Still laughing


Just a year since M arrived with us. I recall that first week of her innocently sleeping besides my bed in her puppy crate. I have fond memories of wondering how life will pan out over the next few years …

”On my toes” is the answer.

Yes, indeed Madam.

We can all have plans as to how we would secure certain behaviours, and then along comes a learner who throws out the book. She likes to learn her own way. She certainly ensures I go with the grain not against it.

After sharing videos of her tutoring, my learning, I think more folk at the Spring Conferences – ORCA, Expo, are “wise” about Gordon Setters. I now have my licence for surviving teenagers.

I took her along to a breed championship show in January. The entry fee is modest when considering how much learning and experience we gain. She gets to see an enormous collection of different breeds, some close up and some at far distance. All were viewed with fascination of course. To reach the Gordon ring we need to pass the Irish Setters.

Dogs at breeds show are shown in the morning, bitches in the afternoon; you can show a bitch in season, hence the second billing. Many of the dogs waiting for the Irish ring were young male boys in full Spring vigour. She thought heaven had arrived. Folk are standing around catching up after the Christmas break and certainly not paying attention to this Fit n Fertile Thing selling her wares by a mere raise of eyebrow. She handed out her FB details to everything she saw flashing her single status.

It took some nifty wrapping to make a string basket out of my 6 foot lead to manipulate her past and thankfully I found another way to escape the building.

One of the difficulties that youngsters experience when growing up is the ability to manage energy. This does not only mean understanding how to stop to avoid crashing into things, but also when to reserve energy for a later needs and adventures.

She can now, with the help of dark Winter mornings, start the day with a short garden challenge spotting every essence of the overnight visitors, and then come inside to settle down whilst I breakfast. This was not the case 6 months ago, when we needed at least an hour of adventure before we could settle. This involved a visit to the chickens ensuring the eggs were of respectable quality, apple tossing as we went around the orchard, chases with the nannies, first breakfast and supervising my turd-collection skills. A cold, frosty lawn assisted in shortening the outsides needs.

one year old

Through the day I mix short bursts of play and energy expenditure and schedule rest times directly afterwards. Six months ago evenings were often high energy opportunities to fly around the back of the sofa and fling toys.

Nature’s sedative, dinner, is at 4pm during the Winter, as soon as it becomes dark she does settle quickly for the evening and then is completely gone for the rest of the night. Nothing sleeps quite as deeply as a Gordon. The only evenings she stayed alert was to watch Crufts on the TV. Dinner will slide on now the clock’s have move forward so that her feed time is about 1 hour before dark to ensure I have some peace for part of the day.

As much as possible I avoid extremes highs of excitement and extremes of energy needs – such as long distance exercise. I also avoid long periods of enforced rest. Even when I am in the Barn for workshops she usually has access to the garden, unless extremely cold or wet, and the company of her nannies, Flink and Time.


She will travel with me on errands with occasional outings around car parks, or our local villages and garden centres. But most errands are 40-50 minutes of resting in her crate in the van. I like to think variation and the avoidance of extremes builds her flexibility of tolerating these energy changes. Adults have learned when to value sleep, rest up for later energy needs and enjoy naps when the sun is shinning. I wish we could “pre-sleep”, that would be more than useful.

It has certainly be an exciting year and also very, very precious. She is a wonderful companion and teacher, full of the minute-to-minute happiness and makes me laugh every day.

Her bedtime ritual is a drama of her own making. She has of course, a luxury Orvis bed that was tailor made for her body and it is her preferred choice for the night. But we begin with the stage being set as I potter around the nightly rituals. She rests on my bed waiting for me to dive in. Well, not so much dive these days as shuffle down.

As my feet explore under the cover they creep up onto her waiting place of leisure. Surprise washes over her body, not only ONE burrowing beastie, but TWO sneak up on her. We then have a passionate story unfold of stalking, hunting, pouncing and defeating the under-sheet army.

Every night. Really …… ?

Fortunately after her final curtain call she retires to her Orvis and lets the “defeated” army rest for another night.



07 February 2017

PO Box 13, Chipping Campden, Glos. GL55 6WX.

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