I have mixed feelings about dogs and air events. We have all heard the horror stories about dogs being left in locked cars (which is one of the reasons why most well-organized events have marshalls patrolling the car parks), and sometimes an event with a high proportion of jet aircraft can cause great distress – particularly jet display teams. I remember the ‘Patrouille de France’, when equipped with Fouga CM.170 Magisters, with their tiny, high-pitched Turbomeca Marboré engines, nearly driving everyone crazy – dogs included! However, an event with predominantly older piston-engined aircraft (an event at the Shuttleworth Collection, perhaps, or ‘Sally B and Friends’ at Duxford) should cause no problems for our canine friends – providing they are kept on a lease, and have adequate drinking water.
Here we have a fine example of a Gordon Setter, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air at Cotswold Airport, Gloucestershire. His name is, quite logically, Gordon! The breed was named after Alexander Gordon, 4th Duke of Gordon, KT (1743-1827), Hereditary Chief of the Clan Gordon (a.k.a. ‘Cock o’ the North’). The Duke of Gordon recognised the chief characteristics of the dog and devised the first breed standard in 1820.
Various breeds of Setter have evolved during the past 300 years, with local characteristics becoming stronger over the generations. Perhaps the best known Setter is the Irish, with its incredibly rich red coat; however, no-one ever accused the Irish (or Red) Setter of being staid, or possibly even sane, and they are noted for their skittish behaviour. Its cousin, the Irish Red and White Setter, is often used in the field as a superior gundog. The English Setter is elegant, with a white coat liberally dotted with small liver-red spots, yet is a less robust dog than the Irish.
Like all Setters, the Gordon (which evolved, of course, in Scotland), was an independent gundog in that it searched a good distance away from the hunter, until it sensed game such as Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus scotica) or Grey Partridge (Perdix perdix), then ‘froze’ or ‘pointed’ towards its quarry. The hunter then walked up, and as the game was flushed, shot it. The Setter would then retrieve the dead bird. Gordon Setters were heavier in build than all the others and capable of standing up to the harsh weather of the Scottish Highlands. Now, of course, they are found all over the British Isles and many of them are just family pets (and very loyal ones they make, too).
A Gordon has a shiny, semi-wavy black coat, with a regular pattern of attractive tan markings. These include eyebrows, nose and throat, chest, legs and paws, and vent. They are subject to hip dysplasia, and certain eye conditions such as progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts, so careful heath checks should be made before acquiring one of this intelligent breed; also remember that they will require regular exercise.
Gordon was a handsome dog, and seemed to enjoy the day – I think the replica SE5a’s were his favourite (at least he barked when they trundled by!)