Lector : And what did you see, Clarice? What did you see?
— The Silence of the Lambs
While the In-Laws are on vacation, Steph and I are in charge of the farm. There’s not much to it – feed the cats, make sure the sheep have enough water and food (which is easy given there is no snow on the ground).
Today was different.
Sheep have a nasty tendency to find whatever holes are in the fence so I like to make sure they are still around. Standing near the barn, it’s easy to see the sheep in the pasture. They’re a dirty white and tend to hang out within sight of one another. So it wasn’t right when I spotted a bit of that color off to my right, far from any other creature.
A dead lamb. About forty feet to my left, another one. The fact that they were killed, but not eaten meant that it was probably dogs. A coyote would have eaten it. Dogs just want the hunt. (Or as Lyle said, “Coyotes are pros. Dogs are amateurs.”)
With two dead lambs, it was imperative to make sure the others were okay. I grabbed Steph and together we called the rest of the sheep up toward the barn. Thankfully, there were no splotches of white left behind in the pasture. Being that we were just caretakers, we called Steph’s Dad and told him what happened.
After surveying the scene and talking with Lyle, we agreed the best option was to bring the sheep into the barn for the night.
Thus, we went from caretakers to sheep dogs.
For all their docile nature, they are not easy creatures to corral. Steph went first, running down into the pasture and circling around to bring the sheep back up to the barn. Nearly all of them ran into the barn right away and I locked the gate behind them.
Four, however, decided they had better places to go. I took my turn in pursuit of the sheep. As I hopped through the grass, wound around trees, and tried to avoid breaking my leg in a gopher hole, all the while shouting at the sheep, I couldn’t help but think that I probably looked like my Shetland Sheepdog. I had just as much training in herding as him and was having just about as much luck as he would have.
Which is to say, none whatsoever.
After chasing them to the far end of the farm (literally) and back, I led three of the four sheep into the barn. The last one ran behind and huddled in a corner. I was too tired to try to coax it so when the wool escape artist tried to get past me, I tackled it. I ended up dragging the thing back into the barn (with Steph laughing the whole while) where we locked them up for the night.
The sheep are now in the barn. We’re hoping that whatever happened was an isolated incident and some dog doesn’t find its way into the barn. If so, that would be a disaster.
I can’t say I’m fine with it. I’ve lost a sheep once before, two winters ago, but that wasn’t entirely unexpected. It was the oldest sheep in the flock and its time had just come. This was different. Something jumped the fence and killed two newborns. Quite frankly, I”m a bit pissed off and nervous.
Tonight, I went from a temporary caretaker to a sheep dog and now, a bit of a shepherd. Let’s see what the morning brings.