Ness – my wolf dog…
Ness – a throwback…

Ness has an impeccable pedigree. She’s Goss’s great niece and Skye’s first cousin once removed. She’s bred by a working sheepdog breeder renowned for producing outstanding working dogs with excellent temperaments.

I’d waited for her for some time.

I was in for a shock.

Here I’d better take you back to a bit of past history. Many years ago I was asked to bring up a half wolf/half dog hybrid puppy – Fenris. I was so enthralled at the prospect. I’ve always had a fascination for wolves. Their social structure, their powerful presence in myth and legend, and the way they’ve been so misunderstood. My arrogance that I could succeed in keeping both Fenris’s wolf and dog characteristics intact was way, way off the mark and he ended up bringing me my sheep, one by one, expertly and quietly killed. In his eyes I was the alpha female and so should be fed. He was wild wolf, much, much more than domestic dog.

Ness wasn’t unusual as a young puppy. She was happy and loved the immediate family though she had a certain reserve, a certain insular independence. She wasn’t too sure of unexpected strangers and did a lot of watching. She was, though, spectacularly ugly – earning the name of ‘Ugger-Bugger’.

As her ugliness grew so did her unexpected reactions to normal day to day happenings. I’d taken care to socialise her, bringing her with me and exposing her to new experiences, to no avail. She continued to develop very differently from any puppy I’d had, apart from Fenris! Long legs, large feet, coarse, wiry coat, long snout, yellowish eyes. Devoted to the pack and fiercely protective of her home patch. Reserved yet brave. Tough, strong and forever pitting herself against the older, established, bitches. After a couple of ‘incidences’ I came to the conclusion that this was not your normal, highly-strung collie and changed tactics with her upbringing all together.

Now at a year old, with a lot of hard work (desperation and tears) put into her, she has my heart. Not my next working sheepdog, no. She has no interest in sheep or cattle; she regards them as rather useless appendages, returning home when she sees I’m working Jill. No longer ugly, but small, lean with a loping walk and a beguiling grin. Floating high above the ground in long, effortless leaps, she runs with the wind and turns on a sixpence. She’s a hunter.

But I’m confident that unlike Fenris she’s more dog than wolf and the conflicts in her nature are not irreconcilable. At least my sheep seem safe enough!