Tuesday 20 April 2010

Glen, the sheepdog, and his chequered life.

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As said previously Glen was born in September 2000. A winter pup, he grew up through wind, rain and snow. I remember coaxing him over a drain (ditch) in flood when he was a tiny bundle of fluff, once home he got towelled off and allowed to dry on the hearth.

All my dogs are kenneled outside until the time comes they need more comfort in their lives. This little pup used to be wet and clarty (muddy) would be towelled off and allowed to have a spell on the hearth rug before going to bed in the kennel. This could be a give away to his rather 'soft' nature.

To this day if he can creep into the house and get on the hearth rug he's happy, he almost manages to flatten himself and lie absolutely still as though in the hope you wont notice him and put him out!

All his life he has required a fuss, more than capable of getting anyone to give him a stroke and they're not allowed to stop, Once you've stroked him that's it, he just wants more and is very adapt at nosing his head under your hand and lifting it up so as it drops down over his brow, he really can make you stroke him!

Rightly or wrongly pups go with me and the other dogs everywhere, they walk to the hill and if they tire they'll find themselves inside my jacket and getting a lift, they'll be tied up at the sheep pens out of danger of being attacked by the sheep and watch what's going on, they'll sit on my lap on the quad bike until they are big and strong enough to sit unassisted on the back.

If they reach an obstacle they're not happy of they have to work a way around it. A shut gate for instance can be quite a challenge to a pup, I coax and wait patiently until they have the job sussed, I make them use their brains, I do not want an adult dog which I have to go back and retrieve because it can't find a way through.

And so it was for Glen, in the cold winter months as a little pup he was introduced to all sorts of obstacles and weather conditions. Feb 2001 saw a tremendous fall of snow, five foot drifts and Arctic conditions, Glen was 5 months old and had to learn how to accommodate snow. At 7 months old he was walking the hill on a chain at lambing time, often abandoned - tied up to a sprig of heather or fence whilst I dealt with any problems.

By 8 months old he no longer got to see sheep on a daily basis. 2001 is a year etched in my head. Foot and Mouth. Many sheep were slaughtered.

So for Glen he found himself wandering around aimlessly, still learning about the everyday obstacles but missing out on the sheep thing. He learnt to swim! There is a linn (waterfall) near at hand which I would go and splash around in (I'm a poor swimmer), anyhow the 9 month old pup decided to join me whilst old Tyne stood back totally perplexed. To this day Glen will take to water like a golden retriever. He absolutely loves swimming and has to be watched if the burns are in flood. It's a great way of cleaning him off when he's had a dirty day in the sheep pens.

By the time Glen got to see sheep again on a regular basis he was well over a year old and seemed unsure of life with sheep. However, eventually, it all clicked together and off he went, in fact he basically taught himself and was always biddable, stopping every time he was asked to (usually young dogs try it on and like to have a bit of fun).

I always thought him to have a poor out run, he didn't run as wide as I would have liked and I never felt totally confident on big areas of hill ground. I always took Tyne along too. The shepherd out bye told me to take Glen on his own and leave the better dog behind. Unfortunately I never did this, my confidence in the dog wouldn't allow it and I continued to take both together. Tyne always got there and did the job whereas there was always a question mark hanging over Glen and his capabilities where there was a large expanse of ground to cover.

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Eventually Tyne got old and weary, Moss was very small and I was left with Glen, the younger fitter dog. I had to gather vast expanses of ground with the one dog, the dog I never felt was capable of doing such a thing. I was proven wrong. He worked a treat on his own, did have a good outrun and could gather a big hill. If only I'd listened to the shepherd from out bye! Obviously Tyne (who was the apple of my eye) had the upper hand of the younger dog and had him beaten into submission. Poor Glen who had been so maligned.

However, for all these years Glen had his place in life. Tyne was a powerful, strong headed creature and could be too much for field sheep, whereas Glen who was so biddable and steady was ideal for field sheep. Horses for courses.

So, eventually, at six year old, Glen came into his own, was top dog, could handle any gather that was necessary, good in the pens, perfect at lambing time - life was looking up. Until......
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He had an accident........ Tup time 2007, Glen was now 7 years old, Tyne had passed away, Moss was coming on but Glen was top dog, capable of anything asked of him, living life to the full until I set him down a bank side to turn some sheep, he stumbled, went arse over tit and rose with a limp but continued to go around the sheep and turn them back. I rested him but he didn't come sound. It was ten days before I took him to the vets to be told he'd snapped the ligament in his 'ankle', I think it's called the cruciate ligament.

Now I acted like a tough dog owner and weighed up the pros and cons. Would he ever work again? How much will it cost?

All credit to my vet, he wanted to get the dog back to work and did eventually succeed.I was told the injury was worse than a broken bone. An operation which involved drilling the bones on either side of the joint to enable an elasticated 'tendon' to be fitted whilst the original was stitched together. Glen returned home with a plaster cast on his leg.

He got to lie on the hearth, he had an old quilt under the table which was his bed and he was to have no exercise at all, only allowed out for the toilet. Within a week the better half had had to heighten the fence around our garden, Glen had jumped out, pot leg an' all, nothing was going to stop him in his quest to find something dead and rancid to eat!

During all this time the dog never let on to being in pain, he is a softie but is actually really tough, throughout his lifetime he has never shown self pity, always wants to work even with a serious injury. I've prodded and poked a lame foot and he doesn't even wince, he never fails to amaze me at how tough he can be (Moss will squeal like a pig if you pull his hair, Glen would put up with anything).

Plaster cast for six weeks, dressings changed for even longer, five minute walks, then ten minute walks and so on for weeks, many friends and neighbours rallied and let him out whilst I was away working, took him for his five minute walks (on a lead), his ten minute walks and so on. Some even collected him from the vets, I always tried to take him in on a mart morning, the vets would keep him until a farmer could pick him up and fetch him back!

The vet thought hydro therapy was a good idea, I didn't admit to this being in the cold water of the burn but Glen was happy, swimming away like a good one.

The vets were taken with him as a patient, initially I had to leave him to have his dressings changed, however, once I realised this was to allow the anaesthetic to wear off I had words with them. You can literally do anything to Glen and he wont retaliate, I asked them to give it a go and they were impressed. Apparently he would lie down, roll over and put his bad leg in the air to allow them to deal with it - no need to subdue him with anaesthetic. The perfect patient!

During Glen's long winter the young Moss came to the fore, he soon became top dog and as I was totally reliant on him he came on leaps and bounds, poor Glen, under the shadow of another dog once again.

He wasn't fit enough for lambing time but a farmer's wife took him to walk twins out of fields and do light duties. By the summer he was fittening up well when an infection got a hold. A stitch from the operation had decided to try and dislodge itself. Once again Glen was laid up.

Eventually he was fit and well. The vet had succeeded in getting him back to being a working dog, the bill had been less than the cost of replacing him. Life was looking up. By now he was 8 years old.

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Glen came back to full working fitness but unfortunately has slowed down, he is getting older after all. He does gather hills but only the kinder ones, he's back to being number one field dog. Where I lamb the ground is very steep and this worries me, he has been lent out to others at lambing time who are working kinder ground.

This winter was a struggle to him. Once again he went lame, on his 'bad' leg. Gathering in the snow he fell through the crusty surface and duly carried his leg, again he was rested, again he didn't come sound. Again he found himself at the vets. He had injured his foot but it appeared to be a soft tissue injury. More rest required. Glen lost fettle, appeared to be depressed, lethargic and off the stott. Finally he surfaced one morning with a fat face. Antibiotics and dentistry work fettled that, another x-ray on his leg showed bad arthritis........

The good news is he is happy again, putting on fettle, living on anti inflammatories and most probably being molly coddled. It seems very likely that by next winter he may well have his life long wish of lying on the hearth mat at night!