It was 1995 and I was sat in the local one Sunday evening enjoying a few, when in walks a very plump young man accompanied by a cracking looking blue whippet, she looked young but by damn did she have “that” look about here.
A week or so later I was having a cup of tea with my then ferreting mate, Boothy, I mentioned this whippet and he told me it had belonged to another of his mates but he had sold her when he split with his girlfriend, he had only fetched her from north Wales a few weeks earlier. He then told me Fred, the grave digger’s lad, had bought her from him and had been parading around with her and his whistle ever since.
A few more weeks passed and I came across the whippet and his owner with the whistle in another ale house, this time there where very few people about, he ordered a pint and then sat at the bar next to me. I enquired about the dog and he told me he had bought it a few weeks earlier and he thought she came from up north. We got chatting and he said he had bought her to ferret with but his mum and dad would not let him have any ferrets. I enquired what he planned to do with her now his ferreting plans had been scuppered. He said he wasn’t sure, so I asked him if he wanted another beer and he accepted, then he had another beer and I asked him again about what he was going to do with his little whippet bitch. This time he replied, “give me the fifty quid, he’s yours.” I paid him there and then.
That evening I returned home the proud owner of a blue whippet bitch. I put the key in the lock and turned it, as I pushed the door open I was expecting a tirade of abuse about “another bloody dog” and “where have you been until now”. But as it happened the dragon took quite a shine to the little whippet.
The next morning I left for work as normal at about 5.30a.m., Mistral had been as good as gold all night curled up in the passage by the back door. Around eight o’clock I get a message to ring home. Running to the office all sorts was going through my mind as the Mrs was pregnant with our second child and we had been through hell when she had the first one. Relieved as anything when the Mrs answered and went on to explain that the postman had knocked on the door to deliver a parcel and Mistral had shot out when she had opened it and now was nowhere to be seen.
I left work to hunt for the escaped whippet but as it happened I came across her on my way home. I opened the door and she looked at me, ran over and jumped straight in. After that one time she never did anything like that again, why she did it is still a mystery to this day.
Later that week Boothy popped round and told me he had the pedigree for the little whippet as his mate had found it whilst unpacking in his new flat. I took it off him and had a read, not that anything to do with breeder or owner meant anything to me as I had never heard of them – Mike Brown and Mrs Williams. The sire was a dog called Sooty Sam and the dam was Silkcut Lady. I did notice that there was a lot of Laguna in the lines of both the sire and the dam. Laguna I did know a little about. Back then, as I said, none if meant squat to me and, to be fair, it still doesn’t!
Over the next few days Mistral settled in nicely, she was not fazed by my big hob ferret “Rambo”, in fact, quite the opposite as she seemed to enjoy playing with him on the back lawn.
The land I ferreted back then was all rough as hell, old landfill sites and around industrial units.
One particular piece of land was around the edge of a massive deer enclosure that contained both fallows and reds, the strip was about twelve feet wide and went all around the pen, this in turn was bordered with blackthorn and hawthorn, in early autumn the grass was about 4 feet high and this hid a multitude of man traps comprising of old rusty corrugated tin sheets, old partridge pens, stacks of telegraph poles, piles of bricks, rocks and concrete and a liberal helping of the usual farmyard junk, chains, wheels, tyres, barrels etc.
This was the place I choose to take Mistral for her first ferreting trip. This trip as it happened was quite uneventful but one thing I learned was Mistral had a nose and a half on her and would mark solid, every mark she made that first day was proven to be spot on, I even ran the ferret through a couple of sets she didn’t mark and sure enough they were empty. Boothy was with me along with his liver Bedlington whippet cross. He had taken a dozen or so rabbits but had lost his ferret and was unable to get a mark from the locator box. I had packed up anyway so headed over to give him a hand find his little jill. After half an hour or so there was still no sign of this jill and nothing from either locator box.
We sat there scratching our heads when Mistral slid herself through the pig wire and into the short grass fields of the deer pen. Nose down she was mooching about around about twenty or so feet from where we were, as we watched she stopped and turned her head to one side, immediately her ears shot up and she started to dig at the grass, surely it couldn’t be, could it? We walked over to the gates and climbed over, when we got to the bitch she had dug a good way down; a quick check with locator box confirmed it was the ferret and only about two feet down. I pulled the dog out and Boothy took a look and almost immediately he broke through using just his hand and there was his little ferret in a stop end that contain no fewer than six rabbits. I was beaming all the way home.
A few weeks later, again at the deer pen, a rabbit bolted from an unnetted hole and went straight through the pig wire that surrounded the deer. Mistral followed like a rocket, she did not slow down for the fence instead somehow managing to fit her whole body at full speed though one hole in pig wire, again something I had never witnessed before and probably never will, she ran this rabbit on the short grass of the pen and nailed it right at the edge of a big herd of reds.
Now people say whippets are thin skinned and I have to agree, she took some real punishment but never once made a sound. I had to take her to the vet’s once after she had received a large tear on her shoulder from rusty barbed wire, the vet was a Chinese lady and said she would have to give a local anaesthetic. I said she won’t need it as she has been stitched up dozens of times. After a little arguing she agreed to try it but if the bitch became distressed she would give her a local. The little bitch stood there and never moved or made a sound whilst the vet sewed her wound up. By far her worst injury was caused by a rusty, corrugated steel roofing sheet, half buried in the ground. This left a gash from the top of her shoulder blade all the way around and under her belly. Again she made no sound.
Someone once said she looked like she had gone ten rounds with Edward Scissor hands!
As the years rolled by she started to suffer after a day’s ferreting and the vet confirmed she was suffering from early arthritis and there was a problem with her spine, I made the decision to retire her then, this was mainly due to my brother who was born with disabilities pestering my dad for a dog, so Mistral moved back to north Wales for the rest of her life. She lived for a good few years before the problem with her spine got so bad she had to be put down.
Since then the story of Mike Brown and the Sooty Sam lines have become known to a lot of people, opinions have been formed and arguments raged, all I can say is from my limited experience of owning only one whippet of his breeding, albeit over 20 years ago, she did what it said on the tin and far more beside. RIP Mistral (fast lady from Meliden).