The dog does not entirely approve.


At the moment Sal is barking. She doesn’t bark a lot, only at times when she feels she ought to be out there sorting things out in her own inimitable way. As Border Collies go she has two foibles. The first is that she doesn’t like sheep standing close to the hedge. Over the years, when we’ve been looking sheep, she’s noticed that we occasionally have to walk across and disentangle on that has managed to get itself caught up in briars. Or perhaps it’s stuck its head through the wire netting and cannot pull it back out.
So when she sees a sheep too close to the hedge, she’ll run across and move it. At times this can be quite useful. I’ve seen lambs get themselves tangled and just sit there, convinced they’re completely stuck. The arrival of Sal suddenly galvanises them into action and, quite literally, ‘with one bound they’re free.’

Her other foible arises from the fact that she lives in a cattle trailer. Sometimes in it, sometimes under it, sometimes sleeping in the snug and sheltered plastic drum within the trailer; it all depends on what she particularly wants to do. All this is perfectly normal for the working collie. What gets her barking is that from her cattle trailer she can see one end of a field we know as ‘The Meadow.’ Her foible is that she objects to sheep grazing on that bit of the field and seems to regard it as a personal affront. It must be admitted that the sheep seem to take no notice at all of her barking.

We’re not sure why she finds their presence so irritating, perhaps it’s just the deeply held conviction that sheep without a Border Collie in close attendance are going to get into trouble? Whether she was brought up on ‘Little Boy Blue’ with ‘the sheep in the meadow, the cows in the corn’ I wouldn’t like to speculate.

Now her attitude isn’t a ‘problem’ as such, she doesn’t bark interminably at them. Just lets us know they’re there, in case we come to our senses and do what she considers the obvious thing and let her out to supervise them.

Over the past few days there have been more sheep wandering onto the bit of the Meadow she can see. Basically every year some of the older ewes have to be culled, and you fetch in some younger sheep. Some you might breed yourself, but a lot of people will fetch in new blood as well.

What’s been interesting is the way the batches have or have not been mixing. Firstly there was a batch purchased from somebody who was retiring. We stuck them in with a small group of our own sheep and for the first few days the two batches largely kept separate, although the two batches might graze close to each other.

Then three more groups were purchased at a sale. Now each group came from a different farm. So each of these three groups tended to stick together but shunned the other four groups. They didn’t stick with the main batch because it wasn’t ‘their flock’. In an attempt to keep out of the way of ‘not their flock’ the little batches push out to the edge of the grazing area and thus graze the patch of ground Sal can see and feels protective about.
Anyway today they were all fetched in and the new arrivals were treated for worms, liver fluke and suchlike, then they were all let out back into the field. Having been stirred up and mixed I noticed that the little groups are far less exclusive.

Cattle can be like that. If you have one batch of cattle grazing a big enough area, and let another batch onto the same ground, the two groups can retain their cohesion for quite a while. We’ve put a second group onto a field and a couple of days later, because circumstances have changed; we’ve taken the first group out. The groups hadn’t mixed and our moving one lot didn’t bother the other lot in the slightest. But again, if you bring two lots together in the yard and let them run down the lane together into the field, the self imposed barriers between the two groups seem to disappear remarkably quickly.

Social scientists might draw conclusions from this but if I were them I’d be wary. If their tinkering with the underlying fabric of reality leads to Border Collies disapproval, I predict that things will not go well.


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15 thoughts on “The dog does not entirely approve.

    • jwebster2 August 20, 2017 at 5:50 pm Reply

      glad you liked it 🙂

      • OIKOS™-Redaktion August 20, 2017 at 5:54 pm

        Yes really! Thank you and have a great week ahead. 😉 Michael

      • jwebster2 August 20, 2017 at 6:06 pm

        I’ll work at it 🙂

  1. Annette Rochelle Aben August 20, 2017 at 5:51 pm Reply

    Heels and hineys, ripe for the chomping

    • jwebster2 August 20, 2017 at 6:06 pm Reply

      trying to see the world through the eyes of a Border Collie is always an interesting experience 😉

  2. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt August 20, 2017 at 6:14 pm Reply

    All human behavior has its roots in the behavior of ‘lower’ animals; we didn’t invent it from scratch. Group dynamics are interesting for that precise reason: what do humans do in groups, how do they interact, when do they stick together. And what changes those dynamics.

    A Heinecken commercial about getting two very different people to learn to interact with each other – and acquire the beginnings of a rudimentary friendship (over a beer) which allows them to respect each other as people and not immediately walk away – has been circulating on Facebook, where I saw it. You mixing the sheep or cattle is that kind of interaction: it breaks the distance a bit, and nothing bad happens immediately (as if might if you mixed sheep with wolves), so maybe immediate flight isn’t required. Hmmm.

    • jwebster2 August 20, 2017 at 6:25 pm Reply

      The wartime generation is dying off. Back in 1939 onwards we mixed a lot of lads from a lot of backgrounds, and a lot of areas and they lived together very closely for a long time.
      I remember someone saying ‘the guy who dragged me out of a burning tank might talk like a toff but he’s my mate’

  3. Scottie August 20, 2017 at 8:29 pm Reply

    I love this story of Sal’s feelings, and how sheep act. I would love to read more of Sal’s adventures. After all, sheep must have a great many foibles for Border Collies to sort out. Hugs

    • jwebster2 August 20, 2017 at 9:04 pm Reply

      I suspect they ensure that the sheep get through a lot of adrenaline at times, probably helps to get them grounded 🙂

      • Scottie August 20, 2017 at 9:13 pm

        Does that keep the sheep fit? Which produces better wool or more wool, a fat sheep, or a fit slim sheep? And do working dogs have a retirement home? How about a union? Do they get together and gossip about sheep and owners? Hugs

      • jwebster2 August 20, 2017 at 9:20 pm

        Believe it or not, sheep with fleeces destined for hand spinners often have a jacket to keep the wool clean!
        (More common in USA)
        To get plump sheep you need fine weather so they spend a lot of time eating and a lot of time dozing pleasantly in the sun rather than sitting shivering in the rain
        “Sheep should be cooked twice.”
        Border collies never retire, they merely move on to take up the position of consultant 🙂

  4. rootsandroutes2012 August 22, 2017 at 5:39 pm Reply

    Wot? No hugs Jim?

    • jwebster2 August 22, 2017 at 9:20 pm Reply

      certainly no hugs for Social scientists tinkering with the underlying fabric of reality 🙂

  5. […] The dog does not entirely approve. […]

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