I was home alone today, working in my office, when the sheep discovered a gate that had been left ajar. As I worked away, oblivious to what was going on outside, the sheep were slipping out of the pasture. They worked their way down the driveway, no doubt munching on the weeds growing alongside it.
When I finally emerged from my office, to go into the house to make coffee, pretty much the entire flock (about 18 adults and lambs) was across the street. Half of them were grazing on the ditch grass. The other half were foraging for spilled grain in the neighbor's recently-harvested corn field.
I dropped everything and ran down the driveway, seeking to herd them back to our property. They barely looked up from their treasured meal, oblivious to my attempts to make them move. A few animals looked ready to bolt down the road; a few others seemed prepared to run all the way across the three-quarters-of-a-mile-wide corn field. Without any kids, or Mrs. Yeoman Farmer, at home to help me, what was I to do?
From Stage Right, enter Scooter The Amazing Wonder Dog, our trusty Boarder Collie mix.
It constantly amazes me, the instincts God has given these animals. Without any training, Scooter knew exactly what the problem was (sheep across road, not in pasture) and what I wanted done (sheep back in pasture). But the problem wasn't so easy to solve: the sheep needed to be moved into the road, then down the road past 50 feet of fence, and then funnelled into the narrow opening for the driveway. With our road frontage being fenced, Scooter had to get them going down the road and then had to get them to make a 90 degree turn into a 12-foot wide driveway.
Not a problem for Scooter. As I circled around the back of the flock and got the stragglers to bunch up, Scooter excitedly got in their faces. Barking and nipping, he soon had the sheep butting back at him. And that was his cue to run away from the sheep. At first they didn't take the bait and follow him, so he ran back and again got in their faces...and bolted. After about three attempts, he got a couple of sheep to bite. With them chasing him down the road, the rest of the flock soon followed.
The two sheep in the lead shot right past the driveway, just as I expected they would. Again, without any training or commands from me, Scooter threw himself at one of these sheep and bit at her fleece. Annoyed, the sheep came to a stop and tried to head-butt the dog. Excitedly, Scooter took off into the driveway --- and now the whole flock was stampeding after him. With me calling his praises, he led them all the way to one of the pasture gates. When I arrived to open it, the flock scattered around the driveway. But with the gate open, it didn't take long for Scooter to get a few sheep headed into the pasture. And when the rest of the flock saw that, they began rushing to join the leaders. In "two shakes of a lamb's tail," the flock was home and the gate secured.
Ironically, I'm going to be feasting on lamb chops tonight while the family is up in Michigan. Guess who's getting treated to the choicest bones?
Until then, he'll be enjoying a well-deserved nap on the floor of my office.