Tuesday, July 5, 2016

In Those Eyes

I sleep with dogs. When someone else is in bed with me, they sleep with dogs too. It's a matter of seniority as well as farm management, because whenever a certain type of sheep baa or a fearful chicken squawk breaks the silence I want to be up instantly. Having a border collie in the bedroom is, by far, the most intense alarm clock.

This morning Gibson and I were snuggling, since it was just us and Friday was downstairs in her crate. We had been up around 5Am with a raccoon scare and when all was well I fed most of the animals and headed back to sleep for a few hours. Friday got breakfast in her crate and G and I went back up to bed. He usually sleeps beside me, just like a person would, with his head on the pillows and his back to me. And as I was enjoying our morning cuddle I heard the sound of Sal, my oldest sheep, balk in the front lawn. This meant that someone broke the fence (Hannah) and the sheep were out. Gibson was up and at the window in an instant. The box fan blew in his face heroically. He looked like Lassie if Lassie was a fighter pilot.

Then he ran downstairs, having estimated the problem and the amount of canine panic it required. He barked and whined and went to the front door. Friday was already howling backup from her crate. I was getting dressed and as I left the bedroom to turn towards the shallow staircase he was already heading back up to check on me. He stood there on the stairs and let out a sound that was unmistakably a question. His eyes looked right into me, with such fire I felt it rattle my rib cage. This was not the eagerness of a stick about to be thrown or the desire for a biscuit. This was something else entirely. Inside those eyes was the story of six years. The story of growing up a working animal in a specific place with a specific job. It was the plea to act and the prayer for permission.

He looked at me with decision. His choice was made. He was demanding joy, and I was the one he needed to turn the ignition. So I nodded and hurried downstairs to open the front door. In five seconds the sheep were back inside their fence.

This is the reason I am so in love with these dogs that so many people write off as insane or hyper. They aren’t. They just know exactly what they want. They are driven by instinct and obsession. They are so in tune with sounds, routines, animals, and their tasks it can be equated to canine Asperger's, but it's far more complicated than that. A sheepdog raised with a job on a farm is a song. They are rhythm and force, complex and beautiful. They aren't necessary like oxygen and sunlight, but the world is better with them.

And so are we.

8 Comments:

Blogger EZ said...

My neighbors down the street have a border collie that they keep in the yard behind a fence. All the poor thing does is run back and forth and bark and get yelled at. Wish I could drop some sheep off for her!

July 5, 2016 at 9:12 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

And the world is better for your writing :-)
I'm not a farmer, but I love sheepdogs, and love seeing them at work.

July 6, 2016 at 4:18 AM  
Blogger Juliet Carol said...

Beautifully written!!

July 6, 2016 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger Sarah Burch said...

My elderly blue heeler finds herding me to be sufficient most of the time!

July 6, 2016 at 6:34 PM  
Blogger lemontreelane said...

I so enjoy reading what you write! Beautiful! I especially loved the line about the 'required amount of canine panic'. Good dog, Gibson (& Friday)

July 6, 2016 at 11:15 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Nice story Jenna.

July 7, 2016 at 9:40 AM  
Blogger ddu said...

If Lassie were a fighter pilot... Wonderful, Jenna. You made me laugh out loud and snort in front of my black Lab, Burleigh. Thanks for that. Also, I am voting for you each day on the Mortgage Lifter page. Best wishes.

July 7, 2016 at 1:22 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

I think it would be so wonderful to live on a sheep farm with eager, wise sheep dogs ... yours sound so delightful!

July 26, 2016 at 8:33 PM  

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