Escape!

By Patrick Shannahan

A few years back, friends told me of a group of sheep that were for sale. They had been wild sheep, somehow surviving off an island in California. I didn’t know much about them when I purchased a group of 35, except that they were wild and very cheap.

I thought they would be ideal to work dogs and season them for trials. They came off the trailer and ran straight for the small acreage of sagebrush that I have on the back of my place. Apparently, they hadn’t been fed anything of recent, except sagebrush. My sheep were fat, living on all the cull onions and hay they wanted. But the new sheep, never would come into my herd of sheep, and preferred to stay up in the sagebrush.

On the back of my farm, is an 80-acre piece that cattle sometime are wintered. There is two large drain ditches, which have about a 12-15 drop before the each ditch.

My neighbor called to tell me that there was a sheep in the back 80 in with the cattle. I dreaded this day, because I knew that eventually the new sheep might find a way back to the cattle.

I walked to the back of the pasture with Pat. I would use her, and thought she had the best chance of getting the sheep out. There was no job that I didn’t trust Pat with, I had all the confidence in the world with her.

There were about 50 Black Angus cows in the pasture, and I spotted the lone sheep in amongst them. I decided just to send Pat, and see if she couldn’t work that sheep back.

I certainly didn’t want to have to cross both ditches and worry about the cows.

Well Pat went off without knowing exactly what she was supposed to do. Because of the ditches, she really couldn’t see the next field, so she went off on a blind outrun. When she crossed the second ditch, she saw the cows and started for them. They had small calves on them, and were not dog friendly. She started to try and bring the entire herd, when I told her to look back, and she then spotted the sheep.

On her way to the sheep, she had to fend off several angry cows. They came charging toward her, and she promptly bit their noses, and kept on her way. She got behind the lone sheep and started it coming toward me. This was approximately 500 yards away.

The cows had decided to leave, and the ewe decided the best place for her was in the middle of the cows. Pat focused on the sheep, and cut it off as it tried to get past her. She tried several times to make it back to the cows, but Pat, working on her own, patiently cut off all the opportunities for the sheep.

At this point, the solitary sheep was desperate, and decided to go over the top of Pat. Pat confidently grabbed as she tried to jump over her and stood directly over the top of her. Since there were two huge ditches to cross, with running water in both, I could do nothing but watch as the tangle developed.

The ewe was really tired, so I yelled at Pat to lie down and she did. I waited a few minutes, and asked Pat to come up on her again. The ewe was confused, but Pat nipped at her and got her back to the top of the drain ditch.

Now came the really difficult part. Sheep don’t like to go downhill, and Pat was having a really hard time convincing her to go down to the bottom of the drain, where there was a 4 foot ditch full of running water to cross. Pat patiently tried her best to convince her, and then decided she would need another plan of action. She grabbed the ewe by the scruff of the neck, and drug her down the hill. Nothing mean, vicious and out of control, just kept dragging her to the bottom where she put her in the water, and the ewe flew across the ditch.

As you con imagine, Pat had convinced her on the second ditch, so that ditch was not a problem.

I stood in amazement, as she had thought out and worked that sheep back to me. As I said before, I was not able to go anywhere near here, so all of this was basically without my help.

Pat was a dog that I had all the confidence for any job that was needed. She was such a thoughtful dog, that could use her patient power when needed, but never took an extra shot at hurting the stock without reason.