A dog’s life?


Farm dogs are a peculiar mix. Most of them are Border Collies, most of them are working dogs, and they’re trained rather than domesticated. Hence if you’re used to Labradors or similar, farm dogs can be a bit forbidding.

Some of it is they’re not used to new people and treat them with justifiable suspicion.

I remember talking to a vet many years ago and he commented about one farm dog he’d had to deal with. The farm was a small Lake District hill farm. As well as the obligatory sheep, the owners had a small herd of pedigree Hereford cattle and every year they’d raise a proportion of their bull calves to sell on as breeding bulls.

So every year the vet would turn up to castrate those that weren’t going to be kept for breeding. And on this particular day the vet arrived in the yard, gathered his enamelled bowl, his scalpel, his burdizzos and made his way to the shippon where the young bulls were tied up. The farmer went into the house to get the list of the bulls who were to be cut.

As the vet walked across the yard the farm dog sneaked up behind him and bit him on the back of the leg. This was no way to treat somebody who’d spent the war in the Seventh Armoured Division and he hurled the bowl at the dog, just missed, so he hurled the burdizzos. Finally as the dog fled through the fell gate up onto the fell, he hurled the scalpel. Memory insists that it stuck quivering in the wooden gate as the dog disappeared.

Anyway with the dog gone the vet picked up his bowl, his burdizzos and collected his scalpel from the gate, brushed them down and went into the shippon to wait for the farmer. When the farmer arrived nothing was said of the incident.

A year or so later the vet was on the farm and he and the farmer were chatting as they did the TB testing. The farmer commented, “Dogs can be bluidy strange creatures.”
The vet commented, “Well I’d have to agree with you on that one.”

The farmer continued, “Take that nasty sod of ours. Dammed good working dog but if anybody strange comes into the yard he bites them; all except for you. The minute he hears your car he’s through the fell gate and up onto the fell as fast as he can go.”

The vet just shrugged, “As you said, bluidy strange creatures.”


If, in the interest of personal self-improvement, or you’re conducting a programme of serious academic research, or you are merely intent on increasing the gaiety of nations, you may want to read more.

More tales from a lifetime’s experience of peasant agriculture in the North of England, with sheep, Border Collies, cattle, and many other interesting individuals. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is just one of those things.

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19 thoughts on “A dog’s life?

  1. The Story Reading Ape December 8, 2018 at 10:48 am Reply

    Bluidy good at quickly learning survival skills 😂

  2. The Story Reading Ape December 8, 2018 at 3:04 pm Reply
    • jwebster2 December 8, 2018 at 3:15 pm Reply

      I just loved the way he remembered the scalpel quivering in the gate after all those years. Artistically it had to be so 🙂

  3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt December 8, 2018 at 4:40 pm Reply

    Vets have learned not to complain about every little thing.

    • jwebster2 December 8, 2018 at 4:44 pm Reply

      Yes, I’ve noticed that about them as well 🙂

  4. jenanita01 December 8, 2018 at 7:04 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on anita dawes and jaye marie.

  5. Widdershins December 9, 2018 at 1:36 am Reply

    Smart dog, smarter vet. 😀

    • jwebster2 December 9, 2018 at 7:04 am Reply

      the vet had the advantage of being older and wiser 😉

  6. patriciaruthsusan December 13, 2018 at 1:11 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Musings on Life & Experience and commented:
    Another tale of farm life and an interesting and amusing book about the same by Jim Webster.

    • jwebster2 December 13, 2018 at 1:50 pm Reply

      the joys of life as a working dog? 🙂

  7. patriciaruthsusan December 13, 2018 at 1:54 pm Reply

    Never a dull moment. 🙂 — Suzanne

    • jwebster2 December 13, 2018 at 2:19 pm Reply

      working dogs don’t do dull very well 🙂

      • patriciaruthsusan December 13, 2018 at 2:45 pm

        I don’t imagine they do. 🙂 — Suzanne

      • jwebster2 December 13, 2018 at 2:50 pm

        Manic activity on the other hand they can manage 🙂

  8. patriciaruthsusan December 13, 2018 at 3:02 pm Reply


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