With the advent of shorter days and dark mornings, checking the sheep in the early half-light had been problematic, until I acquired a new cap. Rarely has a goody-bag yielded anything truly useful, but this cap from Shearwell, with LED lights in the peak, is quite literally brilliant. So now I count the number of pairs of bright blue pinpoints (eyes), always remembering to subtract one set, since the back of the collie’s retina is exactly the same as that of the sheep. The spaniels, however, have ruby rather than sapphire eyes, similar to our “red eye”. A bonus for working in this pre-dawn gloom has been an occasional encounter with bats or owls returning home to bed – you see, you have to pull the positives out of situations like this, the early mornings NEVER get easier.
I took the two Clumbers to a working gundog training session in a beautiful secluded valley. Clumbers are the St. Bernards of the spaniel world, renowned for their ability to keep going all day. They achieve this, whilst other spaniels are zipping round like pocket rockets, by carefully optimising energy expenditure versus the expectation of reward or success. During this thought process, they may give you the “Clumber blank” – a stare which can be roughly translated as can’t be bothered / what’s the point? / you cannot be serious. The best example of this on Sunday was a dog asked to do a retrieve across a fairly fast and deep small river. He allowed the current to carry him effortlessly downstream to the dummy, then waded up through the shallows to cross back via a rocky promontory and a paw-deep weir. Who says dogs can’t think?