Hello dear reader and welcome to another week in snowy North Yorkshire. The temperatures have plummeted, well, for England they have and although I don't want to appear to be too much of a wuss, I have broken out the thick woolly jumpers and tweed breeches to keep me warm. In fact, I have so many layers on, I could easily be mistaken for the Michelin Man. It's all very well adding on the layers through the day, but getting out of them in the evening as the log fire warms us up is quite another matter. I know - too much information. I will move on.
My dear cousin recently acquired a new puppy and hearing the mixture of fun and tribulations they are now going through with it puts me in mind of our days as smallholders when we had a variety of animals, including dogs and ducks.
Our Border Collie, George, came to us via the RSPCA. (Incidentally, I managed to break my ribs the day we got him, but I'll visit that scenario another day.) "Gentleman George" was sweet natured, very gentle and a little eccentric. Our retriever dog, Harry, arrived as a small puppy. He was a very different kettle of fish (or dog), alpha -male and strong willed and although loveable it was always a battle of wills to get him to behave in a reasonable manner.
Harry had come from a man who had bred and trained gun dogs for fifty years. Mr B was most unimpressed to hear that we weren't making much progress in training Harry. He suggested we take the dog back to him for a month of his training. We weren't allowed to visit but could telephone once a week for a progress report.
Week 1 - Harry had chased his hens. Week 2 - Harry had torn down his pen and got in with the bitches. Week 3 - Harry had chased his sheep. Week 4 - We arrived to take him home. The mischevious part of me I'm afraid to say, dear reader, was just a tad pleased to find Mr B was no longer the uber confident dog trainer of a month previous. I might even go as far to say Mr B was almost a broken man. He'd never had a dog like Harry before. In fairness, he had managed to get him to "sit" and almost "stay" and almost "walk to heel". At the end of these demonstrations Mr B proudly announced that Harry didn't chase the sheep now. He ha, he took him into the field to demonstrate and Harry promptly chased the sheep!
Over the years Harry and I grew to love eachother dearly, but the only creature Harry had a healthy respect for was Henry, our first Muscovy drake. I used to feed the dogs outside as Harry was such an enthusiastic eater, with no manners at all. George, the Border Collie, would nibble his way delicately through his dinner like a Victorian maiden aunt, whereas Harry was pure lout - diving with nose and most of his face into the dish, liberally spattering food everywhere.
Outside dining worked fine for a while, until Henry duck matured and discovered the food bar and times of dining. Both dogs were scared of the duck, but he wasn't frightened of them and could adminster a nasty peck. Soon he was strolling over the gravel, pecking both dogs out of the way and hijacking their dinners. And the wimps, they let him. So the dogs had to come indoors to be fed and Henry had to be shut out and I had to live with the mess. Not sure I came off best there.
Henry's successor was Sam. Now, for all Henry's dog-bullying, he was a very good parent. Muscovy duck mothers are a feckless bunch and not very interested in protecting those fluffy yellow things swimming or wadding behind them. Henry was a good Dad and kept an attentive watch over his brood. After Henry departed for the great duck house in the sky, we acquired a replacement drake, Sam, from our neighbours.
Unfortunately Sam was not of the same ilk as Henry. Sam was a real bully. Very soon he had our girls terrorised and in desperation to get away from him they squeezed under the farm gate and into our front garden, not good news for our precious plants. Sam meanwhile, patrolled the other side of the gate, hawking and squawking at the girls to return. No way José. They were staying put.
In the end I said to spouse, 'you're gonna have to shoot Sam. He's downright vicious', as I had discovered quite a few times to my cost. Look away now, dear reader, if you're squeamish. The deed was done and the bird put in an empty dustbin to await my attention.
Now it so happened that a few days later we were in a large supermarket in the nearby town. Passing the hosuehold goods section I spotted some new dustbins, which put me in mind of Sam. A youg lady assistant was up on a stool sorting out items above our heads. I said to spouse, 'you'll have to wash out that dustbin. Sam bled quite a lot when you shot him and put him in there.' Yes, dear reader, I did have some explaining to do, as the young assistant wobbled on her stool, fell off and gave me rather scared look. Not my finest hour I have to say, as I stumbled over a hasty explanation - 'it's not what you think ... Sam's a duck ... no, not a duck, a drake ... he was nasty ... he had to go ... you get the picture. and yes, we did give that store a wide berth for some time to come.
So, there we are, dogs and duck don't always mix and not with sheep. Funnily enough, in time, Harry became quite blasé and bored with sheep. There were so many of them in our fields that I think he got fed up with seeing them. Now rabbits, that was another matter entirely .....
Have a good week, dear reader and stay safe and don't get buried in a snow drift. My little car did once for 3 weeks and wonder of wonders, it started first button when we finally dug it out. It's snowing hard here, who knows, we might be out with the shovels again tomorrow.