Tending

as experienced by Lacie &

Author Jane Rothert

1st Published in November 1999 Malinois Performer

For the end-of-the-year article last year, I let Lacie try her paw, er hand. She's asked to be able to have another go at it this year. So, while I sit back, reflecting on the year that was and is to come, here is Lacie's tale:

I am so excited! Mom said it was my time to write about my adventures again. I've been thinking and thinking about what I've done this year that would be fun to report. Hope you enjoy the story I've chosen!

When you read these people books on herding, they all say that Belgian Malinois are tending dogs in France and Belgium. Mom decided to find out if that was the case so off we went to "tend" some sheep. When we got to the barn where we train, Mom and the sheep owner decide to take all 32 head of sheep out of the pasture and out onto the road. 32 sheep? No sweat, I say. Mom sends me behind the sheep and walks out the barn door that is only open about three feet. The sheep get to the door and say "we don't think so!" Mom COULD have opened the door wider than a people door, couldn't she? I had to push and push but finally the sheep decided it was ok to go out!

Before I tell you what happened next, let me describe the scenario. The sheep live on a corner lot with the road right in front of the house being a very busy road where cars go FAST, like 55 mph or faster, Mom says. The side road is a little dirt road where the cars are fewer but go just as fast (well, maybe not, but close)! There are two gates out to the main, busy road from the barn, but no gate out to the side road. We were going to work on the side road. That meant I had to take these sheep out on the busy road around the pasture to the side road. Once there, we were going to take the sheep down past their field and then along the verge of the road where they would be allowed to graze. That was the plan. This is what happened.

The gate directly outside the barn door would require the sheep to be on the busy road for about 100 yards. Instead, the humans decided to take the sheep through the backyard of the house and out the other gate, which gave us only about 100 feet of busy road to go down. The sheep are occasionally grazed in the area between the barn and the first gate so as soon as they were out of the barn, they decided this was the plan and headed towards the first gate. Mom was just walking away, so I had to do a quick reconnoiter to keep them following Mom. All went great until the sheep decided that they didn't want to go around the house toward the road, but wanted to go back to their pasture, over the fence if need be! Good, got that stopped! The sheep, though, now decided that running down the driveway was what they wanted to do. I had to run around to the front and stop THAT direction. This "tending" stuff is hard work!

Finally everyone is calmed down and just standing around. The sheep owner goes out to the road to watch for cars. Nope, can't go, big semi-truck coming. "NOW!" comes the shout from the road and off Mom goes as fast as she can walk, leaving me alone again to bring the sheep! Mom makes a sharp turn to stay on the side of the road by the pasture, but I had to stay out in the road to keep the sheep moving in the right direction. Another sharp turn and we're off the main road with only one car going by while we were out there! This "tending" is getting harder and harder! Down the side road we go, right? WRONG! First the sheep decide they can bolt off down this road or better yet into the front yard of the house across the street. NOT! Ok, we're now on the right side of the road, the sheep are in the grass and we're headed in the right direction. What's this? The sheep now decide that this must be a fun game of "find another way into the pasture" so they decide to bolt down the fenceline! I got to their heads and stopped them. Whew, everything alright again. Off we go. We come to the end of the pasture and without warning the sheep bolt off around the corner and behind a shed! These silly sheep. Don't they realize they are making this simple exercise awfully hard?

Finally we got the sheep past the pasture and on the right side of the road. They settled down and started grazing. For those that aren't familiar with sheep, Barbados sheep don't just stand still and eat; they eat as they move and they keep moving at a brisk walk. I had to let them move but stop them from going too far or too fast or turning around and going back to the pasture. Cars kept going by, too; some went very fast. One truck was not going to slow down at all till Mom stepped into the middle of the road. She's braver than I am! He did slow down to maybe 30 mph, but was not happy. A concrete mixer went by at a slow crawl. I know he didn't want to hit us, but it was worrisome holding the sheep steady for so long while he went really slowly. Is THIS the tending part? Sure is a lot of work even when the sheep are just eating!

Finally everyone was starting to relax: Mom, me, the sheep. Maybe this wasn't so hard after all! Suddenly, half the flock realized there was no fence, just tall grass, on the other side of the ditch! Off they went! Off I went to get them, again! Instead of going back where they'd gone through, half of this group decided to go back to the road at a different place, one that had a four foot fence! Since they hadn't expected this, the sheep panicked! All this running and jumping scared the rest of the flock which took this opportunity to bolt up the dirt road towards the main road! Mom yelled to forget the few still stuck in the fence and go get the rest of the sheep! I turned and ran as fast as I could go! Mom said later that she'd had her adrenalin rush for the week. I don't know what that means, but I know Mom was pretty upset at this point!

I got the sheep stopped with at least 100 feet of dirt road still to go. Mom told me to hold them till she could get there. She decided it was time to go back to the barn, saying that was enough excitement for one day! I still don't know why she was so upset. Did she think I'd let my sheep run away! The sheep, now realizing they were going home, tried to bolt again as soon as I took the pressure off, which anyone could see was not a good idea. Rush hour traffic had started and there were cars coming from both directions and it was starting to get dark! I had to take the sheep close to the main road, but not all the way, waiting for a chance to go out without any cars or trucks coming. Finally we got the go ahead and off Mom went, almost running this time, with the sheep and me following close behind!

We got all 32 sheep back to the barn safe and sound. Mom said she'd gotten a few gray hairs out of the adventure but wants to do it again soon. Cool. That was fun, although I'm not sure which part was actually the "tending" part. Mom will have to explain that to me, I guess.

Well, that's it for this year. Happy Herding to everyone in ABMC-land!

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