A Year in the Life of an Irish Sled Dog Kennel -24 Hour Party People? Not a chance

On Thursday 3rd March I set off to the last BSA race of the season, we were booked on the 01.55 Dublin-Holyhead ferry, so leaving home at 8pm seemed reasonable. However, a message came from Irish Ferries that the boat was cancelled due to technical difficulties, so I needed to change my booking, went for the 08.45 from Rosslare the following morning, as we were going to near the South coast of England. After a wet and mild winter, spring suddenly decided not to, and as we left home, it started snowing, and this was proper snow, that was sticking to the ground. The roads turned white ahead of me, so progress was slower than normal, and I was anticipating a very, very long and slow journey from the top left corner of Ireland to the bottom right corner. Thankfully the snow stopped about 45 minutes into the journey, but temperatures had dropped, so obviously I was very aware of the possibility of black ice, so took it steady. The plan was to get a coffee at McDonalds in Longford, but it was closed, which unfortunately was the theme of the night. I stupidly had thought it was open 24 hours a day. So, no problem, there is a service station on the M4 – notice that M, it means motorway – I could get a coffee there. Nope, that also was closed, the petrol pumps are 24 hours, but the service area is not. So no coffee, and no toilets, but I parked up and got the dogs out for their toilet break. Dropping temperatures, remember those, the first 3 dogs were walked gingerly but safely, the second 2 dogs not so safely, and the last 2 walks were done with me begging the dogs not to pull on the lead at all, and my feet desperately trying to keep traction on the very, very slippery ground. A gritter lorry had pulled into the car park, and the driver was going around and around my van, gritting the car park and pavements, I assume because he felt sorry for me, and wanted to try and stop me going flying – it was very much appreciated.

Dogs all sorted, it was back in the van and on to Dublin, which obviously, being a capital city, is a 24 hour place. The tolls booths were deserted on the M4, but were still operating, no chance that they will be shut after 11pm with the barriers left up of course. Going around the M50, I know there is a McDonalds next to the Red Cow hotel, so came off the motorway and headed into the city on the N7, unfortunately it is on the other side of the dual carriageway, and as I drove past it, it was in darkness, nope, it appears that not even Dublin has a 24 hour culture. Now I had the issue of turning around to get back onto the M50, so took a left turn, then followed a sign to M50, but it obviously meant not that road, but the next road, as I instead ended up in an industrial estate. I drove down the road, assuming it would go around and rejoin the main road, when I became aware of the headlights behind me. I pulled in to let them go past, obviously assuming all sorts of things happening, but it was a Garda car, also obviously assuming all sorts of things about me. They did a u-turn and as they came up to me, they stopped, I explained what I was doing, and they asked if I’d like to follow them, so the dogs and I got a police escort back to the M50, and waved on our journey.

It is lovely driving in the early hours of the morning on the M50, no hold ups, and in no time at all we were on the M11. This is a motorway between a capital city and a Europort, so obviously the services on this road are open 24 hours a day. As I pulled into them, and saw the building with lights on inside, my hopes were raised, but then dashed as I realised there was nobody in the building. So still no coffee, and the toilet issue was becoming more pressing. I arrived in Rosslare at 4.15am, this is Rosslare Europort, dealing with the European continent and the UK, a place where ships come and go, freight comes in and out of the country, and so there would be people here. Nope, nothing open whatsoever, not a soul to be seen, everything locked up tight. 2016 and Ireland appears to close at 11pm. I parked up and went to sleep for a few hours, getting up nice and early the next morning, walked the dogs on the beach and we boarded the ferry, which was 2 hours late. We were given a refreshment voucher because of the late departure, so I was anticipating a nice breakfast on board – the voucher was for a cup of tea and a small packet of biscuits.

The last rally went very well, Ghost raced for the first time as he had passed his first birthday,  we came 2nd in DR4, and he was fantastic, he flew around with the other dogs, overtaking and being overtaken in the dark on a strange trail. Clancy and Darcy got round safely in DR2NB, but if my maths are correct, thats all that we needed to do. It was a lovely feeling to get out and run the dogs in the dry, without mud, the first race we’ve done this season where that has been the case.

Ghost is a young siberian husky/golden retriever cross. He was removed from the Myshall puppy farm when it was closed down in the spring of 2015 with his Mum and littermates. He was adopted by a family who did their best with him, but they just couldn’t cope with his boisterous, bouncy nature, and I agreed to work with him before he went off to a UK rescue. Of course I fell in love with him, and so he didn’t leave, instead he has become part of the family, and part of the working team. He is an absolute natural in harness, he will go past anything he meets on the trail – except for plastic bottles, they are his achilles heel. He will make a beeline for any that he sees, even if it means dragging the rest of the team and me with him. I am really looking forward to seeing him grow up and reach his full potential, he is very clever, although sometimes very, very daft.






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