I apologise for the photo, but it’s a real photograph. We think it was taken by a small girl using a disposable camera in a pre-digital age. So I scanned it in because here you have old Boz in the foreground and Jess behind him.
This is what is now called ‘succession planning.’ Nobody lasts forever, and having been without a dog for a while, we didn’t want to go through that again. Not only that, but the current dog helps train the next dog.
Mind you in Boz’s case he did teach Jess things, but when it came to working they both had totally different techniques. Boz would bimble quietly through a herd of cows as if soliciting tips or just passing the time of day. Cows would get up and make their way home with Boz wandering about in the middle of them. It was his technique and it seemed to work well enough for him. Mind you I once saw him deal with a cow that refused to get up. Rather than bark at it or get excited, he merely cocked his leg up and piddled on her. It seemed to work as well as anything.
I put some of it down to his breeding, when you looked at him it was obvious that there was more Labrador in his genetics than is absolutely necessary for a working cattle and sheep dog. There again, such are the proclivities of the Labrador that I’ve been told there are wolf packs deep in Siberia that have never seen man who carry Labrador genetics they’ve acquired.
Boz seemed to take being good natured to the level of an art form. I remember one winter we had a cow outside with a couple of calves. She was outside because she had problems walking on concrete and we put two calves on her so she didn’t have to go through the milking parlour. Every morning I’d take some feed to her, and Boz, as ‘the dog’, would come with me. To get to the cow we’d have to cross a field with a couple of Shetland ponies wintering in it. One of the ponies took a dislike to Boz and every time we went in the field, the pony would repeatedly charge him.
This was potentially impressive, with head down and thundering hooves. Alas the fact that the pony had a shaggy winter coat making it look like a belligerent pyjama dog rather robbed the scene of drama. Not only that but Boz ignored it. As the pony thundered forward Boz would accelerate very slightly, or slow down just a little, and the Shetland would go galloping past and have to turn round for another go. It might be a small pony, but it had the turning circle of an aircraft carrier!
Another of Boz’s quirks was when he was eating. Because at his previous home he’d been fastened up on his own when not working, he never had any fear of anybody stealing his food. So he ate delicately, enjoying every mouthful. Give him a slice of bread and he’d hold it between his paws, nibbling it with evident enjoyment.
Jess on the other hand was ‘old school’ when it came to moving stock. She went round them in the classic manner and followed behind them making sure everybody was moving at her chosen speed and in her chosen direction.
When it came to food, Jess learned early on that whilst Boz might not be worried about anybody stealing his dinner, he seemed to assume that all food put out was his. So Jess soon learned to eat her meal swiftly. As she got older she got more cunning and used to hide it. Indeed this habit never left her. One lambing I was talking to somebody coming out of the lambing shed and they were carrying a dead lamb. They put the lamb down while we talked, then bent to pick it up again. The lamb had disappeared. We discovered that while we were talking, Jess had quietly pushed straw and suchlike over it. She’d completely buried it. She looked most put out when it was found and removed.
A couple of things you might like to read. Further stories of Dogs, Sheep, Quad bikes and the meaning of life are available at
Then again I did a free short story which is available as a pdf. It doesn’t deal with dogs, sheep or anything so mundane. You could click here
A short story called, ‘A Nice Devotion.’
And a bit of news, on the 1st of June I’ve got another compilation of Tallis Steelyard stories being published