Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Get Down, Shep!

A few years ago I went to visit a friend of mine in Yorkshire. Said friend lived in a big stone house in a most beautiful part of 'God's own country' and shared it with her mother and two fabulous, lollopy and very soppy hounds.
The hounds and I shared an instant rapport and for the duration of my stay I slept with a dog at each corner of the bed to keep me warm, bless 'em.
Anyway, the last day of my stay was a Sunday and my friend and her mum decided to take me to a wonderful old pub, high on the moors and miles away from anything except dog walkers, ramblers, and other people who wanted to enjoy the miles of rolling countryside and woods.
After a delicious lunch, we set off with the hounds taking the lead to explore. To this day I regret one thing about my trip there and that was that I didn't have a camera at the time, as not only was the area breath-takingly beautiful, there were surprises along the way such as derelict Victorian buildings and so, only left because they were so magnificent although no longer used and now only curios on the landscape.
We walked along an oft beaten route with birds, deer, other animals and walkers our only company. The hounds were loving every minute and kept running up to me to tell me about the exciting smells they'd found and so.
After a while we caught up with a group of about twenty ramblers, all dressed in hiking gear and pretty much identical with only the different colour clothing to differentiate them.
We weren't in any hurry to overtake and so we slowed down and walked behind them for a while.
A short while later the group was joined by a gorgeous looking border collie who as all good working sheepdogs do, followed them at the side, but just to the rear of the pack so that if one of the herd should stray, he'd easily get in back to where it should be.
The ramblers laughed at the doggy and looked around for it's owner, but no other people were to be seen.
The dog trailed them for a while, checking his herd every few minutes to make sure they weren't getting into trouble, while the ramblers 'oohed' and 'aahed' at his antics.
Now, one thing the countryside lacks in general, are convenient toilet facilities, providing us with handy trees and copses instead, and one of the pack of ramblers decided it was time for him to take his leave from the group and find such a handy spot.
The dog however wasn't having any of that, oh no siree.
The second the bloke broke rank, the dog ran up to him barking and nipping at his ankles until he ran back into the herd again.
Much laughter and joshing ensued from the group, and me, and my friend, her mum, and the hounds.
One of the group tried to distract the dog by calling 'here boy!' and waving a stick to throw, but the dog only gave a baleful glare and turned his attentions back to his job.
By this time the poor chap who wanted to find a tree was beginning to walk in a rather funny way as his need to find a private place grew ever greater, but every time he tried to leave the pack, the same thing happened.
After about twenty minutes, the group weren't finding the dog so funny anymore. Me and my friends were though, and decided to carry on walking behind to watch.
Another ten minutes passed and the dog showed no sign of giving up; the poor man was getting to breaking point however, and I swear I saw a tear roll down his cheek.
Another ten minutes passed before I decided to call to the group.
"Excuse me!" I called, and the group stopped and looked at me.
"It might be an idea if you all stop walking as a herd and very slowly start to spread out".
They looked at me in amazement and did just so, and the man very quickly found a nearby tree without the dog trying to herd him.
After he'd finished, the group got back into the pack and began walking off again with the dog taking up position yet again.
But that wasn't the end of the doggy's work, oh no.
A short while later the group were met by a group of six hikers walking towards them. They were all dressed the same, with only different colours to distinguish between them.
The dog decided that they were part of his herd too, and soon had them in line with the rest of his charges, and any attempt on their part to leave were met by growls and much nipping of ankles.
Me, my friend, her mum and the hounds were by the car by then so laughing to ourselves we waved goodbye and left them to it.
For all I know, they're still out there, trying to get home but for the sake of a diligent border collie, bless 'im.
So if you know of some lost ramblers, try Yorkshire.