“With the Bank Holiday rapidly approaching, we are already thinking about this weekend's shows. Annie is taking a demo team to the Burghley Game and Country Fair while I will be attending Highclere. This is only twenty five minutes from us so unusually I won’t be staying on site, I’m not totally sure that I will like this as I really quite enjoy ‘camp life’ (staying in the lorry, before you start spreading rumours).
A very early start meant that we could take advantage of the beautiful weather this week and we took some of the youngsters for their first real experience of water. It could not have gone better, within twenty minutes of arriving at the lake all three of them were swimming. Razz, Jig and Taff loved the water, although we had to use all sorts of tricks to get Jig to build up the confidence to swim. There is that really tricky moment when having got the youngster to wade in up to his chest it is necessary to throw the dummy out just that bit further in order to get him to go out of his depth and start swimming. Although a little tentative we managed to rev Jig up enough to believe that now would be a good time to make this move; 'splash' went the dummy about six feet out of reach, Jig charged into the water right up to his chest and came to an immediate halt. “I’m not going out there, dad; I’m not going out of my depth, you threw it, you fetch it,” was almost certainly what he was thinking.
Encouragement got us no further; in fact, the extra pressure was too much and he returned to the bank. Suddenly the penny dropped, while there appeared to be next to no current there was enough flow for the dummy to start drifting towards the weir about thirty yards away. Panic!
By now Jig was busy hunting the margins, and appeared to have lost all interest in the helpless dummy (that’s the floating toy, not me). Suddenly, up piped Mrs Buckley: “You're going to have to get your wellies off and get swimming, Mr. Kirby.” Marvellous, my ‘highly trained gundog’ has cleared off, it’s 6.30am and I’m going to have to go swimming. Annie recognised instantly that I was unhappy with the swimming idea and her quick thinking saved the day. She grabbed some stones from the water's edge and threw them at the dummy, the splashing was more than Jig could cope with and as quick as he had left the water he launched himself in and immediately started to swim out to the dummy. The fascinating bit was that most first time swimmers take a while to get co-ordinated, but not so for Jig - he swam like an Olympic champion, straight to the dummy and straight back making a perfect delivery to hand.
There are several excellent lessons to learn from this outing; firstly, nature and genetics are a wonderful thing. All three of those young dogs started to swim the moment that their feet came away from the bottom. How to do they know how to do that? Just brilliant. Secondly, on a serious note, do be careful when introducing young dogs to water as things may not always turn out as well as you might have hoped for. Lastly, that my right hand man, Head Trainer Annie Buckley is not to be trusted. If it had not been for the fact that I launched a tirade of abuse at her when she suggested that I started swimming, she would have taken great delight in watching me get soaking wet and freezing cold while all the time all we needed to do was throw a few stones into the water. Dreadful woman!”