We all need cheered up I hope this will help? They say “a man’s best friend is his Dog.
This is the tale of a special dog Teallach”.
Introduction: I wrote this in several parts in my blog a few have asked me to put it together with a few more tales too anyone wanting to read. It will take time; I cried at the end, you may also? Every year I was on the hills for on average 130 – 150 days of my 13 years of life. As the wee man (Heavy) said you have to train for the conditions so we were out in some wild situations. Train Hard to mountaineer hard.
On his first Expedition at Braemar only 7 weeks old, no fancy dog bowls just water in camping pan lid.
Chapter 1 – The Early year’s 1978 Wales
“Learning the hard way”
My name is Teallach I was named after a very beautiful mountain on the North West Coast of Scotland (An Teallach). As a very soft Alsatian almost cuddly Alsatian I was very lucky to have spent all of my life on the mountains and wild places. My mother (Dreish) was another Mountain Dog who was a highly proficient and fully trained Search and Rescue Dog in Scotland (SARDA) and Wales. She had won the SARDA Madras Trophy in 1977 for best Novice Search Dog. This was something she never tired of telling me as a pup and she said if I worked hard and had a bit of luck I could too could chose this way of life. Every year I was on the hills for on average 130 – 150 days of my 13 years of life. As the wee man (Heavy) said you have to train for the conditions so wee were out in some wild situations. Train Hard to mountaineer hard.
I was born in Wales after a few weeks where I was bottled fed by Allister’s Haveron the Mountain Rescue Team Leader in RAF Valley North Wales wife Pat. The day I met my new owner a very small loud human, he had a strange name” Heavy” he was introduced to me and the other pups. It was my huge feet that mattered to him when we met and for 12 years we looked after each other.
To be honest I mainly I looked after him!
My Mum (Dreish) had told me he was a good man they had been on the mountains often and he looked after her when her owner was away. My first trip was to the vet for my check up and jabs, I have hated white coats ever since. Then then we went to Scotland Breamar from RAF Valley in North Wales. I was 8 weeks old it was a long, long way! My owner was in Heavy was the Deputy Team Leader of the RAF Valley MRT and had to lead a group in Braemar in Scotland for a week climbing and walking. The vet said it would be okay to go so I travelled in a land rover all the way. I missed my Mum but these humans were kind to me. I travelled in a cardboard climbing boot box a long 10 hour journey. We stopped every 2 hours for me to learn about going to the toilet. The man in the white coat was right as he said it would be good for me to get used to travelling even that as young as that was what I would do every weekend with my owner as he was out most weekends with the team.
Photo – Map Reading at RAF Valley
We arrived in a bothy an old Squash court at Braemar (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 I ate a pair of boots as I stayed with the cook every day I was too young for the hills.
I met all the humans in the team and soon was accepted by them. 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. I was taught in the mountains you could not chase anything but that was made up later on by the longest walks I have ever had. This to me was a good compromise.
My boss that week took me up my first Munro he carried me in his rucksack up Lochnagar and it was an incredible place. That day it was so big, windy and wild. We saw lots of birds, other animals 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 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. In winter it would be worse as the Cornices would be huge and I was made aware very early of the danger.
I was pretty confused but later on in my life it was to save our lives on more than 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 this was now 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). Wales was a great place to learn with the hills not far away. We would climb mid-week and 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 Wessex helicopter Flight at RAF Valley in Wales. I got used to the noise of these yellow machines, everyone was kind and soon I was jumping in them on my own and hiding out of the way under the aircraft seats. I could hear the noise of them before the troops on the hill and knew it was a lift home. I was always ready and happy when I heard them it was a free lift. I had to get used to 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 practiced this everywhere and I got used to it.
The aircrew grew to like 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 person.
At Valley North Wales was great what a place to learn about the hills but we often got involved in many rescues and I had to learn to keep out of the way especially in winter when the humans wore crampons in the winter. They had sharp points and hurt if stood on my paw. 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 these early winters 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.
After a year I was a novice had done the 14 peaks in Wales twice in a day! I also knew who the new troops were and slept on their beds when they were at the pub. We stayed in village halls on the floor on mats and sleeping bags I had my own but used others. 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 every year. On the Mountain Rescue nominal role I was promoted to Senior Aircraft Dog I was now accepted by all.
The rivers on the hills are dangerous I learnt to swim very early not a problem in Wales but in the big rivers in Scotland I became an exponent of the wild water swimming.
I loved it even in the sea; it was said 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 learn how to 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 on a bad day; I was a type of doggy insurance for would be mountain leaders!
Comments and photos welcome?
To be continued.
Advice if your going to take your Dog on the mountains from Mountaineering Scotland.
A very special companion. Never tire of the tales of Teallach.
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Thank you xx
I remember that squash court at Braemar (Fife Arms?). We were camped in the squash court one time when I used my new XC skis down to the hotel on a snowy track that had sloping sides like a bobsled track.
Jaq my border collie runs alongside when I do XC ski trails. It’s been mountain bike rather than XC skis since we got back to Britain this year, but I am wary that she gets too close to the wheels, which is a problem when there is a squeeze or people coming the other way. She has a love/hate relationship with skateboards and I have to call back if she hears a lot of activity as we go past the skateboard park or kids go through the park on a tarmac path.
She has great control and always waits for the command when I open the car door. It’s great that Britain is more relaxed about off-leash dogs that the USA.
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We are lucky hope you are well.