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A Brave Bitch
by Keith Rogerson

We were walking our three bloodhound bitches on the Lettertrack peninsular of Connemara in Eira. Kathy, my wife, and I had let the bitches go ahead. They were Jollity and Jessie, litter sisters, and Kimberley a neice. Jessie was blind in her left eye as a result of an accident while tracking in her usual over exuberant fashion.

We were on high grass land mixed with heather and gorse with the sea and cliffs to our left. The bitches were now out of sight over a ridge so we called them back. Jollity and Kimberely reappeared without Jessie. When we reached the ridge we could see for miles in all directions but no sign of Jessie and no answer to repeated calls. A cold shudder struck us both and we raced to the cliff edge walking along it, staring down at the shingel beach about 80 feet down a steeply sloping ridged drop. Shortly we saw the prostrate form of Jessie down there. We got directly above and called. She half raised herself, whined and lay down motionless. The cliff was too steep for us to go down.

It was a clear bright day with an onshore wind with the tide still some way out and rising. It was about two o’clock on an April afternoon. We had seen a bota moored in the bay; a rowing curragh. Kathy stayed above Jessie and unfurled a large rug to mark the point from seaward. I set off to find the boat owner and to put the other two bitches into our van.

Connemara coast is not a place to have a disaster. There are no telephones, no emergency services and in my panic it appeared that on this afternoon the entire population was either deaf, senile, in a walking frame or purely Gaelic speaking. Eventually a bright young lad understanding our needs, led me to Michael Joseph, able bodied and intelligent who was busy cutting peats some way up a hill.

Yes he knew the boat owner and yes he would come and help. The ald was despathced to find other lads to make up a crew. The boat owner could not be found, but after persuasion of the gravity of the situation Micheal Joseph neverthe less agreed to take the boat out with me and our young crew. None of them could swim.

I was aware that all this had taken so long that Kathy must be despairing of me; the tide was rising, the wind was getting up and the sun was gong down. We got the boat giong, despite Irish oars being thinner in the water than in the hand, and arrived off the entrance of the inlet to where Jessie lay. Kathy waved encouragement from above. But rescue was not to be by boat. With the rising wind Micheal Joseph could not risk another man’s boat by heading further up the rocky inlet to the cliff face. He urged me to leap onto a rock from where I could scramble along to reach Jessie on foot. The rock was slippery, I fell and the boat rode up behind and struck me so that I could not move my left leg. I fell back into the boat, whereupon Micheal Joseph informed me that now I couldn’t swim either. We returned to the bay leaving Kathy in even greater dismay and Jessie, who had looked up, in some puzzlement.

I took no further part as I could no longer walk, but only hop about. Micheal Joseph and the boys gathered up a rope and hurried up and along the cliff to join Kathy where he proposed lowering her down on the rope. There was nothing on which to secure the rope, and Micheal Joseph, a slip of a man smaller than Kathy, could never have held her let alone carry the extra weight of a bloodhound.

Kathy knew she now had to get down to the beach somehow, so she moved along some distance until she found a way down but around a headland from Jessie. She stripped down to her pants and bra to swim and wade to Jessie at which time Micheal Joseph began to drop the rope down on Jessie, in the forlorn hope that she might grab it with her teeth.

Then the miraculous happened. Jessie woke up with the sea now almost lapping her. Kathy called out. Jessie realised she must take matters into her own paws, limped with a hanging hind leg into the water struck out swimming to seaward, out from her inlet, around the headland, and into Kathy’s arms where they embraced in very cold water.

There was still a long way to go. The van was a mile away and Jessie had still to be got up the cliff. The lads hauled her up in the rug but it caused her such pain that she became nearly demented; so at the top she half limped, and was half dragged through the heather and thorns eventually to the van, wherin she fell asleep for the next 48 hours that it took for us to return to England.

Her left hind leg had been shattered into pieces, but Peter Booth, our vet at Petersfield, pieced the jigsaw together with wire and plates and so rebuilt her leg.

A month or so later she was running about almost as good as new, and just as bloody determined.

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