All the pups have gone and against my better judgement two have remained. The first bitch to go went to a good friend of mine, Greg, a few miles from where I live and it was a lovely hot evening when I popped her in the passenger seat and took the 45 minute or so drive to drop her off. I had a few other calls to do and he was on the way anyway so I saved him the drive and took her with me. He explained a short cut to his house over a mountain road and what a short cut it was. The rolling hills and deep valleys were a sight to see and I was in no rush as the little bitch and I rolled along the empty road in the sunshine. I couldn’t help but imagine a pack of hounds or a couple of Lurchers hunting across this vast territory and felt satisfied in my heart knowing that not only was the little bitch going to a good home but not too far in the future she would have the opportunity to hunt this place herself.
About 7 years ago Greg took a dog pup from me which he called Finn. Finn was from the last litter I bred and was out of my old bitch Ruby who was pictured in my last article and his sire was a dog called Paco, owned by a lad who after giving me a service ended up being a good friend of mine. Paco was a unique sort of dog and quite small, I always thought he had something special about him and anyone who saw him work would have told you the same. Darran did a lot of hunting with him both night and day and many times used to text me a photo of Paco at 6.30 or 7 in the morning just as it was getting light with his quarry laying beside him. He had a bit of a knack when it came to the daytime hunting, in fact he had a bit of a knack when it came to anything.
We had a good few days out with him and I remember the first day we went ferreting, it was midday and my mate said to me he thought the dog hadn’t done too bad as he had never worked with ferrets before! I couldn’t believe it; he looked as if he had been doing it for years!
That same day the rabbits slowed up a bit and we crossed the road onto some cover after collecting in the nets and ferrets with Paco, my old bitch Ruby and Darran’s Irish Terrier lurcher “Scrap”. My Lurchers back then were out and out ferreting mutts and had little experience of raking through cover and hunting for themselves. Paco and Scrap were well tuned in though and I looked on as they smashed through the cover putting out rabbits here and there until Paco treed a squirrel and for the first time in my life I saw a Lurcher almost go up a tree as he launched himself after the squirrel and had all four feet on the trunk! If I was to be impressed with that jump it was nothing to what he would do later; and a year or two after that at a summer show he jumped 9.5ft in the high jump, a record that I think has yet to be beaten here. Unfortunately, the little dog’s jumping would be his undoing and after the untimely death of Scrap some months before, Paco was finding it increasingly difficult to settle in his pen alone and in new surroundings and began to jump out during the day and go wandering. My mate returned home from work one evening to find him on the door step foaming at the mouth. He rushed him to the vet but it was too late, it transpired that he had eaten rat poison and the vet eventually had to put him to sleep. Paco had a reasonably short life, but by God he had a good one. I always feel lucky that I mated my bitch to him and his line is carried into the pups I have now and hopefully into the future.
Lost in my thoughts on the mountain road I eventually arrived at my mate’s house and was greeted by Finn coming up the street. I laughed to myself, I told Greg at the time he took him he would grow about 22 or 23 inches high, this was going on the pretence that his father was just about 24 and his dam wasn’t much bigger, I thought he would be a small one. In fact, he ended up almost 26 and built like a coursing greyhound! Greg made a fantastic job of him, better than I did with my own and he has had a lot of good hunting with him. Unfortunately, I have had only one day out with Greg and Finn but it was a day to remember.
One winter about 4 or 5 years ago. We had an invite from a couple of lads a couple of hour’s drive from me to do some cover with their hounds and maybe get a run for the Lurchers or maybe a dig with the terriers as well. The day started early, I collected Greg at about 5.30a.m. before the drive to the rendezvous point, where we would meet the other lads and set off to draw some cover at a few spots on our host’s permission. There was no short supply of dogs today. I had my bitch Fudge, Greg had her litter mate Finn and another lad had a nice tight little Bull Cross who, although getting no younger, was one serious little bitch. One of the other lads in the group had two very powerful hairy lurcher pups around 11 months old and they looked for all in the world like big Beddy whippets! They were in fact a mishmash of all sorts of breeds, Lurcher to lurcher bred from two honest workers.
As we followed along in convoy I was looking forward to the day, it would be my young bitch’s first time working with Hounds and I was keen to see how she would go and hopefully she would get a run at a fox in the daytime. I love getting a daytime fox! For me one on the day is worth two at night, there is just something so much better about it.
As we pulled in and parked I tightened my laces, zipped up my coat and got my young bitch on the slip. She looked like a whippet among these other powerhouses, hopefully she wouldn’t show me up if the hounds did put anything. The first area we did was quite close to some houses and we stood along the back of a wood waiting for a slip as the hail drove into our faces and the dogs cowered behind us out of the biting wind. The lad that owned the bull cross was on the opposite side of the hedge to me and after ten or fifteen minutes passed we began to talk. He asked if my bitch had done much to which I replied that she had never seen a fox and I was hoping she would get a run. The fellow was very decent and straight away said to me, “There’s a break in the hedge above there, if anything breaks on this side you get your bitch straight through and let her have it”. I thought it was very decent of him, and the rest of the day he said the same thing, he constantly kept an eye out and seemed to be as keen for my young bitch to get a run as I was.
The day was getting increasingly colder and by mid-afternoon we were high on a height and waiting on the hounds who were trying their best to get us a bit of sport and all credit to them, they worked very hard as did their Huntsman, but it was just one of those days. As we came off the hill, Greg and I got stuck into the lunchbox and flask in the van (Which was his) and I remember him saying to me to quit while we were ahead as it wasn’t looking up to much and the weather was turning poor as well. I had a stretch of road to go through on the way home which is notorious for snow and if there is a light dusting further back it could be in feet by the time you reach here. I have come close on occasion to getting stuck on it and didn’t want to push my luck any further today.
I had to give it to the Huntsman and the rest of the lads, they really did try to get us some sport and it just wasn’t working and I felt bad for them. There has to be nothing worse than inviting someone along for a day and having a blank. But we are all old enough to understand that sometimes these things happen. The Huntsman decided that if there were no foxes above ground, then we better just try below and with renewed enthusiasm we set off in convoy to try a few burrows they knew locally. The weather was getting no better and by this stage we had all covered a fair few miles and after trying several likely spots with the terriers things were looking no better. It appeared that every fox in the county was out for the day. After stopping on a laneway for ten or fifteen minutes and weighing up our options the lads decided to give it one last go and try a spot a few miles down the road that usually held, but we had to be quick as it was as good as dark.
At this stage I was probably over two hours from home, damp, cold and very hungry. I was as keen as anyone to have a look and if there was nobody at home then set off and get home myself, get dried and get some warm grub down the hatch to thaw me out. We pulled onto a hard patch of ground at the end of a lane and one of the lads set off on his own with a young black dog with him to see what the situation was. In a very short space of time he arrived back and told the rest of us to get the tools and get up to the burrow as we had someone at home. As we approached the brow of the hill it was now as good as dark and looked quite surreal as several figures with Lurchers stood against the fading light in a silhouette. The young terrier appeared at the hole, and only for the light flashing on his Bellman collar I could hardly see him. He looked around and as quick as he appeared he went back down.
We stood and waited another fifteen or so minutes and the lad that owned the terrier got a mark at 3 metres. By now it was black, pitch black and the only lights were the cars passing on the road below. Half an hour before I thought I would be home for 8, now I realised it was going to be a late one! As the lads chipped away, we took it in turns with our phones to light the dig up and every now and again I would catch a glimpse of the young Lurcher pups in the shadows watching intently into the light, seeing what was going on and taking it all in. It seemed to take forever for the lads to dig down, shovel after shovel coming out of the dig, and then someone would jump in and start to break it up with the sharp tooth (actually the first time I saw one in action) and then it would be down a little further.
Now what we need to make clear is that I am not a terrier man of any sort. I do have a couple of good friends who on occasion take me out with them, I cannot make any claim to either do any terrier work myself nor know anything of any value about it. However, I do have the greatest respect for both genuine terriers and genuine terrier men for I believe both are something quite special. As well as that I love nothing more than getting out with the couple of genuine terrier friends I have and seeing their little dogs work a few times a year and I am always in awe of both the men and the dogs.
As the lads neared the tunnel I could see everyone edging in slightly closer and the mood changed slightly, the chit-chat and craic cooled a little and everything became a little more serious. The lad that owned the terrier was now on his knees and edging his way into the tube. As he eventually broke through it became clear that all was not as it should have been and all of a sudden both the little dog and the quarry shifted quite a bit further up the tube. The lad climbed out of the hole and began searching with the box and very quickly found the terrier and his quarry further back on the hill, but this time at a mere 3ft deep. The lads shifted quickly and within a few minutes had broken through to the young dog who was now held fast to his quarry.
The lad that owned him removed the terrier, took the .410 from one of the other lads and despatched the fox there and then in the hole. I’ll never forget the little terrier as long as I live. He was tiny, a really small little lad with his Bellman collar almost as big as him, he stood in the shadows on a lead, tail wagging and the light flashing on his collar as he looked on as the fox was despatched and it was nothing to him, 9ft below the ground, jaw to jaw and it never phased him. I couldn’t help but reach over and pat him on the head, what a soldier he had been. Probably not a terrier man thing to do, but then I’m not a terrier man!