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!
Dog Tales – part 2 Wales visits to Scotland and down in the Flatlands.
In Wales things were going very well and life in the mountains was indeed good but poor Heavy had problems his selfish life in the mountains was a lonely one for is partner. She left with her daughter to go back to Scotland and it was a hard time for us both. I had got used to family life and loved them all. Heavy was very upset at the time (us dogs worked that out) and the house was very empty. Gone were the easy nights of being pampered by my new friends and Yvette who was only little was very special. We had got up to all tricks together and it was as much fun as going on the hills. Many are scared when they see a big Alsatian but I was very soft and loved kids. I was jumped on dressed up and ridden as a horse, it was just like the troops did at the weekend.
After they left we got out a lot on the hills and days got longer and harder as the mountains became all consuming. We visited Scotland for a long Grant and had a 12 hour day On Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Alligin and next day we climbed the Cioch Nose in Applecross I ended up in the Loch due to the midges. This was 10 days in Scotland and then we moved to Fort William and I did the big 4 on the Ben and next day all the Mamores. The Aonach Eag followed both ways on the same trip and other great hills I loved Scotland, open, wild and few humans on the hill. It was such a big place and so few dogs even. Then it was back to Wales back to the hills and climbs that I knew . We were always busy in Wales and I got to love it. We had so many Call outs and a great bond with the Wessex helicopter at RAF Valley. We got to know the local teams and SARDA they had heard of me by now. Dreish my Mum was on the team at Valley and kept me in my place and I learned a lot from her. Wales was the ideal place to learn about the mountains.
I was often on Crib Goch on Snowdon and many a climber got a fright as we ran along the ridge on the Annual Bike race. Even I was in fancy dress one year. All the time we were learning we had big lowers of the Idwal Slabs plenty of call outs and then we had a big winter. I would hear the helicopter before the team and new I may get a lift home. One time after 6 Call outs in one day as we were leaving the Wessex called in it now was pitch dark the hills were plastered in ice. They had to leave a crewman on the hill as they were running out of fuel. The helicopter was told to leave him there and we would get him near the top of The Glyders. It was full on winter we were tired and raced up the hill.
The helicopter crewman was wearing flying boots, the aircrew had little kit in these days. Darkness had come in and these were the days of the Wessex helicopter had no night vision goggles they were to come years later. They had to leave the Winch man on the hill to refuel at Valley. The troops had their sharp crampons on and it was even hard for me on the icy snow. I was now aware and when things got serious just kept out the way.
There was a bit of carry on and the helicopter came back to get him despite the weather and being told to leave him. We had moved him down the hill. I was in front with Heavy route finding. It was a tricky rescue and the RAF enquiry was interesting. Heavy getting into trouble as he was the “mountain specialist” for his decisions in support of the crew and giving them proper boots etc later on. This brought us even closer with the helicopter crews at RAF Valley they loved us and I was by now part of the team.
He was always in a bit of trouble very outspoken even on the hill. At times on a rescue and I knew when to keep out of the way. I must have looking back a fierce looking dog yet few knew how soft I was. We did a big call out on Idwal slabs in the dark when the head torch batteries fell apart in the wet the problem was a new cheap battery MOD had bought. Why do humans need torches anyway I have no problem? He wrote a signal to someone high up and got into trouble. We were near our time to end at Valley Heavy was hoping for a tour in Scotland and despite the Team Leaders assistance we ended up posted to the Deep South at RAF Innsworth near Gloucester.
I think the powers that be thought that was the end of us but it was not to be. At the same time his Mum and Dad passed away and Dad took ill whilst he was on the Team Leaders Course in the Peak District. He was climbing when the Policeman came up to the crag and told him. The troops dropped us at Crewe Station and we got the overnight train to Kilmarnock, the train was a great way to travel for me. I had never been on a train before and just got under the seat and slept. We arrived in at 0500 at Kilmarnock and we walked into Ayr 12 miles away rather than wake anyone up, we were to skint for a taxi. We were a funny sight walking along the main road.
It was a hard time and his Dad wanted to see me and we went to hospital where I was allowed in. I knew he was upset when Dad died and when we got back home to Valley when he went to bed I followed him up and slept under the bed. I was never allowed to do this and did so afterwards. Looking back we had two great winters in Wales and Heavy was climbing the ice a lot. This took us to some great places and I learned to wait until they were at the top of the climbs. It was good training for things to come. In summer I would watch the gear left below the great cliffs of Wales. At this time there was a lot of gear getting stolen from climbers our gear was safe with me on guard. We never lost anything and I became a celebrity on the crags. I would usually get bored and climb up and meet them on the top of the route. Many climbers got a fright seeing me climbing past.
The Flatlands – There were hard times in 1981 Heavy went to RAF Innsworth in Gloucester back to his job as a Caterer it was awful. There was no Mountain Rescue Team and when we arrived Heavy was told that no dogs were allowed on the station by the Station Warrant Officer. (SWO) Heavy said what shall he do put Teallach down. The SWO was a wild man and not impressed. As always Heavy ignored authority and we moved into an accommodation block with others and I slept in the room until the SWO found out. Heavy was back to working in the Catering Office and his boss let me come to work every day. I sat outside a lot and played with all the high ranking officers that lived there, they all liked me and played sticks and things. The SWO was not happy but could not get rid of me. As the powers that be loved me.
I left the SWO a message in the guardroom when Heavy was orderly Corporal one weekend! We were saved by joining the Stafford Mountain Rescue Team and had many great weekends as Heavy met them in his car at weekends in Wales or the Lakes. It was great to be back with the troops and I made many friends and climbed a lot more at the Peaks and other venues. At times we would meet the “odd jobs worth” on the crag or scrambled about or as I sat by the bags who wanted me on a lead but Heavy just gave them a hard time. It was long drives back at times 0300 in the morning and then straight back to work. It was great though I made new friends and the troops looked after me.
When we got back I slept Heavy had to work. We did a few callouts one for an aircraft during the week a Harrier that crashed in Wales and I sniffed the fuel on the ridge in a night search. I had to watch as this was tricky place to be at the crash site and there were many sharp bits of metal about and Heavy kept me away once they found it. The smell of fuel was overpowering and I was to find this out on many other occasions.
I was glad to leave after the casualty had been recovered. We came back to Innsworth as heroes and life got easier, I was now a celebrity on the camp. Heavy upset more people on the camp and within a year we were heading back to Scotland. I had been back twice with the Stafford Team and what a trip. Once we went to the North West a huge journey and so no other humans, I did some big days, The Fannichs I think 9 Munro’s in a day , The An Teallach hills and Fisherfields, The Beinn Deargs, Seanna Bhraigh hills my Munro book was getting ticked. I was also allowed to go to Stoer and had fun swimming round the Sea Stack with the seals whilst the troops climbed. We were posted from Innsworth for the RAF Annual Winter Course and then to RAF Kinloss in Morayshire. Heavy was so excited the car was packed with me in the passenger seat. The road was blocked on the A9 and we had to go by Braemar it was some drive and Heavy is not a great driver I was terrified.
We arrived at Grantown for the winter Course where Heavy was instructing I was immediately told again in no way could I stay in the Centre – Welcome to Scotland!