My husband and I are developing a sustainable, organic gardens/farm, Oasis Gardens Learning Center, in Northeastern Utah. Our intent is to support lower impact small farming techniques, raising heritage livestock breeds, and growing heirloom vegetables and medicinal herbs.
As we had just acquired a fine Border Collie puppy last year, we attended the Soldier Hollow Sheep Dog Trials in Midway, Utah, to see what working Border Collies do. Wow! What an amazing thing it is to watch these well-trained dogs and their handlers work as a team to move sheep over large distances with only a few verbal commands and whistle signals! We were hooked, and decided to incorporate herding dogs into our program.
Since we are inexperienced with both sheep and herding dogs, we began working with an accomplished sheep dog trainer, Shauna Gourley, who we met at the Trials. Knowing we can’t really learn on an inexperienced young dog, she recommended we purchase an older, very experienced Border Collie that she knew was available.
Enter Bond, who has spent the last few years working sheep on a large ranch in Wyoming and had qualified for the National Sheep Dog Trials for the last two years. His owner was retiring from large ranching, and wanted to find the right home for him, so sight unseen, we drove to Buffalo, Wyoming, to check him out.
It was love at first sight! Watching him bringing sheep in from a 500+ acre field with just a few whistled directions was truly poetry in motion!
We loaded him into the car, drove home, and introduced him our mere 35-acre property. While much, much smaller than the 8,000-acre ranch he had spent the last five years at, Bond loves our Oasis. The only problem, as far as he can see, is that we don’t have sheep yet! He looked and looked for the sheep, but could not find any, and kept coming to me to ask, “Where’re the sheep?”
All his life, Bond has always had the same job – working sheep. He loved his job, and he did it well, and he just couldn’t imagine retiring. (We plan on having sheep next year, but just haven’t gotten to that part of the project yet.) Right now, we are raising 9 Heritage Bronze turkeys, 10 Muskovie ducks, 27 free ranging hens, 90 cockerels for broilers, and 4 baby fainting goats. But no sheep.
I had Bond help me move the turkeys from one pen to the other, and he picked up turkey herding right away. But his favorite job is one he assigned himself. Bond has become the Resident Duck Herder! At first, he helped me move the ducks from their night place in a chicken tractor to a kiddy wading pool in the yard until they were big enough to be ‘real ducks’ and go swimming in the irrigation pond, where they hang out most of the time now.
The first time he and I herded the ducks into the pond, he was very distressed. He looked at me with his “What do I do now?!?” look. “Are they gonna be ok?” After a few days, Bond realized the ducks weren’t going to drown, (they ARE ducks, after all), and would eventually come back to dry land.
Bond now makes sure “HIS” ducks are safe as they walk from the pond to other areas. He’ll spend a good part of his day ‘holding’ the ducks in place, then moving them to the pond all by himself. Everyone who watches Bond do his ‘job’ finds it one of the most amazing things they’ve ever seen a dog do!
Next year Bond will be able to return to his regular job as a Champion Sheep Herder!
Read more pet stories in Pet Stories: Remembering Favorite Four-Legged Friends.