Monday, September 26, 2011


*** - blog warning - *** 

This has turned into something of a therapy session. Read at your peril. 

*** - end of blog warning - ***

Anger. It's such a useless emotion. It gets in the way of everything else, makes it difficult to think straight. It's a very bad idea to try and do anything important when you're angry, but then anger makes it nigh on impossible to recognize that what you're doing is important. Until it's too late.

I'm normally the most placid and laid back of people, but I've been feeling a lot of anger recently. Simmering rage that I find very hard to contain. I have to fight against the constant urge to lash out with my fists, to kick anything in sight, to shout until I'm hoarse, then jump on the horse and gallop away into the sunset. And then, when I finally think I've got a lid on the anger, it turns to despair like the trapdoor opening up under the condemned man on the gallows. For someone used to keeping a firm grip on his emotions, I find this roller-coaster somewhat disconcerting. I'm not used to having my mood swing quite so violently - not since I was a spotty teenager, at least - nor to finding myself swearing quite so freely, fuck it.

There are a number of reasons for this situation, but the most immediately obvious is small, black and currently fast asleep on the armchair with a 'goose wouldn't melt in my mouth' look on his sweet face. 

Who? Me?

Yes, young Tegid, the Patterdale Terrier. Now, Tegid's not the first terrier I've owned, not even the first Patterdale, so I can't say I didn't know what I was signing up for. He is, however, quite the most infuriating creature to cross my path in recent years. The problem is one of obedience, obviously, and his propensity for wandering off. He disappeared yesterday twice, for three hours at a time. This morning he was happily playing with young Dogmael whilst I was hanging the washing out. Things went quiet for all  of fifteen seconds, and when I looked up he was gone, full-tilt across the next field, gathering speed and completely beyond calling back. He finally returned two hours later with the leg of a deer in his mouth. Well, the bones and hoof, but it was still considerably bigger than him. I hope he found it, rather than catching it, killing it and eating more than his own body weight in raw venison before bringing home a trophy to show of with in front of the rest of the pack.

This afternoon I had to go and plumb in a new water trough on the back of the hill, and then walk the far march fence before letting my cows through - well, it would be embarrassing if they wandered off into the neighbouring farm. I took the dogs with me, being careful to tie Tegid to the truck whilst I was working, then keeping him on a lead whilst we all walked. That was until the gorse got so thick I had to let him off or risk both of us getting lacerated. He lulled me into a false sense of security by staying close for a few minutes, but it couldn't last. No sooner was my attention distracted by Haggis falling into a rabbit hole than he took off into the scrub, oblivious to my whistling and shouting. A few minutes later I could hear distant barks echoing from the woods as he gave chase to something undoubtedly much bigger than him.

Not much else I could do, I gathered the other two* and continued checking the fences. I half-heartedly whistled and called once I'd got back to the pick-up, and waited around for a few minutes just in case Tegid decided to re-join us, but to no avail. Fuming, I drove slowly home and started to hammer out this blog post, that being a safer way to vent than breaking something (most likely my hands and feet). 

Halfway through the second paragraph, the prodigal terrier returned. He usually does this. In his own sweet time, but eventually. He knows perfectly well how to get back home, and only fails if some kind soul picks him up first, or there's someone up on the hill with a picnic. Since arriving here in February, I've had to pick Tegid up from the police, and from all of the neighbouring farms - some of them more than once. Is it surprising that he drives me to distraction?

But I've got a soft spot for animals, in case you hadn't noticed. I care about them and what happens to them. Probably more than I care about most people, if I'm being honest, but let's not go there just now. More importantly, I can't help imagining all the terrible fates that could await a missing dog. He could be stuck in a hole, caught by his collar snagged on a protruding root. He could be hit by a car, broken-backed and in agony by the side of the road. He could be trapped in a snare, chewing off his own leg in an attempt to get free. He could be taken in by strangers with small children who feed him endless cake and dress him up in dolls clothes. Oh the horror.

So I worry, perhaps needlessly - certainly needlessly to date, except that one time when Mortimer went missing. And I'm powerless to do anything about it. The dog is gone, the dog won't respond to being called, the dog escapes from the pen I've so carefully constructed and wanders off to whatever fate awaits him. And it happens over and over again.

It's frustrating,  and eventually the frustration leads to anger. But worst of all is that I'm not really angry with Tegid. He's just a dog, after all. A Patterdale Terrier must do what a Patterdale Terrier must do. No, I'm not angry with him; I'm angry with myself for letting it happen.

And there's the nub of it. All anger, if you stop and think about it, is anger at yourself. For allowing something to happen or for not being able to stop something from happening. The first kind you can do something about. Learn from your mistake, make sure you don't do it again. The second kind you're powerless to do anything about - frustrating I know, and the easy way to deal with frustration is to get angry. But if you can accept that some things are beyond your control, then it's easy to let the anger go.

OK, that sounds a bit spineless, and maybe it is, but I'm not suggesting you should just accept defeat and slink away with your tail between your legs. Instead of getting angry and kicking out at the world for being unfair, it's a lot more productive to work around the problem. At least, that's how I've tried to approach life, and for years it's worked out pretty well.

But now, I feel the little demon of anger raging around in my head more and more often. Tegid's frequent disappearances are one flashpoint, but there's an underlying malaise there.  I suspect among the reasons for it are the fact that I am living four hundred miles away from the Horse Doctor; that I am attempting to set up my own business; that I am so far out of my comfort zone I can't even see the dull glow of its streetlights on the horizon now. Many, many things conspire to enrage the demon, but the worst of them all is knowing that all this shit was my own choice, and that I could have had a much easier time if I'd stayed in Wales.

Then again, if I'd done that, I'd just be beating myself up about not taking the chance to farm and getting angry with the endless Welsh rain. 

I guess it's just like Jesus said. There's no pleasing some people.

* the SausageDog, being of advanced years, declines the longer strolls these days. I was accompanied only by Haggis the Lucky Labrador and young Dogmael, who has yet to earn his name.

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Blogger Ronnie Soak said...

James, as a Fell terrier owner (similar type to Patterdale) what you describe is typical behaviour. By the sounds of it, yours is bred from workers, and as such has a strong working drive - he is looking to fulfill that. (this you may know already if you have owned one). Sadly, you need to make yourself, and the activity you are doing more exciting to him, which means things like balls and sticks for him to chase. Mine is 15 in a couple of weeks, and still does the bugger off thing if I am not careful.

September 26, 2011 11:53 am  
Blogger highlandwriter said...

hang in there, james. it will all get better...



September 27, 2011 5:43 am  
Blogger Laura Paine Carr said...

I for one, am better off for your exploring your own anger.

That is the way of things.

Dam that dog. And Mr. Soak has a point. Loving animals takes us up to a point, and then we have to gather our wits/courage and take the plunge: working dogs of the terror-sort need work, provided by us. Maybe putting him in charge of dinner would be good, or roasting & grinding the coffee?

I sure hope the Horse Doctor is coming to see you soon.

September 27, 2011 11:29 pm  
Blogger Laura Paine Carr said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

September 27, 2011 11:29 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

Thanks for the kind words, everyone.

Andy - yeah, I know all about Patterdales and their errant behaviour. I was raised by terriers, after all. Tegid's just a catalyst to a deeper problem.

HW - it will indeed, I'm sure of it. But sometimes I wish it would get better sooner

Laura - I'm not letting him anywhere near the coffee - he's hyper enough as it is!

September 28, 2011 9:56 am  
Blogger Tracy Sharp said...

Big Hugs!

September 29, 2011 5:16 pm  

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