Friday, June 13, 2014

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night...

My friend the sheep farmer has a breeding flock of about 60 ewes.  Yesterday she turned them, and their 110 two month old lambs, out into her back pasture.  The pasture is 24 acres, bordered by woods on the far south side.  There are coyotes in the woods.  We see them from time to time.  They usually leave the full grown sheep alone, but the lambs are their prey.  My friend had been keeping watch, occasionally driving the perimeter of the pasture in her four wheeler.  It was time to bring the flock home to the safety of her inner fences.  It was raining hard.  She sent one of her dogs, a Border Collie named Playa.  Playa is a small dog, less than 30 pounds.  She is very good with sheep.  She can move the most stubborn and ornery.  My friend waited at the gate to see the flock through.  The rain came harder.  With great bleating and braying the ewes and their babes came through the gate and headed up the hill to the barn.  The rain came in torrents.  My friend called her dog.  Playa did not come.  She did not come after repeated whistles.  My friend feared the worst.  Perhaps Playa had become disoriented in the storm.  Perhaps she was on the road or had been hit by a car.  My friend alerted others at the barn and headed back out to the pasture.  There, at the very back, at the edge of the forest, she found her dog keeping watch.  Just beyond Playa, tucked in under the boughs of the trees, sheltering their lambs, were two ewes.  They would not come out into the storm and Playa would not leave them.  My friend helped her dog and together they got the ewes up and moving.  They made their way home.  The four lambs would spend a warm night in the barn with their mothers.  Their fate would have been very different if Playa had heeded her whistles and come home without them.  Some behaviors are hard wired.  Border Collies come into the world knowing the rules.

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