So I did a herding demonstration at a Christian camp and had a sheep run away mid demonstration and not return. That’s the synopsis. Here’s the full tale of misadventure.
Back in May, I was invited to do a herding demonstration at a family fun day at Camp Chestermere. It was something that I was actually quite keen on considering I had gone to the camp as a kid and my ego loves the spotlight. After talking to the event organizers, they told me I would need to bring my own panels and set up my own pen for the demonstration. That was no problem for me at all since we have several panels at the farm that we use and are super easy to transport. So we loaded the sheep, dogs, panels, and family and left for what we hoped would be an exciting day. When we got there, there was a slight inconvenience with where I had to park the trailer. Specifically, I could not back up directly to the area I would have my pen. This wasn’t a huge deal but it did mean I would have to physically drag the sheep to my demo pen rather than simply open the trailer and unload. “Why didn’t you herd them in?” Great question, there were several volunteers all around and I simply didn’t like the risk of any sheep getting away from my dog. So I dragged them. Once I started, all was well. I only would get the odd family come here and there and I would give a brief explanation of the sport and work my dog for not quite a minute. I did have the unforeseen trouble of the slow death of my voice but God hates a coward so I soldiered on. As I was answering a families questions, I look around to see my first real crowd of the day. Something like 20 or 30 people giving me their complete attention. It was the moment I had been waiting for. I proceeded to give what I thought was an excellent clinic on starting a dog. Saying things like “once you master this, you move onto to this” and so on. Finally I say “and when that is all mastered, it looks a little something like this.” As I’m saying this, I am tying up my young dog to grab the older and I see over my shoulder a true worst case scenario. One of the sheep, startled by my adoring fans, took it upon herself to jump my panels and exit the pen. I quickly finish tying up my dog and open up the panels to try and encourage her to come back to her friends. It almost worked too, but as she approached, she looked up and saw the crowd again. She turned and started to run. I wasn’t exactly panicking at first since I thought “we’re in the middle of a camp, where could she go?” Wrong thought. I close the panels and untie my old dog and say with total showmanship “ladies and gentlemen, you are about to see some real practical dog work” as I swaggered out of the pen. Now where my pen was, was very near the lake itself and from there, the camp sat on the side of a hill as the land rose away from the water. At the top of the hill was the main camp building where you’d have meals and such. That is the last building before the highway and the town of Chestermere itself. That was exactly where the sheep was heading. As I’m swaggering up the hill after her, I see my wife standing by the main building. She yells “Kier, she’s running away!” And points to the dreaded highway. Panic then finds me. I run past her and come onto the road watching her run into town. I follow hot on her heels (sort of hot on her heels, I’m not fat just lovably pudgy) and see her turn into a development area. The area was overgrown with weeds and fenced on three sides. With confidence reserved for the chronically stupid, I stand next to the fence with the highway at my back and send my dog to bring me this sheep. Once he gets behind her she takes off right at me. I lay my dog down for fear that her would chase her by me. Was she nears I lunge at her and miss completely. As she runs back at the road I send my dog after her but call him back almost immediately as she runs back onto the road around all the traffic. I start running after again and am lucky to find an ally in a man in a convertible Camaro with two kids in the back. “She went that way.” He says and points down a fork in the road. I thank him and head after her. As I turn the corner I see a garage sale and a gentleman yells from his formerly boring sale “did you lose a goat?” I respond “a she… whatever, yes”. “She ran through here” and he points to his back yard. When I run through his sale and into his yard, I see his yard is not in fact fenced. He backs onto the inlet canal for the lake itself. And in that canal, about 20 feet across, is my sheep swimming to the other side. Sheep don’t swim. They barely like to go through puddles. I see a bridge about five houses down and my Camaro ally is blocking the sheep on the highway that lies beyond the canal. In a desperate sprint, I head for the bridge hoping I can somehow catch her on it. I look back to Camaro guy and see that he let the sheep past him into another development area. This one still has a large amount of bush and thick trees around it and I see my sheep seek shelter in those trees. As I walk into the area, I see it is a sort of pie shape. Framed in by thick trees and fence on one side and pied off with a set of train tracks that crosses the highway. I look into the bush and see tracks in the gravel where the sheep got onto the train tracks. I come up onto the train tracks and look around. What I did not see was a sheep.
Now there is a part two to this story and I encourage people to look out for the next blog that will be called “The recovery”. To give away the ending a bit, I eventually found the sheep. That’s a whole other story for another day so stay tuned.