Soon after starting work at The Institute three+ years ago, I wrote a feel good story Lost & Phoned, about how our rural network found my lost cell-phone and returned it to me through a chain with four degrees of separation. On Friday night there was a knock at the door while we were eating our scoff at about 1930hrs. It was a young woman with an antipodean accent enquiring if we, or any of our people, had lost a dog; because she and her bloke had found one about 3km away up the rough mountain track that leads to Mt Leinster. Turned out The Bloke was from local - part of the diaspora of The Great Depression of '08 who had gone to seek his fortune in Australia and found himself a good woman as well as a job. This fellow was well fit because the dog was dog-tired and had sustained a cut to the left fore-foot, so he had carried it all the way back to civilisation. Would I care to have a look at the hound? because it was at the bottom of the yard in their car. I do know the difference between a dog and a cat, but asking me to recognise a particular dog and associate it with a particular person is way above my pay-grade, so we called The Beloved from her tea.
She didn't know the dog but said that she'd contact the local text-alert and have a calling-all-cars message sent out. And it was so. We live right on the county line and the dog had been found sufficiently far up the mountain that it could have wandered in from pretty much any side of the 25sq.km upland massif so she also called our neighbour across the county border [which bubbles and chuckles along the edge of our Eastern fields] to put out a call to their text-alert. Well it turns out the the Wexford text-alert people don't do missing pets - they concentrate on suspicious people in Hiace vans. But the neighbour called a pal in the village who had indeed heard that a dog was reported missing and he'd get in his car and find out who the owner was. The owner of a lost brown&white spaniel was tracked down to a village about 15km away and it seems certain that the red&white spaniel which had been briefly in our yard was a good match.
Apparently the dog had 'got away from her' while she was walking in the mountains. Hmmm, I hope the dog wasn't chasing sheep because that's a death sentence round here. Many years ago, I was up in TCD and met my old Professor of Animal Genetics at the xerox machine. As well as writing the text-book on quantitative genetics, he was also a farmer of some 40 ha. of fine fields and pasture in County Meath. I asked how he was doing and he replied "Not so good". It transpired that he'd had to shoot two of his young dogs that morning because they'd come back home with bloody muzzles and a neighbour had reported a couple of sheep 'worried'. The thing about farmers is that they are competent and self-confident and they don't shirk or out-contract, difficult or dirty work. Bleeding hearts will doubtless be aghast at that final solution to a problem which could be (surely!) dealt with by a trainer.