So a couple of weeks ago, my new trainer, Sara, suggested that maybe I – an actual Australian Shepherd – would like to herd sheep! She thought it would be fun for me to test my instincts and see if I would be any good at it. Luckily Momma agreed – she is, after all, always looking for someone else (or thing) to entertain me.
Thus, last week we set out on our journey to Top Dog Country Club in New Germany, MN. (“It might as well have been in real Germany, Lina, it’s so darn far away,” Momma groused.) Anyway, through the aid of Sara’s general directions, Momma’s printed directions and our car’s GPS, we finally found it.
We were both quite excited as we strolled through the front door of the “Club” for the first time. Me because of all the doggie smells and sights and sounds, and Momma because she discovered that the lobby had a shop worthy of 5th Avenue in NYC. In fact, she was so engrossed in the boots, jewelry, clothing, and lotions that she almost forgot I was with her. (By the way, I dread the day – and we all know it is coming – when she asks them to carry Lina Unleashed.)
When I finally reined Momma in, we proceeded to the front desk where I got to meet the owner, my herding trainer and some other folks. Sara was also there observing the goings on. They were all super nice to me and I licked their faces and allowed them to pet my belly in return. I could tell, quite frankly, though that they were a little skeptical that I would be able to herd sheep, me being so small and – okay, I’ll admit it – a little sheepish myself.
Next we got going on the paperwork. First, they handed Momma a release of liability form. She read and reluctantly signed it, knowing that she had to or I’d never get to try my paw at herding. She was amused by one clause, however, that stated if I hurt or killed any of the sheep, she would have to pay for it. (“Well, at least that’s one expense I’ll never have to worry about, Lina.”)
Once we got the pesky release out of the way, we moved on to the “Herding Instinct Evaluation” form. My herding trainer, Stephanie (at left), explained that I would be judged on my style, bark, responsiveness, approach, power(!), eye and temperament, among other behaviors. She also explained what each of them meant and that she would determine, based on my performance, if I passed the instinct test.
By now, Momma was getting a little impatient, her attention wandering back to the apparel in the shop by the entrance of the Club. Did she maybe need another pair of cowgirl boots? She was also thinking (I can read her mind like a book – as you know), “Can’t we just go out to the damned pen and let Lina run after the sheep for awhile?”
Anyway, after the flurry of paperwork was complete and Momma had been assured that the sheep would not attack me, Stephanie, Sara, Momma and I hoofed it out to the pen. There we found five full-sized sheep huddled in the corner gazing curiously over in our direction. I’m pretty sure they had never seen such a small Shepherd before and I’m also pretty sure I heard some of them snicker.
Stephanie hooked me up to a long lead, told Momma to stay put, and brought me into the pen. To be perfectly honest, I was a little nervous myself and unsure about my role. After a few romps around the pen with Stephanie, though, my instincts kicked in and I whipped those snickering sheep into shape. Here are a couple of clips of me showing them who’s boss!
And maybe my favorite picture of all time . . .
Stephanie, apparently recognized a winner when she saw one, and put a big check mark in the PASSED box on my evaluation form! She also presented me with a “Herding Instinct Certificate” from Tucker’s Loggie at Lerwick Sheep Farm indicating I had successfully exhibited herding instinct! Woof!
I loved my time at the farm, and we’re going back next Monday, me to herd and – my instincts tell me – Momma to shop!