Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sitting With Sheep

There was a smell of woodsmoke in the air tonight, and a warm, orange glow to the sky. Our neighbor Bob had been clearing new pasture land for his cattle next door, and tonight he was burning the big brush pile he'd made with his backhoe.

The crickets, cicadas, katydids, and tree frogs shrilled their orchestral harmonies from every tree and bush. Bats, in their mosquito-catching ballets, swooped and quivered overhead. The half-moon was high, and the first few stars were just blossoming into being.

In the midst of this beautiful evening, I sat cross legged on the grass, visiting with my sheep.

Not all my sheep are tame enough to appreciate a good visit. But when the shy ones see how much the tame ones enjoy it, sometimes even they are won over.

The fact that I was sitting down was enough to attract the sheep's attention. The friendlier ones came up right away. There's nothing they like better (well, besides food, that is!) than to be scratched under the chin and rubbed on the chest between the forelegs. It mesmerizes them, and they will stand there forever, enjoying it.

Before long, I was surrounded, with half a dozen sheep crowded close to me on every side. Their plump, plush bodies felt like big, huggable, woolly pillows. Pandora's rhythmic chewing sounded in my right ear. Savannah's warm breath tickled the back of my neck. Persia, Tansy, Phoebe and Poppy clustered around, wagging their tails happily when I scratched their itchy spots.

Salem crowded so close to me that the cool, smooth ivory of her horn rested against my cheek. In her attempts to win the majority of my attention, she climbed right into my lap. Believe me, when a 150 pound sheep stands on your shin bones with her pointy little hooves, she gets your attention pretty quickly!

It always amazes me how peaceful these sheep visits can be. I love my horses, but they don't soothe me the way my sheep do. Sitting with my sheep smooths away all my tangled nerves.

It amazes me too, that the sheep seem to enjoy it as much as I do. After all the times during the year when I have to do something unpleasant to them---shearing, worming, vaccinating, tattooing, ear tagging---you would think that they would hate me altogether.

But they are smart. They know the difference between when I'm working with them and when I'm just visiting. And apparently, they don't hold a grudge. I've even had proof---as good as a sheep can give---that they care about me and consider me part of their flock.

Last winter, right after we'd gotten our Pomeranian puppy Leeloo, she was still very small (about 2 lbs.) and very shy. So to help her build confidence, one of the things we would do to exercise her was to run around the yard a few times with her chasing us, and then "fall" down on the ground and let her hop on us, so she could feel like she won the race. It was a fun game for people and puppy alike.

When my sheep, who were pastured in the yard at the time, first witnessed this game, what they saw was their beloved shepherd being aggressively pursued by a ferocious (albeit small) wolf.

To their shock and horror, their beloved shepherd fell, and the ferocious wolf leaped upon her, clearly ready to rip out her throat. Oh no! Who would bring them their feed if their beloved shepherd was killed?

All the sheep (including some that are normally so shy they won't approach me willingly at all) immediately came to my rescue. They crowded around me, stood protectively over me, and waved their horns threateningly at the "wolf."

It was hilarious! When I got up, brushed myself off, picked up the wolf and began petting it, the sheep were completely shocked.

Nothing like a good laugh to brighten my day. Plus it's nice to know the sheep really do appreciate me!


Meggie said...

I love your sheep stories. I can tell they are very special to you. Looking forward to reading more. Thanks!

Ness said...

Excellent story...very fun read. I would love to have seen it play out in person, but you did a great job of telling it. LOL

Red Brick Road Farm said...

Nancy, I see you adore & treasure your sheep, as I do mine! Aren't they the best therapy?

Rimshot said...

The tiny 'wolf' is adorable!

And I'm jealous that when you can't sleep you can actually go and count your sheep. :)

Thanks for the great story, you tell it incredibly well.

Nancy Chase said...

Thanks everybody. Yes, I do love my sheep. They are all such individuals with such different personalities.