What a glorious day to be out in the countryside. The weather was fine and sunny with a hard frost and a temperature when we met up of -3C. Such a pleasant change from the rather unseasonal warm weather we’ve been having. I took the Small Black Dog for an early morning short walk before we set out for the shoot. She had the most awful limp in her weak left elbow when we set out and held her paw up for me to give her a bit of physio. Made mental note to watch out how she was getting on later in the day. The limp eased as she got going, but I gave her a dose of Metacam in her breakfast before we set out for the shoot. She has ED in both elbows. Supervet (if you watch UK TV) operated on her about 4 years ago and she is doing ok but has a permanent weakness that is more pronounce in her left elbow. She’d been hooning on the beach at Brighton the day before and I guess that had made her a bit stiff. Yesterday was to be our “Boxing Day” shoot so everyone to bring a plate of something for a party. Because of this the format for the day was a little different. We would shoot the whole day with a break for 11’s after the 3rd drive but no lunch. Three more drives would conclude the day’s shoot and back to the barn for a party. We were 10 guns plus 2 guests. Three of the guns had handed their day over to son, grandson and daughter to take their place and try their hand. One guest gun was over from Australia for Christmas. All our beaters and pickers up are volunteers, being friends, spouses, off-spring or other relations. We all know each other pretty well and the crack is always good before we start and between drives, and then afterwards comparing notes in the barn. I’m pleased to report the Lady is now much improved as a peg dog. I’ve managed to get her to not run in on other Gun’s birds unless I send her, and she just concentrates on mine. She now lies down just behind or to one-side. She still stands up when birds start coming through but certainly on this last outing was only seeming to mark my birds and I only had to check her once when she was setting off in the direction of the far horizon. We seem to be transitioning from “She doesn’t do any harm” to “She’s reasonably well behaved and steady”! Her morning limp had disappeared, thank goodness. 11’s comprised snacks with champagne mixed with sloe gin. The latter hit the spot but wasn’t a combination I’d tried before. It seemed to work! Notable moments of the day … - Winnie, the 7 year old black Lab who is almost exactly the same age as Lady does NOT like other dogs sniffing her bottom. A 12 month old black Lab pup found this out in a most comical way to the onlooker. Winnie rounded on him with a ferocious growl and the pup rotated in mid air onto his back in the “So sorry” position so quickly it looked very funny! - Lady and I positioned in the middle of woodland with the drive coming towards us. Pheasant shot by someone else lands nearby and I send Lady to get it. Bird comes over and I shoot it. It falls behind some holly trees. Lady returns with 1st pheasant and I point and say “lost”. Off she goes and I leave her to it. 2nd pheasant nicely presented a short time later. Well done the SBD. - Billy, 13 year old in the back of a 4 X 4 with the upper half of the tail gate open. All the dogs piled on top of him – he was in heaven. - Must get a bigger trailer. 20 of us seated all cheek-by-jowl and 3 or 4 standing with nearly as many dogs all massed in the middle aisle between our legs. I’ve decided that the collective name for such a group is a “tangle of dogs” – well the leads certainly. - I win the sweepstake on number of birds shot but donate the money to the BASC collection box. It’s the custom. The party went well. I’d put the SBD in the car with a snack and water having cleaned her up and dried her off beforehand. She was covered in mud and pretty tired. I didn’t stay long as I was pretty bushed myself and we had friends coming round. Got a brace hanging in the garage to deal with later in the week. I usually just skin them and take the breast meat and legs and freeze them to make a casserole later. Lady very attentive during this process and she likes the bottom of the legs and feet (de-clawed) to chomp up and any trimmings that might also be on offer – thank you.