Seemingly Crumpet, the seven year old working cocker, is in season and so strictly off game(s). Rather oddly we had no warning of her impending fertile moment; no blood stained sofas or duvets which would normally be a warning she was “coming in heat.”
So either we have got it wrong, or she has become an exception to the rule of thumb. At any rate, we had all embussed in the camouflaged ex-French Army lorry that acts as a beaters’ bus on the local shoot when Brandon, an amiable vizla, started taking an unhealthy interest in Crumpet. Playful behaviour is quite the norm. Usually it is some randy black lab just getting overexcited. But on this occasion Crumpet showed no sign of rejecting her suitor and Brandon had to be hauled off before he got going, as it were.
And sure enough at the beginning of the first drive Brandon, followed by Murphy, Charlie the keeper’s impossibly horny lab, jumped on her with a lot of snorting and stamping and had to be spoken to very sharply.
When we stopped for elevenses, provided by the owner (sloe gin and Heroes sweeties – the healthy option) Brandon was still pestering her. And another black lab had joined in. The clue that Crumpet was not in the first stages of season but had probably advanced to what I think the books call full oestrus (ie ready to rock) was that she was “standing” for her suitors without the usual snapping that welcomes unwanted attentions. I am not sure she was compliantly laying her tail to one side to assist with matters, but she certainly wasn’t doing anything to deter them. Added to that, on closer inspection she was undoubtedly in a tender state around the nether regions, which we had completely missed.
So that’s that. No shooting or beating for Crumpet till well into the New Year. This however may have its benefits.
For almost the first time her daughter, Waffle, can now come out without her mother. Instead of charging about in her wake she is having to make up her own mind about what to do next, and so far she’s been pretty good. She’s staying in close and rootling about, although still inclined to make a 20 yard lunge after any close passing pheasant.
Still, I have full confidence in the dog, if not myself. We are out beating two days a week or, if we’re lucky, even getting in a day’s shooting, so there’s a window of opportunity for some intensive on the job training with Waffle while poor old Crumpet sulks at home in her basket. And believe me, children have nothing on sulking compared to a gundog left at home.