Friday, December 23, 2011

Sheep a Shepherd Makes

It all started for the dogs.  I bought sheep for my dogs to work with the focus being on my dogs and doing better at trials.  Emphasis on growing and learning - with the objective to be a better handler.

Be it a subtle change in direction, perhaps even a shift of priorities, the last six months things have evolved.

The sheep are not simply tools to train my dogs with, they are an investment. Living breathing creatures that can pay their keep and if I do this right maybe even bring in a profit, at the very least they can pay for themselves.

I want them healthy and content.

When I work my dog I  understand the absolute importance to keeping my sheep calm and moving them in a 'workman like manner', especially now that they are all pregnant.  I don't want them running all over the field & slipping lambs.  The pace needs to be consistent, and stress free as possible. 

It is coming together now.  I fully grasp why it is essential I have a dog that can walk straight into the sheep and hold her own, especially at feeding time.  I have been trampled a few times and it stopped being fun - she needs to be able to push them down the alley and out into the pasture so I am able to get their feed ready without being run over.

The dog's flanks need to be wide, square and respectful so as to not cause undo stress or cause the sheep to suddenly startle - bolt running into fences or doing other stupid sheepy things.

I need my dog to be able to drive, hold sheep off of me, separate the sheep and shove them into pens and down alleys.  A dog that stay back as I gate sort, yet come up and push when I need it.

I need a dog that can reliably hold the sheep into a small area, such as an open stall, so I can grab one and treat it for a wound, maybe give it an injection - or like today untangle a huge black berry vine from its fleece without shredding my fingers.  If my dog won't listen to me or pushes the sheep too much they will bolt and I will get hurt.

The emphasis is off training for a trial, now it is on helping me take care of the sheep.  In the long run that is what the trial is about - how well the dog performs practical work.

Each hour I spend fiddle farting around with the sheep and my dog are peaceful and fulfilling.   I love my sheep, immensely enjoy taking care of them.  I love the relationship that is solidifying with Brynn as we do the chores every day.

Many afternoon's I will just stand and watch them eat.  Just being with them I can feel my blood pressure lowering, becoming part of a whole, absorbing the peace & purpose of mother nature.

I enjoy their quirky personalities.  They may be part of a flock, but each one is an individual and have distinct behaviors that separate them from the others.  They are silly, and I believe they have a sense of humor.

Why are you on the ground?

I did this backward.  Got the border collie, then the land & the sheep and now I have become a shepherd.  Funny how things come in full circle.

I have been assimilated, happily part of the Ovine Caretaker Collective.

(All of the above sheep (not dog) photos were shot with my new iPhone 4S.  Not a bad little camera on that thing.  I have been having a blast playing with lighting, back lighting and lens flares.  The photos were also processed on my phone with the  camera+ app.   I still can't believe what that tiny little phone can do - advances in technology blow me away when I think about it.  And yes, I took a picture of the sheep while I sat on the ground after falling down...yet again.  They were a wee bit amused.)


Billy said...

Lovely post - simple and so profound... And great pictures! Why don't my iphone pictures look that good? (LOL - it is operator error on my part no doubt).
Have a happy holiday! ;-)

Karen said...

Posts like that always make me think of this poem

I think looking after livestock, while being hard work and time consuming, DOES give me that opportunity to 'stand and stare'.
I also find it very relaxing to stand and watch while sheep or horses eat. And you need to stand and stare, to get a good feel for your animals, so that you know that all is right with your flock (or not).

A Merry Christmas to you and yours:)

Julie Poudrier said...

What a wonderful post! (Great pictures too.) I think it's great when people make the transition from sheep for working dogs to sheep for sheep's sake. I, too, find it relaxing to watch and hear sheep munching away, doing their sheepy things. And managing them well really does improve one's partnership with one's dog(s).

gvmama said... you're having FUN!