Tuesday, 7 August 2007


Listening to: Atmosphere (Joy Division, not Russ Abbott)
Eating: salmon fishcakes
Drinking: Highland Park

I've been a Jack Russell owner on and off for the last 30 years. It's a very special form of masochism, not recommended for those who welcome the quiet life.

Jack Russells are snappy, aggressive, virtually untrainable, determined to the point of stubbornness , surprisingly fast, full of character and totally loveable.

Following in the footsteps of Sam and Boris is my latest JR, Spike, who is probably the most loveable of the lot. He's exceptionally clever and softer than most of his breed. He loved life in our suburban semi in Shrewsbury, bouncing up and down on the sofa, barking at old ladies, small children, the postman and imaginary lions and tigers. He also loved to steal toys belonging to Owen (our nice-but-dim spaniel/collie cross) and hide them, appearing a couple of days later to parade them around the living room with the smug look only a Russell can get away with.

A bit of a petrol-head, the move to Orkney suited Spike down to the ground as he got to ride up front with me and my son in the hire van, getting the best possible view of the Highlands.

On arrival, he took time to adjust to his new surroundings - didn't we all? - but quickly discovered the delights of rabbits.

Westray has an unusually large population of rabbits mostly thanks to there being no foxes on the island - the hunting debate being a bit of a non-event up here. (There are also no rats as "they don't thrive")

Many of the rabbits are gathered around our property, cheerfully putting up two fingers to my hopes of growing lots of nice salady stuff.

This has blown our Spikey's mind a bit. After all, Jack Russells were designed to be the scourge of the rabbit population. Never one to bother with the 'come', 'sit', 'lie down' area of behaviour, Spike has been literally straining at the leash for the last three weeks.

Then yesterday he slipped his much-stretched collar, flew across the top field and disappeared from view. Disappeared from view completely, no amount of 'here boy-ing' making any difference.

Tension was high about the place as I stomped around unsure whether to go into a black rage or dissolve into tears over the lad. Sally patrolled the neighbouring fields, but no sign was seen. I nipped down to the local shop to put out the alert and scouted the farms near the coast.

I had all but accepted that he had got stuck down a hole and met a grisly end at the hands of a long-eared death squad, when I heard Sal shout and a small, muddy ball of fur emerged from the (abandoned) farm next door.

It was a classic laugh-cry, cuddle-disembowel situation. Happily for my reputation as an all-round big softy, Spike continues to give serious verbals to anyone who even thinks of coming near the house. He's here right now, looking at me with that 'I haven't had a digestive for at least three minutes' look. He knows exactly how many there are - he counts them in and counts them out.


Reg Pither said...

That's my boy!
Interesting that there are no rats on the island. The vermin which has populated the entire globe - so much so that they say you are never more than 10ft or something from a rat - has given Westray the once over and said "You must be fucking joking!"
You still sure you know what you're doing?

Arabella said...

Hunting dog. Rabbits. Mmmmm casserole.

Malc said...


Errr. . . no


I didn't say he could catch them - that's why I'm getting a gun. That and the prospect of the Tories getting back into power one day.