Sam is Brian’s dog. At eleven years of age, he’s retired now and works when he chooses to, when it’s a job he enjoys. Lou is mine. She is the first dog I’ve ever had who obeys me, who follows me around like a shadow, who is a good working dog. At this time of year, she accompanies me when I’m scraping and liming the cubicles, when I’m feeding calves, whatever I’m doing up the yard, and she gets me out of trouble occasionally too. When Brian is milking in the mornings, I’m cleaning and liming the cubicles, getting across any cows that calved since the last milking, and feeding calves.
The weather has been atrocious lately, Beast from the East and Storm Emma a couple of weeks ago, heavy snow again last week, and last Wednesday it rained heavily all day long. Wednesday morning saw Lottie, a first time calver and a heifer I had a soft spot for after staying up with her one night when she was ill as a calf, give birth to a heifer calf. The only slight problem was that she was in the pre-maternity shed. She was on a comfortable straw bed, and it was perfectly safe for her and the calf, it was just that it was a little awkward to get her out and down to the milking parlour. The calf had been brought to the calf shed. Brian opened the gate back. Heavily pregnant or just calved cows often stand near the gate, it’s as if they want to get away from their comrades for some peace and quiet but Lottie insisted on going into the far corner. I stood in the gateway to prevent any others escaping and we got her out after a couple of minutes. She seemed to be going in the right direction so as Brian was closing the gate over, I was chatting and wasn’t noticing that Lottie had veered around. I held up my stick to try and stop her but she got past me. She took off up the hill.
As I started to run, Brian shouted “the gates are open all the way up to the lane” which meant that if I didn’t get past her, it was going to be a big job to get her back. I ran on suddenly conscious that I hadn’t tightened my belt enough and my jeans were starting to slip down under my waterproof trousers. I managed to get past her as thankfully she got distracted by the bulls in the next shed (just calved and looking for male attention already!), and was bringing her back when she headed up the track to the High Shores field. At least this was a cul-de-sac and she couldn’t go anywhere else.
The dogs were in their kennels so I went running to let them out ‘Get the two of them,’ shouted Brian as he tied the gate. I called both dogs as I went running into their shed so they’d know it was urgent and they wouldn’t be getting the customary rub down. I let Sam out first and he was racing out. Lou was next and she was off like a bullet. I trotted after them to see Sam standing in the yard looking at me as if to say ‘I thought you said there was an emergency, I don’t see anything to fuss about’. Lou had disappeared around the corner of the hayshed and once Brian pointed to Lottie, she had her rounded up and back down by the time I waddled up to get to the shed door. By this stage Brian was in hysterics as I had to stop to pull up my jeans from where they were sagging under the trouser waterproofs, and tighten the belt. Not my most glamourous or efficient moment. Like all good overseers, Sam came along at the end to claim praise.
Lottie was flighty for a few days but has settled now. She had a bonny heifer calf which makes up for it all. I do wonder though, how we managed without dogs for years, as otherwise it would have been a lot of swearing and panting and puffing.