Those in the know, in the closed world of sheep and sheep farming, will recognise this as the instruction a shepherd gives to his dog when he wants it to go round the sheep in a clockwise direction. I’m playing with words of course. “To Buy or Not To Buy” a new sheep dog is what I’m really talking about.
Belle, my current dog is now 10 years old. She has a damaged nerve in her shoulder which means a wasted muscle at the shoulder joint and a reluctance, understandably, to use her leg properly. 8 months of rest have led to some improvement but at 10, she is very much at the end of her career as a working dog.
To be fair to her, she has never been “One Man and his Dog” material but always tried her best and between us, we have managed the sheep and goats effectively. At times she has covered herself in glory. On other occasions, anything but! Her work load has been light because initially we had very few animals but now, we are up to 150 sheep and 250 goats so moving on up as they say!
So far, I have managed both flocks by voice command. My animals will come to me. Without food. But, there are times when they are too far away, or it’s too windy for them to hear me shouting and that’s where Belle comes into her own. When fit, she would cover the 800 yards to the far field and give 26 bucks the message “Hey! She wants you! Get a move on!” A few seconds later, 26 big bucks with Belle behind would come running across the valley and screech to a stop at the gate asking, “Well? What do you want?” The time and effort that dog has saved is priceless.
The problem is, as Belle declines, do I go ahead and buy a replacement pup and start the long, careful process of training, or do I just go on hoping I can manage without until it’s too late? Building a relationship with a new pup takes no end of time and energy and the bond must be made fast and strong if dog and shepherd are to work as they should. Do I have the time and do I want to put Belle to one side while I do it? The answer to both is no but it may be a case of needs must. I haven’t found a pup yet but nor have I looked very hard. I can’t put off the decision much longer.