It had been raining heavy both locally and in the Dales, the ground was waterlogged and the River Aire was in full spate. Oscar the springer spaniel was in his element working in the wetlands in the lea of the floodbank running with his nose not one inch from the ground, stopping, sniffing into the air with his leading leg and docked tail erect in that typical pose of a pointer dog. Then the dog would turn and lope to another position, sniff and use his paws to search for something.
On this day we were about 200 yards upstream from the Boat (pub) at Allerton on the Methley side when I saw a mallard being brought downstream alongside all manner of flotsam.
I was hoping the dog would not see the bird and would remain on the blindside of the floodbank. Perhaps it was the flapping of wings, more likely the scent of fear that brought Oscar to the top of the embankment. The mallard with its distinctive colouring was about 40 yards from the dog and by now paddling furiously past me. Oscar, seeing the duck, sped down the flood embankment and gave chase along the flood shallows on the riverbank proper creating two arcs of spray – what a magnificent sight.
Why the mallard didn’t head for the middle of the river or indeed fly, I’ll never know, but it was now clearly making for the false shelter of an overhanging bush which was normally 8 or 10 feet above water level but whose lower branches were now under water.
Well it made it, but to no avail because the dog hit the bush at pace and following a flurry of twigs and feathers Oscar scrambled up the bank against the current with the duck in his jaws, he trotted towards me, sat on his haunches and offered me the still undamaged mallard (springers have soft inner jaws which enable them to carry prey without causing damage).
Well what on earth do I do now!…. it was easy, I took the brightly marked prize from Oscar and with two hands hoisted it into the air where it did half a circle then headed off on the flight to freedom – a marvelous feeling for both of us. However the dog was not impressed and he looked at me as if I had lost my marbles, then he turned gave himself a thorough shaking and me a thorough soaking of stinking river water so that I was in no doubt as to his view of the undertakings … Well that’s what I think.