For most of us with dogs, working from home over the last year has meant regular ‘office support’ from our enthusiastic four-legged, wet-nosed assistants! However, for our partners at the National Trust, working dogs play an important role at the many beautiful locations that the Trust care for, so we thought we'd learn a little more about the daily adventures of some of the Trust’s canine companions.
Rosie: Assistant Countryside Manager, Ise of Wight
After years of supporting Robin, Countryside Manager for the Isle of Wight, in meeting tenant farmers, taking butterfly surveys, welcoming visitors, and all things nature conservation, Rosie is now enjoying the ‘golden years’ of her working life. But that doesn’t stop this 10-year-old Border Terrier from following Robin everywhere. Everywhere that is, except over thistles, giving credence to the old truth that sometimes, a manager must literally carry their team.
Rosie’s favourite day at work is one spent in the Land Rover with a team of rangers, and her skill to divide and conquer is well known amongst them, as is her dislike of being ignored! Give her a scratch and you’ll be rewarded with an excited squeak – and possibly even a ‘Rosie-wriggle’.
This long-serving member of the team employs her energy, and considerable experience, in modelling good behaviour for visiting dogs enjoying the sights and smells of the island. She’s an expert lead user and can often be observed trotting behind Robin, which no doubt she’ll continue to do far into her well-earned retirement.
Sweep: Trainee Ranger Shepherd, Orford Ness Nature Reserve, Suffolk
Unlike Rosie, Sweep is just at the start of his National Trust career. Under the diligent tutelage of Ranger Shepherd Andrew, this one-year-old Border Collie is slowly learning the ropes of sheep herding.
But unlike most National Trust rangers, Andrew and Sweep don’t travel to work by Land Rover. This pair are seafaring shepherds.
The shingle spit of Orford Ness is a habitat of international importance, full of rare plants and wildlife. As such, Sweep is the only dog allowed onto the Ness which is mown by a flock of Herdwick sheep, themselves saved from extinction as recently as the 1970s.
Looking after the inhabitants of Orford Ness, Sweep had to find his sea legs fast, as the sheep under his care can only be reached by boat. Although he’s now as salty a seadog as any sheepdog can claim to be, this feat did take him a little while to master. However, given as Andrew says, “It takes four years to train a sheepdog – one year for each leg”, maybe we can forgive him for having a lot on his paws.
Juno: Facilities (Co)Manager, Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire
Not all National Trust dogs spend their working life roving the seas and hills. Some are much more concerned with the business of running houses.
Juno lives in Hanbury Hall with Visitor Experience Officer, Emily, and is known to be a stylish, fashion-conscious sort of dog! Being a Whippet, and with central heating being somewhat lacking in 1701 when Hanbury Hall was built, Juno can often be found sporting a chic rollneck sweater in a classic, flattering, light grey.
With such impeccable taste, Juno takes a great interest in making sure Hanbury Hall is at its best for visitors. This includes watching visitors come and go from her window seat in the estate office, keeping an eye on the rabbits, ensuring the gardeners don’t miss a spot when mowing the lawn and, most importantly, singing along to the fire alarm test each week to ensure everyone, throughout the entire Hall, can in fact still hear it.
Another of Juno’s important roles is ensuring her humans are looked after. Whether that’s through giving Emily the experience needed to make sure visitors with and without dogs feel welcome at Hanbury, or taking care of Emily herself. With the pandemic it’s been a difficult time to live on site, but Juno’s caring nature alongside the routine of daily walks together, has given Emily the support needed to get through it. Style over substance, Juno is not!
Biscuit: Staff Morale Officer, The Argory, Northern Ireland
However, Juno is not alone in playing an active role in her co-worker’s wellbeing. The Mid Ulster team were not looking for a Staff Morale Officer when Matt, House and Collections Officer for The Argory, first took Biscuit into the office as just a puppy. But it only took a matter of minutes for the little jug (Jack Russell X Pug) to make the role his own.
Cheeky, loving and full of fun, Biscuit’s lunchtime visits now ensure his team have a welcome break in the middle of the day, a screen-free five minutes, and some much-needed mental space away from the call of emails and the cries of the telephone.
Naturally, his role profile also covers Matt, and the two of them take care of each other’s wellbeing by going off to explore the boardwalks and riverbanks that run through the wooded estate. As a reward for his hard work, the dog exercise area of The Argory provides a safe spot for Biscuit to burn off some extra energy, away from the wildlife his ‘zoomies’ may otherwise inadvertently disrupt.
Three years later, Biscuit still dons his lead and his badge and sets off for his lunchtime duties. But now he has a sister, Nutmeg, who he shares his important responsibilities with.
Penny: Gardener, Dunham Massey, Cheshire
As much as some dogs love people, other dogs love sticks. And as such, Penny the Lurcher was born to work in gardens.
Down borders and along pathways, under trees and across lawns, Penny follows Head Gardener Emily, keeping her company, and making thoroughly sure the garden is left clean, tidy, and stick-free for visitors to enjoy. The gardening team greatly appreciate the help that Penny offers clearing up this woody nuisance. Except that is, when Penny decides to follow those pesky sticks back to their source, and caringly prunes an important shrub or two for them. Still, the thought’s there.
It’s this kind of patience and respect for others that the gardening team needed someone to model, as they began welcoming more dogs into Dunham Massey’s gardens. And with this nature, Penny got the job on the spot.
Now, after a long day’s work relaxing on her lead (and clearing up sticks), Penny likes nothing more than to go around the gardens with Emily, checking out all the messages other dogs have left for her to find. And of course, clearing up sticks as she goes.
Bran: Fridge Conservation Consultant, National Consultancy
Sometimes even when their colleagues have outside jobs, some dogs know their skill set lies inside. And involves dairy snacks.
Bran goes to work with Caroline, Senior National Consultant for Nature Conservation across the Trust. Many of the habitats Caroline visits are too sensitive for a large, cheese-loving Greyhound like Bran to go into, so he minds the office while she’s out and keeps an eye on things there, mainly guarding his supply of cheese snacks in the fridge.
When she returns, Bran’s watchful gaze ensures Caroline takes regular screen breaks to walk him during the day. Even when he’s catching up on nap time, Bran’s presence in the office is welcome company. A happy reminder that sometimes we don’t have to visit the wild to appreciate the nature in our lives. Even if that nature is currently snoring and dreaming of dairy.
Whether indoors or outdoors, large or small, stick or dairy loving, jumper-wearing or wave-riding, these working dogs demonstrate the great variety of roles that our four-legged colleagues can perform, and the positive impact they can make.
These are just a few 'Tails of the Trust'. There’s more in a wonderful book by the Trust titled 'Dogs of the National Trust', or you can visit a National Trust place near you to see if you can spot a working dog on the job.
We’re delighted to be working in partnership with the National Trust, who look after many of the beautiful places we and our four-legged friends love to explore. Through our partnership we’ll be supporting the development of the Trust’s ‘Dogs Welcome’ Project – helping to protect the places they care for in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, whilst improving access for our canine companions. Find out more about the 'Dogs Welcome' Project here.