Chance was to bring me a second Shetland Collie, Storm. I’d had a few years without a dog and wanted one badly. I was returning home from Morocco in my camper van and had diverted to visit Rosslyn Chapel. Heading off again I passed a lady walking two Shelties, so I stopped to ask where she’d obtained them. The breeder, contacted, said she’d let me know when pups were available. Weeks later I rang only to be told ‘The bitch had missed’ but, she did have a two year old dog they could part with, because it was ‘A bit too big for the show ring’, super-trained and medically pampered, wow! Yes, I was interested.
A year later (1979) Storm would go walkies with me from John o’ Groats to Land’s End, when we made the first ever foot-link of the four highest summits; Ben Nevis, Scafell, Snowdon and Carrauntoohil (plus Ben Lomond to complete a then unique, sixth round of Munros). The walk also took in all the Furths. The cover of ‘Hamish’s Groats End Walk’ had Storm posing with Snowdon behind and when the lady who’d sold me Storm saw it and what he’d done, she turned to a friend to exclaim, ‘You’d never guess he’d a broken leg when he was a year old would you?’ Ah ha! So that was the real reason why Storm was sold. Storm came with the pedigree name ‘Ellenyorn Spider’s Web’. Imagine shouting that on the top of Snowdon!
Storm became quite well known as he was often posing as useful foreground in photos I took to illustrate articles. We climbed Am Basteir one spring when snow still edged the ridge, which was sheer on one side and steep on the other and Storm thought it would be pleasant to roll on the snow. This was more than my nerves could take, he went on belay (on the lead) and we continued, meeting another walker who asked. ‘Are you Hamish Brown?’ Well, yes; then came the put-down. ‘Thought so, I recognised the dog.’
I was his human as much as he was my dog. He could read my thoughts I felt, was biddable and quick to learn any new game and because of his background he had much to learn. He had to learn about sheep for instance. One of his first outings was to the Borders, a night in my camper van above Loch Talla. In the morning we jumped out to water some rushes. Sheep grazed nearby and a curious Storm went to investigate. The sheep backed off. The dog advanced. The sheep ran. As the dog made to follow and I bellowed, ‘No!’ and at the same moment a shepherd in a Land Rover arrived. He stopped and remarked, ‘If he obeys like that, you’ll have no bother with him.’ Storm soon learned and whenever we encountered sheep he would automatically walk to heel.
Storm was the most unaggressive of dogs. With the exception of bothy mice and bonxies he liked whatever he met. Once, after sleeping out on a hill with the dog tucked in behind my knees as usual, time came to rise. Usually, Storm would leap up, but on this occasion, he continued to lie still; puzzling, till I saw, snuggled into him, was a gawky curlew chick he did not want to disturb.
In April 1985 I was wardening the hut in Glen Brittle and after an atrociously wet spring we were suffering from cabin fever. When conditions eased a bit, we set off up the nearest slope and ended on Sgurr Dearg. The Inaccessible Pinnacle loomed in the wind and wet, water running down and I didn’t even consider climbing it. But astonishingly, there were soldiers being put through their paces and being heaved up to abseil off. Talking to the sergeant in charge, the story of Kitchy came out and Storm’s nearing completion. He suggested I climb it there and then my response was, ‘Not in these conditions, not with a dog in my rucksack!’ The sergeant said I could have a top rope so I put my trust in the squaddies. The short side, wet, icy, slobbered with mud from all the abseiling, was not very enjoyable. There is one out-of-balance move high up that I’ve never liked, even in summer, and on it I was teetering on the edge of adhesion, the weight of Storm almost pulling me off. He, at that point, leaned forward and gave my ear an encouraging lick.
Storm coincided with years when I was trying to do as many winter Munros as possible on skis. To begin with, the dog found the downhill skiing a frustration. I’d shoot off in one direction and he would follow, only for me to suddenly swoop round in the opposite direction and repeat. Who says dogs don’t think? He soon let me go off and just sat and watched until I reached the bottom when he’d just trot down. Once, wanting to cross a stream, I managed by hopping stone to stone, a route beyond the dog’s abilities. He ran up and down the bank a bit and then plunged in to make a perfect ferry glide to land on a spit of sand he’d seen.
At one of the Braes o’ Fife meets in Suardalan bothy, we all left early for Beinn Sgritheall, leaving an array of dirty dishes and pans behind. Storm and I arrived back first and while I went off to fetch water, he set about licking all the dirty dishes, making an excellent job of cleaning them and when the others returned, I was thanked for washing them all. I didn’t have the heart to tell them the truth.
We had a great snowy day on the hills all round Culra Bothy in January 1985 when Storm completed on Beinn Eibhinn, lying north west over the Bealach Dubh from Ben Alder. He climbed 459 Munros in all, and 127 Corbetts and goodness knows what else.
Sadly, Storm slowly began to feel his age. His last Munros filled a splendid winter round of the Coire Lair hills above Achnashellach. A few days later, while walking through the Union Canal tunnel, Storm staggered and fell into the water. After that the garden sufficed until one night he had a final massive heart attack. All I could do was hold and comfort him as I could, a lick on my nose quite breaking me as I lifted him from our camper van to go into the vet.
During the Groats End Walk we were sat on a bench in Mitchelstown at the end of the Galtymore range when a mother and daughter came along. The mother then explained the girl was blind and could she ‘Feel the lovely dog?’ The girl ran her hands over Storm, received a lick and turned to me with a smile, ‘Sure, and he’s a gorgeous fella.’ He was indeed.