Chris’s Morning on the Farm: Dog and Sheep Stories

Our morning at our new friends’ farm began much later than we expected. We rarely sleep in, but slept through baby’s squawks, Dave having breakfast, and a three year old who wanted to play.

We had the best breakfast! Milk straight from the cow. Eggs straight from the chooks. Bacon – from the friends of the pigs.

Then Chris went with Dave and the sheep dogs to help sort the sheep. ‘Help’ is a rather generous word, by all accounts.

They had to separate the girl sheep from the boy sheep. Chris, being from a farm himself, does know the difference and how to tell. But, try as he might, he could not identify which was which quickly enough to help Dave. By the time he thought he’d identified one sheep, Dave had sorted about four and had swung the gate one way or the other, to separate them into boy and girl pens.

In the end, Chris asked Dave how he could identify them so quickly.

‘Easy!’ Dave laughed. ‘Every sheep has an ear-tag. The boys on their left ear, the girls on their right. I just swing the gate according to which ear their tag is on.’

I think Chris was a little embarrassed, but he told me the story anyway.

Three Sheep Dogs

But his favourite story was about the farm’s three sheep dogs.

Dot, the smallest dog, is a sheep-dog-in-training. To our untrained eyes he looks like a Kelpie. He was efficient and obedient. Despite being the size of a medium-sized puppy, Dot knew where to be and how to convince the sheep where they should be.

Lucy, the biggest dog, was hopeless…well, as far as usefulness on a farm. A Maremma, a guardian of the sheep, Lucy flunked out of ‘guardian of the sheep’ school. Chris described Lucy’s ability to tend and guard the sheep as ‘She just thinks she is a sheep’.

Then there was Lambie. Apparently, Lambie was quite effective at rounding up the sheep and getting them to go wherever Dave wanted them to go.

The only trouble was that nobody has ever told Lambie that she is not a dog. She is a hand-reared sheep. She grew up around the house with Dot and Lucy and does everything with her two doggy-companions.

Even when Dave tried to intermingle Lambie back into the flock, that only lasted until Dave and the dogs headed back home. Then she’d split from the flock and rejoin her ‘family’ at the back door of the house.

So Dave was blessed with a puppy training to be a sheep-dog, a dog that thought she was a sheep, and a sheep that thought she was a dog.

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Reminders of Shelby: Things I’ll miss the most

There are reminders of Shelby all around the house. The irony is that the things I miss the most are the things that most annoyed me:

The blonde fluff everywhere. Her dad used to say ‘She sheds more fluff than she can produce’.

The snoring over the volume of her dad.

The clip of her toenails on the floor in the middle of the night.

The yelping, signalling she wanted to go outside, and inside and outside and inside and…you get the picture.

Her determination to join and oversee every project I ever undertook – finding a comfortable throne in the middle of it.2015-05-20 18.30.52

 

I put my dinner on the coffee table two nights ago – when I was alone to eat it by myself in front of the telly. I put it in the middle of the table so she couldn’t get it. If we forgot to feed her, then nothing stopped her from climbing onto the lounge-chair, straddling the chasm between seat and table, and eating whatever was there.

Then I realized, I can put my food on the floor now, and it will stay intact.

No-doggy to lick the plates clean.

No clicking of her paws as she climbed into the electric fry-pan on the floor.

No spaghetti-stained fur on the top of her head after she’d dug into a big pot and tipped it over so she didn’t miss one lick.

No snuffly noises as she tried to investigate who was on the other side of the door.

The garden won’t be sat on or dug up anymore.

It doesn’t matter if the gas-man leaves the gate ajar.

And no-doggy to sit at the side of the bed or chair alerting me that someone needs more loving than usual.

I’ve never had a dog before so I’ve never lost one either.

But I wish it hadn’t taken me until she was gone to realize how much she taught me.

And how much I’ll miss her.

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