Julian Norton confronted with complicated pregnancy of Maisie the fox terrier

Read Julian Norton's column first in Country Week, inside The Yorkshire Post every Saturday.
Read Julian Norton's column first in Country Week, inside The Yorkshire Post every Saturday.
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Lambing and calving are still keeping us busy in and around Boroughbridge, while our small animal patients have been presenting us with many and varied challenges.

Obi the labrador has persistent blood in his urine, which continues to confound us all, Ruby the ever-cheerful retriever puppy underwent surgery to remove a sock from her stomach, and Maisie the fox terrier was struggling with a complicated pregnancy.

Maisie was on my mind as I set off for the Alps last week. She was scheduled as my first patient when I returned.

I have a passion for ski mountaineering and this took me to Zermatt, to compete in the Patrouille des Glaciers – a 60-kilometre ski race which climbs over 4000m through the mountains between Zermatt to Verbier. It is organised by the Swiss military every two years, and is reputed to be the hardest endurance team race in the world.

This was our second attempt at the race, following its last-minute cancellation in 2016 – we were literally walking to the start line – due to dangerous weather conditions. This time though the weather was perfect and there was no turning back, as Francesca, Dave and I made our way to the start, helmeted and harnessed up in anticipation of what lay ahead.

Standing on the start line, at half past eleven at night, I felt mildly out of place amongst the mountain goat-like individuals who spent their lives in the Alps. But I was in my element. I love the mountains and I love a challenge and the next 14 hours promised to be full of both these things.

For the first couple of hours we climbed up, out of Zermatt before roping up and continuing to the highest point, a peak called Tete Blanche at 3650m – high enough to be both very cold and a tad short of oxygen.

The next section was tough. We had to ski down, off piste, roped together to avoid the danger of crevasses, in the dark. This was very exciting and more successful than we had hoped – we only crashed twice!

Onward and downward, then upward, then down, then up again, many times. After 14 hours and 19 minutes we arrived, sunburnt and exhausted but exhilarated, in the middle of Verbier. We hugged on the finish line, with just a few tears of emotion, and resolved never 
to do it again!

I was delayed on my way back, so I had to rush to the surgery, straight from the airport, for Maisie’s ultrasound scan. All looked good, which was a huge relief, and the following day she delivered two healthy pups.

As if this didn’t constitute a sufficiently varied week, my next appointment was with the farmers of North Yorkshire, at the Boroughbridge Agricultural Society Dinner. I swapped my lycra ski suit for a jacket and tie, and lined up outside The Crown in Roecliffe. The BAS claims to be the oldest agricultural society in the country and has an exclusive membership of 50. New members are only admitted when a vacancy arises.

I had been invited as one of just five guests. I quickly realised most of the fifty members were elderly gentlemen and that a “vacancy arising” was something of a euphemism. As the main proceedings came to a close, the president came over. “I wonder if we might have a new member here?” he said to the group at the table where I was sitting, nodding towards me.

I wasn’t sure how comfortable I was with the thought of waiting for a casual vacancy!

■ Julian stars in a new series of The Yorkshire Vet which continues this Tuesday, at 8pm on Channel 5.