The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Jake and Beau

Evening sky

Evening sky

I’m working outside at the moment. Two glorious sunny days listening to the owls in the nearby chestnut tree. The house is so far from the road that you cannot hear the cars passing. They move silently, the size of trinkets from a Christmas cracker on a road that is barely a ribbon.

There are Labradors here too. Black ones this time. Fiercely loyal, they’re gun dogs trained to retrieve. Jake now has a white muzzle and a wash of grey around the toes. His new companion is the glorious Beau. Low slung, eighteen months old with feet the size of tea plates. He fills the gap left by Patrick who sadly died this summer. Patrick was special. The brightest most intelligent lab that I have ever met. He always knew when I had a sandwich in the car. And seemed to understand when I was just thinking about sandwiches. The sort of dog that you’d trust to get help if you were in a fix. Gentle, brave and wise.

Beau is still a bit jumpy. The leap from kennels to life in a proper home must have been massive. The impact of humans coming and going all day long is balanced by a warm Aga and loads of individual attention and fun. And he has his name to live up to. I instantly thought of Beau Geste.

Yesterday morning he hid behind his mistress. Jake was out playing golf so there was no one to direct him. After a few gangly seconds he whispered.


This morning, standing behind Jake, he quickly found his voice and enjoyed a vociferous roaring. So did Jake. A happy, ‘I can be scary’ sort of bark. When I stepped over the threshold,  Jake licked my hand. Beau watched silently. This was a bit of a relief as I had always talked to Patrick. Jake’s trumpeting and raised hackles have frightened me in the past so contact has been minimal. This evening I finally twigged that’s why he’s gently rattled my cage over the years.  Ideally all dogs need to be treated the same, however scary.

At four this afternoon it was starting to get damp and misty so I decided to move indoors. The bats were already swooping for insects as I arranged the step ladder and basic tools beside the back door. Inside the labs went crazy. Even though I know these dogs, I was a bit nervous about running the gauntlet as they were clearly on guard duty. I took a deep breath as I opened the door. They were curled up on their beds, snug as plump cushions on a capacious sofa. Tails thumping.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello S.O.L.,

    Sometimes the Min Pins drive me nuts with their yapping and squabbles. But when they are snuggled up with us on the sofa or sniffing the air at the start of a walk I wouldn’t be without them.

    We are lucky as we have the space and time to keep dogs. If D or I were left alone it would be hard to carry on without the companionship of dog.

    Hi Jackie

    I love collies and all working dogs. We just don’t have the time to ‘work’ them. So we keep Min Pins. They do need their own sort of work and exercise but everything is on a much smaller scale.

    Hi Paula

    I’ve never met a nasty lab. I’ve worked alongside some pretty thick ones and some highly intelligent Einstein Labradors.

    I’ve also discovered that 99.9% of dogs are fun to be around. Even the breeds that are not top of my list.

    Hello Heather

    Thanks so much for leaving such positive feedback. Delighted that you are enjoying the blog! I love writing the blog every day but sometimes I struggle and comments like yours make it all worthwhile.

  2. I love this blog. Every morning when I arrive at work, this blog is one of the first things I look at. I’m always pleased when there is a new post. Thank you very much for all the time and effort you put into writing this


  3. Labradors are the few dogs I like, clever and beautiful and friends.

  4. oh glory, you’ve caught me on my ‘I want a labrador’ week anyway. And I’ve already got two collies, four horses, five goats and a partridge in a blooming pear tree.
    I do want a labrador, though.

  5. I want a dog now!

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