Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Chubby, Dirty, and the Twins

While "Chubby, Dirty, and the Twins" sounds like a brief version of my dating history, in fact it refers to the newest residents at Shiloh Falls -- our four sheep.

Why do we have sheep, you might ask? Well, you see, the border collies were getting bored and ... yes, we bought pets for our pets. No one ever said we were sane.

We do have somewhat more rational (or less insane, which is sort of the same thing) reasons for getting sheep, of course. First, there's all the money you save on gas for a tractor or lawnmower, and with the price of oil going up I feel pretty good about that.

Then there's all the cotton they give off, which as Annie assured me we can turn into nice clothing.

But the real reason is, sadly, that the border collies were bored. They get such a kick out of "herding" the donkeys and horses from behind the fence that we thought it would be a good idea to train them to herd for real. Unfortunately that's hard to do without actual, you know, sheep. So we got some. The plan now is for Annie to attend a couple of clinics or training classes to get the basics, then to take a try at teaching the borders how they roll on the Scottish highlands. Even now I can imagine my first kilt fitting.

She already knows a couple of things, and has taken the dogs one at a time into the sheep pen on a leash. The best part of teaching (or "starting" if you want the cool "in" term, just in case you ever find yourself in an awkward conversation with a real shepherd, which I know happens to me all the time) a new dog how to herd is that you get to carry a big ol' staff with you the whole time. I used to think this was just so shepherds would look more picturesque, but in reality it's used to whack the dogs in the head if they try to bite.

No, really -- it's a dog-whacking stick. How cool is that?!

Both of the borders did pretty well, after getting over their abject sheep terror once they were on the business side of the fence. The sheep weren't quite so sanguine about the entire experience, but they came through it like the pros they are.

See, it turns out there are different kinds of sheep for herding. When your dogs are just starting, like ours are, you want "knee-knocker" sheep, which means they've been trained to come to a human when dogs chase them. That's important, because if the new pup gets too aggressive and tries to bite (a very bad habit to let a herding dog get into) you have to be able to whack them with the stick, and you can't do that if the sheep are fleeing at a high rate of speed away from you.

Like I said, so far it's going well. The sheep are taking to their new pen, and the dogs are ecstatic to have something they can actually herd. Me? I've gotten Dirty with Chubby and the Twins, and what red-blooded American bubba can't get excited about that?


Allen said...

Cotton? Wool you please explain that?

"Chubby, Dirty, and the Twins." I go way back with those dudes. I've got all of their albums, man. ;-)

Jeff Hebert said...

I was wondering if anyone would catch that!

On the way home from getting the sheep, Annie said "Chubby needs to be sheared really bad, he looks awful. And we can use the cotton from shearing him for making clothes!"

I filed it along with her "Look at those grape trees!" remark in the "Annie's Big Book of Biology".

Her defense was "Well, they LOOK like Q-Tips, so that always makes me think they give cotton instead of wool" which isn't unreasonable, I suppose.

The Evil DM said...

I just about gagged on my tea this morning as I read your opening sentence. that was too funny Jeff.