As many of you may well know, my faithful canine companion Meg passed away last year. It was a complete shock to the family as she was only 11 and we all thought she had a good few years left in her.
But back in June 2011 we discovered a massive bone tumour on her hip and we faced the tough decision to have her put down. It was so hard saying goodbye after all the years we’d spent together. We all really missed her, so we decided that we needed to get another dog. But, with a young family and as I no longer live on a sheep farm full-time, we decided to choose a dog that would fit in with us and our lifestyle.
Having had collies nearly all my life, it seemed a bit strange looking at other breeds, and I was keen to get one that I could still ‘do’ something with, as I’d had so much fun working Meg as a sheepdog. We decided to look at black labradors, so I contacted John and Sandra Halstead from Drakeshead Labradors in Lancashire, who I’d previously met on Countryfile. They put us in contact with a lady near us who had a litter of pups for sale.
We went to see the puppies, trying to tell ourselves that we were just looking to see if a labrador would be the right choice for us, but as soon as the kids saw them they were smitten. The mum was gorgeous, quiet and friendly, but would run like a rocket when the occasion arose.
A few weeks later, we brought home our beautiful eight-week-old black labrador puppy and she settled in straight away. We called her Annie, as she was born on our wedding anniversary, and our youngest was able to pronounce her name. I was immediately taken by the difference between her and Meg and what made each of them tick. Annie is so different to what Meg had been like; she seems to almost have an on and an off button, which Meg never had as she always wanted to be working. Annie’s also fantastic with the kids and they love her to bits. She’s a very loving dog and enjoys just being with you.
Annie does, however, like to steal food, and chews anything if she gets the chance – we have lost several pairs of shoes we’ve carelessly left lying around. We’re keen to exercise her using her natural instincts and have started retrieving training, which is fun for all the family to get involved with.
Hopefully it won’t be too long before Annie makes her Countryfile debut, and she may even join me as a guest presenter on The One Show. She definitely keeps us busy, in more ways than one – we have spent a lot of time fencing the garden to stop her getting out and exploring the village on her own.