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A day in the life of a working sprocker

Otti tells us about his working day, with help from owner Claire Swainston, who is a beater at the local shoot.

Working sprocker spaniel

Otti, the working sprocker

Every Monday starts full of excitement and anticipation. I watch as the curtains are opened, praying for good weather. Sometimes we’re blessed, sometimes we’re not.

Today fog fills the valley and as we travel out of the village the mist slowly disappears. Slowly the sun’s rays break through and by the time we reach the cattle grid the sky is bright blue and the sun is blazing. Just perfect.

After a briefing on the day’s plan we’re set in a beaters trailer, 14 men and women and usually as many dogs (spaniels and Labradors mainly), laughing and joking. We’re pulled along by another willing helper (a police traffic cop actually) and we’re on top of Grinton Moor.

We’re only doing four drives today because the grouse are few in number and the shoot master wants to preserve stocks for next year. The cold spring hasn’t been in the shoots favour and many chicks perished.

At full pelt

We sit in the heather, nearly falling asleep, waiting for the signal, a horn blows indicating that the guns are in place and ready. We set off at full pelt, our humans waving flags from the start. Fourteen of them in a line spanning the moor. I’m captivated by the smells … rabbit, rabbit, grouse, grouse, rabbit. Finally after seven years I know what to do. It’s not been an easy ride!

The grouse fly in front of us, moving slowly towards the guns. From then on they seem to disappear. A few coveys fly over us, unconcerned by flags, and we move forward unperturbed. It’s a sporting shoot, no vast numbers falling from the sky. In fact a pair of binoculars might help on occasion!

BANG, BANG … the odd grouse falls. The drive is over and the picking up dogs set to work. I can’t be trusted with that job as I tend to eat the birds when I get half a chance! I do have a penchant for grouse heads.

Rabbit chasing

On to the next drive, a similar scenario, the gun are in place and we’re off … oh a rabbit. I’m going to chase that one … and another. PEEEEEP, PEEEEEP … there’s Mum calling me back to work. Oh, a bog, I could do with a cool down … SPLASH! I’m up to my tummy in sticky, smelly peat … nice!

We stop for lunch after the third drive, it’s a warm day and the humans sit chatting and I eat my special biscuits (energy for the last drive as I’m getting tired now). I lie down and rest for half an hour and then we’re off again in the trailer, being bounced around and sat on.

The last drive is over. I’m shattered, the humans are tired, chatter is waning. Mum says “cheerio” and I curl up in the car. A hot shower when we get home, tea and then bed. It’s a dog’s life!