Tails of the Trust: meet our working dogs

Lead? Check. Human? Check. Name badge? Check. Time to work. They may have wagging tails and wet noses, but the dogs who work with us day to day are just as much part of the team as any of our human colleagues. With our partners at Forthglade, we're celebrating the valuable work these dogs do. Read on to meet the working dogs of the National Trust, and hear these characters’ colourful tails.

Rosie: Assistant Countryside Manager, Isle of Wight

After years of supporting Robin, Countryside Manager for the Isle of Wight, in meeting tenant farmers, taking butterfly surveys, welcoming visitors, and all things nature conservation, Rosie is now enjoying the ‘golden years’ of her working life. But that doesn’t stop this 10-year-old border terrier from following Robin everywhere. Everywhere that is, except over thistles, giving credence to the old truth that sometimes, a manager must literally carry their team.

Robin and Rosie, his 10-year-old border terrier, welcoming visitors onto the Isle of Wight
A ranger and dog team stand by a gate, opening onto the Isle of Wight.
Robin and Rosie, his 10-year-old border terrier, welcoming visitors onto the Isle of Wight

Rosie’s favourite day at work is one spent in the Land Rover with a team of rangers, and her skill to divide and conquer is well known amongst them, as is her dislike of being ignored. Give her a scratch and you’ll be rewarded with an excited squeak – and possibly even a Rosie-wriggle.  

Now this long-serving member of the team employs her energy – and considerable experience – in modelling good behaviour for other dogs enjoying the sights and smells of the island. She’s an expert lead user and can often be observed trotting behind Robin, which no doubt she will continue to do far into her well-earned retirement.

Sweep: Trainee Ranger Shepherd, Orford Ness Nature Reserve, Suffolk

Unlike Rosie, Sweep is just at the start of his National Trust career. Under the diligent tutelage of Ranger Shepherd Andrew, this one-year-old border collie is slowly learning the ropes of sheep herding.

But unlike most National Trust rangers, Andrew and Sweep don’t travel to work by Land Rover. This pair are seafaring shepherds.

Ranger Shepherd, Andrew, and sheepdog border collie, Sweep, sit together on the beach at Orford Ness, Suffolk
Ranger and his sheepdog sit on the beach at Orford Ness, Suffolk
Ranger Shepherd, Andrew, and sheepdog border collie, Sweep, sit together on the beach at Orford Ness, Suffolk

The shingle spit of Orford Ness is a habitat of international importance, full of rare plants and wildlife. As such, Sweep is the only dog allowed onto the Ness which is mown by a herd of Herdwick sheep, themselves saved from extinction as recently as the 1970s.

Looking after the inhabitants of Orford Ness, Sweep had to find his sea legs fast, as the sheep under his care can only be reached by boat. Although he’s now as salty a seadog as any sheepdog can claim to be, this feat did take him a little while to master. However, given as Andrew says, ‘it takes four years to train a sheepdog – one year for each leg,’ maybe we can forgive him for having a lot on his paws. 

Juno: Facilities (Co)Manager, Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire

Not all National Trust dogs spend their working life roving the seas and hills. Some are much more concerned with the business of running houses.

Emily and her stately whippet, Juno, on the path leading up to Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire
Staff member and her whippet dog stand outside the entrance to Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire
Emily and her stately whippet, Juno, on the path leading up to Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire

Juno lives in Hanbury Hall with Visitor Experience Officer, Emily, and is known to be a stylish, fashion-conscious sort of dog. Being a whippet, and with central heating being somewhat lacking in 1701 when Hanbury Hall was built, Juno can often be found sporting a chic rollneck sweater in a classic, always flattering, light grey.

With such impeccable taste, Juno takes a great interest in making sure Hanbury Hall is at its best for visitors. This includes watching visitors come and go from her window seat in the estate office, keeping an eye on the rabbits, ensuring the gardeners don’t miss a spot when mowing the lawn and, most importantly, singing along to the fire alarm test each week to ensure everyone, throughout the entire Hall, can in fact still hear it.

Another of Juno’s important roles is ensuring her people are looked after. Whether that’s through giving Emily the experience needed to make sure visitors with and without dogs feel welcome at Hanbury, or taking care of Emily herself. With the pandemic it’s been a difficult time to live on site, but Juno’s caring nature alongside the routine of their daily walks together has given Emily the support needed to get through it. Style over substance, Juno is not.

Biscuit: Staff Morale Officer, The Argory, Northern Ireland  

However, Juno is not alone in playing an active role in her co-worker’s wellbeing. The Mid Ulster team were not looking for a Staff Morale Officer when Matt, House and Collections Officer for The Argory, first took Biscuit into the office as just a puppy. But it only took a matter of minutes for the little jug (jack russell X pug) to make the role his own.

Biscuit as a jug (jack russell X pug) puppy, then three years later as a grown dog outside The Argory, Northern Ireland
Two images of a dog sit side by side. On the left, a puppy with a Staff Morale Officer badge on, and as an older dog on the right. The, Argory Norther Ireland
Biscuit as a jug (jack russell X pug) puppy, then three years later as a grown dog outside The Argory, Northern Ireland

Cheeky, loving and full of fun, Biscuit’s lunchtime visits now ensure his team have a welcome break in the middle of the day, a screen-free five minutes, and some much-needed mental space away from the call of emails and the cries of the telephone.

Naturally, his role profile also covers Matt, and the two of them take care of each other’s wellbeing by going off to explore the boardwalks and riverbanks that run through the wooded estate. As a reward for his hard work, the dog exercise area of The Argory provides a safe spot for Biscuit to burn off some extra energy, away from the wildlife his ‘zoomies’ may otherwise inadvertently disrupt.

Three years later, Biscuit still dons his lead and his badge and sets off for his lunchtime duties. But now he has a sister, Nutmeg, who he shares his important responsibilities with.

Penny: Gardener, Dunham Massey, Cheshire

As much as some dogs love people, other dogs love sticks. And as such, Penny the lurcher was born to work in gardens.

Emily and stick-scouting lurcher, Penny, on a bench amongst the roses of Dunham Massey, Cheshire
Head Gardener and her lucher dog sit on a bench in the roses of Dunham Massey, Cheshire
Emily and stick-scouting lurcher, Penny, on a bench amongst the roses of Dunham Massey, Cheshire

Down borders and along pathways, under trees and across lawns, Penny follows Head Gardener Emily, keeping her company, and making thoroughly sure the garden is left clean, tidy, and stick-free for visitors to enjoy. The gardening team greatly appreciate the help that Penny offers clearing up this woody nuisance. Except that is, when Penny decides to follow those pesky sticks back to their source, and caringly prunes an important shrub or two for them. Still, the thought is there.

It’s this kind of patience and respect for others that the gardening team needed someone to model as they began welcoming more dogs into Dunham Massey’s gardens. And with this nature, Penny got the job on the spot.  

Now, after a long day’s work relaxing on her lead (and clearing up sticks), Penny likes nothing more than to go around the gardens with Emily, checking out all the messages other dogs have left for her to find. And of course, clearing up sticks as she goes.

Bran: Fridge Conservation Consultant, National Consultancy

Sometimes even when their colleagues have outside jobs, some dogs know their skill set lies inside. And involves dairy snacks.

Bran goes to work with Caroline, Senior National Consultant for Nature Conservation across the Trust. Many of the habitats Caroline visits are too sensitive for a large, cheese-loving greyhound like Bran to go into, so he minds the office while she’s out and keeps an eye on things there, mainly guarding his supply of cheese snacks in the fridge.

Nature Conservation Consultant, Caroline, and her cheese-mad greyhound, Bran, out on a lunchtime walk
Consultant and her dog out on a walk through a field of buttercups
Nature Conservation Consultant, Caroline, and her cheese-mad greyhound, Bran, out on a lunchtime walk

When she returns, Bran’s watchful gaze ensures Caroline takes regular screen breaks to walk him during the day. Even when he’s catching up on nap time, Bran’s presence in the office is welcome company. A happy reminder that sometimes we don’t have to visit the wild to appreciate the nature in our lives. Even if that nature is currently snoring, and dreaming of dairy.

Whether indoors or outdoors, large or small, stick or dairy loving, jumper-wearing or wave-riding, these working dogs demonstrate the great variety of roles that our four-legged colleagues can perform, and the positive impact they can make. 

These are just a few 'Tails of the Trust', discover more in the pages of 'Dogs of the National Trust', or visit a National Trust place near you to see if you can spot a working dog, on the job. 

Django the German wirehaired pointer eyes up a collection of apples

Dogs of the National Trust 

From Virginia Woolf's spaniels to Biscuit the Staff Morale Officer at The Argory - Dogs of the National Trust reveals the tales (or should that be 'tails'?) of the dogs who have lived and worked at National Trust places past and present, and the people who love them.

The National Trust range of Forthglade dog food

A dog's dinner we're proud of 

All working dogs need a good dinner, and as part of our partnership with Forthglade we've teamed up to create a dog's dinner we're proud of. Sales from this range, available now at www.forthglade.com and in National Trust shops and online, will help support our Dogs Welcome Project, ensuring that dogs and their owners can get even more joy from the countryside we care for.