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Our Dogs

Our dogs- Willow, Cookie and Kai

Kai is a silver Labrador girl, born November 23

We’re all smitten with our new, beautifully puppy. She’s 9.4kg and 11 weeks at the moment, so she’ll be a nice size when grown.

She hasn’t jumped up yet, thankfully. Kai taught herself fetch last week. She’s a fun, playful pup who also enjoys a good cuddle- we couldn’t wish for better! She loves Willow. Consequently, when she’s not playing with us, or curled up next to Sue, Kai likes to use Wills as a pillow when she goes to sleep.

Too cute!

Smudgester Laughing Willow is a dark chocolate Labrador, Poppy’s daughter, born 26th January 2012.


She is technically a brown labrador as she was born with white claws and liver coloured eye-rims and nose, but her coat is quite dark. Unless she is in bright sunlight- then she looks a beautiful rich shade. Her eyes are darker than her mum’s.

Willow chose us. When she began to see and walk somewhat steadily, she would look for Stu. From about 3 weeks old she became determined to sit on his lap. She would rush about, giggling, seeking him out.  She still likes to sit on our laps even though she’s a fully grown; sadly we can’t hold her for so long. All of our dogs enjoy a good cuddle, but Willow is most likely to ask for one (with a little moan). If one of us lies down on the sofa, she runs over like a blur so she can be the first to curl up with us.

When she is not on a lap, Willow is most likely to be found sitting under Stu’s desk.

Willow is quite vocal and has an extensive repertoire of funny noises, especially if you blow on her face.

She seems to have Poppy’s brains as she can learn tricks incredibly quickly. Her party piece is jumping through our arms.









Smudge’s daughter and Widget’s full sister, Cookie was born on the 29th of June 2015, in Smudge’s second litter of 6.

Her hair is a little longer than her mums. Where it is not streaked with silver, the grey is a little darker. Of the two girls in the litter, Cookie was the feistier (and noisier). She really enjoyed playing with Widget from a young age. She stands a hair taller than both Widget and Smudge. Possibly that is due to her litter being smaller, but that is not the only factor. Poppy took such a shine to Smudgey’s second litter that she started producing milk so both Smudge and Poppy fed them! I kept a very close eye in case any noses were being put out of joint. Both dogs seemed to enjoy sharing the experience so as Smudge was ok with it, we let it continue. The pups were happy and very healthy. Our vet was astonished- she’d heard that it could happen but had never seen it herself.

Cookie’s favourite thing is also dinner, although going outside for walks or to the shop a very, very close second. She loves Widget, her sister and loves to play chase with her on walks. Widget loves to chase Willow so they have fun and games while Smudge and Poppy mooch. 

I like to get them to sit in a nice row for a treat. Cookie always wants to be first. She gets her treat then runs to the end of the row as she wants to be first and last.

Cookie’s favourite spot to sit is on the sofa or under the redcurrant bush, in the shade. If we are not careful, that is where the toys end up.

Here’s both Poppy and Smudge feeding Smudge’s second litter

It’s not a great photo- the best of a bad bunch. There were so many more sweeter moments. We only thought to get the camera out once we realised that there wasn’t going to be many more times as the pups were off to new adventures with new families. Poppy has the “oh my, they’re sharp teeth” expression and I guess Smudgey is doing her headcount- she used to look about and wag when she was sure all of the pups were getting their fill. I regret not getting a good shot of this amazing and rare sight- too busy making sure they all were happy. 

Poppy has had 2 litters herself and she is a very conscientious mother. we weren’t surprised when the pups were about 10 days old, Poppy started to want to go into the pen with Smudge.  At first I worried in case it was considered competition, but Smudge seemed to like that Poppy was trying to help. Assuming there was no real milk, initially thought that the pups would try to feed from her and then not get enough nutrients, so I tried to discourage by only letting Poppy in after the pups looked full. Thinking there was only dried milk, Poppy got a new nickname: “Marvel”. Then, Poppy moved and as she scrunched up her belly, some milk came out. We realised what a true marvel she is. We are very proud of her and also proud of Smudgey, for being so  co-operative.

 Poppy 9/11/09- 28/9/21 pedigree name is Delicate Flower


Poppy was a black Labrador. She suffered a stroke- old age had caught up with her. She slid to the floor- I doubt if she even new what had happened. It was Stu’s birthday.

Her favourite game is fetch where she can swim.

Poppy is very bright. She understands many words and can quickly learn tricks. Poppy learned “find it” easily. After we taught he the smell of bank notes she will  bring us any money she finds in hedgerows- she has found over £200 so far.

After she learned our names her favourite task is to carry a small parcel or a handwritten note from person to person. It’s turned out to be very useful and practical.

Our brightest dog

Poppy likes her sleep and she made us late for 3 weeks once! The alarm clock kept going wrong despite multiple checks and reprogramming attempts. Stu woke up one day just in time to see a little black paw reaching up and turning the alarm off nano seconds after it began ringing.

Poppy is capable of inferential reasoning and she can understand pictorial references. She loves seeing videos and pictures of herself, Willow and Smudge. She uses her brains to help her deal with any litters we may have. If a puppy has taken her favourite toy, Pops will find another one, wave it excitedly at the pup, who will then drop the favourite to rush over. Pops gives her toy to the pup and is able to take back her favourite with very little fuss.

Poppy is too clever for our own good.

It seems that she has a sense of humour, and a rather naughty one at that. We have to watch Poppy in the park on nice days where there are people sunbathing. If we don’t stop her, she likes to sneak up to people lying and snoozing….. and woof as loudly and suddenly as she can to make them jump.

Poppy waved a toy at Smudgey through a patio door and when Smudge ran face first into it, Poppy dropped the toy and walked off going “ho ho ho”. She made her run into a patio door on purpose, and then she walked off laughing! Such a shame you never have the camera when you need it. Her laugh is very loud and pronounced and she can get a joke. I first heard her laugh when I pretended to be the squeak in a broken toy in the week that she came to us.

Hips: 2-3; Elbows: 0-0; Eyes: Clear


Smudge- a bearded collie (beardie) 25-3-10 – 2-3-21.


She was the love of my life. I told anyone who listened, even in font of my husband. She died suddenly and peacefully in Stu’s arms… and way too soon.

Smudge is an independent, sociable dog who has more friends than the rest of us put together. She is happiest if she can make you laugh, but she has a very loving nature and enjoys cuddles. Her favourite game is with a stick.

Smudge is intelligent, but in a different way to Poppy. Sue is prone to falling and Poppy will help her up, (she will try to wedge herself under and lever her up). Smudge knows if Sue feels ill and will hug and cuddle her until she feels better. Sue hardly ever cries but if she does, Smudgey gets upset herself and tries to lick away her tears.

Smudgey and Sue are inseparable and Smudge sits with Sue pretty much all the time. She loves cuddles and (like her daughters) she wraps her front legs around in a proper hug. 

Smudge, being a beardie, is very agile. It’s amazing to see them jump, turn in the air, land and continue like nothing happened. Teenage Smudge could run very fast. She once won a race with a (6 foot, 20 year old) man on a bike, down a hill.

Of course she likes eating- her favourite is fish and she is rather fond of yoghurt and fruit.

When she was little, she used to try to catch things with her front paws. It never worked.

On the odd time we go and sit in a pub garden, Smudgey gets herding and tries to stop people going to the bar. (She likes it when everyone sits in a nice small group). She’s very happy once they come back. If we get her herding for a game, she will always encourage Stu to move towards Sue (and never the other way around).

Smudge’s fantastic hip test results (3:3) mean that it is possible to breed from her. We chose Bryonyhill Triple Truffle (Cosmo) as he also has a hip score of 3:3. He has a wonderful temperament and pedigree. When we put their names through the Kennel Club Inbreeding Coefficient Indicator we squealed and cheered. The puppies would be 3% less than the national average. This is an extremely important factor in the breeding of this wonderful, but rather rare breed. We intend to only positively influence the health and well being of these amazing dogs.

Their litter of 10 was born safe and sound on the 14th of June 2013 and we kept one for ourselves.


Widget 14-6-13 – 07-09-21

She died of breast cancer, exactly 6 months after her mum.

widget 13 weeksWidget is Smudge’ and Cosmo’s daughter, born 9th out of a litter of 10 pups, on the 14th of June 2013. We wanted a brown girl so we could tell her apart from her mum in the park and out of our 5 girls, Little Widget is the only brown female puppy. How lucky we are- she is sweet and fantastically loving in nature and heart stoppingly adorable, just like her mum. Smudge is proving to be a wonderful mother- we are really proud of her and delighted with our new family member. Widget got her name as I was trying to think of something original, which is not so easy when you know as many dogs as we do! She is just too cute for words!

Beardies are awesome!

Bearded collies were bred to be left minding cattle- which meant they would be alone and had to make some decisions for themselves. This means if you say to a Beardie go from A to B, the dog will end up at B but may not take the route you expect. Beardies are not usually credited with so much brains- in Coren’s typology they are ranked the 34th brightest breed, right along with the Staffie (who, in my experience, should be also ranked higher as they consistently learn faster than a Doberman, German Shepherd or Poodle).

I consider the Beardie’s independent thinking a different type of intelligence than that of the much higher ranking Labrador, who will dutifully follow your instructions to the letter. A Beardie will learn a trick or task much faster than the compliant Labradors- but only if they see the point.

Widget is a sweet and gentle dog who enjoys cuddles and she always laughs when she gets head massages. She enjoys a good dinner but hardly touches her breakfast.

She very fond of Sue’s son Col and when she isn’t hanging out with Sue or Cookie, she likes to sit under his desk. Widget absolutely adores George, our neighbour’s Newfoundland. Little Widge is agile and quick, like other beardies and she enjoys chasing Willow.

Widget likes to have her photo taken and she will sit in front of you even if you are just mucking about with the camera.

The photo on the left is Barney then Widget being really good in class. The photo on the right was taken 2 years later and features Smudge’s other litter- our Cookie and brother Steve. When these were taken they were all at a very similar age. 



We were looking through old photos and found some treasures!

Here is Sue in 1990 in Donegal with her eldest son, Brendan and Manchester Terrier Tara

As we lived in Ireland at the time, Tara was multi-lingual, she knew some commands in English and others in Irish.

Tara isn’t with us any more, but will always have a very special place in our hearts.

Sue’s book- available here

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