She continues to give her all during the hard days of beating on the Tidworth shoot: 6, 7 and sometimes 8 drives in unforgiving going. Brambles, thistles, hawthorns, blackthorn and impenetrable nettle beds are all taking an increasing toll on her.
In years gone by, she would return from such days bloodied, cut and tired, but would always be up for doing it all again the next day after a big feed and a good sleep. She has had 4 operations and numerous visits to the vet due to cuts and injuries as a result of her efforts, but she has always bounced back the next morning ready for more.
This year, I’ve noticed a change. By lunchtime, I can tell she is flagging. By the end of the day, she is completely finished, asleep on my lap in the Landrover even before we get back to the car park. Once home, she is showered down, fed, checked and treated for injuries and then she flakes for up to 15 hours. The next day, she is still knackered and has to have a day free of exercise. She spends all day asleep, rising only to feed and empty.
It’s not nutrition that’s to blame for her lack of energy: she feeds on raw tripe, deer offal, high protein dry food, high carbohydrate muesli mix, fruit and veg with plenty of fresh water mixed in. In all, she consumes about 400g per day – far in excess of a companion dog’s needs, but still is an ideal working weight of 13kg.
It’s also not a medical condition: she’s had multiple blood tests and heart checks and has been passed “Olympic athlete fit”.
It’s her advancing years that are to blame, and I don’t know why this should come as any surprise: it happens to all of us, it’s just that it has all happened so quickly. In my eyes, she’s still a puppy, eager to work, eager to please and just loves and lives for going out shooting. I have to get my head around the fact that, at nearly 8 years of age, her best years are behind her, and I will now need to adjust my expectations of her accordingly.
Sobering thoughts. I’ll just let her snooze on in front of the fire ……..