Scotland was where my owner loved and we did our first winter climbing course together at Grantown On Spey. The Military said that 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 and other Mountain Rescue teams. I loved the winter skills days as I would have fun but it was cold hanging about and I learned to find shelter in the snow. After this we would snow hole it was all new to me a night out in the wild mountains of the Cairngorms. This was all fun and after a long day on the hill we would arrive and dig a snow hole. I would chase the debris all day as the troops dug them.
I loved the snow holing Heavy was scared as he told me the weather could change very quickly and we may not know. 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 also later on found a lost couple of climbers who had seen the light in our snow hole in the Cairngorms but were scared to come in as they thought I was real Alsatian that bite. I barked when they arrived in the middle of the night and had to wake Heavy up and go outside to bring them in. I loved the snow, this place Scotland with my big feet was 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 RAF Valley in Wales. I was a bit wary at night and kept going in all weathers and this was to be a life saver one day. We did a few rescues it was hard work in the snow this was wild country a step up from Wales.
We stayed at the famous 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 bed after a hard day on the hill. I did a few snow gullies that year and I was far better soloing 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. 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.
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 with 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 lovely woman Vicky 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 Vicky’s lovely daughter she was tiny and we had some fun, she was always dressing me up but so did the troops, it was no problem. I loved them both and I really got looked after and allowed in the front room, but not on the sofa.
It was a fun time for me 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 after a wet day on the hill then a meal and then sleep or play with any troops that had the energy left. Life was good!
In Wales things were going very well and life was indeed good but poor Heavy had problems his selfish life in the mountains it was a lonely one for his partner. At this time as always the Mountains became all-consuming Vicky was a young beautiful lassie and Yvette such a lovely girl he did not get his priorities right.
At the same time his Mum passed away he was broken hearted. Vicky and Yvette were a great help and I went down with him to Ayr. It was a tragic time his Mum had Leukaemia and the family had not told him. He was heartbroken as his Mum was so important to him. She had hidden it from him as they did in these times, he spoke to her often but she never even said she was ill. On returning to North Wales he was glad he had a family helping him. We spoke a lot then I knew he was hurting. I think all the tragic things he had seen in the hill affected him and he did not grieve.
Things broke down with his relationship, he could not cope and sadly Vicky left with her daughter to go back to Scotland, it was a hard time for all. I had got used to family life and loved them all very much playing with Yvette and her pals was a lovely change from the hills. 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 so special. We 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 in the team at the weekend but worse.
During this sad time we got out a lot on the hills and days got longer and harder as the mountains became all-consuming as Heavy tried to get on with life. He hid his grief for his Mum I think it was dealing with so many fatalities in the hills, made him cut out any grief. The hills were now his life and he took great joy on this but he was hiding from his hurt.
I had met his Mum and Dad then later in the year his Dad took ill whilst he was on the Team Leaders Course in the Peak District. He was rock 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. We arrived in at 0500 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 before and did so afterwards. Dogs understand.
We visited Scotland for a Grant with the team at Valley. It was a huge drive 12 hours to Torridon on the West Coast of Scotland. We arrived at Kinlochewe and had a 12 hour day On Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Ben Alligin. This was the Torridon Trilogy a huge day and Heavy was on a mission it was the hardest day I had ever done. The next day we climbed the Cioch Nose at Applecross, I ended up in the Loch due to the midges.
This was the beginning of a 10 days in Scotland and then we moved to Fort William and I did the big 4 Ben Nevis, Carn Dearg Aonach Mor and Aonach Beag, The next day all the Mamore Ridge 11 Munros in a day in these days. The Aonach Eag followed up the famous Clachaig Gully both ways on the same trip. I met him as I finished Clachaig Gully and he took me the other way I did the ridge 3 times that day. There were so many other great hills I loved Scotland. It was such a big place and so few people. It was soon back in Wales and a big rescue the RAF Wessex helicopter had to leave a winchman on the hill in winter during a rescue and we went and helped him off, he had no crampons.
The crewman was wearing flying boots, the aircrew had little kit only basic aircrew gear in these days and the troops had their sharp crampons on and it was even hard for me on the icy snow. There was a bit of carry on and the helicopter came back to get him despite the weather and being told to leave him. It was a tricky and the RAF enquiry was interesting .Heavy getting into trouble for his decisions in support of the crew and giving them mountaineering boots after etc. 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.
We did a big callout on Idwal slabs in the dark when the Team Leader Allister was away the head torch batteries fell apart in the wet 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 and despite the Team Leaders assistance ended up posted to the Deep South at RAF Innsworth near Gloucester. There were no mountains here and I think the system thought they had got rid of us. They thought that was the end of us but it was not too be. Life was to change.
Its worth reading the advice on Mountaineering Scotland to taking your dog on the mountains especially in winter. Certain breeds will be better suited to hill walking than others. Medium sized dogs such as collies, spaniels or Labradors are athletic breeds ideally suited to running all day in the hills. However, with sufficient preparation, any breed of dog can be trained to become a fantastic mountain companion.
The weather and your dog | Mountaineering Scotlandwww.mountaineering.scot › hillwalking › taking-the-dog
- Well worth a read – Teallach was doing most weekends on the hills every weekend 130 -150 days on the hills annually.
Still looking for photos of Teallach especially in Wales can anyone help.
To be continued !