During F&M we were very busy, but tried to keep our supporters informed by a series of reports.
Here is one such update from the end of June 2001
Border Collie Rescue - Foot & Mouth Farm Dog Rescue Program
Situation Update - 23/06/2001.
In the initial stages of this program we were uncertain of how great the need would be, 20 dogs? - 30? - 50? - 100? - More? There is still some un-certainty as to the eventual result, but with 100 dogs now registered, it seems that the More? is the likely outcome.
We are working at bringing them in Phases of 30 in a group.
In March, while there were only 20 or so on the register, the dogs were being brought in one or two at a time, however we have recently had to develop the sweep technique or we will not be able to bring them in fast enough. This means is that we go out on a run and sweep through an area, stopping and collecting up to 10 dogs from different farms and filling a kennel block for isolation. This takes a little co-ordination, but is working so far.
In between sweeps we make quick skirmishes into viral controlled territory and return with two or three dogs for distribution into available facilities.
(Please do not misinterpret the military terminology that seems to have slipped in above. This is not a paramilitary operation, although there are certain similarities to working in a war zone and you need to attribute the use of such expressions to my now, rather strained, sense of humour).
I will try to keep this update light.
We now have 55 dogs of the 100 in our care. Some of the early individuals are through isolation and are in foster care. Some dogs from uninfected (but F&M affected) farms have been in private isolation rather than kennels. This goes for the pups that have come in that we feel are too young to be kennelled for 21 days. They still need to be isolated for this time, but this can be done in foster care as long as the home is not in an agricultural area.
The first dogs through on Phase One of the program are now out in new homes on trial.
Another 5 dogs will complete the intake of Phase 2 into isolation. The dogs from Phase one will be re-homed in the next fortnight and we will start Phase 3 by moving the dogs from isolation into foster care and bringing in another 30.
By that time we will have probably registered enough to fill Phase 4.
A trip to Scotland brought in a 6-year-old bitch from an outlying farm - very sweet lass with bags of character, good with children - now out of isolation, through assessment and re-homed on trial to work sheep. Settled in well and the new owners very pleased.
Another trip to Northumberland brought in 3 dogs from one farm - all lads. The shepherd was giving up his trade and going to work as a long distance lorry driver. This is a great shame as he was a natural dog man and these three reflect his attitude to training and keeping dogs. All very biddable and good-natured. The oldest dog had been bowled over by a Land Rover a couple of weeks before we took them in but had shown no ill effect at the time. A later accident, a few days before we collected these three resulted in this dog incurring a large cut through his front right pads. This shifted his weight distribution onto his hind legs and as a result of this, following his earlier confrontation with the vehicle; he developed a pinched nerve that caused loss of sensation in his rear right leg.
The front paw was stitched and has now healed but the hindquarter injury persists and he is unable to feel his foot. Consequently he knuckles his hind leg on the affected side and does not know when his foot is placed flat. The prognosis is for a slow, but possible full, recovery over time. He is unlikely to work again in his previous fashion. Two of these dogs have now been re-homed, including the injured lad who is on a smallholding as a companion dog. If he recovers fully there is work for him, if not he does not have to do a thing - I wish I could find a job like that!
The first sweep we did was to the Scottish County of Dumfries and Galloway, returning through Cumbria to bring in 7 dogs. This route was selected with care as we had a request from a TV news crew to accompany us on such a sweep. The program is not for domestic consumption, but is to be broadcast abroad as part of a series called UK Today. Apparently translated into 7 languages and broadcast in 100 countries. The program makers told us they wished to show the various hidden aspects of the ramifications of F&M and present a real view of the situation (as opposed to a dramatisation). So we allowed them along and set up calls that would avoid directly contaminated premises under Form A Quarantine. They therefore visited only affected and Form D calls.
The first call was for one dog coming in because the farmer was selling up and emigrating to farm in New Zealand. F&M was his last straw. The property had not been infected so normal entering precautions were taken and the dog - a merle of around 4 years who was a good cattle dog, but heavy on sheep, was disinfected and placed on the van. He smiled and wagged his tail through all of this and was quite willing to jump on the van and into a crate where he sat quietly, looking expectant. Afterwards, the owner said he was surprised how easy it had been as this dog did not normally take a shine to strangers and was often wary. We liked him and he seemed to like us and that always helps. The family were all there to say goodbye to him, the kids had taken the day off school. This was an important event for them. The beginning of major changes to their lives and their were tears, not just from the kids, however - more important, the kids were able to understand that this was not just happening to them, this was happening to lots of people and we were told by the parents in a follow up call that this experience and their participation had helped them come to terms with the dogs departure, particularly as he seemed quite happy throughout.
He travelled back well and settled into kennels nicely where he seems quite relaxed and laid back about it all and, other than a tendency to sometimes verbally scold another dog, he is quite a gentleman. He has now been re-homed to work cattle and is doing well.
The second call was to another Scottish farm where there were two adult dogs and two pups of around 5 months. This was a form D and full precautions were taken. We all suited up and set up wash/disinfect and rinse stations. The pups had been given no names. We still have not named them - as is our policy with very young dogs coming into care. (it sometimes helps with litters if all you have to do is call - here pups - and they all come running).
With young dogs we find that it is often best not to name them as the new owner may wish to use a different name.
One of the adults in this group is, what is affectionately known as a Nutter. For those unfamiliar with the English use of this term, it is an affectionate name for a total lunatic who is known for eccentricities and good nature. This dog swapped his legs for springs some time in his youth and sees no reason to go back to conventional methods of locomotion. When this dog passes you it tends to be at eye level. He did submit well to the disinfection and rinsing, although it took the edge of his sense of humour for a while and kept his feet on the ground. He is very affectionate, good-natured and a bit of a practical joker.
The other adult in this group was a bitch and although affectionate was a little more timid and submissive (as befits a lady). She was intimidated by us all in our white coveralls, but put on a brave face and accepted the de-contamination with an attempt at dignity that is difficult to pull off if you are dripping wet with a strange pink liquid in the middle of a farmyard. She has a serious side to her nature that her male counterpart lacks. Both these dogs are good workers on sheep and cattle. She also travelled well, but after 9 days in the kennel has come into season (why do they always come into season when they are taken in?). She has been taken out of the kennel to avoid tormenting the males around her and is now in a foster unit along with the two -
Pups - (call them tweedle dee and tweedle dum), they are very bright and well socialised for their age. They trust people but show a natural caution around strangers initially. Both are bitches, Tri-colour. These were also very acceptant of the treatment. Travelled well and went direct to foster isolation. Like all pups of their age, life is a learning curve and they are very keen to learn. In foster they started on the cat immediately, herding it into corners. Herding each other into corners, herding anything that moves. One is showing very strong eye and classic moves. The other lacks self control but make up with enthusiasm.
When the bitch was brought in to join them it was like two kids greeting a maiden aunt.
One of these pups has now been re-homed to a vet that also has a holding in Kent with 600 sheep + followers. The other pup has a home lined up, as does the bitch. The dog (the nutter) has a problem. On examination and assessment it was noted that he seemed to have a limited field of vision and an eye examination by one of our vets has suggested CEA and tunnel vision. He will be with us for a little longer as we seek a suitable home, however his instincts and drive is very strong and we do not feel that a small number of sheep in bye will satisfy his needs. We need to confirm his condition and if CEA, therefore not likely to get worse, we will be able to place him on a large holding. If it turns out this is PRA and therefore his condition is likely to get worse, we will have to think long and hard for the best possible working home.
Further eye tests are needed.
The final farm and dog was in Cumbria. This was a fine adult BC dog with rough coat and classic markings. When we arrived at the property, a bit behind schedule, he was waiting for us with his owners outside of the farm boundary - this is OK as they were only under form D. They had already done the C and D (Cleansing and Disinfecting) for us and we gave him a further wipe over with disinfectant and headed back to the vet for the second vacs to be given before dropping them off at the kennels. We were warned this dog was not a good traveller and upon arrival was found to have grown a saliva beard. He recovered well and all of them ate that evening and have shown no problems since.
He is currently being assessed and is showing good eye. He has a finely tuned nature and is a very gentle dog with good manners.
I have to say that all these farms kept a tight ship. The properties were clean and in good order. Their dogs were well kept, socialised, obedient and happy. They are a credit to their owners. The only reasons for parting here were related to Foot and mouth Disease. Without exception, there were regrets and tears. It even got to the battle hardened film crew.
A word or two about about these folk is due here. Two young, but very professional people who seemed to be everywhere recording what was going on, but managed to be unobtrusive and sensitive enough not to get in our way. It would be wrong to suggest that they did not slow us up. We were intending a further Cumbrian call to pick up the 7th dog, but this had to be postponed as we ran out of time. Travelling convoy with three vehicles slows you down, but having to wait for them to catch up after they had stayed behind to film us leaving on each occasion did add to the delays.
A quick (750 Mile round trip) to Wales brought in a 7 months old, huge, rather timid but very exuberant, rough coated classic B/W marked dog (PUP?) - looks like a fully grown dog - acts like a pup. Son of a Welsh trials champion. Last of the litter. Also a bit of a Nutter. An outstanding looking dogs but possibly too highly-strung for normal farm work. We will see.
Although only one dog in on this run, the farm at least 110 miles away from the next nearest farm on our register. To bring him in as part of a sweep would have added too much travel time so a special trip was made that also enabled us to drop of some other dogs en-route and collect a load of crates (folding kennels) from a manufacturer.
Two days later and another sweep into Cumbria brought back the dog we had missed on the previous sweep, 3 pups - all standard marking B/W of six months of age, a beautiful chocolate and white smooth coated working bitch and two other bitches from a form A property. One is a smoothy. Slightly more white than black but otherwise standard markings. The other was one of these rough coated unkempt dogs that you sometimes see on UK farms. B/W standard markings. Had not seen a brush for some time and had lots of dreadlocks and fur balls that had to be cut off. We ended up using hand shears (like a pair of miniature hand sheep shears). She has therefore lost all her feathering and looks a bit like a teddy bear now.
A quick skirmish into Scottish territory brought in another two, a dog and a bitch. The dog had a growth on its side that worried us, but this has now been removed and a biopsy performed that has proved this is not a tumour. We are relieved. The dog has new been re-homed to a smallholding and we have placed it under veterinary supervision for another month to make sure all is well.
A final trip to a local North Yorkshire affected farm brought in the last bitch to fill the spaces we have in the North - so far all these dogs have been Border Collies.
Our next step was to fill the unit in Essex with 8 dogs from the Welsh Borders and a couple of local ones.
A sweep was arranged through Gloucestershire, Monmouthshire and Herefordshire. The first dog came in from the Forest of Dean and was a small but well proportioned bitch. Two others followed from Gloucestershire, a dog and bitch, both good natured and biddable. We then drove to Monmouthshire and took three dogs in from the same litter on one farm, two dogs and a bitch - very shy and just over a year old. One of the dogs is a full merle and the other two B/W.
Finally a trip to Herefordshire and the last two of this sweep - brothers, ISDS registered lines - one B/W and the other a Tricolour. Very fine markings and very sensitive natures.
Like fine-tuned racing cars.
On return to Essex with these 8, we collected two local dogs the following day, a KC registered B/W Monster - a big bear of a dog - fortunately very good-natured.
The final on of Phase One was a red and white dog with a bit of a dominance problem around food. He is very nice but the only one of these first 30 to display any problems at all.
All of these 30 are now out of isolation and in assessment. The first few are in new homes and others following as fast as we can process them. Phase two is nearly complete in respect that we have 25 of these in and another five to come in to complete the group.
We are seeking another kennel unit to speed things up and more foster homes to help process them through.
I will tell you about Phase Two in a following update.
So far we have travelled over 6500 miles to bring in these dogs (55 so far) and will be adding another 500 miles when the last 5 of Phase Two come in this week. Fuel costs so far exceed #600. As we have to use a separate vehicle for these contaminated dogs and cannot use our usual methods of transporting in members own vehicles, we have had to hire vans, costing - so far - over #800.
We are concerned about funding this operation, having just paid over #1800 in vets bills and a further #1300 in kennelling fees with much more in the pipeline to pay out for services provided so far. The bank account balance currently exceeds the costs but we are worried that outgoings are now likely to exceed the speed of income and slow us down.
So far we have not had to turn away any dogs and wish to continue this way.
The media interests and publicity has dried up and donations to the scheme have dropped off, although there are a number of events being held to provide funds in the future.
The Foot and Mouth bulletins on the news are now relegated to the last items mentioned - if they are mentioned at all. It is almost like the media have been told to play things down.
We have been promised up to #5000 towards neutering and spaying costs by a UK charity, but will be struggling for working funds in a couple of weeks when we commence Phase Three for dogs 61 to 90.
The situation has been further complicated by a number of other dog rescue organisations claiming to be bringing in dogs from foot and mouth farms, although MAFF dont seem to know anything about these operations and many of these claims have been proved false and exaggerated.
This has led to people getting confused and we have been told by some who have contacted us that they had sent funds to other organisations, believing that they were supporting the approved scheme. We have even received cheques to our address made out in the name of other individuals, so we are aware that some of the potential funding for the program is being diverted.
The false stories about farmers dumping their dogs are still in circulation and also clouding the issue, making the true story difficult for people to grasp.
Not one of the dogs we have taken in has been dumped. All have been given up reluctantly and for the sake of the future of the dogs. Many tears have been shed and many anxious phone calls from previous owners have followed the removal of dogs as they have sought re-assurance that all is well with their old friends.
Not a single farmer has taken us up on our offer of a supply of food for the dogs before we take them in or for veterinary cover if they are in hardship.
Some farmers have given us what they can afford towards the costs of processing their dogs, even one guy who was thinking of applying for food vouchers as he was so hard up, but managed to find a tenner (#10) - which he insisted we took.
One farmer gave #50 and others have given amounts in between.
Of the 55 dogs in so far, all are well-balanced and good-natured dogs around people and most are good with other dogs. All are obedient and biddable. This is a direct contrast with the pet BCs we take in under normal circumstances, all of whom seem to have behavioural imbalances and be suffering from stress.
Another interesting fact has arisen since this program was implemented. During the time that we have been registering and taking in these 100 dogs we have had a huge number of applications to take in unwanted pets. In fact over 500 unwanted pets have been aimed at us during this time and this is pretty normal as we get - on average - 60 calls a week to take on and re-home pet BCs.
Most of these pet owners are very glad to see the back of the dog that has been disrupting their lives and blame the dog for the problems they, the people, have been suffering.
So, where is the real crisis in the Border Collie world - is it the pets or the working dogs that are suffering most?
At the sharp end the answer is obvious - the pets suffer most. It takes a situation like Foot and Mouth to tie the hands of the farmers and make life difficult for their dogs before they feel the need to resort to the use of a rescue service to help them out - and they use us to alleviate what they see as suffering to their dogs - lack of direction and frustration that they know will occur if the dog does not get back to work quickly.
They are parting with their dogs to help the dogs - not to help themselves.
Border Collie Rescue
Dedicated to the Future of the Breed