2015-07-12 – My dog Lefty is an Australian Shepherd. I’ve heard people talk about sheep herding dogs (and Lefty in particular) as having an instinct for herding sheep. But we live in the city, so there’s not much opportunity for express his instinct. The only thing that gives him away is that, when I take him for a walk and we encounter someone, he doesn’t run toward them, exactly. He runs to get around them. My wife Kit says that he is herding when he does this.
It’s very obnoxious . . . in the city.
It’s so obnoxious that I was about to call quits my frequent walks with my wife, if Lefty was going to come along. He runs in circles around you, which is fine if it’s only you and the dog. But if there’s two people, the leash wraps around the second person, if you are walking close together. So you have to walk 25 feet apart—if you have a long leash. Not much fun.
I’ve always had some question about Lefty’s visual acuity. When I take him for walks, I usually see proximate dogs long before he does, and I am able to take evasive action. What he seems to see is motion. So he goes after birds and squirrels and rabbits. And small children, bikes, and cars.
This week, Kit took Lefty to the country. To herd sheep. He knew exactly what to do. And he was happy. Unfortunately, the only livestock that live in our neighborhood are chickens. You’re allowed to keep chickens in Chicago but you can’t keep sheep.
But I’ve started thinking what this would be like.
We live on a typical Chicago residential lot. It’s approximately 25 x 125 feet. Our house takes up most of the space and we have a detached garage at the rear. In between, that leaves maybe 25 x 25 feet as potential grazing space. Currently, we have a nice garden and a few trees in the back yard. Our garage is mostly storage we can’t fit even one car into it, even though it is a two-car garage. We’d have to clean it out to give the sheep a place to live. We’d have to cut down the trees in the yard and plant grass.
And Lefty could run round and around and herd the sheep into and out of the garage. Over and over. Day after day.