Thursday, March 19, 2009

Working Like a Dog

Well, yes, we did just shear a dozen fiber goats, but that isn't the reference I intended. I was thinking about the different jobs that our dogs do; what's involved, and whether or not they see it as work.

Making the rounds on some of the fiber and sheep internet lists is a wonderful video of some really skilled border collies working flocks to produce -- as the tag line says -- some amazing art.

Our 10-year-old border collie feels deprived if not allowed to be with the stock, and will run 'till her tongue hangs in the dirt if something exciting is going on. On the other hand, Sevi, one of our Kangal Dog flock guardians, is totally blase' and generally sleeps on the job. (below)
She appears to be oblivious to anything going on, but actually is quite alert. She likes to sleep at the top of the hill, where she can see all around, and will stand to get a better view if need be.

Sevi on alert. Note that the ewe is looking, too.

The sheep hardly look up, and seldom even stop chewing. The day I took these pictures, I was amazed to see her charge down the hill like a runaway freight train when she spotted a strange dog on the other side of the fence, and even more amazed to see that the sheep barely turned a hair when she roared past.
That white speck in the bottom of the pasture is Sevi, barking her warning at a would-be intruder. You can see that the grazing flock barely moved, when one would expect them to scatter to the winds at her sudden intrusion. At night her warning roars will be backed up by the other six dogs chiming in, which has been enough to keep livestock safe and sound for many years.

Several times a month Sevi and I will visit a library or a school or a retirement home, where she falls easily into her other "job," that of a therapy dog for Love on a Leash. Below Sevi listens while a young lady reads to her.

If you could see her face a bit better, you would see that her eyes are nearly shut and that she is almost smiling. Soon she will gently melt to the floor, close her eyes, stretch out on her side and fall sound asleep. Her snoring isn't much of a problem, but we all have to move when she starts running in a dream.

Like the rest of us, I am pretty sure that dogs love having a job to do, and find satisfaction in doing it. At least these big guys sure do.

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