You may well be thinking that Dartmoor is surely not in Orkney, it's in south-west England, stretching across Devon from the Somerset border as far as Cornwall. Of course you are right, and speaking as one who lived for many years on the edge of this magnificent National Park, it has a special appeal and charm, combining beauty and unspoilt wilderness, the memory of which will always remain with me.
The Dartmoor that I am writing about, however, is in fact the most recent addition to our family, namely an Old English Sheepdog, named in memory of those happy days years ago, spent walking on Dartmoor with our children and the family dog(s).
Our previous dog Hector, 95% Old English Sheepdog and 5% Collie, died in August last year, aged nearly 14 years. We had owned him from a puppy, acquired from the Blue Cross Rescue at Tiverton in Devon, and he was truly a lovely dog with a wonderful temperament. After he died, the house seemed very empty, and my wife in particular missed him.
We toyed with the idea of getting another dog, and in fact registered with a dog-rescue home for a suitable dog. We didn't hear anything for two or three months, but then at the end of October, a kind and generous friend delivered a surprise package to our door, namely Dartmoor aged about 3 months! He seemed rather like a big cuddly teddy-bear, weighing about 10 kg ,with a long silky coat and needle-like teeth and claws.
He is now nearly 7 months old, weighing between 25 and 30 kgs! He is large and boisterous, and like Hector has a lovely temperament, showing great affection and loyalty. He can be very stubborn, and dare I say it, naughty at times, but the good outweighs the naughty bits - at least that's the theory! He is totally house-trained, which has been a cold 'learning curve' during the winter months, both for him and his owners who have been obliged to venture forth into cold, howling winds and driving rain at all hours of the day and night! In hindsight, this was a job well done!
He needs plenty of exercise to expend his latent energy, and here on Stronsay, we have some wonderful beaches and sand dunes which are ideal. My wife takes him in the car daily to the beach, where he can run without causing or coming to any harm. One major problem we have with Dartmoor in the car, is his propensity to bark fiercely at oncoming cars, at the same time hurling himself at the offside rear passenger window. Fortunately he is strapped in, which certainly limits his freedom of movement, but this is a problem which we have not yet succeeded in solving - constructive suggestions most welcome! It is easier to control when we are both in the car, so when Dartmoor goes out we both go.
The photos below were taken a few days ago whilst walking Dartmoor at Rothiesam beach on Stronsay. It was a lovely, sunny Spring day, perfect for a walk on the deserted beach and sand dunes.
'Why man he doth bestride the narrow world like a colossus'
'Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishonorable graves.' Cassius to Brutus re. Julius Caesar. (W.Shakespeare)
Actually, contrary to the photograph, it's Dartmoor who, figuratively speaking, bestrides the world like a colossus, while I just hang on in there!
A close up of Dartmoor, he has one blue eye and one brown eye, neither of which can be seen in this photograph, mainly because of his long hair. He has a particularly large, black, rubbery nose, which you can see, and a very fine set of new 'adult' shiny 'gnashers'!
Just making sure that you're still there!
A handsome boy, but I wonder what he's thinking?
Having a breather - to give Mum and Dad a rest!
Waiting to pounce! You'll do, but I really need a few sheep!
Off at full speed! You'll not catch me!
An interesting find - rabbits?
Must we go home already?
Dartmoor receiving a treat, a small piece of sliced chicken - his reward for doing as he was told, not always the case! 'Mum' loves him - most of the time. When he misbehaves he's only a 'baby', and for some inexplicable reason, it's often Dad's fault! C'est la vie!
I hope that you have enjoyed this brief introduction to Dartmoor. I hope to renew our friendship in August on his first birthday!
NB. If you like dogs and would like to know a little more about Hector, our loyal and well-loved previous dog, please click on link below.
The Donkey, by GK Chesterton
When fishes flew and forests walked,
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood,
Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry,
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
Of all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient, crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
'Entry of Christ into Jerusalem' (1320) by Pietro Lorenzetti
'The donkey may be derided as a stupid animal, yet he is used by God for the most triumphal journey in history, highlighting the difference between God’s wisdom and ours.... Nobody is truly worthless, no matter what others may think. Just as the donkey is an unsung, unloved and unattractive creature who becomes the hero in Chesterton’s poem, so too the most humble and unattractive people, even though they are without social connections or the appearance of being important, are seen by Christ as who they truly are, made in God’s image and likeness.'
(Ack. Patrick Comerford)
'Christ's Resurrection from the Dead' (1570) by Paolo Veronese
'Wishing all a blessed and happy Easter'