The End of a Personal Era



My sheep are gone. My livestock guardian dogs are gone. I’ve had Barbados Blackbelly sheep for 17 years and the dogs for 7. I don’t know the version of me who doesn’t have sheep and dogs.

I made the decision to sell my flock and dogs last January. I’ve spent the last 6 months trying to get my head around the idea and to live with my decision. I found them the best homes I could. The dogs get to stay with their sheep. They will be well cared for and loved–both the dogs and the sheep.

It is so quiet tonight without the dogs barking at owls and rabbits. Ever since they came to live here, I’ve always felt safe knowing they were out there, protecting the sheep and my farm. Sometimes they barked at things that I might have wished they wouldn’t, but I remember too well the horror I went through before they came, when a cougar and coyotes got into the back ram pasture and devoured four entire 90-lb ram lambs in one night’s work. The cougar came back 2 weeks later and started on the ewe lambs, killing one before I could get out there with my gun. I locked the sheep behind bars at night for the next 2 months until my friends could bring the two Pyranees/Anatolian puppies they sold me. I’ve slept well every night since they arrived in 2004.

The barns are empty. There are no happy bodies in my pasture. This will take some getting used to.

Why is this important? I had to do something that I knew was going to be incredibly painful because I also knew it would be the right thing to do for the sheep. Health issues were making it difficult to care for them. The rams had learned that they are bigger than I am, which is not something you ever want a ram to learn. Three weeks ago, a ram joggled my knee on his way past me and buggered it up. It was just beginning to feel better last week so I decided to spend the day grooming my ewes so that they would look beautiful for the big sheep transport day. Long story short, a crazed yearling jumped into my face and caused me to put all my weight on my bad knee. Now it is seriously buggered up. So although I had planned to sell the sheep before I got hurt, it didn’t turn out that way. But the injury was very convincing as to the wisdom of my decision to sell.