In my last blog, I mentioned 2018 as being “the year of change”. Well, that year of change meant that very little downtime was had. That’s all very well and good most of the time for me – naturally I’m a bit of a workaholic and when I get stuck into something new, it becomes all-encompassing (I blame this trait for my prolonged university education…….) However, what eventually happens is that I realise I’m quite tired and that my “self-care” (*snowflake alarm bells ring*) has lapsed………
Anyway, about half way through December, I became aware that I was quite tired; working hard at work, juggling work with working the dogs through the shoot season and still getting to grips with a new job, new colleagues, new commute and new expectations. About that time, a very good friend came round for a cuppa and having loosely discussed us all going on holiday with our dogs for a break in 2019, within half an hour, a week-long break in Norfolk was booked and the deposit paid!
It also happens that said friend is a fellow scientist who is passionate about applying science to the management, care, welfare and training of dogs. In addition, she is a fellow fan of gundog breeds and has two cocker spaniels, one being Ghillie, a pup of Molly’s AND she likes gin……. The makings of a great, relaxing week away are all there!
So, here we are, nearly at the end of a lovely week, in a lovely house, in lovely Norfolk. We have shared our time with the recently christened “Super Six” – six spaniels who have (we think) had an amazing time……..
*stayed in the lovely “Holmes House” – massively dog friendly, lovely location (straight onto paths), very human friendly, enclosed garden and not far from beaches
*walked lots – especially along The Weaver’s Way
*visited beach after beach………where spaniels have run, swum, retrieved, sniffed, rolled, had photos taken and had lots of fun
*talked LOTS of science (the most recent conversations have included motivation versus optimism, fungal infections and nutrition, psychology of dog training and pseudoscience on the internet)
*done some sniffer dog work with the spaniels – a truly fabulous way to engage them, work with their natural instinct AND have a positive effect on their “cognitive bias” (think “glass half full versus glass half empty” attitude) – science even tells us all about “the power of the sniff”
*eaten some cake, drunk some coffee/tea, relished some gin (gin – that essential spaniel training aid!)
I have learned/been reminded that;
*tired spaniels are happy spaniels! (I knew this already, but six snoring spaniels are a truly lovely sight and sound – think twitching and yipping in their sleep!)
*even at the end of a semi-hard shoot season, my wee gang are still up for silliness, running and having a great time, as well as chucking in the odd moment of “OMG” – rolling in a dead porpoise, eating “something unmentionable”, barking at open water swimmers (I mean, swimming in the sea in February…?!!!), hunting a hedgerow at length while “forgetting” what the recall whistle means and so on…..
*a few days of beach running means I need to increase their calorie intake by about 20% at least!
*with good management, six spaniels can all live, sleep, eat and travel together with hardly any issues! It’s genuinely lovely to see them all interact in a positive “doggy” way, even when they don’t normally live together!
*a break from “normality” is good for body and mind – of dogs and people!
*gin is good. Gin and spaniels works well, really well!
It’s also been a week of thinking, planning and plotting – what are our plans, aims, ambitions for the coming year? What do we want to achieve? How are we going to use current canine science to achieve it?
It’s been a sensational week with “The Super Six” (and Hannah of course) and an inspirational one for going forward.
Science and spaniels……..could there be a better combination for 2019?!