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Monday, September 10 2012


As we have discussed before ranch dogs are more than pets, they are tools in the tool box, each with his or her own specialty.

If you want finesse, you choose Lily.

If you need more distance but no teeth, you choose Cowboy.

But if you want distance, and you don't care about finesse or gentle, you choose Trace.

While he has more raw talent than the other dogs, Trace has less control. He is a red rocket, bent on his goal toward world domination. Livestock WILL comply - or else.

Unfortunately, Trace doesn't get as much practice because the weather has been too hot for the sheep, and we don't have free time to focus on Trace, thus, he is like a genie in a bottle. When you need him, you need him, but then you have a time getting that genie back in the bottle.

But such was not the case on Saturday. Lily and Trace were in the house and Cowboy was in one of the outside pens when I realized I was late for work, and still needed to turn sheep and goats into the yard to mow while we were gone.  No problem.  Or so I thought . . .

Call sheep as I walk to their pen.  They are pumped. They have been locked up and are ready for grass. Open gate and begin to escort them on short walk to back yard.  All but two lambs enter back yard.  Those two decide they want to turn around at the back gate and head to pasture instead. Everyone else decides this is a good idea and the entire flock runs over me like a water in a fast rushing stream. I stand in the gate, helpless to stop them.

"Fine!" I shout as their wooly butts disappeared into the trees. "I'm gettin' a dog!  I'll be back!"

Grab Cowboy out of kennel.  He is happy to oblige. He lopes toward the trees. They race around the round pen and begin this ring-around-the-rosies game they have learned to confound the dogs. Cowboy doesn't know what to do. He won't bite them. They know this. The dog stops and looks back at me as the sheep do the "end zone" dance on the other side of the round pen.  They laugh and taunt him.  He looks back, confused. They run through two more pastures and are now 5 acres away.

"Come' on, Cowboy. It's okay, Boy, you tried."

I have asked more than his gentle soul is capable. This is a job for The Terminator. So we walk back to the house and I exchange dogs. The Terminator has been watching this drama from the picture window in the living room. He already has assessed the problem and assimilated that into his plan for world domination.

I slip the end of the crook through his collar lest he, true to his impulsive nature, begin his quest without me, and we hike toward the flock. They are still 5 acres away, but they see Trace coming and begin to run in the opposite direction.  I down him and slip loose the crook.

"Git 'em up, Boy!"

And with that, the Heat Seeking Missile is launched. Instead of running after them, he kicks out at an angle as fast as his little legs can run. The flock continues its path across the pasture until - the Genie magically appears in front of them. And then, it's on. Unlike Cowboy, Trace will use teeth and they know it. There is no laughing and taunting now.

He turns the flock on a dime and they decide they will outrun him in another direction, but he kicks out at an angle and heads them off again. This game continues until they reach me. They attempt to blaze past me, but he catches them again. In fits and starts, he escorts them through two pastures until they reach the paddock with the round pen. They attempt their foolish round-the-rosies game with The Terminator, but he is on them like a duck on a june bug.

He re-groups them and we continue our journey to the yard. I down him as they stream through the gate into the yard, but Trace and the sheep are convinced they are escaping again, and so he gives lip-service to his down and races off to catch them again. 

Herein lies the difficult part of getting the genie back in the bottle. The yard is filled with all kinds of hazards that make working sheep difficult for a green dog with a wiley flock. I lock the gate and round the corner of the house as the first sheep are barrelling back my way. They split up in the yard, but he is carefully rounding trucks and trailers to recover the mass and roll that ball of sheep back to me.

By this time his tongue is down to his toes but he has them saluting him. As the snow ball of sheep gathers around my knees, I ask him again for a down.  This time he drops to the grass.

The poor guy is so hot I fear he'll seizure and heat stroke out on me, so I scoop him up and drop him in stock tank.  The Terminator is hot, but he is a happy boy. Mission accomplished, and he knows it.

As the weather cools, he will be able to get more practice. I feel bad because as it stands now, the only work he gets on sheep is when the job is already a train wreck.  That's no way for a green dog to get experience. On the other hand, when I need him, I really need him. He is more capable of handling those train wrecks than the other dogs because he has the confidence for distance work they don't possess. The sheep choose to misbehave. They choose to run like deer. He merely heads them off and gathers them back up.

So as I take the soaking wet pup into the house where he can plop under a ceiling fan in the air conditioning, he looks back at the flock and growls,

"I'll be baack."

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 09:58 am   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
By the way what happened to the ride on mower? Wondered where the missile was. Have not heard much aout him for a while. Beautiful spring day 22c and sunny
Posted by Liz (Vic Aust) on 09/10/2012 - 10:12 PM
The riding mower I had was sold and Robby's is buried deep in the garage. The yard is too small to fire up the tractor, so for the most part, we let the livestock handle it and then go behind them with either a push mower of the riding lawn mower. Trace is still here. He has become OH's dog now and is quite the little troll but we love him.
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 09/11/2012 - 01:11 PM

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