Jess and Molly - plucky little Patterdale terriers from Heysham

PUBLISHED: 00:00 24 May 2014

A bloodied but not beaten Molly and Jess reunited after three weeks with Mike and Yvonne (Picture: Cascade News)

A bloodied but not beaten Molly and Jess reunited after three weeks with Mike and Yvonne (Picture: Cascade News)

not Archant

They cheated death row and survived three weeks lost in the wilds - Emily Rothery meets two tearaway terriers

The dogs settled back in at homeThe dogs settled back in at home

Plucky little Patterdale terriers, Jess and Molly, have had two lucky escapes in their short lives. Four years ago, aged about eight months, they were on death row after being abandoned on the streets of Rochdale.

Serendipity played a hand here because at the same time Mike and Yvonne Sunderland, who live near Heysham, paid a visit to the shelter hoping to adopt a Patterdale.

‘We went to the home with the intention of getting just one dog but ended up with two,’ says Mike. ‘The pups came bounding up to us. How could we resist?’.

Yvonne adds: ‘The dogs are fine with Mike and I but it takes a while for Molly to accept people. She’s the feisty one; Jess is wary but more approachable. We work with adults with learning disabilities and currently Andy, Pearl and Rosemary live with us as does Mike’s 87-year-old mother who has vascular dementia. The pets are a firm favourite with everyone.’

Our conversation is punctuated by Molly’s long low growls and the occasional loud bark. ‘Molly has a whole repertoire of growls – a growl for when she is miserable or cross, another for when she is happy or needs a tummy rub and so on,’ laughs Mike. ‘She is very loving with us and her growls are just her way of communicating.’

Patterdales, sometimes known as the gladiator of dogs, are inquisitive, high-energy dogs. Molly and Jess are walked for about two hours each day and it was on one of these walks that the pair had their second lucky escape. They went missing while on Whitbarrow Scar in January and survived in the wild for more than three cold and wet weeks.

Mike re-visited the limestone escarpment, a few miles from Kendal, every day for the next eight days. The distraught couple put up posters in nearby villages and placed an appeal in the local paper, the Westmorland Gazette. They contacted animal welfare agencies, dog wardens and the local police to no avail. Concern for them grew as the temperature dropped, winds increased and higher than average rainfall was recorded.

Hope was fading and it was time to put away the dogs’ beds and bowls when Yvonne received the call they had desperately awaited. Jess had been found. ‘I was overjoyed but worried about Molly and dashed to find Mike who was at the local supermarket. I was like a woman possessed, dashing up and down the aisles as if I was in a supermarket sweep.’ laughs Yvonne.

Forestry rangers, James Upson and Iain Yoxall, had been sheltering from the rain on Whitbarrow Scar when a terrier in a desperate state approached their van. ‘The dog shied away from us but we managed to catch her and she immediately went to sleep in the warmth of the van. Iain contacted a colleague who had seen the article in the local paper and, just then, another dog came into sight.

‘That turned out to be Molly. I gave chase and only managed to catch her because she was so weak. Both dogs were bloody and covered in earth as if they had been underground. They were really on their last legs,’ says James, who had his own Patterdale with him at the time.

‘We could hardly believe that they had been found and can’t thank the guys enough,’ says Mike. ‘The dogs had turned up just 20 yards from where they left me, and had probably managed to survive by eating carrion and hunting for small mammals. Both had puncture wounds and Molly had a substantial wound to her chest. We had been more concerned about Jess but Yvonne thinks that Molly, who was extremely weak and had lost about 10 lbs, sustained her wounds while protecting her quieter sister. I guess we’ll never know what really happened.’

Yvonne adds: ‘Jess licked my face over and over but Molly was too weak. They were exhausted and desperate for food when we got home. After a warm bath they just lay in front of the fire. It took them a couple of days to get their barks back. We took them to the vets to be checked and, on seeing the full extent of their injuries, realised how lucky they had been.’

Patterdales are renowned for being hardy little dogs with a strong prey drive. They are descended from northern terrier breeds of the early 20th Century and their origins can be traced back to Ullswater in the Lake District. They were bred to hunt and dispatch foxes in the rugged Lakeland fells and are often said to be bold beyond their capabilities.

Ironically, the instincts that lead Jess and Molly into trouble were probably the same ones that enabled them to survive for three weeks and one day against all odds in what turned out to be the wettest winter since records began in 1910.

As I leave the Sunderland household with two tiny adventurous terriers at my heels, I say my goodbyes quickly and close the door very firmly behind me.

Comments have been disabled on this article.

Latest from the Lancashire Life