The aims of this website are to break down the barriers between humans and our natural environment, and to strengthen our connection with it, using my two sheepdogs as narrators in order to omit any political bias.
The project began several years ago and during the pandemic, its relevance became particularly pertinent as our wide open spaces were visited by increasingly large numbers of people, often accompanied by their newly acquired canine companions and thus subjecting our countryside to intense recreational pressure. The website aims to give humans the tools to allow them to interact with our natural environment in a more compassionate a way.
Over the last two years, my canine narrators have changed. In the beginning, I used Zak and Shep, my two border collies, to tell the stories. When Zak died suddenly and unexpectedly, Pumpkin - a red welsh sheepdog joined the team but then, tragically, Pumpkin died too, and we welcomed Pumpkin’s half-brother Bruno – a 10-week-old puppy into our lives – as Shep’s apprentice.
Bruno is now nearly two!
Over the last two years, Bruno and Shep have revisited some of the places in the West Midlands which were first visited by Zak and then Pumpkin.
Now, Shep and Bruno have moved up to the North- East of England and there are a wealth of special places up here to discover and to divulge their secrets.
The website will also track Bruno’s journey as he moves through adolescence and matures into an adult sheepdog.
In addition our travels will reveal some of the more surprising interactions between humans and our very special natural world.
My name is Julie Muller and I used to live with my family in Worcestershire in the West Midlands. Back in November, my husband and I, and our two dogs moved up to Northumberland and we now live in a market town in the middle of the county.
From the age of 10, I have always had a dog in my life, and I spent many hours exploring the local countryside. Even in those early days I was concerned how humans, as a species, seem to abuse their environment - often unwittingly.
With a degree in Biology behind me I worked in a variety of roles that allowed me to pursue my love of the environment before finally taking a PGCE and beginning my teaching career.
However, teaching in a school environment has never been my first love and I spent time working for the National Trust, Essex and Worcestershire Wildlife Trusts, the Malvern Hills A.O.N.B. partnership and English Nature (Now Natural England). I also ran my own Environmental Expedition business in which I led groups of schoolchildren and college students for day excursions over the Malvern Hills.
It was whilst working for English Nature that I became fascinated by areas of the countryside that are special enough to be afforded legal protection because of the special habitats, animals and/or plants that they possess or, because they have historical or archaeological importance. What is surprising is that these places are visited by many people every day and most of these people are oblivious to their special qualities. This exposes large areas of the countryside to accidental damage and I felt that I needed to do something about it.
Zak, a tricoloured Border Collie was the first dog to narrate the Triple S Eye dog blog. He came to live with us in November 2010, having spent the first few months of his puppyhood chained up at the bottom of his first owner’s garden. His first family were not cruel to him, but they were very neglectful, and he spent lots of time on his own with very little to eat. He was rescued in the middle of the night by the Animal House Rescue Shelter in Birmingham when he was just five months old.
At that time, we already had an eleven-year-old Springer Spaniel called Smudge, and he and Zak soon became firm friends.
As a puppy, Zak was hard work but, as he matured, he developed into the most wonderful caring and empathetic dog. He was friends to everyone that he met, greeting all with his unmistakable loud but friendly bark.
Four years after Zak came to stay, Smudge developed chronic arthritis and he died just before his fifteenth birthday. It was at that time that Shep, a border collie puppy from Newtown in Wales joined our family. At first, Zak was quite wary of Shep, especially as Shep seemed to be quite an anxious little puppy, but soon they became buddies.
Zak, Shep and I enjoyed exploring the countryside together and we started to chronicle our adventures, and reveal the secrets of the countryside, through dogs’ eyes.
Zak was nearly eleven when we lost him, very suddenly and unexpectedly, to cancer of the spleen. Needless to say, he left a massive hole in all of our lives.
When Smudge passed, Zak was left all by himself and so we decided to have another dog to keep him company and we collected a young puppy called Shep from a sheep farm in Wales on Easter Monday 2014.
Shep was a tiny ball of fluff with a pink spot on his very black nose. It didn’t take very long for the two boys to become best friends.
Shep has always been quite an anxious little boy probably because his mum, Lucy, had to return to work quite soon after giving birth. Despite being only eight weeks old, he was also the last puppy to leave the farm so had spent some time alone in the barn.
Zak always took the lead when it came to any social interaction and Shep would hide behind him, but they were the perfect partnership. Shep’s world changed overnight when Zak died. He seemed to be quite depressed and although he visited a new SSSI by himself, it was evident that he missed Zak. The dog blog just wasn’t the same!
And so, we took a leap of faith and Pumpkin joined our family
Pumpkin was only 6 months old when he came to stay. He had spent his early life in Liverpool but sadly, domestic difficulties had prompted his first owners to return him home to his breeder. Pumpkin’s early life had left him with a number of issues. He was very nervous around people and also rather unsteady on his hind legs which was probably as a result of a lack of exercise during lockdown.
A few trips to the vets and bouts of hydrotherapy put things to right, and after seven weeks we were delighted with his progress.
However, within days of this self-congratulation, Pumpkin became unwell with a gastric infection. When his treatment for gastritis failed, our vet discovered that Pumpkin actually had kidney failure and he tragically died just twenty-four hours later.
Pumpkin’s death was an enormous shock to all of us. After all, he had only lived with us for 8 weeks. In that short time Shep and he had become very good friends and explored and narrated tales of another four special places in the countryside.
Bruno came to live with us at the end of June 2021 - a tiny ten-week-old puppy with golden brown fur and sporting a black bandit’s mask. It has taken a long time for Shep to completely. 'accept' him as Bruno often gets things very wrong. He is so gauche and 'green and very mischievous. However, he is a very loving little dog with boundless energy and a passion for life and he wants so much to be praised for getting things right. - The future is bright. There is a big wide world out there, full of places to explore and adventures to be shared.