Irish Tails

The Joker In The Pack

Joker, whose pet name was Flynn, was not my first Irish Setter, but he was my first show dog. Having lots of ‘true Irish spirit’ and being quite an exuberant dog, I found him rather difficult to handle, as he was always very quick to take advantage of the fact, that, not only am I rather small, or vertically challenged, as some might say, but I didn’t know what I was doing either! At home he very quickly became known as ‘Hooley O’Flynn’ for obvious reasons.

We were both trying to learn together – no easy task for someone as small as myself, with such a high spirited dog. He always seemd intent on living up to his Kennel Name of Twoacres Joker The Hooley, seemingly seeing it as his sole responsibility to entertain the ringside at every show. What a good job I have a sense of humour!

Flynn matured into a handsome boy, with a beautiful mahogany coat, a marcel wave on his head and many engaging ways. His favourite hobby was sitting on the seat in the lounge window, watching the world go by. He took great delight in barking at strange objects, such as ladders and umbrellas, putting his heart and soul into every bark, especially when all was quiet, or I was just falling asleep! The love of his life was his ‘Grandad’, my father, who he idolised, following him everywhere.

Flynn was, by nature, a very stubborn dog, often being so single minded that he could not be diverted from what he wanted to do, no matter which method was employed! He actually managed to attain his Kennel CLub Good Citizen Bronze & Silver Awards, but to this day, it remains a total mystery quite how he managed to do it. I can only assume that he must have been having an off day, as it was totally out of character for him to be obedient. I have also learnt to my cost, that he could be extremely devious, having a particular passion for teddy bears, stealing them on a regular basis and also for sneaking upstairs, only to leave the bed in a large, messy heap, mine, not his!

As Flyn’s main objective in lfe was to please himself, showing him was always entertaining……for other people. For me, it was quite nerve wracking, as I never knew from one minute to the next, what he would do, or how he would behave. Even as a veteran, nothing much changed on that score. He still had the ability to make me break out in a sweat at the mere thought of having to show him! I can count on the fingers of one hand, how many times he managed to behave himself in the ring, during his show career. The following is a story about one of his many escapades.

On this particular day, we had been showing for about a year and Flynn was absolutely full of mischief from the minute he woke up, si I knew I was to have a difficult day. When we arrived at the Open SHow we had entered, it was to discover that he was the only dog in a class of seven bitches. One of them was eother in season, just finishing, or just coming in, because he went beserk!!!! Usually, on meeting a bitch, he became very excited, bashing with his paws, sniffing a great deal and wanting to play. But this time, he just grabbed hold of her and tried to mount her without any preamble. Then he tried to do the same to every bitch that walked past him. He was almost beside himself with excitement and had never behaved like this before.

Once in the ring, he didn’t know where to start, as he realised that he was surrounded by bitches. I struggled to control him as we waited our turn, but when it came, trotting down the mat was a nightmare, as we had to move so close to the bitches, due to the small size of the ring. Every time he came alongside this particular bitch,he broke his stride, did a little dance and cried loudly. VERY LOUDLY! Eventually, after four or five attempts, just when I was on the verge of giving up, he managed to concentrate long enough to succeed and the judge was patient enough to wait for him. It was obvious when she went over him that she liked him, but I thought that with all his naughtiness, he had thrown it away. To my delight, the judge gave him second place and the ‘love of his life’ came first.

However, he wasn’t content with that. Once out of the ring, much to my dismay, we were seated next to the same bitch, as her owners had positioned themselves next to my things without me realising. He cavorted around so much that he managed to somehow, get one leg inside my showbag. As he pulled his leg back out, he also pulled out a full pot of liver tablets – 250 in all! I had just removed the lid and it shot through the air, scattering them all over the floor and into the ring. Needless to say, there was utter chaos. The dogs in the ring, ready for the next class, were waiting to be given their ring numbers. As the liver tablets shot through the air, so the dogs shot across the ring, all diving frantically for the liver tablets, followed at speed by their owners, who struggled valiently to hang onto their dogs and stay upright.

Meanwhile, as I struggled to hold onto Flynn and pick everything up, my Mother attempted to help me and was promptly bashed in the face by Flynn’s flailing legs, as he jumped up in excitement to say hello. This sent her new and very expensive spectacles, flying off the end of her nose and through the air. There then followed a minor tussle, between Flynn and myself, as I tried desperately to retrieve them before he stood on them! Whenmy Mother put them back on her face, they were, of course, very cock-eyed and as she had only collected them from the optician’s a few days previously, both our names were mud! I was by this time, the colour of my jumper – pillar box red – but Flynn looked extremely pleased with himself, having yet again, caused quite a stir, but for all the wrong reasons!! As far as Flynn was concerned, when he went to shows he was there to entertain everyone. The more they laughed at him, the worse he became, really playing to the crowd, showing his true Irish spirit and fully living up to his name of Twoacres Joker The Hooley.

He really was the Joker In The Pack.

© 2008 Michelle Webster




Unrequieted Love

As winter had started early, we drove through freezing fog to reach the showground. Flynn, as usual that morning, was in one of his crazy moods. From the minute he saw his show bag the night before, he had been as high as a kite. When we arrived at this particular venue, the rings were fenced off with miniature white wooden fences, there being gaps every os often, so that people could get in and out of the ring.

He seemed to settle down quite quickly, but I should have known from previous experience, that it was just the calm before the storm. Unusually for Flynn, he was not trying to interfere with everyone else whilst we waited our turn and I was lost in thoughts of how well he was behaving, how he was beginning to settle down at last and how well I had done to finally manage to get through to him. Suddenly, without any warning, he went beserk, desperately tryint to get out of the ring. Unbeknown to me, someone had arrived just outside the ring, with a bitch that was in season. Flynn tried his hardest to leave the ring and reach this bitch, with me frantically hanging on to the end of his lead and trying hard to stop myself being dragged forcibly out of the ring. For once, I actually managed to stay on two feet, though I’m not quite sure how. He suddenly settled down again and all was well, until we moved around the ring, to the next gap in the fencing, where he decided to mark his territory, by weeing…….all over my foot! The first I knew of it, was when I felt a warm, wet trickle running down the inside of my suede boots! Needless to say, I was not amused, though everyone else found it hilarious and were at great pains to assure me that it was extremely lucky.

When our turn came, Flynn was so excited that he ran round the ring with his tail in the air, looking extremely pleased with himself. He was not placed on this occasion. So much for his weeing into my boots being lucky! When we got back to our bench, the dog next door had arrived. As the dog was in fact a bitch, this caused even more antics, with Fynn desperately trying to climb over the top and round the side of the benching partition, even though he was on a very short chain and couldn’t possibly manage it. It didn’t stop him giving it a damn good try though, in the process, managing to dismantle the bench!! As I was doing my best to re-erect the bench that he had just dismantled, stop him falling off and cover my embarrassment, all at the same time, a voice, belonging to someone I could not see, piped up from the other side of the benching, announcing, “No doubt that’s a Twoacres dog causing all that rucus”! If I were to say, that when I looked up to find one of the Doyen’s of the breed, staring straight at me, I felt as if I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me, it would be a gross understatement. This episode just helped to convince me that Flynn sees dog shows as nothing more, than his own private harem and playschool, all rolled into one.

© 2008 Michelle Webster



Rather Tied Up

When Fergus was six months old, I entered him for the South of England Irish Setter Club Championship Show. In those days it was held in a Leisure Centre at High Wycombe and was about a four hour drive from home. This was to be his first experience of a Championship Show and it very nearly was his last!

On a freezing cold January morning, I set off with my friend and our three Irish Setters. She had been to this show the previous year and so was familiar with the venue. As she insisted that there was only a small strip of grass at the venue for exercising the dogs, I decided to stop at the service station on the M40 motorway, in order to give the dogs a good walk. Because we had quite a long journey, we had, as usual, set off at some godforsaken hour of the night, arriving at the service station at 6 a.m.

Donning our wellingtons, we set off towards the field with the dogs. My friend went in one directiona dn I went in the other. After being cooped up in the car for so long, both Flynn and Fergus were pulling with excitement, caused by delicious new smells wafting into their nostrils. Both were on flexi-leads, which I relased when I reached the field. All was well, with Flynn galloping in a straight line and Fergus rushing round in large sweeping circles, until Fergus spotted a rabbit. He immediately gave chase……with me on the end of the lead and my feet instantly left the floor! The rabbit suddenly vanished, so Fergus immediately started running round in circles, frantically following its scent, copied by Flynn, who was also running round in circles, but in the opposite direction. As I frantically tried to stop them and reel in the flexi-leads, all at the same time, I shouted anything I could think of to stop them. “STOP! WAIT! STAND! STAY!” They were of course, conveniently deaf and all previous training went out of the window. As this was happening, I began to notice lights appearing in the building at the side of me and I suddenly realized that it must be a Travel Lodge, so I would imagine, that at such an early hour, we were not very popular.

Both the dogs were still cavorting around in circles, chasing the elusive rabbit, who by now, had long disappeared, whilst I struggled to stay upright and hang onto the flexi-leads. My arms felt as if they were about to leave their sockets, as I was literally being pulled in both directions at once. As all this was happening, I hadn’t actually realized that both dogs were running in circles……but i opposite directions around me! So before I knew it, there I was at 6 a.m. in the pitch dark, literally tied up and unable to move, stranded in the middle of a field, at the side of the M40 motorway. I had no option but to yell loudly for help. The friend I had travelled with quickly came to my assistance, but it then tok both of us about 15 minutes to untie me and unravel the leads, not helped by the fact that we were both helpless with laughter. I didn’t dare let go of the leads in case I lost the dogs, who of course, woud have shot off in ot pursuit of that rabbit. We were both laughing so much that I honestly thought I would need cllean underwear! Luckily, I didn’t. Needless to say, by the time we had unravelled the dogs and myself, I was totally exhausted and of course, neither dog had been to the loo, which had been the whole point of the exercise in the first place. I really didn’t care any more at that point, as I’d had enough. So, we put the dogs back into the car, while we went for a cup of tea to help me recover, though a stiff drink might have been more effective.

By the time we arrived at the venue, it was raining quite hard, neither of the dogs had been to the loo and I had forgotten to bring their rain coats. As I walked towards the strip of grass in the car park, I saw a gate, which led to a huge field behind the leisure centre. Realization dawned, that we needn’t have stopped at all at the M40 services! Having duly toileted the dogs, they were saturated and my spectacles were so wet, I couldn’t see where I was going. After all this, I still had to negotiate the entrance to the venue, which was down down a set of very steep, slippery steps, with two crazy dogs, a show bag and benching blankets. My friend very kindly took the benching blankets and bags, while I struggled to hold and manoeuvre, what appeared to be, two bucking broncos on the end of leads. Meanwhile, other people managed up to as many as six Irish Setters, plus bags, seemingly with the greatest of ease, negotiating the steps without any difficulty as they did so. All of them looked at me as if I were totally crazy, whilst I struggled to hold the dogs, stay upright and walk down the steps, all at the same time. Their offers of help were noticeable by their absence. It was, of course, enhanced by the fact that I couldn’t see anything through my saturated spectacles.

When we finally found our bench, it was to discover that I only actually had twenty minutes in which to dry my puppy, brush him out and give him some practice before the class began. I hate doind everything in such a rush and don’t feel that it is at all fair to the dog, so I’m sure my feelings of rising panic, travelled down the lead to Fergus. He was so excited to see twenty other Irish Setter puppies. As if I didn’t feel wrung out and flustered enough, he started to ‘peform’ as well. He was up on his hind legs, making running movements in the air with his front legs, talking loudly, because he desperately wanted to pplay with everyone around him. In short, it was like having a kangaroo on the end of a lead! One of his litter brothers was in the same class and he, of course, was impeccably behaved, as were all the other puppies in the class. This only served to make me feel even more inadequate, after all, by now, I was supposed to know what I was doing. But going by the performance so far, it was looking decidedly debatable! I couldn’t do anything with Fergis in the class, as he was so intent on the dogs either side of him. He stood still for the judge, but I was so nervous that I didn’t even stand him correctly. Then when he moved down the mat, he suddenly began jumping at the lead, which he’d never done before. I smiled sweetly at him, even though I really felt like throttling him, wondering why he’d chosen this particular day to be such a pain. I felt as if I just wanted the gorund to open up and swallow me. It was only when I came out of the ring, that I discovered what everyone else already knew. In my highly nervous state, I had inadvertently left my slobber cloth in my back pocket. As I ran down the mat, it waved about and it was this that Fergus was jumping at, for to him, it must have looked so enticing.

Flynn seemed pleased to let his nephew entertain the ‘crowds’ for once, for on this particular occasion, he actually behaved himself, giving such a good performance, that he managed to win his first 1st place at a Championship Show, which thrilled and delighted me. Needless to say, I was equally delighted to arrive home without any further mishaps, but I was very much aware that I had learnt some very valuable lessons during the course of the day.

As a result of this escapade, from then on, the boys were always walked separately when on new ground, whilst I was constantly on the look out for stray rabbits!

© 2008 Michelle Webster



A Spot Of Bother

This particular year, I was able for the first time, to take both Flynn and Fergus to Crufts and was looking forward to our day out immensely. I was rather concerned, however, about how Flynn would settle, as he had never before been in such a crowded atmosphere, or had to stay on a bench for such a long time. I need not have worried, as both boys had numerous admirers all day and they loved every minute of it!

Flynn wasn’t placed, but I was extremely proud of him nevertheless, as for once in his life, he didn’t misbehave and he put his all into it. I was thrilled and delighted when Fergus was placed third in Mid Limit, the largest class of the day. After we’d had our turn, we joined on the end of the line, as the judge worked her way through the rest of the dogs in the class. Suddenly, Fergus lunged at the chap who was standing in front of us, grabbing his crotch! “Oh my God!” he yelped, “It’s a good job I dress on the other side!” I was absolutely no help whatsoever, as I was too helpless with laughter and consequently could do nothing to get Fergus off him and I was unable to help myself as I replied, “I know he’s obsessed with balls, but that’s taking it a bit too far!”

Apparently, this chap had a large chunk of cooked liver in his trouser pocket, which he then moved over to the other side, only to be jumped on by the dog on the other side of him. At this point, Fergus was frantic and became extremely vocal, as I’m sure that the other dog would get the liver. Fergus was up on his hind legs, waving his front legs in the air and talking LOUDLY!! Meanwhile, the dog on the other side was also becoming ever more frantic about the liver, so the poor chap in the middle was besieged and didn’t know where to turn for the best. His personal ‘line’ was in danger of coming to an abrupt end!!

All this was going on whilst the judge continued with her task in the ring and my embarrassment grew, as I struggled to cope with my frantic dog. The people nearby were in stitches at such a performance and word was quickly spreading round the ringside about the ‘entertainment’, much to my further embarrassment. I have never been more delighted to be pulled out for a placing than I was on this day, as it got me away from the liver and the difficult situation.

It certainly was an unforgettable experience, especially for the chap concerned, but it’s not what you would really expect to see in the ring at Crufts is it?

© 2008 Michelle Webster



A Perfect Day

As we travelled up to Edinburgh for the SKC Championship Show, I had a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach and it wasn’t caused by the curry I’d eaten the night before! This was an altogether different feeling, one which told me that things were not going to go exactly as expected. Little was I to know that my sixth sense was finely tuned and in tip-top working order. The journey generally took me about five hours, but for some reason it seemed to be taking me far longer on this day. I stopped at Berwick-on-Tweed to walk the dogs and then set off towards Edinburgh. It was at this point, that Flynn, after being extremely well behaved all the way, decided that enough was enough and proceeded to winge and bark LOUDLY for the rest of the journey. All 79 miles of it! By the time I arrived at the showground, not only was I feeling delicate and frazzled, but I could also quite cheerfully have throttled him!

As we emerged from the car into the cold wind, despite it being August, both Flynn and Fergus decided that this was the time to struggle and proceeded to be particularly difficult, as I struggled to get them into their respective leggings, in an effort to keep their coats clean, I felt sure that they must have concocted this ‘plan’ whilst in the back of the car, for both boys looked very pleased with themselves! Eventually, after what seemed like an Eternity, both boys were ‘dressed’ and ready for the off. As we were later than usual arriving, I hoped that they would ‘perform’ quickly. Typically, they, of course, had other ideas. By the time they had both seen to the ask in hand and we had arrived at our bench, judging had already begun. I just about managed to get into the ring in time with Fergus.

I had arranged for a friend to show Flynn for me in the next class, but to my dismay, they didn’t turn up. It was a long way to the bench from the ring and knowing that I wouldn’t have time to go all the way back for Flynn after I’d shown Fergus, without missing the class, I asked someone to hold Flynn for me. I also asked them if they would kindly brush him and make sure that he was generally presentable to show. I didn’t have time to take Fergus back to the bench, before I needed to be in the ring again with Flynn, so the idea was that I would swap the dogs over at the end of my first class.

Hastily leaving Fergus with someone at the ringside, I rushed back in with Flynn, When I caught my breath and took the time to look at him, I was horrified to find that he had copious amounts of slobber covering just about every part of his head and he looked as if he hadn’t been near a brush for months! So much for my ‘friend’ agreeing to make sure he was presentable to show. I was still struggling to stand him when the judge asked us all to run round the ring twice. He took off like a bat out of hell, with me vainly trying to hang onto the end of the lead. I didn’t even have time to get my breath back before it was our turn. Flynn was so excited at being in the ring again after being away from it for so long, that he could hardly keep four feet on the floor at the same time. In fact, the judge must have wondered if he had ants in his pants! I valiantly struggled to stand this extremely excited, strong dog. Once again, I was left hanging onto the lead as we shot round the ring, the spectators flashing past in a hazy blur, as we attempted to move in a triangle, stay upright and avoid the tent pole in the middle of the rimg, all at the same time! Judging by their facial expressions, the ringside spectators were stunned and the judge was trying his hardest not to collapse from laughter! As for retaining any dignity, well, that was a non starter, but once again, Flynn seemed highly delighted with himself.

As the class ended the heavens opened. “How apt”, I thought to myself. After struggling with Flynn, I was exhausted and had begun to ache in areas that I didn’t even know about previously. Meanwhile, he’d had a wonderful time. I decided that enough was enough and for once, set off for home before the show had finished. I became increasingly tired as the journey progressed and had to stop several times to rest. Just before I reached the English border, I overtook a slwo car, only to set off the speed camera on the opposite side of the raod, which until that point had gone unnoticed! Just a perfect end to an equally perfect day.

© 2008 Michelle Webster




The morning after our ‘perfect day’ at SKC Championship Show in Edinburgh, I was planning to take the dogs somewhere else, but as I arrived home feeling totally drained and exhausted, I decided to see how I felt when I woke up before reaching a final decision. Morning arrived and I felt anything but bright and breezy, in fact, it took me forever, to get myself into gear. It was almost lunchtime, when having put the dogs into the car, I set off for the Irish Setter Fanciers Fun Day at Faddiley in Cheshire. I had no idea just how long it would take me to reach Faddiley, but undaunted, I started to drive to the other side of the country. As I reached the M6 motorway, I began to look for familiar signs from the map I had been given. Seeing a name I recognized, I took the next junction off the motorway. After driving for several more miles, I became rather worried that the signs did not match up to my directions and non of the road numbers matched the one on which I was now travelling! Somehow, but without realizing it, I had come off the motorway and back onto an A road. And according to the signs at the side of the road, there was no stopping allowed for 13 miles and Wrexham was only 11 miles away! As Wrexham is in Wales and I was heading for Cheshire, even I could see that I was hopelessly lost. Eventually I managed to find a lay-bye, where I was able to stop. I phoned the organizers for help, pathetically explaining what had happened and asking for directions, trying all the while to stem the swelling rise of sheer panic that seemed to be rising from the pit of my stomach.

Following the new set of directions, I set off once again, managing to arrive at the Fun Day as the first people were leaving! It had taken me five and a half hours to reach my destination. Everyone was extremely welcoming, but I just felt so utterly frazzled. My head was banging and I desperately needed to take some headache tablets. So, slipping the dogs leads under my foot, I struggled to hold on to two very excited dogs, who were eyeing up the proceedings and obviously wanting to rush off to join in, whilst I scrabbled inside my bag to find the required cup, water and medication. It was medication that had to be dissolved before it could be taken, so trying to pour the water, add the tablets, wait for it to dissolve and drink it, all whilst trying to keep two very excited setters still, was no easy task. Believe me!

No sooner had I finished this mammoth task than Flynn saw his opportunity and did a runner, streaking backwards and forwards across the large paddock, trailing his lead and eventually disappearing into the next field, showing total disregard for the fun and games that he was meanwhile disrupting so effectively. The whole idea of the Fun Day was to join in with the fun and games, not to arrive and create our own. Throwing Fergus’s lead at some unsuspecting soul, I set off in hot pursuit of Flynn, muttering threats of death under my breath. He steadfastly ignored me, all the way across two large fields, choosing this moment to become selectively deaf. Suddenly, he stopped as a delicious smell reached his nostrils. That was my chance. I ran up behind and grabbed him quickly. He was determined to have the last laugh though, as on the way back, he suddenly dragged me through a huge pile of stinging nettles, which wouldn’t have been so bad, had I not been wearing open-toed sandals! The buffet and the fun and games were all over by the time we rejoined everyone back in the garden and people were beginning to leave. I had not eaten anything, nor had anything to drink and had not even participated in the fun and games. It seemed as if I had just driven for five and a half hours to be extremely frazzled and chase my dog all over the countryside. Some Fun Day. In a funny kind of way, I was rather relieved that the day was over, as I felt far too delicate after all those shenanigans to join in anyway.

In order to help me find my way back to the motorway without getting lost again, some friends very kindly offered to guide me back to the motorway, telling me, that when they waved out of the window, I was to go North on the M6 motorway. All went well until we reached the last roundabout. My friends duly waved out of the car window and I set off round the roundabout, which was to take me on to the M6 motorway and home. However, instead of the sign indicating North or South, as they had suggested, it said Preston and Birmingham. Not having a clue where Preston was and being sure that Birmingham was North of my position, I duly set off towards Birmingham. Of course there was no time to check the map as once into the flow of traffic on the roundabout, I had no option but to go with the flow of traffic. Two junctions further down to my horror, I discovered that I was back at Faddiley where I had started! I had been driving in totally the wrong direction.

By the time I finally got home, both the dogs and I were shattered. They must have wondered why they had spent most of the day in the back of the car, being driven around the country, seemingly without purpose. Only Flynn had managed to have a good run round and that was because he had escaped. The only positive aspect to come out of this weekend, was the fact that I would probably now be able to give a detailed account of Britain’s Motorway system.

But I wouldn’t count on it!

© 2008 Michelle Webster



Breaking Glass

One day, whilst my Father was walking Fergus, he happened to walk past a parked car outside the bank. In the car was a medium sized, black, long-haired dog. As he came alongside the car with Fergus, all hell broke loose, from inside the car. In the process, the dog in the car broke the car window and amazingly managed to put out the entire window! To his credit, Fergus didn’t bat an eyelid, but just kept walking. The dog inside the car was going demented, snarling, growling and barking, giving it his all. He really objected to Fergus’s presence and was determined to defend his territory. Thinking quickly, my Father told the dog in the car to STAY! Incredibly it did. He then rushed into the bank and the nearby Tea rooms to find it’s owner, who needless to say was astounded at his tale.

© 2008 Michelle Webster



Scotland To Australia!

Little did I know just how much travelling was involved when I took up my new hobby of Dog Showing, this was emphasised even more when I got Fergus and he started to win so often. Suddenly the stakes were higher and I felt obligated to his breeder to show this lovely boy as often as possible, for after all, she’d had enough faith in me, a novice of three years, to give me such a good dog. I was determined to show her that I could master the art of showing and if we did nothing, it certainly wouldn’t be for the want of trying! However as I steadily clocked up the miles in my trusty dog kennel on wheels, even I had to admit that travelling from Scotland to Australia in just one week took some doing!!!

Fergus was such a wonderful dog to show, he never let me down, not once, I had absolute faith that he would behave himself impeccably both in and out of the ring at all times. I never felt any trepidation about showing him and consequently was prepared to enter under anyone and travel any distance. I usually took Flynn with me, if there was a class for him to enter and this occasion was no exception. I had entered two long distance shows within a week. I say long distance, but where we live, everywhere is long distance as we have a 90 minute drive just to reach the motorway……in any direction.

The first was a Championship Show in Dunfermline, Scotland, a good 5-6 hour drive from home. I slept through the alarm. I didn’t wake up until 3 a.m. and I should have left at 2.30 a.m. at the latest! Then when I lost my spare car keys between the front door and the car, I knew it wasn’t going to be a good day. I should have listened to the omens and gone back to bed. Eventually we set off, flying up the A1 like someone demented for most of the way, only stopping at Durham to exercise the dogs. All was well, though time was tight, until I got to the M8 motorway. My instructions said I needed to leave the motorway at Junction 1. It was two years since I had been to this show and unbeknown to me, all the Junction numbers had been changed. So instead of coming off at Junction 2, which was now Junction 1, as apparently I should have, I went sailing on to try to reach Junction 1, which was now Junction 2, oblivious to my mistake. (Oh do try to keep up!)

By the time I finally reached the venue, the first hint that things were not as they should be, was the fact that I was struggling to get into the car park; there were just so many cars. Normally I arrived so early that I had the pick of spaces. However, I was so desperate for the loo that as I ran in hurriedly, leaving the boys in the car, I didn’t really care how far away from the venue I had to park. I was so far away that by the time I reached the venue, I was literally gasping for breath and still desperate for the loo!

When I emerged back into the hall, I looked into the ring and hoped that what I was looking at, were large puppies. The large puppies turned out to be Juniors, which meant that I had missed my Veteran class. To make it even more annoying, there were only three in the class and only one turned up. I was greeted with the news that I had just missed Veteran, which Flynn would have been in and I would definitely have won it, as the present dog had never won anything, I was told. My reply was unprintable!! I had even missed the Scottish Piper, who at the start of the show, stood on the steps of the venue in full regalia, piping in the dogs and exhibitors, with never one dog batting an eyelid. This was always my favourite part of the show.

The judge gave Twoacres Kavanagh, Fergus’s half brother, his Graduate class, so I knew that she wouldn’t like Fergus. If they like one they don’t like the other. So it was with a sinking heart that I walked into the ring with Fergus. Sure enough, we were thrown out. The puzzling thing was, that his daughter, who is Fergus’s mirror image, won her class. All signs said that I should not have bothered, but I still had an enjoyable day amongst friends, so it wasn’t wasted entirely, though I was certainly more tired on the drive home, than if I’d had a winning day.

A few days later, there was another long distance show, in the Midlands. Again, I had entered both boys. This was a well liked show, for if it was blessed with good weather, it had the atmosphere of a garden party. Many people took their own gazebos and picnics, whilst the committee provided legendary edible delights. I decided to show Flynn myself and amazingly, he behaved himself and actually stood still without fidgeting. Unheard of for him. He still managed his party trick of barking all the way back to the judge though, which luckily she found highly amusing. I was thrilled when he won his class. Everyone was asking me how old he was and they were amazed when they learnt that he was 9 years old, saying that he neither looked it, nor acted like it!! Again this was not to be Fergus’s day, although he did manage a 4th place, so all was not lost.

Some of my friends had put up their gazebo, so the boys sat with their dogs under this to keep out of the hot sun. I had not thought to take a ground stake with me, so could only fasten the boys to the wire fence, whilst I went inside to get some refreshments. This was a huge mistake. The venue is near to a private airport, so all day there were helicopters, small planes and microlights flying overhead. Flynn absolutely hates things like this and makes his feeling known…loud and clear. He really doesn’t like them at all. Flynn barked at all of them, each and every one, putting his heart and soul into it. He could be heard all over the field and on several occasions almost pulled down the gazebo in his excitement. He also barked loudly every time anyone was placed and the spectators applauded. I’m sure he thinks that he is applauding. So it was a very cross day. I was cross with him for barking constantly, he was driving me crazy and I was cross with him for almost demolishing the gazebo. I then discovered the numerous holes under their blanket, where Fergus was sitting, which I thought he’d dug, so I was cross with Fergus as well. My blood pressure was rising by the minute! However, later in the afternoon, it became very clear, that Flynn was the phantom hole digger, as I caught him doing it. This one was so deep, it looked as if he was trying to tunnel his way out and get to Australia! Scotland to Australia in one week, now that takes some doing.

© 2008 Michelle Webster



Walking For Rescue, Or Rescuing The Walker?

Every May Day Bank holiday Sunday, the East Midlands Social Region of the Irish Setter Breeders Club, hold their Annual Sponsored Walk to raise money for the day to day running of the Irish Setter Rescue scheme. The weather is always just right for both walkers and dogs, pleasant and sunny, but not too hot. This particular May Day was no exception. The weather on the days either side of this event, were questionable as always, but somehow or other, Sybil and Steve Lennox always manage to ensure that we have perfect weather for this event. As this happens with such regularity every year, I become more convinced that they are ‘having help from up there’!

Every year, Sybil and Steve very generously host this event, allowing us to invade thier garden when we’ve finished. To just say thank you seems rather inadequate, but the East Midlands Regional Social Group of the ISBC are extremely grateful for thier continued generosity.

On this particular occasion, I had gone with the express intention of helping in the kitchen, but then had the bright idea, whilst driving there, that I really ought to go on the walk to take some different photos, as we always seemed to have photos only at the start of the walk and in the garden afterwards. I was warned to change into my wellies as it was slightly muddy! I set off full of enthusiasm with the first group of walkers, but by the time I was half way up the first gentle incline in the woods, it was fast becoming clear to me that I was struggling. Being from Lincolnshire, where the land is flat and the fact that I had only helped, not walked , at the previous two walks, was proving to be very telling.

I stopped to get my breath back and remove my jacket, but by the time I had finished, everyone else in my group had disappered. Were they all trying to tell me something? Never having done this particular route before, I had absolutely no idea where they had gone and not a soul was in sight. Directly in front of me was a dry stone wall, which in my wisdom, I convinced myself that everyone must have climbed over. It was only when I actually tried to climb over this wall, complete with heavy camera, camera bag and loose jacket, that I realised, too late, that it would not have been easy for them, or the dogs, to get over. Climbing over a fairly high dry stone wall, is a very precarious exercise, as just about every stone moved underneath me, whilst I tried to clamber over.

Somehow I managed it, only to see a large expanse of very empty field stretching in front of me and still no sign of anyone else. How was it possible for everyone to vanish so quickly and so completely? I set off down the field track, getting about half way before common sense took over, telling me that the others couldn’t possibly have gone this way. So, turning round, I trudged back to the dry stone wall, where I was faced with the same problem yet again……I had to get over it!

At this point I really didn’t know what to do, or which way to go, so decided to stay put and see if the second group turned up. Eventually, after about fifteen minutes, which actually seemed more like an eternity, a group of dogs leapt into view over the brow of the hill and I breathed a sigh of relief. One of the whippets was so glad to be there, that she rolled on her back with her legs in the air. I was helped over the wall, but misjudged the distance down, jumped and a few minutes later, was doing the same as the whippet, much to the amusement of the second group of walkers!

The dogs in this group were definitely characters, especially one, Murphy, who delighted in laying down and rolling in the largest, muddiest, smelliest puddle he could find. By the time he had finished he was dripping black, sloppy, smelly mud from every part of him, apparently trying to turn himself into a Gordon Setter! Amazingly, when I fell over, I didn’t get dirty, but Murphy obviously had other ideas for me, as he rushed up to me straight from the puddle and shook himself hard, splattering me with wet, smelly mud.

Half way round the second part of my walk, it became painfully obvious that my wellies had caused some very large blisters, so I had no option but to remove them and continue in my socks. Walking on the stoney, wooded area was no picnic, as every tiny stone felt like a huge boulder and the blisters on my heels were really stinging. The only way I could manage to walk, was to mince along, taking very tiny steps like some stiletto-heeled bimbo. It was the longest two and a half miles I have ever walked! Other walkers passing us, must have thought that I couldn’t afford shoes. Eventually we reached the road, which although not easy to walk on in my socks, was infinitely more comfortable than in the woods. What I had forgotten, not having done the walk itself for a couple of years, was that the last part involved crossing three fields, one of which was full of cows, which meant that I had to be extremely careful where I trod!! The final straw was when I climbed over the last stile and despite being careful, I managed to spike my hand on the barbed wire fence at the side of it.

I finally arrived back at Treetops, having discovered muscles that I had forgotten about, splashed with mud, bleeding profusely, with sodden, sore, muddly feet, but still being able to say that I had enjoyed myself. Sincere thanks to my friends, who hung back to make sure that I was OK and helped me to struggle on, otherwise I might still be somewhere in that wood. The best bit, as always, came last, when we were all treated to lots of mouth watering, very fattening cakes and sandwiches, washed down by as much tea, coffee and juice as we could drink. Not much good for the diet, but then that can start another day! To top it all, when I got home and went to enjoy a hard earnt soak in bath, I discovered that I was literally covered in insect bites. My crazy idea to do the walk in order to get that perfect photo left me a very itchy legacy for several days.

It was a most enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon, even if I did have to walk most of the way in my socks and I wasn’t even sponsored. Don’t let my experience put you off joining us……I was the only one who managed to get into this state!!

© 2008 Michelle Webster