8 December 2003

Ullswater: A Dog named Gyp.
Well he wasn't really "our" dog he started life as John's dog at Sharrow Bay as a birthday present when John was about 7 years old. Or was it Christmas?

Gyp was a Lakeland terrier, he came as a pup from the Ullswater Foxhound pack kennels situated at Patterdale. He was what I would term a real or proper Lakeland Terrier, not looking like one of those show dogs we see today, in the year 2003 from breeding kennels, with a pedigree as long as your arm.  Gyp was black and tan and was not a show dog, he was what was called, a working dog and as he grew, he was a handsome dog to boot.

When we first got him we were living at Sharrow Lodge and we kept him hidden in an outhouse at the bottom of the backdoor steps until the special day. Mum used to feed him in the evenings and it was my job to keep my eyes open for John and divert him if need be, from the backdoor area.

As he quickly grew he endeared himself to everyone. One day he blotted his copybook unfortunately. We had got 2 tame rabbits complete with a wooden tongue and groove custom built "A" frame combined hutch, and run. We used to keep it on a rough piece grassed ground at the rear of the house. One evening when I went to feed the rabbits and wheel the rabbit pen to a new piece of grass, there lying in the run was a dead rabbit, and a hole dug under the run. There was no sign of the other rabbit so I opened the rear door of the shelter and peered in, there was Gyp lying in the hutch and the other rabbit lying dead between his front paws with Gyp looking at me and wagging his tail.

I raced back to the house, Dad had just arrived home and we rushed back to the rabbit run. Dad reached into the hutch grabbed Gyp by the scruff of the neck and hauled him out. By this time Gyp's tail had stopped wagging as Dad shouted at him. Dad commanded me with "hold him". He reached into the hutch; pulled out the warm dead rabbit then tipped the hutch on its sideband retrieved the other rabbit. Dad laid the 2 rabbits on the ground together and he took Gyp from me by the scruff of his neck looked him in the eye and shouted then he took Gyp and buried his nose in the dead rabbits. I then saw Dad had his folded belt in his hand and he gave the dog 3 or 4 good wallops then he took Gyp and again stuck his nose in the rabbits. He then took the dog and looked him directly in the eye and again shouted then put him down on the ground. Gyp slunk away to the house where all evening he lay quietly in the corner.

Dad told me later that was the way of the huntsman to punish an offending dog except the huntsman instead of using a belt he bit the dog in its most tender place while shouting at it and looking the dog in the eye, he bit the  dogs nose sudden and hard.

Years later there was a sequel to this incident, at Kidside. We were out rabbiting and we had missed netting a bolthole and a rabbit shot out. Gyp shot across its track to cut it off and grab the rabbit. He suddenly came to a skidding stop, the rabbit was a light sandy colour, and he ran away from the rabbit and lay down. Although the sandy rabbit was a different colour from the wild rabbits it was not at all like in colour of our tame rabbits... dark chocolate brown. Gyp had remembered his lesson of a few years ago.

As Gyp grew from a pup to an adult dog he became a friend to all the family. One day we had a knock at the door and there stood Mr. Platt, a rather pompous man from Sharrow Cottages a way up the road towards Howtown. He said, "Your dog is lying on the road, could you please remove him? He snarls when I try to do so and I can't drive around him". There was Gyp when we arrived, stretched out, dead centre in the middle of the narrow road. As he raised his head I'm sure he smiled as we picked him up, or was it just a quiver of his upper lip? I don't think he cared for Mr Platt either.

The black tar seal was always warm even on a dull day and Gyp enjoyed the warmth, usually he lay on the edge of the road. One day we saw Gyp limping holding up one back leg, we thought a vehicle had probably hit him. Initially he flinched when we examined the leg but after a while he seemed better. Although not sore he still limped. Years later he limped... sometimes. He would still run normally and trot along at a fast clip and then as though he had forgot he would start to limp, running on 3 legs. I used to think it was habit only, something would catch his attention and he would run again normally.

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