If Suffolk were a dog, what breed would it be?
PUBLISHED: 12:05 05 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:45 06 March 2019
Jan Etherington believes Suffolk is a dog county - and not just in the way you think
You know when you wake up in the middle of the night and you can’t get back to sleep, and all sorts of things go through your head? Work, health or money worries, planning the week ahead/a special event, or maybe you’re going over an argument, planning how you’re going to respond.
Whatever it is, you’re wide awake. In February, it’s too cold to wander round the house, or get up and read, so you just lie there, brain teeming, waiting for sunrise. It recently happened to me. Here’s an illustration of how barmily our minds work in the middle of the night.
I wondered, as most people are divided into cat or dog people, what if that applied to English counties? Which would be cat counties and which more like a dog? I know. I blame the smoked mackerel pate I’d dipped into, far too late to be sensible. Anyway, I doggedly (and cattily) pursued this thought til dawn and came to some conclusions.
Cat counties definitely include Somerset, Sussex, Oxfordshire (with the Cotswolds) and the county I left seven years ago, Surrey. Why? They’re glossy and manicured (the landscape, lawns and residents), they purr (the top-of-the-range cars and sit-on lawn mowers) and never need reassurance, confident in the knowledge that they’re fabulous.
Dog counties are different. They include Cornwall, Yorkshire, Lancashire and all of East Anglia, except Cambridgeshire, which, I believe, is of the feline persuasion. Dog counties are wild, informal and relaxing. And if there are dog counties, which breed of dog would each county be?
Yorkshire brings to mind the British bulldog, Lancashire, perhaps the whippet. Essex has to be represented by the sparky Jack Russell Terrier, Norfolk is Labrador country, and Suffolk? Well, I’m biased but if Suffolk was a dog, I believe it would something like my English Setter, Jagger.
Why? Well, there are subtle similarities. Suffolk is out on England’s hip, many people have never been here, because it’s not on the way to anywhere else. They may not even know where it is. Suffolk is still a secret, in many ways. Similarly, the English Setter, one of our oldest gundogs, is a breed even many dog lovers don’t recognise.
Their subtle colouring means that their flashier cousin the Irish (red) Setter is better known. Jagger has been called ‘a long haired Dalmatian’, a big spaniel. He doesn’t mind.
Neither Suffolk, nor the English Setter have been ‘messed about with’. Our coastal villages and country towns look much as they did a century ago. Suffolk looks after its heritage and avoids high rise and tacky developments. Our village has no pavements and no street lights. An artist can capture the same harbour, or village green scene as did Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Philip Wilson Steer, over a century ago.
Equally, the English Setter, first bred by Edward Laverack in 1825, looks exactly like Jagger today, unlike many dog breeds that have suffered from over-breeding, leading to health problems and dogs almost unrecognisable from their ancestors.
Suffolk is a dog county in every way, not just because the locals offer a tail-wagging, warm greeting to friends and visitors alike, but also because dogs are welcome everywhere – beaches, cafes and parks. Suffolk and the English Setter, have a similar effect on people, when they first see them. Both can cause gasps of surprised delight at first sight. Wildness and strong character are tempered by gentleness and serenity that make it easy to relax in their company.
Jagger is a natural therapist, visiting hospice and care homes and making everyone feel better. The same is true of Suffolk. Swim in our sea, walk the beaches, meadows and marshes and emerge restored and revived.
Yes, dear readers, I got out of bed thinking all this made sense. But I’m sure cat people think I’m barking up the wrong tree.