Sunday, April 22

Farm Photo 4/22/07: Curious Critters

Dog Inspection

Lucky Buddy Bear is half English Shepherd and half Australian Shepherd, and his favorite thing to do is work, preferably with his sheep.

He loves them all, but this time of year it is obvious that little lambs hold a special place in his heart. Bear would like nothing better than to have bouncing babies around all the time.

For the past six weeks or so, the entire flock has been penned up in the barn and the adjacent half-acre barnyard (well, the entire flock minus The Dirty Dozen, aka Studly Do-Right Jefferson and the wethers). This is for two reasons.

One, it keeps the sheep from munching down all the new spring grass before it has a chance to grow (instead they're fed bales of hay and grain treats several times a day). And two, it makes it much easier for us and the moms to keep track of all the new babies.

Unfortunately we only have a couple of days' worth of hay left, so everyone will soon be out happily eating sweet green grass with The Dirty Dozen (who were let loose a few weeks ago in order to save on hay). This means that frequent hikes out into the fields to do sheep-checking and lamb-counting will start taking up large chunks of my days.

But back to the barnyard.

Each night all of the moms and babies are locked in the barn so that hungry predators have a much harder chance of getting at them. The gateway separating the farmyard and the barn patio is about four feet wide.

This means that every single evening (usually before I get my dinner), 79 woolly creatures must be convinced to trot through this narrow opening. And every single evening a pack of baby lambs refuses to do just that, either because they simply haven't figured out The Nightly Plan or they're just too busy racing around having fun.

This is by far Bear's favorite part of the day. Once the majority of the sheep have been lured into the barn with a bale of hay, the two (or three, depending on if Joe has been roped into helping) of us spread out and attempt to move the babies and any straggling moms into the barn.

It feels a lot like you are in a life size version of one of those hand held games where you have to get all the little metal balls through some itty bitty opening—and inevitably there is always one stubborn ball that refuses to comply.

Unlike me, Bear never loses his patience. You won't catch him yelling, "Well you wouldn't be crying your head off for your mother if you hadn't run back out into the farmyard you little trouble maker!" or "Turn! Turn! TURN!"

No, at times like these, Bear is in his element. He gives me a patient smile that says, "We'll get this last one in, don't worry." And eventually of course we do. Then I tell Bear what a great job he did, and if he could stand up and give me a high five, I have no doubt that he would.

Bear knows that the sheep need to maintain a healthy respect for (and slight fear of) him, but he also knows that the baby lambs must learn early on that he is friend rather than foe.

Lambs are naturally curious, and so when they sneak over to check Bear out, he lays on his back with his paws in the air, as this puts him in the most submissive position. He lets the lambs sniff and inspect him all they want, and he never moves a muscle. And when they and their attentions wander away, he rolls back over, stands up, shakes himself off, and grins the biggest grin he possibly can.

Current Lamb Count: 39. Number of lazy, hungry farmgirls who ate their dinner (grilled homegrown, grass-fed, Angus T-bone steaks; warm and crusty pain au levain; and freshly picked spinach and mesclun salad) before tucking in the sheep tonight: 1. Number of stock dogs who didn't hold that against her: 1.



  1. Ah, the good life. It's physical, it's hard, but it's good. You made the right choice those years ago...

  2. what a wonderful dog you have!!!

    My Peanut thinks she's a chicken dog, but it's because she loves chicken feathers in her mouth!!!

  3. Adorable photo. I have a herding dog, a corgi, and without sheep she settles for attempting to herd the family and any animals she might discover in the yard.

  4. Your dog is great! Mine's still just a 3 month old poop machine, but she's beginning to get herself together.

  5. I have an Old English sheepdog/standard poodle mix that would love to be running around with your lambs! He is so gentle with our small daughter but ferocious when he smells a coyote walking down the street in our suburban neighborhood! Herding dogs are really amazing animals. My dog happens to be named Bear, too. I love your blog!

  6. I would rather read your stories and see your photos than pick up the latest "best seller" in the book store. Keep up the good work!

  7. Looks almost like a tickle fest.

  8. That's nice that the babies give Bear a checking over. Even a baby sitter needs some TLC so the can carry on later! How about Dan? Haven't seen any donkey pictures lately. Is he being a good watch donkey?

  9. I cannot begin to tell you how envious I am of you. I would so love to live in the country. Have some wide open space and fresh air. *sigh* Someday...

  10. Oh No!

    A gang of vicious lambs has beat the crap out of a poor dog!

  11. Wow - I have a new found fondness for bear, it never occurred to me that this "submissive trick" was part of his job. How incredible endearing!

    Have a great evening! Supper sure sounded great!


  12. Oh Bear - he's just in his perfect element. I love to see dogs living their lives just as they should.

    Those lambs don't even know how good they have it.

  13. That is one of *the* cutest pictures I have ever seen!


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