Yesterday afternoon I was going out the door to exercise the dogs when I thought I would give Chipper a quick ring. I didn’t put it off because I knew I would forget by the time I got home and it had been a while since I spoke with him. I was glad to get a cheery voice on the line and as always he was full of good spirit considering he has been laid up for 7 months, and I am sure he will be glad to get back home at the end of the month. As we said goodbye I said that as soon as he was fit I would be straight on the boat and over for a few days hunting as I have put it off too many years.
I loaded my lurcher into the van and the teckel quickly followed. If I have the van backed up to the edge of the yard he can just about jump in, any lower and he can’t make it! The last few months he has become a different dog, he is obviously maturing and has become increasingly focused on work, and while I doubt he will ever do any serious work below ground, he is handy as a busher and we have had some great sport with him since his arrival.
My lurcher bitch is now heavily pregnant and all being well should whelp in the next few days. I thought long and hard before I bred her, but when I had to put my eldest bitch (her mother) to sleep back in August last year and then had to do the same with my other bitch before Christmas, I thought perhaps the time was right. I hesitated however and spent a few months keeping my eyes out for a pup, but quickly realised finding something suitable was going to be a little harder than I thought. The few genuine lads I did know had nothing by way of pups, either available or in the pipeline, and the few litters I rang advertisers about become almost comical. One lad I called had advertised simply “Lurcher pups”. At the start of the call I didn’t know how they were bred, by the end of the call he didn’t even know! The most I got was he owned a black Labrador bitch that had been “caught” by a big greyhound thing up the road he said!
After that I decided that I would line my own bitch and began searching out a suitable stud dog for her, this was around Christmas and I knew she would be likely to break down in mid January, so I kept my ear to the ground for something suitable. When I lined the bitch’s mother some years ago it was with a dog (now deceased) that belonged to a lad who I didn’t know. I heard on the grapevine he had what I was looking for and maybe cheekily asked him for a service. He asked if the bitch was working, my intentions for the pups and after I told him he agreed. From then on we became very good friends and remain so to this day and we hunted together now and then. At that time he and a lot of the lads he hunted with and a few lads in that part of the country kept Irish terrier lurchers and I was always impressed with his and others I saw at the time and since then always had the Irish terrier in the back of my mind. Unfortunately his dog was killed outright when he lost his footing in a rut after a rabbit and broke his neck one winter 5 or 6 years ago. The father to my bitch died sometime after as well and by that time my mate was well and truly sickened, I felt terribly bad for him and gave him a young pup from the litter that had come back to me but his heart just was not in it and he gave him to a young lad some months after and hasn’t kept a dog since, although I feel someday he will get back into it. I contacted him and told him I was on the lookout for a stud dog, an Irish terrier if possible and we left it at that.
Another week passed and I was no closer to finding a dog when I thought of an old friend near to where I was working the following week and rung him to see if he knew of anything. “I have an Irish terrier lurcher if he is any use to you; he’s 5 years old, working well, definitely worth trying”. He is a very genuine fellow, if the dog wasn’t up to scratch he would have told me straight and under no circumstances would have given me a lining, so we made arrangements that I would call with him the following week and everything was in place.
I hadn’t got the phone down until my other mate rung back “I’ve got a stud dog from my old dog’s breeding”. Bloody hell I thought, they’re like buses now, I couldn’t find one and now they are coming out of the woodwork everywhere! Now I like to be straight with people and do things how I would like them to be done. To get a lining from his breeding would be ideal as well but I couldn’t very well go back to the other lad and say sorry, I have found something else. I asked him for a favour and, he kindly agreed so it was a done deal as far as I was concerned, but at the same time I would trust my other mate’s judgement and I had asked him to look out for a stud. As well as this I was staying with him the following week when I was doing a rabbit job local to him, and I really had got myself between a rock and a hard place, both the lads had always shown me great friendship & kindness and I didn’t want to offend anyone. The week came and went, and between the rabbit job, too much hospitality at my mates by way of Belgian beer on a week night and several spots of van trouble the entire bloody lining slipped my mind! Then on the way home that Saturday morning I suddenly remembered I had done sod all about it. My mate had told me he would arrange it but never mentioned it after and I totally forgot as it turned out he had too. I left his house just after 6 on a Saturday morning and en route to a days hunting with a few friends I began to realise I was missing out on an ideal time. If I lined her now and things worked out the pups would be born in the better weather and she would be ready to go again come September, where as if I left it till she broke down again they would be mid winter pups and she is my only lurcher bitch as well. The alternative was to wait another year; always risky where working dogs are concerned… a year is a long time in the life of any dog, so much can happen!
I wasn’t a million miles from the first lad I spoke with, so decided to give him a text and see if he was free that evening after we were finished hunting and as day turned to night we arrived in his yard and within the hour were on our way home with the job done. It was so quick and hassle free I was sure he hadn’t done the trick. I liked the look of his dog, he had sent me a few photos when we first spoke, told me his breeding and that he was a very honest dog and that’s all that matters I suppose. A few weeks passed and I spoke with the fellow who had originally bred the dog and one Saturday evening spent over an hour on the phone to him. He is probably one of the keenest hunting men I know and has literally done it all, and is still quite young and a very sensible straight down the line sort of man. He told me the entire breeding from right back as far as it went and knew every dog and bitch in between, he does a different type of hunting nowadays and told me he had no lurcher at present but would like one from the mating if it were possible. I plan to deliver a bitch pup to him when they are ready, its people like that who are hard to come by, lads you can give a pup to and trust that they will do the best by it and give it every opportunity. Thankfully, assuming it’s not a large litter the pups all have permanent sensible working homes waiting for them and perhaps in the future I may have a pup in return.
Was the bitch worth lining? For me personally she was, of course she would not suit everyone. She wouldn’t be a bitch that would do foxes 5 nights a week, far from it but she has knocked over a few of them, sometimes she hasn’t even the power to kill them outright as she isn’t terribly big but she is strong, but even when she can’t she will not give up and that is what I like about her. In my last article I wrote about a day time fox she caught and how at one stage the fox had her, she had the fox and neither of them would give in, but in my heart I know if she had enough of those she would throw the towel in, I’m not going to kid myself. Like many men who hunt by day or walk by night she likes to be in the thick of the action, always hunting up, nose to the ground tail in the air and seeking out the “Big Run”. This was her first taste of real action when a sapling of barely over a year she chanced upon a big run in a field we have never saw so much as a crow in! I was walking home one warm September evening as she lulled along on front of me when something sprung and took off ahead, she wasted no time and got up on it very quickly, turning her opponent in a big 180 (by accident more than design you understand) and straight back towards me. The pair were inches apart and they passed me at full speed as I held my breath and wished I had a camera! What a shot it would have been, hunter and hunted tearing down a rushy hill as the sun set behind them and although I have no photos, the image will be forever ingrained on my mind. This “surprise” in the rushes sparked something in the little bitches mind and from that day on she took to hunting up ahead and searching out her sport!
Our most recent and memorable big run was on Christmas Eve 2015 when we had been raking round my home turf all day with nothing much to show but a couple of runs at rabbits that they hadn’t caught and a few pheasants flushed when we decided to call it a day. One of my mates headed for home and his brother stayed with me as we decided to try one more spot before home. We parked up on a laneway and I let all the dogs from the van and planned to do a quick spin through 5 or 6 small fields as the light would be nearly gone. We jumped the fence into the second field and I knew straight away we were on. Head down, tail up hunting ahead the little bitch hunted back and forth but as we approached the next field neither her nor the bushers found anything. Into the second field and again she hunted ahead the spaniel and teckel were working a drainage ditch behind us when I heard a loud yip, then a familiar teckel bay and turned round to see our quarry coming straight towards us. We stopped still, the teckel coming behind it going absolutely mental and the spaniel running but not making a sound. The lurcher suddenly appeared from the left about 100 yards out and it was back legs past the front as she struggled to close in on the wet ground. The pair disappeared into a large patch of reeds and I could just about make them out circling when they broke back out onto the open ground ahead and she appeared to be losing ground and then the hunt got back into the reeds. Then everything went silent, no lurcher or no baying. I had lost the bushers and as I waited for a sound the little bitch stood up a few hundred yards ahead of us, panting hard with her tongue out. I ran up to her, not really knowing what to expect, but found her standing over her quarry, the teckel firmly attached with the spaniel looking on. It was a nice end to the year. I gave her the passenger seat on the way home, why not? She had worked hard since September.
I started this article on a Thursday, and intended to finish it off on maybe Sunday evening. Things took a turn however, when the little bitch whelped a nice batch of healthy pups, starting at around 11.00 on Saturday night with the last appearing on Sunday afternoon. Thankfully there weren’t a lot and they all have good genuine homes to go to in the next couple of months with trusted friends. It’s a time I will enjoy. I haven’t had a lurcher pup for 7 years and have picked out a plump little bitch and can look forward to the summer with her and I becoming great friends and getting her out and about, stock broke, used to other dogs, people and traffic and all the other training that goes with a pup. My bitch is no world beater, but she has tackled everything I gave her and puts effort into it all. For me I feel it was the right decision to line her and hopefully it pays off. Too many times I have put these types of things off only to regret it later when it’s too late to do anything about it so I must always look to the future as men and dogs get no younger, better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all. I think Theodore Roosevelt said that, but what did he know about lurchers!