Saturday, March 15, 2008

Amazing Sheep Dogs

Amazing Sheep Dogs

The dogs never cease to amaze me. The Great White Pyrenees that guard the sheep have been a source of love for us and they enable us to stay in the sheep business. On this morning, we fed the calf his bottle (he is a twin and he needs a bottle to keep him going) and then we went out to feed the sheep their grain. Lambing will start any day now and the half pound of grain each ewe eats each day will boost her milk production.

But neither dogs nor sheep were in sight this morning. They’ve been in the field above the calving shed but it turned out they crawled under the metal gate to join the cows for hay. The hired man helped us as we hazed the sheep back to their pasture. One calf wanted to come with us…he just followed along in the midst of the sheep…maybe for the moment he thought he was a sheep as he trotted through the gate and into the sheep pasture.

Grandpa headed up to feed the sheep their grain so they’d stay where they belonged and I stayed back to watch the gate. The young dogs, Wayne, (named after the cousin who raised the dog) and Shy Elvis, (who is only shy until he trusts you,) followed the sheep. You could see their minds a-workin’…”not gonna be any calves in my sheep!” They loped along behind the calf, hazing him. Not barking, not causing a ruckus…just hazing the calf. Never breaking stride. Before long, that calf decided he did not want to be a sheep after all and he circled back toward the cows with the dogs loping along behind him.

By the time Grandpa finished feeding the sheep, the work was all done. The calf was back with his momma and the dogs were lying in the gate looking darn pleased with themselves. This mix up had all the ear markings of a big mess. And while the Pyrenees are not herding dogs per se, they knew where that calf belonged. They never took a step further once that calf went through the gate. When they were done, they were perfectly satisfied. Just amazing!

Now you tell me about those dogs! All Grandpa had to do was close the gate. The more we know about the dogs the more perplexed we are. They are uncanny. They have been a total life experience all to themselves and we count it a privilege to be a witness to it all.

Not a drop of wind, we left our coats in the back of the pickup. Sitting up on the hill we revel in how gorgeous the ranch looks today. Mattie, the new Border Collie, is asleep next to us. She doesn’t even wiggle when we pet her. We are caught up in the moment. All the partial nights of sleep are worth it as we look over the calves, black sleek beauties at play. The first cycle of calving is behind us and lambing is soon to start.

Things are maybe a bit unusual, but all is well.
Ranching our life away is pretty darn rewarding.