animal psychology, Humour

The Septic Geranium and Trans Lamb

A cade lamb, orphaned at birth and bought up by a silly woman and a clever dog will not be like other sheep. Aby has had her portrait painted, has been photographed for magazines (not Hello! but she was the centerfold for Border Life). Basically she is a celebrity — the ovine equivalent (in my mind anyway) of Joan Collins and also looking very good for her age.

Yesterday I found what I thought was a calf halter in the shed and I used it to tie a great sheath of brushwood to the wheelbarrow so that I could overload it like a Greek donkey and wobble to our “30 meter heavy duty compost heap” — our special habitat in the woodland. This is a safe haven for dozing hedgehogs, nesting wrens and the innumerable wood moulds and fungi that live in our little piece of temperate rain forest. Aby came with me for the walk.

On they way back I wondered if Aby was too old to be halter trained — she does after all identify as a cross between a dog and a human (a category that EIDCymru refuse to recognize on their annual sheep and goat inventory). As usual she was walking to heel. We stopped and I picked up the halter from the barrow and threaded it into a noose configuration — simple. Aby looked interested — lifting her head up to look at the circle of rope that I held in front of her. Without thinking I just slipped it over her head! She was pleased with this new award and set off to show it to Tex, her new companion with me still attached to the other end. As she ploughed on through the mud I was left behind — I tugged on the rope to demonstrate the principle of the process. The noose (for that is what it was — not a halter) tightened, she pulled harder. Not wanting to hang her, I let go! She headed up the hill. Her deadly pendant dragging in the mud and looking for something to grab hold of so that it could strangle poor Aby.

I gave chase — I grabbed — I missed — I grabbed again (this is fun) — I caught it as it circled her neck — she accelerated and swerved — I lost my footing and described a wide arc landing on my back in the mud (I thought “fractured femur — hospital — covid” but I didn’t let go) I was not in pain. Aby was no longer pulling. She was lying on her back with her feet in the air. What a piece of luck — she was caste — immobilized by that primitive quirk of sheep neurology whereby the do not work when they are upside down. I had time to pull myself together and remove her rope noose.

Our relationship may take longer to sort out — she stomped off feeling humiliated and totally let down and has been firing withering looks at me ever since. Like the car that rolls and has a dent on every panel, I was wet and mudded on every surface.

Thinks: must get a proper halter!

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Doggy, Humour, Pedro's glog, Sheep

Pedro’s New Year Glog

I wasn’t born to be a sheep dog — more of an urban animal really — bit of a Jack-the-lad, I suppose.  Not a yobbo — urbane, they say — I’ve been to the theatre twice — outdoor, don’t you know — I’ve seen Hamlet!

Sheep Dog or what?

Sheep Dog or what?

I’m a Generic Hound, sometimes called an Original Dog, with nothing added and nothing taken away — they haven’t nibbled away at my genome (that’s what I’m told by my friend, the geneticist), I came with all my natural potentiality then just had to find a niche — that’s where I live now — in my niche.

Supervising Shearing at the Niche

Supervising Shearing at the Niche, thanks to Peter Jenkins for the picture (all rights reserved).

It suits me, I like the out-door life and the rain and if you have a good brain and understand their lingo (human’s that is, despite their undoubted intelligence, sheep have little conversation) it’s not difficult.  One starts by just ‘helping out’ a bit and before you know it you’re on ‘One Man and His Dog’, except that she’s One Woman and, quite honestly, there is very little chance of us attaining celebrity because of her, what shall I say, declining powers.  I can understand  her perfectly but she doesn’t always think situations through or, indeed, even close the right gates, but we muddle along.  It’s not that she doesn’t understand me, one flick of the eyes and she knows exactly what I mean but she’s wilful — thinks she knows best and, to be honest, since the operation I really can’t be bothered to assert myself.

Ady -- my trusted lieutenant.

Aby — my trusted lieutenant.

Aby helps, she’s my ward, I raised her from  a new-born lamb when she was orphaned and had to live in the new wet-room, then the kitchen — she’s the only creature that I’ve ever allowed in my basket.  Not now — she’s got very big and clumsy but she still talks a lot, much more than the other sheep.  She’s had lots of lambs of her own now but none of them are quite like her.  We have a soft spot for each other, she and I, she lets me lick her new lambs which the others would never do — they stamp their petulant little feet and I wouldn’t mess with any of them.

Abby and others 2012 073

Aby with her 2012 lamb who is called Eighty-one and will be having her own lamb in April.

Proud Guardian!

Proud Guardian!

I do most of the remembering, I’m the time keeper, I know when things should be done, and I deal with security and pest control — I manage the cats and catch the adult rats (they really only cope with the young ones).

Protecting Boss from pesky cat (demonstrating sophisticated emotion) Jealous dog -- they do PhDs in that.

Protecting Boss from pesky cat (demonstrating sophisticated emotion). Jealous dog — they do PhDs in that.

It’s not all work, I have holidays, mainly beach retrieving holidays.

Here I am in Ireland.

Here I am in Ireland.

Wishing you all the best for 2015, Pedro

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Hill Farming

Abi’s Odyssey

What an adventure: today she has led the daughters of the chosen out of peril,  defied a mighty king, travelled the length of the known world, faced alien hordes, unperturbed, and tasted the fruits of a promised land and it’s not even lunchtime.

Everything is relative.

Seven years ago (a biblical period) I probably wouldn’t even have noticed, I wouldn’t have spotted those white dots on the farthest hill, wouldn’t have wondered about the gender of the dots.  Wouldn’t have rushed up the valley, binoculars in hand.

But as I approach our boundary I need no binoculars to see that our neighbour’s tenant has loosed a ram and 20 breeding ewes into the adjacent field; the one with the dodgy fence posts that falter and play dead when challenged.  Through that very fence his randy tup is sniffing at our precocious theave lamb (see Raddle-Dazzle); she makes me think of Anne Boleyn, she is running daintily up and down by the fence baa-ing prettily but surprisingly loudly and each time as she turns, she stamps her little feet, the old king, on the far side of the fence is transfixed — enchanted.  Meanwhile his ladies gather around his number-one-wife, the dominant ewe and whisper, looking accusingly at that Boleyn girl ( she has a streak of mud on her back, they are questioning her virginity — well, perhaps not)).

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I run back to the house. opening and shutting various gates on the way and fetch my magic bucket which has mysteriously been tampered with; it has been used for chain-saw oil, which smells bad; its power lies in its mystical maltiness; I chant appropriate expletives as I clean it and refresh its ewe-nut rattle and scent.  A moment later I have my sergeant at arms, my witch’s peculiar, my familiar; she hurtles to my call, not a swooping, weaving bat, nor an owl, blinking in the light of day, but a clomping old ewe who is trained to my bidding and I to hers, we set off, Abi and I and the dog, armour glinting in the morning light.

Odyssey

Ten minutes later and two of us breathing heavily, we have reached the farthest outpost of our kingdom, it has not yet laid down under the weight of conjugal bliss, I rattle my magic bucket, Anne Boleyn tosses a dismissive glance over her shoulder but her maids come and have a sniff and when the sergeant and I turn and walk away they follow.  Anne looks at us, then at the king, then back at us, she is deserted by all her people…  She fears nothing more than being alone, she is, after all, a sheep.  It’s too much, she turns away from the king and runs down the field and we all walk steadily back towards the farmstead.

As we draw farther away the foolish virgins look back, I know that with every step we take the pull of the king is less so we keep walking but then there is a scream on the opposite bank, a hollering and the unmistakable call of a hunting horn (really — not just another escaped metaphor),  there is baying of hounds directly ahead.  My foolish virgins stop dead, so does the sergeant at arms, they start to turn, I shake the bucket, the sergeant advances towards it, Good Old Abi.  Our dog who has been following aimlessly sniffing for rabbits, suddenly hears the threat and runs to take up a position at the head of our column, as he overtakes the sheep he turns them and provides a little push and they again follow us.

We stomp on confidently; they follow nervously.  I close the last gate behind them as the baying abates.  Typical!   We haven’t heard hounds for a year, hunting is illegal, and they don’t exist but they pass through the cutting by our gate just as we are moving timid sheep.

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