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Working in the Handling Unit

My main job on the farm is to help gather the sheep. The sheep like grass. They do not like to listen or take orders. They do not come when they are called. I, on the other hand, am very good at listening. I do as I am told. Alpha-Dad tells me where to go and I listen. Sometimes I wish that he would ask me to jump, just so that I could show him how high my strong legs can take me!

A Sheep's Eye View
A Sheep's Eye View!

When they need care, Alpha-Dad brings the sheep into our handling unit. Mom-Farmer helps too. Sometimes we bring big groups and sometimes we bring little groups. I always help. Because I am a good boy.

At the farm, behind the sheds, we have a special yard that leads to three different fields. There are lots of gates. When we bring the sheep in, it is to this yard that they come. I help to bring them because they will not come on their own. Silly sheep. I help, because I am a good boy.

Beau and I, ready for wolk.
Beau and I, ready for work.

In this yard there are lots of walls and gates. They all move. They are made of metal. Alpha-Dad calls this The Handling Unit. He says it is very useful and that it saves lots of time. It makes it faster and less stressful for the sheep. That is a good thing because we like the sheep to remain calm as much as possible.

The Handling Unit, is a series of pens of different sizes. Some are bigger and some are smaller. The pens connect so that the sheep can be grouped into different pens. Alpha-Dad needs to separate them sometimes, like when we are taking the lambs away from the mum-sheep late in the summer.

The sheep do not especially like the handling unit. They do not understand why there is no grass on the floor. Silly sheep. All they think about is grass and their bellies. They do not understand that if the floor was made of grass, it would be very muddy. Especially when it rains. Then there would be puddles too. Big puddles. It would be slippery and messy and poopy too. I like the mud and I love puddles but, as Alpha-Dad says, in the handling unit, concrete is best. I agree of course. Because I am a good boy.

When the sheep are in the handling unit, Alpha-Dad gives them special care. Sometimes he weighs the lambs to see if they are getting fat. Sometimes he mixes the sheep all up and puts them into different groups. Sometimes they have what Mom-Farmer calls, 'their beauty treatments' when Alpha-Dad will look at their toes or maybe shave around their bums. Sometimes they get medicine to make them better or mineral doses to keep them in tip-top condition.

Race and footbath
'The Race' and 'The Footbath' on the right of it.

There is a special pen that looks like the most fun. I am not allowed to go in there. Not ever. It has water in it and I love the water, but Alpha-Dad says 'No!' He tells me it is not for dogs. It is only for sheep. So, I listen. And I stay away. Because I am a good boy.

When the sheep go into that special water-pen, (Alpha-Dad calls it ‘The Foot Bath’) they go just a few at a time. The gate closes behind them and they must stand in the water. Their feet get wet and sometimes they shuffle about a bit, grumbling. This is to help their feet to stay healthy. I would like to lie down in that water - I love the water and it looks like fun- but I will not because Alpha-Dad says there is medicine in the water. And I am a good boy.

Sometimes I stay and help in the handling unit but sometimes I have to wait at the front of the sheds, out of the way. I bark and I help. Sometimes though, Alpha-Dad says I must 'Be Quiet', because I am scaring the sheep. Sometimes my barks are just too loud. And those silly sheep, they get stressed out so easily! It makes me sad not to be able to use my big barks, but I wait, away from the sheep. I wait quietly, until Alpha-Dad needs me again. I am always ready to help. Because I am a good boy.

When I do get to help in the handling unit, I bark and I bark. That is my job. I use my best and loudest barks. I tell the sheep 'Move!' and 'Quick!' and 'Hurry' and 'Go!' Mostly, they do not understand that we are working together to help them or make them feel better. They just want to get out and go back to eating their grass. Silly sheep.

Often times, they have to go up a narrow passage that Alpha-Dad calls 'The Race'. It leads up to a squeezy contraption at the end of the passage where he can hold them gently and give them the care they need. The sheep cannot see the way out, so now and again they get scared. They stop in the race instead of moving forward. That is when I must be the most help. I jump into the pen with the sheep like I am a Super Flying Dog (I can jump very high you know!). I bark and I bark to help move them along. I tell them 'Now!' and 'Shoo!' They look at me with their big stupid sheep eyes. But this time, they understand me well enough, and they plough on up the race towards Alpha-Dad.

Sometimes I even have to put my paws up on their backs if they require extra persuasion. Alpha-Dad tells me 'Back up!' and I know exactly what he wants me to do. I put my front paws on the rumps of the sheep and I help to walk them forward with my back legs pushing from behind. You better believe that gets them moving! Those silly sheep!

After we are finished working, I am happy. I know I have done the best job I could do. I go and get a big drink of water. Barking is thirsty work and boy, do I bark! I cool off in a puddle or in the pond. Alpha-Dad tells me I did a good job. He scratches me behind the ear, on the neck or on my shoulder. That is the best. I love getting scratches. Alpha-Dad gives the best scratches and that lets me know he is happy with me. He tells me I am a good boy. And that is also the best. Because I really do try to be a good boy.


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