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Monday, May 26, 2014

Gracie's wilderness adventure

It was a long, hard winter for Gracie the sheep. Her lamb was taken to market so she doesn’t have to nurse him anymore but she is still a bit underweight and needs to gain.
The grass on the pasture hasn’t exactly perked up yet. The grass on the lawn, in contrast, is lush and green. Sometimes I let Gracie out onto the lawn for an hour or two. The sweet green shoots of grass are full of nutrients for her. The other morning she was out there on the lawn while I was getting ready for work. The trouble started when the Farmer left for the office.
Gracie saw the big black truck pulling out of the driveway and decided to follow it. She is the only sheep left and she has been adjusting quite well for a herd animal, keeping company with the horse and donkey, but she remembers the truck that took the rest of the sheep away. I told them they were going on vacation and I guess she decided she was tired of being left behind and wanted to go too. She followed the truck around the corner and down the road a bit but got distracted by something on the neighbour’s lawn. I don’t know how long she was there, snacking on their wildflowers, when I got a phone call.
“One of your sheep is on my lawn,” was the report. I went as fast as I could but when I got there she was already gone, “into the forest.”
“That can’t be right. Sheep don’t like the forest,” I said, looking down the road at other possible destinations. Cows love the forest but sheep hate the mysteries of the bush with its myriad hiding places for dangerous predators. They never go in there. And yet there she was.
Halfway up the fence line I could see the cows gathering at the fence. I could just make out the little white fluff ball that is Gracie on the other side of the fence. The forest side. Sigh. This would mean going back up to the house, where I could enter the barnyard and the forest, through the one gate. I had to change into boots. And grab a bucket of sweet feed.
As I trudged and crashed ever-so-delicately through the brush, I thought, it’s true. You can feel a dozen eyes on you. I didn’t see any deer, raccoons, wild turkeys or coyotes, but I’m sure at least a couple of those were in there, watching my rude invasion. Gracie was not answering my constant call. She had made her way all the way down the fence line to where the cows were grazing, hoping to join them on the pasture side, no doubt. Finally I reached her.
“Gracie. Come here.” Nothing. She just stood and looked at me, her eyes wild with fear. I shook the feed bucket – a gesture and sound that had the cows rushing the electric fence. Gracie didn’t budge.
Normally Gracie comes when I call and follows like a dog. That clearly wasn’t going to work this time. I tried tapping her from behind with a stick. She just turned and looked at me, insulted. I tugged on her fleece and half-dragged her over to the fence. I hadn’t taken the time to change into farm clothes and hoped I wouldn’t permanently ruin my dress pants. I contemplated launching her over the fence, under the barbed and electric wire. I stood her up on her hind legs but couldn’t lift her off her feet. She had gained weight, after all. I tried shoving her head down to the ground and showing her the way under the fence but she wasn’t having any of it. She fought me every bit of the way. Then I got an idea.
I flipped her onto her back, the way we do when we are shearing. I held her down with my knee on her shoulder and lifted the fence. Then I very clumsily rolled her under the fence. As soon as her face was on the pasture side, she bounced up and away. Freedom!
Off she ran, to join the cows. Another adventure comes to an end.
I trudged back up through the forest, down the road and up to the house. Then I hopped in the car and went off to work, smelling faintly of mutton.

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