A 12-year-old Border Collie which is a former Scottish sheepdog trials champion and defied the odds to survive a mystery illness, was today (September 3rd) named Scotland’s Top farm Dog.
Bess, a retired tri-coloured collie, is owned by Ian Brownlie who farms at Piperpool, near Alloa. She will tomorrow (Thursday 4th September) make a guest appearance at the World Sheepdog Championships at Fearn, near Tain where she will be presented with the “Top Farm Dog” award after being selected from the entries to the Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) initiative, supported by the Scottish SPCA.
Bess will also be able to give some moral support to her daughter, Mo, the current British Champion, and nephew, Gus, who are both competing at this week’s world championships, along with around 240 other top trial dogs from around the globe.
The award was developed to highlight the importance of stockmanship skills and tradition in the production of Scotch Beef PGI and Scotch Lamb PGI. The initiative, which attracted a very wide range of entries from around Scotland, also aims to highlight the importance of animal welfare and the contribution of Scottish livestock farming to the environment.
Mr Brownlie, who runs 600 Cheviot and Cheviot Mule ewes, bought Bess when she was a 10 month old pup and from the start, he said, “there was just something about Bess.”
“Bess is very intelligent with bags of determination and great stamina. She is fully retired now but over the years she has worked with cows, calves, ewes, lambs, hens and even doves, taking her job very seriously, though admittedly being a little over-enthusiastic on occasion in her youth!”
Disaster threatened however when, early in her trialling career aged just three, Bess was struck down with a virus which made her extremely ill. Vets said her chances of survival were very low but even when very close to death Bess kept wagging her tail. Miraculously, after a spell with Royal Dick Vet college specialists in Edinburgh, Bess was fit enough to return home.
The Brownlies were determined to help Bess make as full a recovery as possible and, as well as several months of physiotherapy, she had a course of canine reiki which they said did seem to help. Mr Brownlie even purchased a sheep dipper which was suitable to adapt to a hydro-therapy pool to help her recover muscle strength.
“Amazingly she was back to doing the job she loves within a few months and worked a lambing for us with her usual gusto. Eighteen months later she was Scottish champion!” said Mr Brownlie.
Jim McLaren, Chairman of Quality Meat Scotland, sent his congratulations to Bess and Mr Brownlie.
“The idea behind this award was to help improve the public’s understanding of the traditional stockmanship skills which underpin the production of Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb, along with the natural environment our cattle and sheep are produced in, in Scotland. Bess is a shining example of the importance of the traditional livestock husbandry skills at the heart of our industry.”
Working dogs are included in the farm inspections which are required by QMS’s farm assurance schemes.
Scottish SPCA Deputy Chief Superintendent Tom Gatherer emphasised the very important job dogs do on a livestock farm, with little complaint and lots of devotion.
“Good stockmen know that a healthy and happy dog makes a better working dog and we are pleased to support this award which not only recognises dogs that have demonstrated excellence, but also highlights the importance of good animal welfare."
Caption: Scotland’s Top farm Dog – Bess – pictured with her owner, Ian Brownlie.