerator, slightly dodgy brakes and only very minimal steering! However he has a nose like a hawks eye and energy that would make the Durcell Bunny feel tired, so I feel he is DEFINATELY the man for the job.

Thomas has been a man in the shadow of his yellow and black brothers. I’m not sure HOW it happened as such, just when ‘Mr Showbiz Meercat’ showed such promise, time and training started pouring into him, and whilst I don’t regret a second of that, Thomas got a bit left behind. Well no more! No longer! Thomas now has a coat peg with his little four way plus fours and pheasant tie on, and he is NOT afraid to use them!!! 😉

Now usually I would of taken him out this season, carefully, slowly, for half days, with Mallie doing all the work and him learning doing NO work is what is expected of him and ANY work is a treat. Sadly that is not going to be and of 23rd October, Thomas will be sat up at drive one….probably ‘The Farm Drive’, probably on the gorgeous rolling field that overlooks the farm and servicing three guns. And whilst we have ENDLESS extra training ahead, and he is going to have to cram what would have been put in over the next 14 months into the next 6 WEEKS…….. he is going to LOVE IT! 😉 😉

(What Bondy is going to make of it however remains to be seen. If Thomas survives the jealous repercussions it will be fairly suprising – spolit little yellow sod! I know, I know, I have created my own monster! HUGE grin……)

Wooo hoooo! – Says Tom…. 😉

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