Let me introduce myself: My name is Teallach I was a very soft Alsatian and I have been asked to write about my life in the mountains.
I was very lucky to have spent all of my life on the hills, mountains and wild places. My mother was Dreish another Mountain Dog she told me when I was very young that if I was lucky I may be able to choose this way of life as well. Dreish was an incredible dog a fully trained Search and Rescue Dog in Scotland (SARDA) and Wales, like her owner very fit and strong so I had a great pedigree. She had won the SARDA Madras Trophy in 1977 for best Novice Search Dog she was a machine. After a few weeks where I was bottled fed by Allister’s wife Pat I met my owner a very small loud human, he had a strange name” Heavy”.
He was introduced to me and the other pups but it was my huge feet that mattered to him and for 12 years we looked after each other. Mainly to be honest I looked after him!
My first trip was to the vet for my check up and jabs, I have hated white coats ever since. Then on his advice we went to Scotland from RAF Valley in North Wales. It was a long journey over 500 miles and the vet said do it as my owner would travel most weekends.
My owner was in Mountain Rescue and had to lead a group in Braemar in Scotland for a week climbing and walking. I travelled in a land rover all the way, I missed my Mum but these humans were kind to me. I travelled in land rover in a box a long 10 hour journey with stops every 2 hours for me to learn about going to the toilet. I was glad that the man in the white coat said it would be good for me to get used to travelling so young as that was what I would do nearly every week of my life.
We arrived in a bothy an old house (with lots of new places to explore) and I slept beside Heavy every night waking him for the loo now and again. I had a few accidents and ate a pair of boots on that week as I stayed with the cook every day.
I met all the humans in the team they were good to me and they seemed to like me.
The local farmer let me meet the sheep and any idea of playing or chasing them was explained to me by the ram. For the rest of my life I gave them a wide berth. In the mountains you could not chase anything but that was made up later on by the longest walks I have ever had.
My boss (call him Heavy) that week took me up my first Munro he carried me in his rucksack up Lochnagar and it was an incredible place, it was so big, windy and wild. We saw lots of birds but and things in the heather but I was impressed that the humans did not chase them either. I was allowed out on a bit of rope called a lead, but I was soon trusted not to need this. Heavy showed me the big cliffs and I felt the wind as he took me to the edge of the great cliffs.
He explained on a bad day humans could not see the drop but a dog would feel the wind and have the sense to avoid such places in wild weather and in winter huge Cornices were about.
I was pretty confused but later on in my life it was to save our lives in a few occasions.
He showed me the summit cairn always a place that I would mark by lifting my leg no matter what the weather and mark my territory and I learned lots over the next few months.
My Mum Dreish was also on the Mountain Rescue team and she gave me some great help but always showed me who was Boss. She could climb most things and that took a bit of effort for me but soon I was climbing better than Heavy (not hard) I would wait for him at the top of the climbs as I got older.
I was taken to work in the Mountain Rescue every day and lay under Heavy’s desk, I learnt to be quite and only growl only when an officer entered the room. I also went down to the helicopter Flight at RAF Valley In North Wales and got used to the noise of these yellow machines called Helicopters. It seemed to me that everyone was kind and soon I was jumping in them on my own and hiding out of the way under the seats.
I could hear them before the troops on the hill and knew it was a lift home so I was always ready and happy when I heard them. Getting winched out was another scary thing but Heavy did not like that either and often I would jump out first to see how high we were off the ground.
I was told to sit and wait until a human came and we practise this everywhere and I got used to it. The aircrew liked me and used to give me food until Heavy stopped them but right up to the end of my life I was always getting the odd snack from some soft centred aircrew.
North Wales was great place to grow up but we often got involved in many rescues and I had to keep out of the way especially in winter when the humans wore crampons.
I always knew when it was a bad accident, it was different and the team’s attitude changed. When they were carrying someone off the hill I kept well away. In winter I got speared a few times by crampons so I was wary after that and kept my distance.
I was soon not on a lead and building my hill knowledge, it was getting easier as in Wales as we were training 3 times a month every weekend and often during the week. Heavy said we were doing 150 days on the hills every year.
After a year I was a now classed as a novice had done the 14 peaks in Wales twice in one day! I also knew who the new troops in the team were and slept on their beds when they were at the pub.
I was given lots of freedom and loved my days on the hill. Every weekend it would be a new base camp but we also went to England and the Peaks and the Lake District and twice to Scotland.
I learnt to swim very early not a problem in Wales but in the big rivers in Scotland I became an exponent of” wild water”. I loved it even in the water; I may have been half Alsatian and half seal!
If Heavy went to climb a big route I would go with another party usually on a big hill day and he was happy with that as long as I behaved. I would by now check the party if it split up and ensure everyone was there. I spared a few blushes at times when I found the odd troop or lost mountaineer in the mist or bad weather. I knew if someone was there even in the mist and would run off find them and come back and tell my leader.
In the end everyone wanted me in their party especially in a bad day; I was a type of doggy insurance for would be leaders!
Scotland was where my owner loved and we did the RAF Mountain Rescue Winter Course together at Grantown On Spey. I was not allowed to be in the Centre but every night I was in with the troops and I think Heavy got into trouble. I loved the Cairngorms and met so many people, Glenmore Lodge the Outdoor Centre where all the “hill Gods” lived and other Mountain Rescue Teams.
I loved the skills day in the snow as I would have fun but it was cold and I learned to find shelter in the snow. I would curl up and make a ball and wait for the troops to move again. I never felt the cold this was my office. We did a few rescues it was hard work in the snow even with my big feet. We stayed at the CIC Hut on Ben Nevis where no dogs are allowed but I was quite and the custodian did not notice till it was too late. I hid under the beds after a hard day on the hill.
I did a few gullies that year and I was far better soling (climbing free) than roped up depending on how hard the snow was. I learned to do as I was told and wait till the leader had climbed up, then move up. On the way down when it was icy I would follow Heavy’s footprints and on the odd occasions he would cut steps, I got better on snow after a few frights when I got over confident as did the humans. I loved the snow – holing in the Cairngorms Heavy was scared as he told me the weather could change very quick and we may not know. When your in a snow hole there is no wind and you have no clue what the wind is doing. I learned quickly as soon as I felt the snow building up outside (the lack of air told me) I would be out and dig the entrance. Over the years we had a few epics and once I found a very young troop who had gone out for a pee in his bare feet and could not get back in as the snow was so icy. I heard him outside while the rest were asleep and woke them up (lassie would have been proud) I loved the snow and this place Scotland my big feet were ideal for the snow and I was seldom cold. In my first two years I learned so much but Heavy was too busy to train me a search Dog as he was the Deputy Team Leader at Valley and had no time.
I met many Search Dogs in these early days some were a bit snooty but Heavy stood his ground and on the hill we became a formidable pairing. I got very fit and strong and my winter coat I could handle most weathers better than the humans. He promised me we would get moved to Scotland after Valley and we would do these Munros lots of days like the 14 peaks, big winters and lots of fun. I was a bit disappointed at the time but he had also fallen in love with a women and I had competition for his attention.
I had not met many women since I was a puppy and I had to get use to this change in my life. I also had a wee girl as well in the house Yvette and we had some fun, she was always dressing me up but so did the troops. It was no problem as I loved them both and I really got looked after and allowed in the front room, but not on the sofa.
We had a great winter in Wales and there was ice everywhere if it was to hard I would wait below or make my own way up to the top of the route. I got to know some famous climbers in Wales. After a long weekend or even a 4 day grant on the hill I would sleep in the back of the land – rovers and wake up at the bothy. I would get dried have a meal and then sleep or play with any troops that had the energy left, I was now one of the team. What a life already .
Life was good!
To be continued.