Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

March 2005

Oxhill

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The Rocky Road to Perdition

On the 24th February our dog Rocky, a Black Labrador, was shot by a local farmer.  He is not the first dog to be shot in the village in recent times. 

My wife is distraught, as he was her dog but knows that she has had enough warnings from me about his tendency to stray, not far admittedly, always to the same two farms to visit his lady friends.  If we went on holiday the second he got back no matter how hard you watched him his first port of call was to visit the girls.

It is fair to say that once you have used a pedigree dog for breeding they can scent their primary source of interest from miles away and even a visit to the vet's sharp knife merely blunted his ambition.  A bit like me he still felt compelled to make the journey but couldn't quite remember why when he got there.

The farmer and his son have been incredibly kind and polite considering the fact that they have lost nine lambs, perhaps because in the past they, as did I when I farmed, have had to put down one of their own dogs for a similar problem and understood the pain that Susan was feeling.

Perception is a difficult path to walk; to us Rocky was gentle to the point of being timid, loving and obedient.  He protected his territory from other dogs but was, on my land, afraid of sheep.  A great retriever of game, he could carry a dead full grown goose but would lay a live pickup gently at your feet completely unharmed.  The dog was obedient to a fault and never had to be walked on a lead.  He was rarely seen without something in his mouth around the house and we soon became a family of one shoe owners as he took his trophies up to Bill Fox's "girls" and they would be returned to us by Mrs Fox from time to time in a box.

Sadly however it is now Rocky that could be returned in a box.  He was seen by the farmer with a lamb in his mouth and was quite understandably shot.  I would have shot him myself in the same circumstances.

It is here that perception comes in; for Susan it is impossible to believe that her beloved, gentle dog would do such a thing.

She freely accepts that if Rocky had found a dead or injured lamb he would have picked it up and equally can understand that act alone is enough to get him shot.  What her mind wrestles with is how her old arthritic dog who had reached the stage of barely being able to jump into the pickup could leap a hurdle fence into a pen of lambs and jump back out with a dead lamb in his mouth.  The pen must have been secure otherwise the smaller lambs could have escaped.  Another aspect that is difficult to fathom is that although we are told a number of the kills took place at night, from 9 pm, with metronome regularity, he took himself to bed and would not get up unless his mistress chose to go for a walk.  In any event the external door to his accommodation was dead-locked at night.  It is harder still to understand why he would wish to kill as it was completely against the nature of the dog that enriched our lives.

Even as she stood in the rain, tears running down her face, caressing the blood covered head of her faithful pet, the kindness and understanding of the farmer's family shone through.  The son of the farmer reassured her that, even in the face of the apparently irrefutable evidence, if any more lambs were taken thereafter, for her peace of mind he would tell her, so the reputation of her Rocky might be cleared.

For us the memories will be the total devotion with which Rocky loved his lady owner.

For others in the countryside it is a lesson that if your dog is inclined to stray, although against your natural instincts of kindness to an animal, it is better for all concerned to tether it rather than face the pain of it being shot.

Alan Hedley

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Last modified: February 27, 2005