The Border Terrier
The best thing about the Scottish Borders
One of the very best things to come out of the Scottish Borders is a Border terrier. No, wait a minute, let’s be strictly accurate: the Border terrier is actually of English origins, and was bred originally on the southern or Northumbrian side of the Border. But no matter. You do actually see plenty of Border terriers in the Borders. On both sides, I mean.
These terriers were originally bred for a purpose. They accompanied the fox hunt. They had to be fast enough to keep up with the horses but small enough to get into the poor old fox’s uhmm, lair, no, sett - no again, it’s den - yes, anyway: down went the wee dog to do battle, to flush the adult fox, kill any cubs it found or in general just clamp on and hold. Ghastly. Yes, I know. It makes you think when you casually offer him a rawhide chew.
Millie, our previous (mostly) Border terrier, features in some pics on this site. We like the one of her staring out over Rannoch Moor and thinking grand doggy thoughts...
But the old girl passed away suddenly and we swore we would never get another dog, the whole business being so sad and unexpected.
So here’s the new Border terrier. Hmm, what’s that you say? Yes, I know. Matter of fact, we didn’t have a lot of choice. You see, my daughter acquired two herself. SIblings. Couldn’t choose between the two, so took ‘em both. Bad idea. Fought like dog and dog. And so, to restore equilibrium in her own household, we hesitantly volunteered to take one on. The more challenging and more feisty one. Not the chilled and obedient city-slicker. No, his brother. His wacky, wilful, cattle-chasing, last-crumb-licking brother. More on that below.
Ah, the freedom of locking up the house and just going out; the flexibility of heading out without lead and poo-bags; the relief of not having a dog while visiting house-proud friends - all this lasted for only a year. That’s gone, gone, gone. And now we have a Border terrier, named Rupee. (Don’t ask. Not our choice. And I don’t know the exchange rate.)
He’s different from his chunkier and more tousled predecessor. Millie had a touch of Lakeland about her, though some said that was only the plastic in her collar. No, Rupee is leggier and has the classic otter-shaped head. He also has eyes with far too much mascara and a permanently serious 4 o’clock shadow. Handsome, eh? We think so.
He is also a loveable rogue and a villain. But we are ahead of him now and can see trouble brewing. There is serious training to do (as at autumn 2014).
But then – and this is where it’s difficult – he’s friendly, charming, handsome, intelligent, moderately obedient, loyal and, in short, displays all of what Sir Winston Churchill once described as ‘the canine virtue…’courage, fidelity, vigilance, love of chase.’ Except that Churchill was describing his friend the Earl of Birkenhead.
And, equally, you may be sure that when it came to ‘love of chase’ Churchill never had to plowter through sharny dubs in order to rescue Birkenhead as he went excitedly yip-yipping around a field of aggravated black cattle, meanwhile ignoring every command to come to heel. Otherwise he might not have considered that canine feature as a virtue, as such.
(Plowtering through sharny dubs is – in English – wading about in what cattle leave behind, mixed with mud. Neater in Scots, I think.)
No, anyway, there is work to be done. But he makes us laugh, he gets us out, he makes us more aware of dog-friendly cafes. So, the new Border terrier in our lives should make his contribution to our Scottish explorations and we look forward to him popping up in new pages. These excellent top tips to terriers are very insightful and helpful too.
More on that Border Terrier
Twitter fans in the UK (the untied Kingdom) may have noticed or even participated in the dogsinpollingstations hashtag that surfaced unexpectedly at the General Election 2015. (This was the one described in Scotland as somewhere beyond a tsunami and more of an extinction event.) Can you believe Rupee’s own brother had his part to play…?
(Pictured) Dogs at polling stations – as a search term I never thought Rupee the terrier’s brother would be a star.
SO I JUST SAID TO OUR TERRIER…
“Look at you. You could have been famous. Instead, I discover you hiding here. You could have been famous like your brother. Put ‘dogs at polling stations’ into Google images and there he is. Your own brother Simba. He’s made it into the Guardian, Wall Street Journal, the BBC and umpteen other websites. What’s he got that you haven’t?
Well, let me tell you. He’s up early. He was there to vote at 7am at a Polling Station. Got his master to do it for him. And that’s when a Getty Images photographer caught him.
You weren’t even up at 7am. No. You were half-awake, thinking about breakfast and rabbit-chasing and beach-walks and a chew. OK, he’s a sophisticated city-dog, quite an attraction on Glasgow’s Byres Road, I’m told: while just look at the scruffy state you’re in. All you do for a living is bounce up to locals in the village, knowing which ones habitually carry biscuits. Isn’t it time you made your mark?”
Rupee yawned and licked his nose thoughtfully.
"It’s an idle life for a Border Terrier who never needs to think further than the next walk or treat. Or how to sneak in or onto the comfiest places the house offers," I continued.
“You’re forgetting one thing.”
“Oh, yeah? And what’s that?”
“He’s the one who’s still got his bits.”
“OK, OK, I suppose that maybe makes a difference…”