Not The Features Ed Blog: Pooches With A Purpose

Shutterstock / Gawel Mazur © dogs

Walking in our local park the other day, a streak of movement caught my attention.

Rocketing across the football pitch in a low-lying blur of white and brown was a small dog chasing a ball launched far into the distance.

In a matter of seconds, he had it. It didn’t seem possible that those little legs could cover such a huge stretch in so short a time – but they did. Back he went for another go. And another . . . and another. Would this dog ever get tired?

Tired, no. Distracted, yes!

“Dash!” his owner called, when the appropriately named little chap investigated some enticing smell at the far end of the field. Selective deafness ruled – for a while at least.

I had a (socially distant) chat with Dash’s owner, who turned out to be an old neighbour of mine.

He told me that this was Dash’s second walk of the day so far.

Earlier that morning, his wife had taken the Jack Russell with her to run a half-marathon, something he adores.

Built for speed

Looking at Dash, who had now come to join us, tail wagging, happy smile in place (ball still at the other side of the field), it seemed incredible that so much energy could fit into such a small, cute package.

The short, sturdy legs, closely packed muscles and alert, intelligent expression showed a dog perfectly formed for his breed’s original intended purpose.

Bred for hunting, Jack Russell Terriers had to have boundless energy, stamina and fearlessness, something Dash clearly has in abundance.

He’s not a hunting dog, of course; his only job is that of much-loved companion to his family, but different breed characteristics do lend themselves to particular functions.

Dogs with jobs

In our series Dogs With Jobs, Lorna Cowan talks to the owners and handlers of dogs who perform a range of helpful, necessary and even life-saving tasks for humans.

We’ve met lovable Labradors with a nose for Japanese knotweed, gorgeous golden retrievers whose bubbly yet gentle personalities have led to careers as models or therapy dogs, delightful dachshunds working as dog food taste testers and cocker spaniels who can hunt for missing pets or guard their farm’s turkey flock!

And we’ve learned about the springer spaniels whose superior scenting abilities enable them to investigate fires and even diagnose malaria and Covid-19.

Later in the series, we’ll be meeting an adorable bichon frise assistance dog and another talented springer spaniel playing an important role in hedgehog conservation.

This month it’s Xenon, a Siberian husky leading a team in competitive dog-sledding. You can read about him in our February 20 issue.

Xenon and his pals appeared in a recent BBC Scotland programme about their home town. After seeing them in action, I can’t help wondering how they’d get on in a race with Dash!

For more from the Features Ed blog, click here.

Marion McGivern

As editor of the cookery, money, pets and eco pages, Marion covers a wide range of regular Features content. Along with the rest of the Team, she enjoys finding interesting features for both the weekly and Special issues that readers will love. Having so much variety every day means that over ten years with the “Friend” has just flown by!