the cult of the collie

Tue, Mar 27, 2007

This story on the BBC got me thinking about an incident which occurred this morning on the way to work. The village where I live is about 20 miles from where I work and it’s a nice cycle, so I do it quite a lot, being a keen cyclist, climber and programmer. Note that I didn’t say anything about being a keen crofter or collie lover. There have been a few incidents in the village of a collie, owned by one of the crofters, attacking people (me, twice) and killing a neighbour’s dog. Due to village politics, the owner has not been confronted. Until now that is.

I was cycling up the steep hill out of the village, so I was going slow, past the crofter’s shed, when the collie came at me, dragged me off the bike and took a lump out of my leg. Now, I have a pretty stressful job at the best of times and when I get attacked by a subsidy junky’s rabid mutt, I tend to go ape, which is what I did. I lost several months of stress in one go, screaming obscenities at the stupid idiot dog as it bared it’s teeth at me. It got the message though and started to slink off down the road, hotly followed by a raging me. The thing had bitten me once before, when I went to the crofter’s house for help to get a neighbour out of the ditch. He wasn’t in at the time, so the mutt went for me. I put it down to being on his property and didn’t say any more. Now, however, the dog attacked me on the public highway and he will now know my wrath, when I get home tonight.

I stopped at the top of the road to ask another neighbour if she knew who the dog belonged to, just in case there was an identical collie creeping around. Lucky I did stop as she’s a doctor, took one look at my leg, bandaged it up, gave me antibiotics and told me to come back tonight for a tetanus jab. Blood streaming down my leg, thanks to the crofter’s dog. So tonight I shall confront the man.

As is common in the Highlands, he’s a very nice man but is under the spell of that peculiarly Highland obscenity, the “Cult of the Collie”. These ignorant mutts can do no wrong and tend to roam Highland villages in packs of 3 or 4, terrorising tourists and locals alike. However, should one of them chase a sheep, it’s shot, no questions asked. The symbiotic relationship between the crofter and the collie can be summed up as, “you can do what you want round here, shep, just as long as you don’t touch the sheep”. For the hills are overloaded with sheep and are the crofters' main source of succour in these bleak and rocky hills.

The Cult of the Collie doesn’t just affect crofters though. I’ve seen a schoolteacher with 6 of them and I’ve heard of a plan to create a collie rescue centre in another village. Quite why anyone would want to rescue such barbarous affronts to canine culture is beyond me. Collies are there to do one thing and one thing alone. To chase sheep, with the intention of killing them. It’s the skill of the crofter that keeps them in check and in the hands of a really skilled crofter it’s quite impressive to watch. However, most crofters just let the scabby mutts roam at will once their work is done for the day and that’s when the problems start. For these creatures are for work and work alone and when they form packs they are lethal. Not that the crofter under the spell of the Cult of the Collie cares. The Cult and village politics provide a cover for these moronic furbags to do their evil deeds. Until now.

I will see what the man has to say for himself tonight. He owes me a new winter leggings kit plus a bike computer which got smashed when the rancid scabby mutt went for me. And he better pay up.

But back to that article I mentioned at the top of this post. It’s clear the demographic profile of the Highlands is changing. Crofting has never been a nice activity, with its chemicals and hordes of sheep and black bin bags shredded by the wind (I call them crofters' prayer flags), flapping on barbed wire fencing and ryelock fencing garotting sheep and dead foxes hung from barbed wire fences and long lines of dead moles hung by their paws on barbed wire fences and poorly sheltered cattle suffering appallingly bad weather all winter long, while faithful shep sleeps at the peat fireside, chewing on a tourists leg bone. I’ll say however, that our man here does look after his cattle. He cares for them very well, it’s just that he subscribes to the Cult of the Collie.

So there am I, a software engineer, working in a technical profession, living in the changing Highlands surrounded by high tech wind farms and broadband, cycling to work and being attacked by a crofter’s collie. It must mean something. Something along the lines of “your time is past, mutt”.

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