25 December 1998

Troubles ahead if collie pups fall

into wrong hands

The Border collie is a valued worker but in the wrong

hands it can be a miserable nuisance. Ann Rogers

visited the Border Collie Trust which aims to give

unfortunate dogs a better life

ADOG is not just for Christmas, a dog is for life, runs the familiar slogan, urging people to consider the commitment they are making when buying a pup. The Border Collie Trust would add a rider for farmers: "Only sell collie pups to other farmers or people who understand them."

"Dont put up a notice outside the farm," advises trust co-ordinator Jenny Booth. "Advertise in the farming papers, not local papers or Exchange and Mart which people who have no knowledge of Border collies will read."

"A collie is brainy and bred to work. I should like One Man and his Dog to show the other side of Border collies lives. Even if it is only a warning to say that these dogs dont come ready trained," says trust chairman Jenny Harvey. She would also like farmers to think hard before breeding from their collies and not to allow them to produce unwanted pups.

&#42 Less misery

"If only the source could dry up, if they were not so available, there would be less misery," adds Jenny Booth.

Through a network of volunteers and a handful of part-time staff the charity copes with the needs of stray, unwanted and mistreated Border collies, rehabilitating them, placing them in new homes or helping their owners manage better.

A Border collie in the wrong hands is a recipe for canine distress, destruction and possibly aggression – though which holidaymaker believes this when cuddling a soft, snuggly pup with appealing eyes as a result of seeing a "Pups for sale" notice at the end of a farm lane. They do not realise that unless they are able to give that pup the right kind of care, training and occupation they are saddling themselves with a boisterous burden.

"Too boisterous," is a reason owners often give for handing their dog to the trust. Fearlessness is another reason for their rejection. If not properly channelled a dogs urge to herd can lead it into trouble, harassing children, killing cats and rounding up other peoples animals. Without opportunity to stretch body and mind it will end up chasing its tail or chasing shadows.

The trust will take back any dog that it has re-homed but the majority settle well, as illustrated by the albums of photographs the kennel staff are proud to show. That they settle is a tribute to the work put into socialising, training and developing the dogs. Most will become pets. A couple have gone into service with the police and HM Customs, and a few have gone to farms. Jenny Harvey, a sheep farmer who trains farm dogs and teaches people how to work them, assesses and brings on any BCT dogs that have working potential.

New babies and failed marriages make dogs homeless while there seems to be an increase in stray or dumped ones. "I was offered 18 Border collies yesterday, from a pound in Mid-Wales," Jenny Booth told Farmlife, clearly upset that she was unable to accommodate them.

&#42 Elderly kennels

The trusts kennels are elderly but licensed boarding kennels purchased earlier this year through the generosity of an anonymous BCT supporter. They will soon to be replaced with specially-designed premises courtesy of the same benefactor. They were full when Farmlife called and during the course of our visit one dog set off to a new home with happy new owners and another was returned in disgrace by disgruntled ones who failed to manage it properly.

Among the residents are Patch and Lucy. Patch has lost two homes in his time through no fault of his own. Both he and Lucy are old, arthritic, at the kennels for life and needing sponsors.

The public is not allowed through the corridors of the kennels where bold dogs bid for attention and Dan, a handsome tricolour, reaches out a paw to each passer by.

Tico is a strong, young dog from good working stock which was sold to a woman who was seven-months pregnant. She produced twin boys and he had to go. Tico occupies an indoor kennel, a crate which if used properly gives the dog physical and emotional security. Up at the bungalow Rosie lurks in the back of her indoor kennel though the door is open.

"Dont look at her," visitors are warned. Dogs take eye-contact as a challenge and nervous wreck Rosie has a long way to go before she can relax and accept people.

In the puppy block are Gilbert and Sullivan, two terrified, five-month-old merles. Like Rose, they are learning to accept people. They have improved, Jenny Booth says. Now they will peep out rather than hide away.

"But never breed a merle to a merle or the pups could be deaf or blind," warns Jenny Harvey.

Peter, Paul and Mary are 14-week-old, black and white collies. Lively little dogs, they will need a lot of care before they are ready to go off to new homes, wormed, vaccinated and with a collar, a supply of food and a pack of information.

&#42 Spaying bitches

"If we are offered a whole litter we offer to have the bitch spayed but few farmers accept. These pups come from a smallholder and the local volunteer has persuaded the bitchs owner to have her spayed." says Jenny Booth.

Costs prevent the trust neutering or spaying as many animals as they would wish. Supporters already have to find £1000/week to keep the trust running and raise it in countless ways.

"We can re-cycle anything," says Jenny Booth, "from used stamps to goods sold through car boots or jumble sales or used in the kennels"

&#8226 Inquiries: (01889-577058)