Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sailor, DUCK!!

Sailor here.

Sheep. I love sheep. I love the way they smell and the way they bleat. I love the way they feel, all squishy when I run into them. I love the way they trot away from me and I love the way they tend to flock together. I love sheep.

Mom says that in actuality, it’s birds of a feather that flock together and this morning she set off in the dog car to show me what she meant. We drove a million carsick miles to the ocean side of our foothills and pulled into a gas station.

“Mom,” I burped from my crate in the back of the Volvo. “Couldn’t we have just gone to the gas station near our house? My tummy hurts.”

Mom laughed.

“I’ve got a surprise for you. Hang in there, goof-ball.”

I lay down again and closed my eyes. When the road finally straightened out, so did my tummy, my drool dried on my ruff, and I began to smell sheep. I whined in anticipation. We came to a post office and turned down a small bumpy road. We drove another million miles to the sheep corrals.

I was in seventh heaven. Sheep!

“Sailor,” Mom said, “Today we are going to herd ducks.”

Ducks? Why ducks? They smell like birds, swear like sailors (yeah, I know), they slap their webby feet on the ground and shake their booties in my face. Yuck! I am not fond of ducks.

Ducks do not flock together, no matter what anybody says about their feathers. When I tried to gather them up, they just stood there and swore at me. I walked slowly to begin driving them, and they didn’t move. They quacked and looked at me, first from one side of their puffy little heads, then from the other. When I finally got them moving, they didn’t run to Mom for protection, shouting, “Wolf! Wolf!” like sheep do. No, they ran around and tried to find their way back to the barn. Bother.

I learned that if I came too close or moved too fast, these pesky ducks went every which way, some heading north and others heading east. I tried to circle them, but they just didn't get it. Again and again, the flock split itself into noisy bunches that waddled around and called me names that just aren’t appropriate for a gentleman collie’s ears. I didn’t get it and they were not helping me out in the least.

Mom then took me in hand and made me move slowly from farther away than I thought was proper. She must have said something to the ducks, too, because they suddenly stopped flapping their feet and settled down into the semblance of a group, waddling away from the both of us.

I got between Mom and the ducks and smiled suddenly as I realized that I was actually driving them. They never shut their beaks, though, and they talked to each other and to me throughout the whole ordeal.

So there we were, all of us together, finally ambling along the fence line when disaster struck. As we marched over a small patch of weeds, one puffy-headed Rogue Duck caught his webby little toes on a tuft of grass and tripped. He rolled over in the mud trying to get back on an even keel, but his keel bone struck a small stick and he did a sudden Full Twisting Tsukahara right under my collie nose. Yikes! I had to leap into the air to avoid stomping him and did my own Full Twisting Tsukahara.

Dramatically, decidedly, and irrevocably did I split the flock. What a mess. The Rogue Duck picked himself up, calling me terrible names. Mom laughed so hard I thought she was going to join Rogue in the mud. All the other ducks started flapping and running and quacking around Mom and me. The Rogue Duck refused to return to the safety of his own kind. He wouldn’t flock. He ran around until he found a soft spot near the water trough and sat down, rudely shaking his tail feathers at me.

By this time, the rest of the ducks had decided that they were not going to meet with such an embarrassing fate and settled down to watch how I was going to handle this one really detestable duck. Keeping an eye on them, I barked at Rogue to get him on his disgusting yellow feet. He just sat there. I moved closer and barked louder. Finally he stood.

“Okay,” I thought, “This is going to be okay.”

I barked again, but he just stared at me with his beady little eyes and opened his orange beak and said rude things. I barked a salvo of barking. He didn’t move. I finally lurched forward right into his face and gave him a poke with my nose. He moved back half a step. I punched him again. He moved back another half step.

“This will take all day,” I concluded. What a stubborn duck.

So I did what I can only describe as an act of absolute desperation. I grabbed him by the neck and shoved him toward his brothers.

He flocked.

By now I was drooling with exertion. Mom calmly placed herself behind me and told me to proceed slowly. The ducks started up again, but the Rogue Duck lagged behind, then turned to face me and quacked nasty things under his fowl breath.

“Oh no you don’t!” I panted and grabbed him by the neck again.

He quickly joined his brothers, looking back at me and quacking loudly. When he started to lag, a quick “yip” kept him in line. As a matter of fact, now that we had all our ducks in a row, herding ducks became almost fun. We drove the ducks along the fence until Mom called me to her and gave me a big hug.

“Well done, Sailor,” grinned Mom. She snapped my leash onto my collar, patted my nose, and squished out the In Gate with me in tow.

For the first time, I noticed how muddy the ground was in certain spots. I noticed that the stream along the cottonwood trees was running merrily and that the llama was standing on the hillside amidst his family of puffy sheep. The clouds were as white and soft looking as newly shorn wool, and the air smelled like springtime and the sea.

Maybe next time, I will be able to herd sheep and leave those pesky ducks to the Shelties.
Photograph by David Castor, Eslov, Sweden

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