I can’t quite get my head around the fact that we are already into March and I have hardly spent any time at home! Most of February saw me sitting on a variety of animals in Somerset, which proved very enjoyable and hugely entertaining, although knowing that my Ageing P is experiencing increasing problems with her eyesight was, and still is, a cause for concern.

Selworthy Green looked glorious in the spring sunshine the day I arrived. Snowdrops cascaded down the banks and the crocus stood in patches of deep purple and bright yellow splendour under the trees. I was a little apprehensive at taking on my usual sit for Rectory Cottage as it was the first time that I would be looking after my client’s springer/pointer cross. I’d been warned to keep a close eye on the sprointer in case she scented a deer, she had recently travelled miles trying to chase one down! Enquiring if I should keep her on the lead I was informed that it wouldn’t be necessary.

“Don’t let her get too far ahead of you,” I was told by the sprointer’s owner. “When you call her back make sure she sits in front of you then reward her with some sausage, she’s very food orientated!” The sprointer looked at me as if in agreement with that last statement!

The following morning I left the cottage early, my coat pockets bulging with chunks of bribery sausage and other tasty morsels, the sprointer roved in front of me, her nose already to the ground. The day felt full of promise as we crossed the green and headed up into the woods, the tall tree tops touched a vivid blue sky and the air smelt of damp earth and emerging life. Every now and again when I felt there was too much distance between us I would whistle to the sprointer, her recall was excellent, immediate. I decided that I might have over done things on the sausage bribery front however, when my canine charge started to return to me without an invitation.

Having left the woods behind us, we followed one of many rutted tracks made by the cattle and Exmoor ponies that crisscrossed most of the Holnicote Estate up onto the hills. The gorse was just beginning to show yellow, soon its golden flowers would be joined by the purple heather, once the bushes had been warmed by the sun would give off a sweet smell of coconut that has always reminded me of summer.

Watching the sprointer at work was a pleasure. Her long, smooth, black snout was constantly to the ground as she zig-zagged across the moorland, throwing herself into the gorse and heather bushes after unseen quarry, oblivious to the brambles’ thorns. In her previous life she had been used to fending for herself and had become an adept killer of rabbits and squirrels, something I was to witness later! Despite being so focused on the hunt my canine companion was more than happy to stop when I did. As I sat on a hillside taking in the stunning Exmoor National Park she would lean into my body and allow me to ruffle her ears!

Back down in the woods on the homeward stretch of our enjoyable ramble the sprointer suddenly dived into some undergrowth. There was a shrill squeak and my charge emerged from the dense foliage with a sizeable rabbit in her jaws which she promptly dropped at my feet! Her find was still alive and on closer inspection had myxomatosis. The kindest thing to do, I decided, was to put the rabbit out of its misery but I knew I wouldn’t be able to dispatch it myself, so I let the sprointer finish what she’d started, removing the limp creature from the happy hound immediately afterwards. I consoled myself with the thought that at least the rabbits end was swifter than it would have been from myxomatosis. There was no way I could chastise the dog for doing what so obviously came naturally to her, unlike me she wasn’t squeamish. She gratefully accepted the sausage I proffered in place of her kill and bounded off down the path nose to the ground.

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