Finding a need for a lot of sleep these days, I let the splendor of early morning roll by from the comfort of my bed. The pups went out in their best play pairs, and I would return to bed after shuffling each one. Finally about 8:30am, I rose for hungry sheep and dogs. I had a special treat for the sheep, though they didn’t know it yet. It is a weekend treat, one I wish could be daily, but until I get some Premiere fencing, they will have to enjoy it on weekends. Once the dogs were fed, I tucked my fence jumper Gabbit, and my I’ll-complain-if-you-don’t-include-me girl Savannah in crates. I put the four young girls out, and left Kylie to her geriatric morning nap. I went out and opened the gate to the night pen, which runs along the side of the house and has shelter for the sheep, then led my small flock of 9 Blackbelly sheep and 3 wool sheep, plus five lambs, to the back gate. From there, they were free to graze the back 20 acres. It isn’t fenced, so requires attention. The LGD darted out with them. I felt a warm sense of gratitude and happiness as Mary trotted through the gate beside me with only the tiniest of glances to be sure I wouldn’t make a wrong move.
I went back to the house and collected Jai on a leash and collar, grabbed a book, towel and crook, and slipped on some shoes. Jai was in his over-excited state the moment he saw he wasn’t to be tucked in a crate. I opened the front door, and he popped off the porch under the railing. I used to have panels there, but had them in the barn for Freya’s milk jug. As he had disobeyed my “wait” command, I stood and waited for him to jump back up onto the porch like a gentleman. It isn’t that I’m anal about absolute obedience. From a working dog, I do expect a degree of disobedience, particularly when it comes to Search and Rescue and Herding. Dog does know more than stupid humans on these matters. But he had a leash on, and I had my hands full, and this was the only way he was going out with me without a great reshuffling of things.Off we walked down the back pasture to sit on a little knoll to watch the flock. It sounds so nice to say it was a knoll. Really it is an old slash pile that has also had some manner of other vegetation piled on it, and has now grown grass. It created a nice vantage point to watch. My watchful presence seemed to release the LGD from their requirement to be present, and off they loped into the forest, hopefully within the property bounds. Anyone having LGD will understand, they do like to explore their self-described perimeter. I didn’t like it, but unless I was going to get the entire interior 20 acres hot wired, they would continue to find routes over the fence to explore this side. Me opening the gate just made it easier than their normal route. Jai was a bit put off that he couldn’t go with the two white dogs, and whined and watched with anticipation. It wasn’t long, perhaps 20 minutes, when Mary returned with a pleased look and a Great Pyrenees smile. Joseph was not with her. He moves slower, and I often suspect he has hip-displasia. He’s barely two years old, so I will let him finish growing before I xray him. I was still concerned for his return, and Jai also continued to watch for him. Thoughts went through my head, like did he find someone to feed him and get locked in a yard, did he get in trouble, is he laying somewhere snacking on a wild turkey, etc. But he did return within another 15 minutes, and ambled over to the shade to take a brief nap. Finally he and Mary decided it was a bit warm, and trotted off to the swimming hole. I was pleased to see the sheep follow them, in the sense that it seemed the dog and sheep had finally reached the proper relationship, and the sheep now trusted their guardians. However I did need them in site, so Jai and I followed. We arrived to find Mary basking in a stream, and Freya standing on the shore beside her. The rest of the flock grazed peacefully on brush. Jai and I gathered up the sheep, returning them to the open pasture. Jai is only partially working of the long line, as we have not practiced in a round pen to really teach him the concepts of fetching and properly moving stock. But he does understand holding the sheep in one place, and helping me move them. It’s really lovely to watch him, though he does micromanage them a bit when tending on the graze. He wants them in a tight bunch. After a couple hours on the graze, the sheep were ready to return to the barn for a nap, and to ruminate.
It was time to get some chores done, that had long been neglected, only in part from the wait for the Spring Thaw. There was a lot of layers of hay and straw to rake, and where I had placed one round bale of hay in the night pen, there was still the netting from the bale embedded in the decaying layers on the ground. There was lots of trash from Joseph’s kleptomaniacal habits, and lots of bones from he and Mary’s meals. There were still lots of baling twine wads on the ground from each round bale of hay fed over the Winter.
So I took Pinkie and Aarti and we started on the night pen. Freya joined us. The two pups set to the task of injesting as much sheep roca as possible, while Freya meandered near by, picking at blades of grass that grew through the layers of hay and straw.Pinkie needed a reprimand a time or two, from trying to engage Freya in play. Aarti generally ignored Freya, and after a time, stood by the panels dividing the night pen from the dog yard. She seemed to want to join her sisters, Aanandi and Abhithi, but I prefer she not play with them unattended. They play far too rough, and too much is invested in healing her back, which is still healing. And so after liberating the hay netting from the night pen, and forking up piles of the mixtures to be hauled to the back yard, the girls and I set to the the task of cleaning up after Joseph. Really this is not entirely the truth. I set to the task, the girls went racing through the forest. They would come to the edge of the tree line periodically to check in with me, as any good shepherd should. After filling two 20 gallon trash cans, and taking them to my truck for transfer to bags, Aarti appeared at the tree just watching. Pinkie had sprinted over to me, but Aarti seemed unsure. I wondered at that site, and how dogs that are lost can become so aloof. Odd thought to have, but it’s the one I had. I called her and she cantered over, then went to the porch and asked to go inside. I wasn’t sure if she’d had enough activity for her back, or if she was upset that for a moment, she didn’t see Pinkie or me. I did let her in, and she headed off for a nap. Pinkie and I continued on our chores.
After filling no less than three 20 gallon cans with “Joseph’s Trash,” I returned to the night pen with Pinkie, and closed the gate. At least two hours had gone by, and Pinkie was as fresh full of energy as if we’d only begun. She definitely had her mother and grandsire’s genes, meaning they are dogs that can work all day without apparent fatigue.I opened the panels dividing the night pen and dog yard, and let Aanandi and Abhithi join us. I let the rest of the pack out. They raced around the sheep pen and yard with great vigor, leaping over the piles I’d made, stopping to scoop up a mouthful of poo, and leaping into the water trough. The had great concern when I left the pen to fetch the hose, to clean and refill the trough. However they were delighted when I refilled their pool also.
Soon, I had lugged about 7 or 8 cans of manure/straw/hay matter to the back yard. The dogs have simply run the grass off it, and I’m hoping for June rains to help it grow back. I think if I section off the yard, and cover with hay/straw and such from the sheep pen, it will help protect it. At the least I can get it covered enough to have less mud an dirt in the house. I knew by now I’d be paying for doing this amount of work without a back brace. Having broken my pelvis in 1996 at the racetrack, I still have residual sciatica, and any amount of lifting and digging that I’m not accustomed to can render me fairly cripple.
We finished off our day with a review of the trail cam photos. I marveled at how the guard dogs work at all hours. True working dogs. I’ve compiled these cam shots to show the rotation of dogs and llamas covering the sheep, times when they are both present, and hours of alerts. It’s fascinating.
Got some cute shots of pups leaping over poo piles. I sat grooming puppies before falling asleep. Sunday Morning brought a repeat of at least the grazing aspect of these chores. But there are other duties for Sunday, so dogs will be having a more docile day.