Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In praise of Fife Constabulary

It's been almost five months since I moved back to Fife (more or less) permanently. That time has mostly been filled up with cutting gorse and buying cows, but I also get to enjoy the delights of daily strolls around the farm. Fences need checking, livestock needs to be seen everyday to make sure it's all OK, and frankly I can't see the point of living and working here if I'm not going to enjoy it.


Usually I am accompanied on my rounds by some dogs. The number varies - the sausage dog is getting on in years, arthritic in the legs and sometimes elects to stay behind. I occasionally pick up my nephew's lurcher, Bran, on my way past the farmhouse, too. Haggis the Lucky Labrador and Tegid the Irritating Patterdale always come. But however many dogs I set out with, almost inevitably I come home one short. Can you guess which one?


Tegid is just over a year old now.* True to the breed, he has no concept of fear. Nothing worries him, be it a forty tonne articulated lorry laden with logs, or a herd of protective mother cows with their calves. Being lost is something that happens to others, not him. He is also a very amiable chap, happy to go and talk to anyone he meets, and doubly so if they have anything remotely resembling a picnic with them. 


Lately he has decided that the best fun is chasing deer in the woods that surround the western end of the farm. This in itself isn't a problem - I doubt very much he'd ever catch one. But they do tend to lead him a merry dance, sometimes taking him miles away. Generally speaking, he comes back now - he's been here long enough to know where home is. But just occasionally he ends up going the wrong way. Such was the case yesterday.


I had gone up the hill in my new toy to fix some electric fencing. I've got a dozen Highland Cattle and a bull in one field, and the neighbouring field is let to another farmer. He has about fifty cows with calves at foot in there. I noticed on Sunday that my bull was wandering up and down the fence line, no doubt bored with his own small harem and looking for a few more cows to serve. A single strand of electrified wire attached to his side of the fence should be enough to cool the bull's ardour.


I took Tegid and Haggis with me as otherwise they would have been locked up in the caravan. Haggis being a Labrador, and thus one of life's natural supervisors, kept close by as I worked. Tegid less so. When I heard the manic barking echoing from the woods, I knew he'd found a deer, but I wasn't too worried about it as he knew the way home. I fully expected to find him waiting for me when I got back.


But he wasn't there.


Annoyed, I went back up the hill and walked around it, calling. No joy. Back home again, there was still no sign. Since he'd been gone around four hours, I figured there was nothing to do but call the police.


I've had to do this twice before. The first time Tegid had gone off with someone walking on Norman's Law,** and they had helpfully handed him in at Cupar police station. The second time he'd been found sniffing around the next farm East but one, and they'd let Fife Constabulary know they'd found him. This time he'd been found chasing deer in the woods to the south of the farm, and taken in by a kindly local. She'd contacted the police, so once more I had to jump in the car and drive around to a complete stranger to pick up The Horse Doctor's dog.


Tegid has been microchipped, but I don't like putting a collar on him when he's roaming over the farm. Terriers, as their name suggests, will tend to go to earth, and I don't like the idea of him getting snagged on an underground root. Chances are he'd lose his collar in the woods whilst in hot pursuit of venison, anyway. Most of the neighbouring farms have met him now, so they can just phone me when he appears. I can also hope that as he gets older, he learns not to go so far - well, I can hope.


But in all of this, Fife Constabulary deserve praise and thanks. I've usually phoned them well after office hours - you've got to give a dog time to retrace his route over several miles, then allow a couple of hours for the panic to build. Even so, they are always there, always friendly and never judgemental. I don't know much about their performance in other spheres of police work, but in this one they are top notch and have my undying gratitude.


I just  hope that tracking the movements of my wayward terrier isn't distracting them too much from the job of catching criminals.


Who? Me?


* His official birthday is 12th July, since that's the Horse Doctor's birthday and he was her present. His actual birthday was about eight weeks before that, but his provenance was not so well documented that there is any great accuracy on the date.
** it's very popular with casual hikers, especially at the weekends.

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