Hi There! My name’s Shep. I’m a Border Collie - and proud of it !
I’m 4 years old now and I was born and brought up on the farm where I still live, high in the wild, cool green hills and dales of quiet, rural North Yorkshire.
I look after sheep for my master, as my father did before me and his father before him, and so on, back into the very mists of time. I took over from Dad when he retired.
Dad says he’s very proud of our ancestors - sheepdogs through and through. Legend has it that the great and famous sheepdog, ‘Bosworth Coon’ is a distant relation, along with the champion trials winner ‘Wiston Cap’. Mind you, every other sheepdog I’ve ever met says they are descended from Wiston Cap.
That Wiston Cap must have been a very busy dog !
Talking of ‘busy’; it’s very busy here on the farm, although city folk that holiday here say its nice to be in the peace and quiet of the countryside; away from the rat race.
I’ve never been to a rat race myself. They must be a lot of fun; although I some times have a race with the odd rat which, of course, I usually win hands down.
I like the countryside. It somehow makes me feel very content and fulfilled deep inside; a sort of cosy warm feeling of.... well.......’belonging’. That’s a good word for it!
Dad says we sheepdogs have a place in the country. He says we are “born to it”.
He says that man has made us what we are today; a well honed tool for looking after sheep, and man has done this by allowing the best sheep workers to breed and stopping dogs from breeding if they were bad with sheep.
Dad says that men call this ‘selective breeding’ and it means that the bit inside us that makes us good at herding sheep is strengthened with each new generation.
This ‘selective breeding’ has also made us sheepdogs very intelligent, hardy and strong.
We can keep ourselves warm in very cold weather and prefer to live outside and keep an eye on things. I get uncomfortable if I’m in a hot room with poor ventilation.
We are also filled with the need to be active and occupied. You might have noticed that some of us are often restless, pacing around, always looking for something to do.
I suppose it is because we are very intelligent and quick, that we can’t suffer fools gladly.
Dad says “it has to be a good man to earn my respect” and he goes on about how he could “never follow the guidance of a man who knows less than meself”.
“Might as well ignore fools that shout and bellow - make up your own mind and get t’ job done right”, Dad says. Most of his friends agree.
When I was born it was a cold windy night in late autumn.Winter was just around the corner and the first flakes of snow had already fallen on the high ground. It wasn’t cold enough to settle, but it was a taste of things to come.
Dad was out in the fields when Mum gave birth to us.There were five of us in all and I had two brothers, Sam and Patch, and two sisters, Mist and Fly, to keep me company.
Those first few weeks were the best time of my life. As soon as our eyes were open and we could stagger around on unsteady legs we played together; my brothers, sisters and myself.
Any excuse for a scrap in those days - all in fun, you understand
As we grew stronger we fought, we ran and we practised ‘the rounding up game’ on each other. The fights were good experience for times ahead and we soon learned how easily we could hurt each other - if we went too far.
Sometimes my biggest brother; who was a bit of a bully, threw his weight about but Mum was there to put him in his place and she looked after us all very fairly. I suppose we all learned a lot in those days
Mum was a good teacher. She taught us how to keep ourselves clean and showed us good manners in company.
She also taught us about man.
At first, the master and mistress were huge frightening creatures that crashed about in the byre; smelling so strongly of unfamiliar scents and making such an awful noise that we were all very frightened.
Mum showed us there was nothing to fear and that the master and the mistress meant us no harm. She showed us how we could trust them and pointed out that the food we ate came from them.
I’m glad mum was around to teach me that. Otherwise I think I would have been so frightened, I would have just bitten the master and ran away and hid.
My great uncle Mirk is always getting into trouble biting humans. Mum says he’s been very lucky, so far, and its only because he’s a good worker that he hasn’t come to grief over it.
Dad and Mum both agree (for a change) that its all due to his upbringing.
The story is that when he was a pup, he was taken away from his brothers and sisters at a very young age and no - one taught him good manners or trust.
He’s grown up knowing no better and although he gets on well enough with his master and mistress on the farm where he lives, he finds visitors and strangers frightening and wants to bite them first to warn them off, so they know not to come too close to him.
It must be horrible to live all your life in fear of strangers and visitors. Some can be really nice if you get to know them.
I’m glad I stayed with Mum long enough to learn not to be so frightened. Uncle Mirk misses so much in life - still , he seems happy enough, after all, he’s got his job and his sheep - what more can a Collie dog want?
My big brother Sam ( the bully ), has gone to live on a neighbouring farm and I still see him from time to time. He’s a bit of a stranger to me now and - although we both remember the days of fun and play fighting - life has become more serious.
We get on all right but there’s rivalry between us (as there often is with brothers).
Master was right when he decided to separate us. If we’d stayed together we’d have been so busy competing with each other that we may have ended up fighting for real.Fortunately ( thanks to Mum, Dad and the masters understanding of us dogs ), we all know our place in the pecking order and no trouble comes if we stick to what we know.Sam and my two sisters are happy enough.
Like me, they all have good jobs, good homes and a sense of fulfillment and purpose to life. We live and let live and mind our own business, enjoying each others company and playing when we meet.
My younger brother ‘Patch’ has not been so lucky. He was not interested in work at all.
Dad says he is a ‘throwback’; a dog with no instinct or purpose. Dad says he is a “disgrace to the breed” and wants to disown him but Mum says “no - its not his fault” - and blames it on his environment. Dad says “this time, your mother might be right” !
You see, when we were between 8 and 9 weeks old we were all separated from each other. Me (and big sister ‘Bess’) stayed on the farm. We get on famously.
Big brother ‘Sam’ and little sister ‘Fly’ went of to separate farms and new masters.
None of the farmers wanted Patch because he was no good with stock, so he went off to a family from a nearby town to be a pet and house dog.
Mum says “its not fair” - when he came back to visit after 3 months away he was a different dog! He was fat! He seemed to have forgotten all his manners and when he finally did calm down enough to speak to us, he said he was bored stupid.
He seemed to be under the impression that the sheep in the fields were there for his personal pleasure. He said he felt this irresistible urge to chase them but when he caught them he wasn’t sure what to do next - so - he just chased them all over again!
On one visit back home, Dad had to put him in his place when he tried to help himself from Dads food bowl, ( no-one has ever dared to do that before ).
Dad has earned his respect from the rest of us and we follow his leadership in all matters. He’s top dog.
Patch had forgotten all this. His new master puts food down for him to eat any time he wants. He assumes that all food bowls on the ground are his for the taking. He thinks he is the top dog in his household and he possibly is, but not back here on the farm.
Patch had also forgotten about that, but Dad soon reminded him. Unfortunately, Patch had also forgotten about good manners and about backing down to his superiors - so he answered back at first.
Dad got his point across in the end. That’s what happens if you work all your life and keep fit and agile. Dad may be grey in the muzzle and long in the tooth but even at 12 years of age he’s fit as a fiddle and strong as an ox, besides, long teeth often help in these situations.
Patch learned a sharp short lesson.
More noise than action but it worked.
His new master and my master were attracted by the commotion and came to see what it was all about.
Dad snapped at the air either side of Patch’s head - so fast it was a blur. Patch should have had the sense to back down there and then, but it took a quick nip to the leg and a good bite to the backside before he saw sense and gave in.
His master and mistress wanted to separate Dad and Patch but my master would not allow it. “Let ‘em get on with it” he said. “If they don’t sort it out themselves they’ll never learn”.
I noticed that he had got himself into a position to intervene if things got too bad, but he was right, us dogs often do sort these thing out better in our own way.
There was no hard feelings after the scrap. We dogs don’t bear grudges for long, especially in family - not like humans who seem to argue all the time (especially in family).
Patch comes to visit regularly, although his manners get worse each time.
On these visits Patch is always very excitable and nervous; like I am if I’m in a strange place that I find difficult to understand and cope with. Kind of restless and fretful.
He likes to tell us all about his new lifestyle and experiences. He always tells us about the people in the town where he lives and all the noises and activity.
“There’s plenty to chase in the town”, he says “cats, lorries, cars, bicycles, joggers, skateboarders, roller skaters, lots of other dogs and lots of people”.
He says there are loads of exciting smells and noises - so many, in fact, that he doesn’t know what to do next - there is so much going on around him.
He has to go everywhere on his lead because he gets so distracted he forgets to come back when he’s called. His new master had got so fed up with chasing him that he took him to the vets for an operation.
I don’t know the details, but it was called ‘the snip’ and Patch won’t talk about it.
It does seem to have made Patch grow even fatter.
That didn’t work because he still gets all confused, so they don’t let him loose at all now - except in the garden at his home.
The garden is quite small - only about 100ft by 40ft. Patch says he can’t get enough speed up to make running really fun.
Patch says he finds it very frustrating, being kept away from all those exciting smells, sounds and visions and claims that he is left indoors all day while his master and mistress go out and, worse still, he is not allowed to chase anything!!!
Well I ask you - a sheepdog that is not allowed to chase - its unnatural.
Dad says “no good will come of it - mark my words”. Mind you, Dad says that about a lot of things that frighten him - but this time I’m inclined to agree
You can see its not doing Patch any good at all. He was an amiable thug when he left the farm but now he is turning into a small time criminal, stealing and fighting.
Just like great uncle Mirk, patch has bitten several people. Its not that he doesn’t trust them - you understand - its just that he is so excited to meet a new person, he gets carried away and confused. People call him ‘unpredictable’ and scratch their heads and look puzzled when they talk about him.
He says he has no real pack leader to show him the way of things and guide him in life so he has to make decisions for himself - to protect his master and mistress from the dangers only he can see. They don’t seem to see the dangers and are seldom grateful.
Sometimes strangers show such bad manners when they come into his territory, he just has to nip them to put them in their place. On other occasions he lets them in but suddenly feels the need to nip them when they are trying to leave. He’s not a bad dog, its just that - well - he gets so confused that he doesn’t actually know what he is doing.
Young, noisy children really make him over excitedI heard his master say to my master - “he’s really a good dog - it’s only his working instinct showing through.
I’ll break him of that, given time”.
I’m glad I am with my master. I don’t want to be broken, like Patch. I want to live my life the way I was meant to. Simple pleasures bringing simple rewards so I can keep a clear head and sense of purpose with matters that are within my understanding. Matters I can cope with.
Intelligent and good looking I am, but I’m still just a country boy at heart.
I want all my sons and daughters to live in the country and learn the skills I have learned to go with my instincts. Dad says that’s what we’re here for, to get t’ job done right. To work.
A Border Collie is not an ornament nor good at being a hearth rug. If you humans want to live with one of my relatives you are going to have to do a lot of work as well !!!
That’s all for now. I expect i'll see you around folks !!! Byee. ------------------------ Shep xx