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Sheep Journal: A Winter Sunday

Posted 1/27/2008 9:57pm by Catskill Merino.
After a cold, gray Saturday outside all day at market, I spend Sunday mornings inside listening for the faint church bells ringing a block away in the village square.  I like hearing the bells, they  join me to a community, that is probably better imagined than met, nevertheless they warm me.  That afternoon, the sun shone through the eyebrow windows of my study.  I wanted to get some air; it was a good day to take Poem to the sheep.
The rams were in a loose flock about 75 yards away from us when we entered the field. Poem and I have been working on direction. "Go round" means go around the sheep in a clockwise direction. "Go over" means go around the sheep in a counter-clockwise direction.
We walked toward the flock; when I stopped, Poem sat and looked intently at the sheep awaiting my command. "Go round," I cast her, wanting her to cover the 75 yards, stay to the left and circle the sheep clockwise; but she veered right to circle them counter-clockwise.
I was about to stop and correct her, when I realized that instinct told her to go right, to go between the sheep and the electric fence, to drive the flock away from the fence, and not drive them into it as following my command would have her do, when she circled them.  I had cast her in the wrong direction.  She was 20 yards from the sheep when I yelled, "Poem, go over," correcting myself.  Without  hesitation, Poem continued round the sheep counter-clockwise.   When she had the flock held between us as was proper, I called her off and to me. I stroked her head and said, "Good dog."

Good dogs make good masters.