For me there is no greater thrill than seeing a sheepdog flat out working on a farm. It evokes the very magnificence of all honest labor done pridefully.
I must say that watching Border Collies gather a flock across the massive hills of the Borders of Scotland or the steep crags of South Wales is simply, and hands-down more amazing than watching a dog win any double-lift championship on a trial field.
So I was doubly touched this morning. My wife showed me a Facebook posting by Margaret Lass-Gardner about her dog Nathan gathering her flock over the creek and hanging back and barking until Margaret went back and found a ewe floundering half-way across the water. She pulled and Nathan goosed from behind and they saved the ewe’s life.
A moving and gorgeous thing that must have been!
Then I went out and used my good old Cap. The rains were heavy and the feed lot was mucky this morning, so I waited until the rain turned to snow to put the brood ewes in one pasture and the practice sheep in the other. But the wind was picking up—from perhaps 25 mph to, I would guess 40 or so. So when Cap had the second batch of sheep out in the hay field, far west of me, the icy snow was blasting at my eyes and I couldn’t see a thing to guide Cap. All I could do was move my hand down from my face for a split second to try to get a glimpse of a blur of different color moving about along the horizon. Besides this the wind was piling up the snow in lee ways, so I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get gates open to let the sheep back in. So I just whistled for Cap to re-gather the sheep to me and put them back in the feed lot; and then go back to the other pasture to bring back the brood ewes and ram.
The wind was howling. The ice must have been stinging Cap’s eyes as well as mine. But he didn’t miss a beat; and in no time the sheep he had put out were all neatly gathered back in, and I put out hay for them.
When Cap looked up at me after a job well done, he was caked with wet snow, with the hollow of his eyes looking owl-like. He was the very picture of a servant thinking in his core that he had done nothing more or less than what was expected of him. Nothing more or less than duty.
I didn’t have the camera handy then, of course. And he soon shook himself free of most of the ice. But I had Connie put the camera within easy reach and took all the dogs out for a quick mile run in the same howling, icy wind. Then I snapped, but Cap was so embarrassed by being the focus of attention that he put his pricked ears back. But here is a passing photo of this guy we take such pride in.
People who are thinking of breeding their bitches to Cap often ask me to tell them about him. They may want to know pedigree and trial prizes, but I would like to tell them just how magnificent he is at doing a a hard job and making it look easy. I wish I could describe it, but there are no words.