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Teaching an old dog new tricks ….

I’ve been in recovery mode for the last couple of weeks following the involuntary dismount from my equine friend Benjamin Button, (BBB as he has been known for since my most recent dust up with the shingle – Big Brown Bastard) . The ankle is healing, and I have moved into a moon boot for the next 4 weeks.

What a pain in the arse that is. It might be alright for a city slicker to be sifting about in a moon boot on the concrete but let me tell you it’s not ideal on my 5 acres of paradise following 40 mm of rain deemed to be dry country – Particulary as I am about to start lambing.

Who the hell lambs in July I’m hearing the cockys among you say! Sheep are so much work and increasing my numbers last year was purely a commercial decision (as commercial as it can be on 5 acres!) I run a small flock of Dorper sheep these days which aren’t as common in NZ as a good old Romney or Perendale but after much research I decided they were a good choice for this productive piece of prime real estate. The Dorper is a breed of sheep that was developed back In the 1930’s by the South African Department of Agriculture which had good lambing percentages and produce a high quality carcass. It is a cross of the Dorset Horn and a Blackhead Persian which resulted in the Black headed and the White Dorper. They generally lamb three times over the course of two years and shed their wool and because of the limited space I have to conduct my operation the fact that they are much smaller than those boof head romneys , I reasoned I could handle them better and they might eat less. They are bred for the dry country, and I was sure they would thrive under my care. They have done generally, but I never counted on it being so wet and as I look out from my deck, I see a few of them limping about as a result of the scald or footrot they are prone to and it’s doing my head in. Normally I would wrestle the affected animal to the ground and deal to the problem with a can of tetravet and pair of trimmers but the moonboot has made tasks like that a bit risky.

I used to have a young fellow on call just down the road when I needed another labour unit about the place, but he moved on just prior to the winter so I need to hatch another plan. I hate asking for help so after much deliberation with myself and the unruly terrier, I’ve decided to get a heading dog to join the family . I can see the eye rolls already from those of you who know me but hear me out.

Dogs are a bit like horses these days and go for quite good dough if they work? How hard can that be I have thought in the dead of night while tossing up the pros and cons of another mouth to feed during the cost-of-living crisis that is engulfing us all? Surely to Christ , I can instill a set of sides and a stop into a dog and get it to work for me? I have trained a couple of kids, the odd horse and for years have been heard to say “Id sooner have a dog than a bloke because at least I could get it to work for me!”

So I’m putting my money where my mouth is now and I’m on the lookout for a highly intelligent pup, that looks good, runs on fresh air, costs bugger all and is super trainable. I have aspirations of going dog trailing now and mingling amongst a plethora of old blokes in moleskins and aertex shirts eager to impart their knowledge onto a damsel desperate to learn the art such as myself. It’s a win win situation I tell myself. My flock of dorper sheep will provide the perfect training ground for the potential new entrant and in turn I will have a reliable worker that is sure to assist with a round up or catch if required.

Children like animals are great levelers and when I discussed this new plan with my daughter she warned me of the likelihood of an exercise in humiliation when I finally get to the dog trials and realise that my skills have in fact trained the dorper sheep and not the dog! I will not be deterred though, excited by the fact that it must be less risky than my other passion of horses and the thought of learning something new.

I headed off to the library yesterday and armed with a couple of” how to “books am thinking of what sort of flash dog whistle I will be able to get as my latest fashion accessory. I might even go as far as getting one of those all-wool pullovers from the deep south to match my moleskins and I’m on the lookout for a walking stick to wave about directing my new canine as we make our debut.

I’m dreaming of a summer in the high country, riding a horse that recently broke my ankle and a heading dog that salutes on command.

Watch this space…..


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