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Thursday, August 06, 2015

The neurotic shepherd is learning to let go

On Wednesday I was coming across the living room, heading out for my morning walk with Muddy. I heard a stampede coming from the upper hills where the sheep were, turned my head to look out the window and saw the flock racing in panic down the steep incline, and over two wood bridges.

What is going on, I wondered, and all within a second I saw the faces of each sheep in sheer terror, Otis the llama running with them towards Old Barn, and then...two stray dogs chasing them at manic high speed.

I ran outside and started screaming for Marcella-like she's my assistant or something. But I wanted to get her in that paddock to chase the dogs. As I got out I realized Martyn was still home and he was chasing and yelling at the dogs, who turned around and fled up into invisibility. The donkeys were in the barn, as is their custom in mid morning, and were no help at all, but I'm sure Matilda and Paco would have chased those dogs.

Meanwhile, Marcella sensed my panic, and didn't want to leave the barnyard, her barnyard, that she had protected for two years.

At that moment, I felt failure as a guard dog owner.

Marcella is not fearful, it is me. I'm afraid of losing her, afraid she'll run and get shot, afraid, afraid , afraid. I grew up with dogs in the house, as pets, this is my first working dog and first dog to live outside-since she was brought here at 10 weeks old. So before I go further-let's all give me a round of applause for not taking cute smooshy puppy into house.

The thing is, I've been having some physical issues. I am going to a naturpath tomorrow to get a handle on it, and yes, I've had my blood panels done and I don't think I'm dying. But, I realized something. It is not the physical work I do here that is at issue with my body.

My body is taking issue with my head and what is in it. I realized how overwhelming keeping everybody safe has become. In that regard, I'm a crappy farmer.

I can not keep them safe all the time, but I can't let it go as easily as it appears other farmers seem too. I can't fight Nature. For eleven years, I've put their safety first. I really have. I have done way more than the average farmer in this regard-because I have a small farm and can, and because I'm crazy enough to want to. I'm not saying I'm a better caretaker than anyone, far from it, but I possibly over think everything. I over feel everything. It's what makes me create and paint, so I can't really hate that part of me.

But it is Marcella that I have to let go of. I have to let her get out there. When she arrived, my flock-due to the season-was not easily available to raise her by their side. I knew this was the best way to bond her with the flock but I wanted her bonded to everything, and to be in and out of every pasture. Benedetto's arrival kind of put a chink in my beautiful master plan. If I didn't care about him, I'd say, fine, you are out in the fields too and if you run off, fine, that is how it is. But I can't do it. Benne hasn't had a runabout for months-but I have him in the goat barn at night. Would he run again? I don't know. You don't know. But I can't stand the idea of him doing it.

Yesterday I had a good experience and therapy session with Marcella. I took her into the paddocks where the sheep were. The donkeys were up in the high hills [where the sheep should be but aren't do to the scare of the dogs at large], and first we just hung out with the sheep. Then I took off for the high hills, with Marcella. I let her go anyway or where ever she wanted. I took a breath, and let it out.

"You're ready, I need to be ready, you've got this," I told her. And she left me and patrolled along the fence. I didn't watch where she went, and I walked about 3000 feet up to the Lupine area, the top of the property where the entire farm is visible.

I am not going to worry where she is, I thought.

It was about ten minutes I guess and I was thinking,

See, this is fine, everything is fine, she will be fine, but just as I thought that, without a sound or warning, there she was, right at my side. We've always said she was a shape shifter and she is.

We roamed around, and I watched to see how Matilda would react to her. The donkeys know the White Dogs, but they aren't in the same pastures. It all went fine. Perhaps if we had stayed some running would have ensued but nothing to be worried about.

We walked back down. I watched Marcella scoop under sheep fence with ease. I knew she could do this, which is good, it means she can get anywhere when she needs to. But it reminded me of the task at hand-she knows what she's doing, let her do it.

So this weekend, I think I will move the main flock to the lower fields, better fenced for stray dogs, and it allow me to put Marcella there and observe for awhile. Then I can do another fence in the upper hills to help keep strays out.

Old Daisy came down from the panicked run and was clearly worse off because of it. She did not eat her hay. I am thinking of pulling her and her eldest daughter, Lilly, out of the flock to be in the Misfit Village. It breaks my heart, but I don't want her going down in the higher hills.