A shepherd may be a very able, trusty, and good shepherd, without a sweetheart - better, perhaps, than with one. But what is he without his dog?
- James Hogg
We watched with rapt attention one evening as the shepherd took his dog to the pasture to doctor two of the sheep who were slightly lame. I have never seen a dog work a herd of sheep in person before. It was really nothing short of amazing. The dog followed voice and hand commands, watching both handler and sheep. It had the sheep under complete control, allowing the shepherd to isolate the two he needed and making sure the others were still and collected in the meantime.
We visited with the shepherd a while that night. He knew we had an accent but couldn't place it exactly, he said. <g> We were the very first Americans to have ever stayed at his home. When we told him we had most recently lived in Colorado he remarked that a local he knew had moved there to teach at a university. But, he added, the man returned here to this coastal spot for his holidays.
Smart man, I say, with all due respect to our beloved Colorado.
These sheep are primarily raised for meat. It seems that on this island which was built in large part on the wool industry, wool is nearly worthless today. The market is saturated with cheaper synthetics. This made me sad. It actually made me want to go purchase a thick, scratchy fisherman's sweater on principle. Even though it is July.
Our landlord later confirmed this wool market assessment. He, of course, blames the Irish. If you talk long enough you learn that many of the world's ills can probably be traced over westward way. (said firmly tongue in cheek by this very Irish woman ; ))
At any rate, be it the Irish, the EU, or the darned scratchy wool itself, rayon may be cornering the market but the sheepdogs are still cornering the sheep. And doing a fine job at it. I wish we had such a capable dog when we were chasing goats and cows.
A little bit of family history my children may not know. When I was growing up my grandmother went through a 'sheep phase' on the farm. The family business was actually a riding stable where they bred Quarter Horses but my grandmother had lots of incarnations as she created herself anew time after time. I particularly loved her as shepherdess. She attended courses at the local extension agency and bought a few ewes which later grew to a herd which overwhelmed my grampa. (we didn't have an awesome dog remember) I think I have written that part here before.
This picture is me (left) returning the orphan lamb I had convinced my mother to allow me to keep in the basement in town while I bottle fed it that summer. boo-yah! He looks great. I look pretty peppy too despite many night time feedings. Not sure why I am mid-flight here....
So with this newfound fascination with all things wooly and wonderful, the children have found our Floss books and are reading them over again with new eyes now that they have a real life dog to compare. Good fun.
If you'd like to have a Kim Lewis feast with us here are some titles to look for: