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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Life of a retired sheepdog

What to do with a retired sheepdog. We’re trying to let Chelsea off her lead a bit more often because she doesn’t have any sheep to herd anymore and we don’t want her to go crazy with boredom. Not that she isn’t a little crazy already. She is a purebred Border Collie, after all. Who knows what’s going on in her twisted little mind.
One minute she’s all wagging tail and smiles and the next, SNAP. More than once we have been fooled by her calm, friendly demeanour, only to have our hands or ankles bitten as she flips out on us. She never bites the Farmer but she has bitten just about everyone else who approaches her, at least once. I’ve been bitten twice. It’s never a big bite – it’s more like a nip but she does have sharp enough teeth to put holes in your jeans and it’s more the shock factor that she’s going for. I could do without the adrenalin rush.
Chelsea has a very strong work ethic and boundless energy.  This is what led us to think we might re-home her after we got rid of her sheep. So that she could live on another sheep farm and work at what she does best. But then someone asked me how old she was. And I realized, at ten years old, Chelsea doesn’t have many years left. Is it really fair to her to put her through the stress of getting accustomed to a new owner at this stage of her life? Probably not. So we are trying to give her the best life possible, right here on the Fisher farm.
Today the Farmer decided to let Chelsea follow him around as he worked in the barn. For the first few minutes she followed him from room to room, at his heels. She curled up in the straw and had a nap, checked out every corner for cats or mice, and stood up on her hind feet to peek into abandoned pens. Then at some point the Farmer realized he wasn’t being followed anymore. He assumed she was sleeping in one of the pens until he heard whimpering. He followed the sound and there she was, all tangled in some baler twine. She had to be cut out of it.
The next thing on Chelsea’s agenda was to check out the cows. She went into the back room where they nap in the cool shade and drink their water from the refillable water fountain. Again up on her hind legs she checked out this device, had a sniff and a drink of the cool, fresh water. Then she peeked around the corner and found half a dozen napping calves. That’s when the trouble started.
Chelsea assumed her herding position, belly to the ground, and crawled over to the closest calf, who was sound asleep. She put her nose right to the calf’s nose and suddenly the eyes blinked open. Like a Mexican jumping bean, that calf bolted straight up in the air and out of the room, escaping to the open barnyard, bawling for her mother. The other calves followed pretty quickly, Chelsea nipping at their heels, in her herding glory.
The mother cows were not exactly appreciative. If you’ve never been between a cow and her calf, just don’t. It isn’t advisable. Even Mocha, our tame, apple-munching and people-loving cow, doesn’t like anyone near her babies.
The Farmer caught his dog just in time and moved her to safety. They went to check the chicks together. Chelsea up on her hind legs, peering under the heat lamp at the fluffy peeping lumps as the Farmer counted, adjusted, refilled feed and water and straw.
It was somewhere between the water filling and the straw refurbishing when Chelsea disappeared. Silent as a phantom, she went back to confront the cows. The Farmer arrived just as she was being tossed against the fence on the snout of a furious cow. He intervened and saved her from being kicked and trampled by the herd. I think the next time he says ‘stay away from the cows’, she will listen. She is a very smart dog. The Farmer says she’s a wonderful dog. I am jealous. She never bites him. I would like her to stop biting me, so that we can enjoy our life here together on this beautiful farm.

For now, I’ll wear leather gloves and jeans with boots and take my chances.

1 comment:

Erin Fisher said...

My boyfriend and I recently adopted a border collie/aussie mix, and I'm pretty sure she was a working dog before. After a month in the shelter she was very depressed and her and I connected. Juno is an older dog with a limp, around seven to ten is anyone's best guess. I don't know her past and we don't live on a farm, in fact we live in a fairly rural area. So what do I do with her? First I solidified our connection. I gave her love, encouragement, play time and we learned what tricks she knew. Then when I felt that she trusted me we began to do chores together like starting the car, taking out the trash and checking the mail. I noticed that it was hard to stop her from continuing to work sometimes, and you can see the focus in their eyes. So I created a command to 'take a break'. This tells her we will resume work soon, relax until then. 'Game over' is when the job has been completed and Juno knows. When we are headed home from a walk I have her take me home; and she will from two or three blocks away! I found that keeping her stimulated mentally is a huge portion of her breed. Juno doesn't seem to mind the size of the job just the frequency and fluency of working is what she enjoys. I hope this helps a little. Good luck with finding new ways to stimulate Chelsea!