When I was about 10 years old, my little friend and I wanted nothing more than to go bird watching. She lived out in the country in Southern Indiana, where gently rolling hills and meadows met thick woods. The deer loved to be anywhere here and quietly graze and raise their young in the springtime. It was a beautiful day. We struck out on an adventure to scout out and journal on any bird’s nest we could find, drawing pictures and writing descriptions of the birds next to a few meticulously placed cute stickers, all the while relishing the fragrant air and soft breezes and golden sunshine. Having looked in on the robin’s nest and the bluebirds, very carefully so as not to disturb them, we decided to venture further in our bird-hunting and walked happily down the dusty dirt and gravel road. There was one mild disturbance to our perfect morning however: It seemed as though the neighbor’s dog might be following us.
He kept his distance, and several times we were pretty sure he must have gone back home, but he kept showing back up. Finally our quest brought us to a little valley, where a flock of sheep were contentedly grazing in the pasture. Suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere came the dog. He was huge; and he took off like a rocket after those poor sheep. The tall fence didn’t faze him a bit. In fact, he chose to leap right over the top of the big farm gate, which I’m pretty sure was even taller than the fence itself, easily clearing the whole thing in one big bound. That’s when it happened. He went completely crazy in as fast as you could blink an eye, chasing and overcoming the sheep and grabbing them with his teeth by their necks and shaking them violently. Red stained their pretty white fleece; and in as much time that it took for us to scream and run for the farmer’s house and start pounding on his door, several sheep lay motionless on the grass.
Much to our horror the farmer was not home, and we were forced to try and find refuge elsewhere. Scared from the stories we’d heard about rabid “mad” dogs, we tore across the road in another vain attempt to locate a neighbor. The dog, who apparently was already bored with killing sheep, decided he would come pay us a visit about the time we were pounding on the second neighbor’s door. I remember vividly the bright bloody froth and saliva covering and dripping off of his mouth as he came up to us panting. It looked like reddish pink shaving cream all over his face. We screamed again, and, since their front door was locked, fled towards the garage as soon as the dog averted his gaze and wandered off a short distance. Fortunately for us, he was apparently not interested in killing little girls. Nonetheless, we were completely terrified and not willing to take any chances. We found the garage to be unlocked and let ourselves in lickety-split. The old wooden door didn’t work very well though, so even though it closed, we weren’t sure it would stay that way if said mad dog decided he really wanted in. We quickly surveyed the situation and decided that the safest thing to do was to climb in the rafters and stay there. So we did… and we waited there… for several hours.
We watched the sun lazily work its way westward, casting long golden shadows in the light that was just starting to fade… Meanwhile the dog never moved. He stayed right outside the garage door like a faithful sentinel, or more like a terrifying monster crouching at the door if you asked us. Finally, a lady from the dog pound showed up. She had been hunting the dog after reports came in from the newspaper lady we had breathlessly run into on the road in our quest to get away from the beast. She had offered to take us home at that time, but our mothers had both warned us never to get into a car with a stranger so we had politely told her no thank you for the ride before taking off again in utter terror. We hollered at the dog pound lady through the garage walls from the rafters, telling her the sordid tale as she sized up the lounging dog by the door. She finally loaded the dog into her truck without incident. Only after she had driven away did we climb down from our perch and venture outside.
It was not how we saw our day going. We trudged off back up the road in the now cooler early evening air, stiff and a little cold from sitting up in those rafters for so long, and a little hungry too. Upon arrival back at my friend’s home, we were promptly greeted with a where-have-you-been from a very unhappy mom. We spilled the story and were quickly met with an understanding that kept us both out of trouble. That night, we could think of nothing else. We felt so badly for those poor sheep and that sad farmer who had come home to find his beautiful animals in a dead and injured state. The questions hounded us. What would become of the dog? Why did he do that? Were any of the sheep going to be okay after all that, or did he kill them all? I felt bad too, since the dog had followed us there, like we may have been somehow responsible for inadvertently causing the senseless deaths and maiming of those innocent creatures. Finally we fell asleep, but our bird-watching day was one that we would never, ever forget.
Fast forward some… Well let’s just say some years later:
Now I have sheep of my own and I love them dearly. We originally had the place fenced for horses until my husband decided he wanted sheep. (What you ask? This wasn’t my idea? Nope. That’s a story for another day though.) Anyway, we added red-brand no climb horse fence to the three-panel board fence that we already had for the horses and took it all the way to the ground to prevent anything large enough to eat or terrorize a sheep or even a chicken from getting through the fence. Then we added a strand of electric wire around the outside to further discourage intruders after an incident one Christmas in which something got over the fence and murdered 8 chickens and a duck, leaving their bodies strewn about the yard and feathers everywhere like there had been a massive pillow fight, or like confetti after a New Year’s celebration in Times Square. My memory is quite fine though. I know from experience that if something really wants in there and it’s big enough and determined enough, electric wire or whatever else may not stop it. It very well might get in there anyway.
I try to religiously prevent predator attacks: check the fences regularly for holes, pick up every stray egg that the ducks may have left lying around, and only give enough leftovers to the chickens that they can eat rather quickly in the morning, so as no trace of anything remains that might smell tempting by the time dusk rolls around. In addition, since most predators and especially dogs have amazing noses, I put my sheep into the barn at night when they are due to lamb. I don’t want anything smelling blood and eating my lambs. Not cool. I let them out during the day if the weather is nice. If they have their baby outside during the day, I pick up and effectively dispose of any placental remains that they may leave behind. Again I don’t want things smelling like dinner to a predator. When the lambs are tiny, I lock them and their mommies safely in the barn at night.
So, you would think I would rest easily, right? I cannot tell you how many times I have gone from fast asleep in the middle of the night to jumping straight up, running around the house, hollering about something trying to eat the sheep, fumbling around for the flashlight, knocking things over, turning on the lights, and waking up the hubs. Poor guy is once again outside, walking around with the rifle, and shining the flashlight down the pasture. (Can I just say that a good and powerful flashlight with a strong beam that shines very far is not an investment you want to get cheap on?) Last night he told me he thought I was having nightmares. It isn’t nightmares people! It’s just my ears playing tricks on me in the middle of the night. Okay so maybe it’s nightmares. I don’t know. You live through a crazed dog on a sheep-killing spree and see how you feel after becoming a shepherd.
I'm Debbie. I love listening to chickens cackle and sing. I love Lindt chocolate truffles, a good cup of coffee, and a good book.