"Someone will be sure to want
By S. Johnsson
Among the duties which a veterinary surgeon may be called upon to perform is that of "putting an animal to sleep" - always an unpleasant task since one's natural instinct is to save rather than to take life. Nevertheless, it is a duty which one readily undertakes if it is obvious that to prolong life means to prolong discomfort and misery.
How different are one's feelings when one is called upon to put a healthy puppy to sleep because no home can be found for him! Then, the taking of life, though it be done in such a way that the puppy will feel nothing, makes one feel like a murderer. Is it any wonder that veterinary surgeons tend to have the most varied collection of dogs as companions? What vet's household does not include at least one member of the canine race which arrived at the surgery to be "put to sleep" - perhaps a dog of this breed, perhaps a dog of that, often a dog of no breed at all?
I was lucky in my latest acquisition. I became the owner of an aristocrat - though an unconventional aristocrat.
It was one bleak and arctic afternoon in February 1963, when I first saw him. My car had pulled up - if indeed the slithering skidding slide on an icy road could be described as "pulling up"- in front of the surgery and I had dismounted feeling rather pleased to find myself still in one piece.
Awaiting me was a friend of mine, a lady who breeds dogs, carrying in her arms something wrapped up in a warm woolly blanket. That something proved to be a Welsh Corgi (Pembroke) puppy just two days old. He had too much white on him and Mrs X was obviously heart-broken at having to ask me to "put him to sleep". When I told her that someone I knew would be sure to want him and give him a good home she was obviously greatly relieved and hurried back home to restore the pup to his adoring mother's care.
"Someone will be sure to want him!" Immediately I had seen that oddly coloured puppy I had known who that "someone" was. Nevertheless, I pretended to myself, and to my wife when I told her, that the "someone" was not myself. After all, we already had two dogs. What did we want with a third? The whole idea was preposterous! But also I knew that if once my wife and our younger son (the only one of the family still at home) ever saw the piebald pup it would be as much as my life was worth to suggest giving him to someone else.
The tactics to be adopted were therefore obvious. I must just keep quiet, leave the puppy with his mother for some nine or ten weeks, and then arrange for him to appear suddenly in the house. The operation proceeded according to plan. Ianto - that was the name by which he became known - arrived one morning in my poor wife's overworked kitchen. He was immediately, as I had expected, accepted as a member of the family.
Alasdair was overjoyed. Here was a youngthing with ideas similar to his own. A firm bond of friendship was soon established between boy and puppy so that by the time Ianto was old enough to cope with an almost-seven-year-old boy these two were playing for hours together. Nor were their games haphazard romps. They had fixed rules and conventions. Each knew what he was expected to do next. These games continue to this day and, to the knowledge of my wife and myself, no cross word has ever passed between the two nor has there been any misunderstanding between them.
Never before did we have such a clean puppy. I cannot remember Ianto ever making a mess in the house. But never, never, did I know a puppy who was so "car-sick". He could not travel fifty yards in a car before he started drooling. By the time he had gone three hundred yards his last meal, or what remained of it, was on the floor and one would have thought that there could not possibly be anything more to bring up. One was wrong. Every quarter of a mile he would vomit. He was absolutely miserable and prostrate. I tried taking him with a full stomach. I tried taking him with a stomach neither full nor empty. It made no difference. He had only to go about three hundred yards and he would be sick.
This was indeed a bitter blow, it had been my hope that Ianto would be able to accompany me on my rounds and be of some use as a car-guard or in some other way. It seemed as if I were to be disappointed. I persevered with him, however, taking him with me each day. Gradually he outgrew his infantile weakness and, by the time he was six months old, became quite the seasoned traveller showing no sign of queasiness, let alone vomiting, in the car.
I expected to have my leg pulled about Ianto's somewhat piebald appearance but on this score I was completely wrong. In fact, I have had many people asking if I can find them a corgi like him since they prefer his colouring to the normal. Certainly, from a practical point of view the white markings are a decided advantage in making him much easier to see at night or in bad light.
When Ianto was about six or seven months old, he began to show a marked liking for cattle. He loved to be among them. You could hardly keep him away from them if there were any about. This was an interesting discovery. It must have been many generations back since any of his ancestors had been used as cattle dogs. Nevertheless, the ancestral instinct was strongly engraved into his mind. He was certainly not going to be simply a car-guard. His natural instincts must be encouraged and exploited. Accordingly I set about training him - for a herding dog is useless unless he is under proper control.
Ianto proved a willing pupil and in a very few weeks would lie down or come when required, obeying voice, - whistle, - or hand signals. He is fearless with cattle and in no time at all began to be quite useful to me in my work. He will not "gather". For that purpose one would want a dog with longer legs and one which has what the sheepdog fold call a "strong eye". Corgis do not normally have this "strong eye". They are not equipped for rounding up.
Ianto is, however, a good driving dog and it is interesting to watch him when he is engaged in this work. If cattle are moving on at the required pace he simply trots behind them and by his presence keeps them on the move. If one tends to lag he will run in and pretend to nip. If it is really obstinate he will nip it and will increase the severity of the chastisement until it has the required effect. He loves his work and with experience has become an asset to me in mine. Last year he was officially recognised as a working dog in that he was exempted from the licensing regulations.
I believe that more use than is generally realised could be made of corgis as working dogs with cattle. This was their original purpose in life. Clearly the instinct to do such work has been handed down to some, if not all, present-day corgis. It is waiting there to be exploited.
For my own part I am very glad that one Corgi had "too much white on him" for so there came into my possession an esteemed member of our household and a useful "lay-assistant".
The Welsh Corgi League Handbook 1965