Sadly, in November our aged border terrier Fred died after a short illness. He had been a delightful little character and was much loved. However, he had a long life and remained fit until just a few days before he passed away. Not only did his death come as a surprise to us it was doubly so as we have an aged lurcher which we had completely expected to depart before Fred. Fergus, the lurcher, has been very unsteady on his feet for some time and for a while began losing weight. It does appear that he has found a new lease of life and, although still unsteady, he has put back the weight he lost and is now eating well again. All of this meant we were left with the elderly dog and, of course, our two year old lurcher Bertie, which I have previously written about. As we don’t expect Fergus to go on long into the future we decided that it would be a good idea to get a puppy. Having been used to company all his life we felt it unfair, when the time comes, for him to be left on his own.
We decided we would get a Jack Russell terrier and began to look for one. The first thing that struck me was just how much rubbish there is out there in terms of dogs/puppies. I have never heard of such bizarre crosses. Jugs, Cocker Doodle, Labra Doodles and many more. I can’t think for the life of me why people make such crosses. Most of our existing dog breeds have been bred for a specific purpose and have stood the test of time. Why mend it if it isn’t broke? I even came across several adverts for puppies which included crossing a perfectly good breed with Chihauhuas. What on earth are they trying to create? The truth is these people are creating mongrels with no apparent purpose for the breeding. It, however, quickly becomes clear the price for such abominations is always high. For the most part none of the puppies I discovered were on the market for less than £300. The truth is, if they have a worth at all, these mixes should not command a price any higher than £20.
I eventually abandoned my internet search and began putting the word out between friends and acquaintances and I was lucky to get a fairly quick response from one mate whom knew of gamekeeper with a litter of terrier puppies and he assured me they were the right type. A visit was made to said keeper and a puppy selected. The litter was beautiful and an absolute credit to the breeder. So it was that we bought Humphrey a superb little tyke. He is everything we had hoped for and all that a terrier should be. He is proud and has a fair bit of attitude. He has taken to Bertie extremely well and they are almost inseparable. In fact we have been amazed just how much Bertie defers to the puppy. If Bertie is given a treat the pup grabs it from him and runs off and, most incredible of all, Bertie will even tolerate the puppy diving into his feed bowl and helping himself to Bertie's food. Dogs don’t get much more good natured than that.
Humphrey is the sort of terrier I wanted, with beating in mind, for next season. He is of the confirmation of the original Jack Russells which the old parson was famed for. Humphrey will be about twelve or fourteen inches at the shoulder when he is mature, with straight legs and a good rough coat. His ears are not held up but bend over at the tips and he carries himself like a dream. Having said all this, and I am aware that the Jack Russell is now recognised as a breed by The Kennel Club, the dogs bearing the Jack Russell name were always of a type rather than a breed.
As a founder member of The Jack Russell Club of Great Britain many years ago, I do know a bit about them and have done a huge amount of research into the parson and his life. Parson Russell’s terriers were rough coated and high on the leg and were expected to run with hounds during a day’s fox hunting. They were not heavily built but slender enough to go to ground and bolt a fox when needed which is exactly what they were bred for. The parson’s famous terrier, Trump, was just such a dog and the rriers that followed,and carried the Jack Russell name, were all of a similar standard, shape and size. Looking through the adverts for Jack Russell’s today makes it pretty clear that any form of farm terrier, bandy legged, short or rough coated, and mostly short in the leg are given the title and sold for extortionate prices.
I would be the last to suggest that some of these delightful little tykes do not work well and become quite useful little workers in a number of areas, not least, ratting. But, Jack Russell’s they are not. When I was involved with the breed club we did not seek Kennel Club recognition and most real enthusiasts didn’t want it either. However, it proved that many of the members were as feisty as their terriers which resulted in breakaway groups and a Parson Russel Terrier club being formed.
I have long held the view that many of those people were only interested in inflating the prices they could command for their puppies and the long term welfare of the terrier was not of much concern to them. One only has to look at the ridiculous prices now being asked for such terriers to feel vindicated in having nothing to do with such clubs and their activities any more. I was not ripped off for my little chap and clearly his breeder was not motivated by large amounts of money for his puppies. He was a genuine working dog enthusiast and his great joy was having produced a litter of superb terriers all of which were going to working homes. Long may people of that calibre remain and prosper.