Well it’s been ages since my last blog. So here’s a new one! It follows on from my last one in a way because the little pup I was talking about in that blog is now a yearling. He’s 14 months old and we began our first shooting season together a week ago yesterday.
Jac and I have had a good summer. A quick trot out in the morning before work and a long walk in the woods for him and his big buddy, Billy, every evening without fail during the summer months has kept all 3 of us fit and regular. I have worked on his ‘steadiness’ and his ‘obeedjunce’ as best I can and am happy that he’s making progress and it’s all going in the right direction. He seems to work for me (but not my OH!) and although he still has a tendency to allow himself to be distracted I am hopeful that he’ll grow into a useful gun dog. He is still very young. I have no expectations other than enjoying ourselves (and not f*****g up the drives!), but I am a first-time trainer and I want to get it as good as possible. Do my very best. Watching the dogs work on a shoot confirms my view that dogs are born for it and love it but it takes time and patience to bring a dog on.
I’ve had dogs – the odd JRT but mostly black Labs, as Jac is, and usually a pair – for more years than I care to remember. Oh, alright then, 32 years to be exact! Some of them have been lovely, some of them have been a pain in the arse. Poor old Hannibal George (aka Bob) and I never saw eye to eye. I didn’t take to him, and I don’t think he took to me much either. But he’s gone now and the current pair, Billy and Jac, are lovely. As was Jac’s predecessor, Hannibal Charles, aka Fred.
So, now that I have stopped working like a hooligan, don’t have to do ‘working motherhood’ anymore, have had a natural break caused by a serious illness and have, to my complete delight, become Granny to a beautiful, beautiful little girl called Isla who brings me a massive amount of joy and love, in my 50s, I have decided that The Shooting Life is, at last, for me.
It’s convenient too. My first love is horses but I still don’t have the time to give it my all and, despite what I said above, my work life is important to me. I enjoy my work, I am lucky enough work with some lovely people who are involved with improving lives, and wouldn’t want to be 5-days-a-week-work-place-denied. So it’s the dogs and the shoots for my winter weekend activity for now.
You’ll never catch me with a gun in my hands though. Just not interested. Maybe it’ll come, maybe it won’t, but at the moment I have no curiosity and no urge to take up shooting. It’s the outdoors and the dogs I enjoy. The craic, as they say in Ireland.
And it is a good craic! I am lucky enough to be able to go to 2 shoots, which are run on alternate Saturdays, both of which welcome me and young Jac for the help we can provide. At the moment we join the beaters but in time we will help with picking up too. I think like beating better than picking up because once the guns are on pegs, you are constantly on the go and cover much more ground. Picking up is a more serious activity, involves a lot of waiting around, and, apart from the fact that Jac’s not up to it yet, your dogs really do need to be ‘en pointe’. If they’re not, frankly, you will f*** the drive up!!
There’s more to organising a shoot than might meet the eye but I am just happy to be there to help and have a day out. Lots of responsibility and observing health and safety stuff is required, as you can imagine. The shoots I go to are small, private syndicates who appreciate unpaid help which suits me nicely.
Both have great atmospheres and there’s lots of banter and camaraderie, which I love. Going to a shoot is about a lot more than just exercising your dog, it’s about getting together with a common aim and being healthy enough to enjoy a whole day out on the hills, whatever the weather, and however many birds you can flush. Jac and I are novices at the moment – the only prize I can claim so far is the ‘whose wellie went the deepest into the mud’ medal – but, and I’m sure I can speak for Jac too when I say this, we enjoy it hugely and are looking forward to lots of ‘shoot Saturdays’ between now and the end of January!
It’s great getting home and enjoying the ‘hygge’ of being back in the warmth and comfort of your favourite chair – in my case, after a long hot soak in the bath!! Oh yes, and there’s the added bonus of having a brace or two of pheasants to look forward to putting in the pot!
Next time ……. photos and funnies !!!!