Thursday, 11 February 2016


Succour at the neighbour's. "Black Bread" (or 'treacle bread')
Not happy. So angry and fed up, in fact, that I will warn readers that I am struggling to put the story of this post into a readable form; it risks coming out like a rant or a stream of exasperated consciousness. I should probably quickly re-assure you that no ewes have been physically harmed, no trauma, no lost lambs or miscarriages; you just might have jumped to that conclusion in alarm at my next sentence and that would not have been fair. My anger is more subtle, less focused than that, so far anyway.

We enjoy the pastel coplours of the bogland to our North
in the early morning light.
The pictures in this post are also a bit random as I cannot do pics about the real story. No, my subject today is sheep-worrying by stray dogs. Everyone who lives in a sheep-farming area or has sheep, worries about this problem and probably has stories to tell of their own distressing disasters or near misses. Everyone 'knows' the problem is big stray German Shepherds, lurchers, Rottweilers and Pit-bulls coming off the nearby "council estates" and chasing the sheep about till they mis-carry, abort or get caught by the dogs and die in a bloody mess. Some of them involve the dogs getting shot because, as everybody also knows, the farmer is allowed to do this and ask questions later. In one story we have been told, farmer sees dog attack his flock, recognises dog and although dog runs off he follows it home, comes into offending owner's garden and shoots dog in front of the children playing in the garden.

We have been mercifully spared that kind of drama. We have our own weird, local tint of the dog-worrying story which involves the lovely, friendly, sweet, 'harmless' collie-cross belonging to a very nice and well respected local family whose house is visible across the bogland to our North. Although the dog's brother and litter-mate never wanders far from home, this lad (whom I will call 'B') has ALWAYS gone a-wandering. He escapes from the farm when not properly supervised and wanders across the bogland, popping up somewhere along our lane as if he just fancied a visit to his friends.

All along this lane people know the dog and will tell you that he used to come 'there' and upset the tiny children or that they used to have to phone the owner and he'd come and collect the dog. We've had him off and on for all the time we've lived here and our problem is that although he is (as I said) sweet. lovely, friendly and harmless the sheep here do not KNOW this and they spot the unfamiliar dog and panic, running blindly to the safest (in their view) part of the field (a rather pathetic, 3 feet high mound of grass) or trying to jump fences to get away. They are heavily pregnant just now, with Lily actually due on Valentine's day (4 days away), so the last thing they need is to be running around in panic crashing into fences or trying to get over barbed wire.

In the warmth of sunny Wednesday the bees came out to play
We know he has arrived on his latest visit, of course, even in the dead of night because he runs around the house and yard trying to make contact and our own three dogs go ballistic. I have to go out, catch the dog (actually quite easy because he bounces up all excited and jumps up to try to get a fuss) and then phone the owner to have them take him away before I can go check on the sheep and calm them down. In one of the dogs circuits of the house, he will have sprinted through the yard 'exploding' into view of the sheep, who will now be standing terrified a-top their grassy knoll.

I am still trying to get a good shot of this group of Red Hereford
heifers for the 365 project.
Always we have a similar conversation with the man or the guy's sister, that we don't want him coming round, that he's upsetting the sheep, that they could get hurt or injured or abort or miscarry their lambs, that they are heavily pregnant but that yes we know he is nice and harmless and we are unlikely to have him shot and yes, it is a relief that we seem to have got away with it again and no poultry, rabbits, sheep, cats etc have been actually attacked. Yes, he has a heart of gold and yes, we know you will promise AGAIN to keep a better control on him and he will probably stay away for another fortnight or, if we are lucky, a month. Yes, we know it is driving you as mad as it does us, but we are the ones with the sheep who could potentially get hurt.

Snow stopped (roofing) play in this
lovely atmospheric picture by Carolyn
of the mini-horses.
We are distressed and upset and exasperated by this dragging on. Liz is all for getting the dog taken away by the dog warden or vet. Neither of us want any serious harm to come to the dog (it is not his fault, after all) but we wish there was some way of showing the owner that we are serious and fed up - perhaps if it COST something to get the dog back from a pound, or he knew the dog was on a 'warning' or some such. Realistically we cannot have him shot and anyway our man-with-gun who so nicely despatched our foxes would not go near the job - this is a well known dog owned by a family well respected in the village(s). We are mere blow-ins who have only been here 5 minutes and, in my case, also a 'foreigner'.

So where we are left, I guess, is that we are sitting here tonight after the latest visit today (in which I have to admit, I was a bit 'grumpy' with the lady) praying that the dog will not be back for 4 weeks while we get through lambing. Helpless though, to do anything about it. Lily is 'bagging up' well now (udder size) and due Monday, Polly 2 weeks later and Myfanwy 2 weeks after that. B's owner is presumably sitting at home praying that he does not have any more escapes (this one was, he says 'caused' by the Mother or the Sister). He is also (he says) helpless and has tried everything. He even took the dog to local sheep-dog training guru who quickly told him he should have the dog put down as it is a "liability".

Ah well. That is my rant over. I don't know why I unloaded it all on you as you can do even less about it than we can. Maybe it was the cathartic aspect of blogging. I will, of course, keep you posted about successful lambings or otherwise. Stay safe and keep those dogs under control when near livestock.


Care Towers said...

Feel free to "unload" - even as a distant, and somewhat less involved not-really-an-animals-person, I share your anguish... it is the senseless irresponsibility of folk that wind us up. My local frustration is litter - somewhat more benign than stray dogs around pregnant ewes, but I'm out walking locally a lot, and we suddenly seem to buried in the stuff!

Matt Care said...

Thank you for that. On the litter one we have a very quiet lane here with few cars passing but I was also very disappointed in our local people's "respect for the environment". For some reason I had it in my head that the Irish were very careful and did not leave litter lying about but, no, they prove to be just as bad as we are, lobbing dead drink cans out of the car window and junk-food packaging, fag packets etc. You also get the expected shreds of bale-wrap, baler twine, empty feed buckets and feed sacks. We have also had just the one incident of fly-tipping - several bags of old bottles and cans. Why the person came all the way out here to dump it, I don't know. Ah well, there is no local clean-up service, so I am the local bizarre and 'eccentric' nutter who walks up and down the lane with hi-viz jacket, dustbin bag and litter grabber thing. Admittedly only about every 6 months but, touch wood, that is all that is needed.