LUCY JACKSON

We spent a very interesting day with Jean Soeters who came all the way from Dover to talk about his plans for his Irish Terriers. My son James was here and we were intrigued with the explanation of his approach to the breeding and training of Irish Terriers. It has to be said that there has been a fair amount of controversy in the dog world – mainly regarding the price he charges for puppies – and an optional training programme which some find costly, inexplicable and unnecessary. Jean is from Holland and his approach to life is far more direct, less elaborate and not interwoven with the nuances and inscrutable etiquette that beset our every social contact. ‘Maybe’ is a word he neither he uses or understands. He knows exactly what he thinks and has huge focus and determination to succeed. But he does have an infectious enthusiasm and exemplary commitment to breeding the most beautiful puppies. He takes a total and unquestioning responsibility for them, never giving up the contact with the new owners. He often pays ‘follow up’ visits providing total support and advice for any problems that may happen along. Like all the old breeders he’s prepared to take back any puppy if for any reason at all things don’t work out...and repay the original cost when the puppy is re-homed. Now that is what I would call a devoted service. We need to appreciate that Irish Terriers have always been celebrated as the ultimate all-rounders. They adapt wonderfully well to almost any family pattern provided they are within the parameters of the terrier character.

You have to be ‘one of us’ to understand them but there is a wide spectrum. Now I have to confess that Jean and I are at opposite ends of this spectrum. I have no inclination to train anything (teaching is something different) let along my dogs. Our dogs have lived always only a heartbeat away from me and work things out for themselves. They know the limits, never cease to challenge them, but have all been the most perfect, hilariously funny, totally irrepressible, adorable companions. I absolutely understand that many owners today have neither the time nor a life-long experience of dogs to allow such liberty. It is a far more crowded unforgiving world out there and dogs need to conform in a way which the ‘raggle taggles’ of my childhood would have found positively Martian in its strangeness. Perhaps Jean provides a new sort of service for presenting puppies which are house trained, lead trained, never jump up, come when they’re called and are perfectly able to deal with the world as they find it. Now this could be a godsend to some owners and provided you can afford the fees for this very considerable service (and it seems that plenty can) it opens up another ‘market’ for our best beloveds to flourish.

Jean brought with him the most divine 12 week old puppy called Lucy – no, she knew her name and answered to it so he didn’t bestow it on the way here. I doubt whether I have ever met a more playful, confident, inquisitive pup. She was completely undaunted by Libby towering over her looking rather like the Trojan horse. Libbs was in fact very gentle with her letting her carry off all the soft toys, quite literally from under her nose. Lucy fell asleep on my lap – oh the joy of a sleeping pup. And Jamie, Libby and I were sad when Jean drove her away.

I am writing a piece for the website about Jean’s work which will be up on the Features Page when Jane is back from her holiday. Jean is a clever, driven, determined man, very experienced in the ways of world. He has travelled widely in many different countries and cultures. He has experience in business, accountancy and marketing. Combined with his enthusiasm and love of the Breed he could be a great asset to Irish Terriers. He has not yet ‘cracked’ the show ring but that is a different world with its own rules and he’s learning fast. We can but wish him well.