Saturday, October 1, 2011


When our daughters, Amber and Laurel, were young, we sent them out to check the flock, to make sure that none of the ewes had their heads stuck in the fence and that the waterers were full. We asked their help when moving the sheep from one pasture to another, or when, heaven forbid, the flock escaped from their pasture to explore the hayfield or the road to town.

Once the kids graduated and left home, herding the sheep became more of a challenge. I have insanely frustrating memories of trying to coach neighbor kids how to herd sheep as we were herding the sheep, or even worse, to coach them over the phone from 600 miles away. “Stand here and don’t let any sheep past you,” we’d say. Or after the flock had flowed around them, “stand here and wave your arms and shout when they come toward you.” Or even “walk down the drive way and try to look as if you are as fat as the driveway.”

We talked for years about getting a herd dog. Most of the herd dogs I’ve watched take their owners directions much better than Dave takes mine (or, for that matter, than I take his). We even tried to teach Strider, our dog before Carly, how to herd. He should have been able to learn, his breed herds – cattle especially. But we failed. It was undoubtedly our fault, as he was an intelligent dog. We did teach him to pull hay bales on a sled to the next pasture, but he decided it was too much work and finally just lay down in the snow. (See, I said he was an intelligent dog.)

Now we have another chance. After a dogless year we bought a puppy, a cute, fuzzy Bouvier de Flandres. We have pledged to each other that we will train this dog, both in normal dog skills like not biting, not eating the furniture (or wool), and urinating and defecating outdoors, and in the extra skill of sheep herding.

So far, we are batting zero for four. But our grandsons, Kieran and Jasper, haven’t learned to herd sheep yet either. We’ll give all three of them a little more time and a lot more training. I fully expect to have three wonderful sheep herders by next summer.

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