In “normal” times during the summer months if you spend anytime in Scotland you have the opportunity to watch in awe the sheepdog trials or if attending some Highland Gatherings fall in love with both sheep and collie dogs! The working sheep dog displays amazing concentration in the job at hand working with amazing partnership with the handler. In honor of those sheep dog trials and Highland Games that will not be happening this summer due to Covid 19 let me share with you two poems. The first written by Edinburgh poet the late Norman MacCaig (1910-1996) whose habit was to spend every summer in Sutherland, Scotland. The second poem is by W.H.Davies (1871-1940) a Welsh poet, whose life story is an amazing story worth pondering in itself, another time perhaps! Take a moment and give thanks for the blessing of pets.
Praise of a Collie
She was a small dog, neat and fluid —
Even her conversation was tiny:
She greeted you with bow, never bow-wow.
Her sons stood monumentally over her
But did what she told them. Each grew grizzled
Till it seemed he was his own mother’s grandfather.
Once, gathering sheep on a showery day,
I remarked how dry she was. Pollóchan said, ‘Ah,
It would take a very accurate drop to hit Lassie.’
And her tact — and tactics! When the sheep bolted
In an unforeseen direction, over the skyline
Came — who but Lassie, and not even panting.
She sailed in the dinghy like a proper sea-dog.
Where’s a burn? — she’s first on the other side.
She flowed through fences like a piece of black wind.
But suddenly she was old and sick and crippled …
I grieved for Pollóchan when he took her for a stroll
And put his gun to the back of her head
When I was once in Baltimore
A man came up to me and cried,
” Come, I have eighteen hundred sheep,
And we will sail on Tuesday’s tide.
If you will sail with me, young man,
I’ll pay you fifty shillings down;
These eighteen hundred sheep I take
From Baltimore to Glasgow town. “
He paid me fifty shillings down,
I sailed with eighteen hundred sheep;
We soon had cleared the harbour’s mouth,
We soon were in the salt sea deep.
The first night we were out at sea
Those sheep were quiet in their mind;
The second night they cried with fear —
They smelt no pastures in the wind.
They sniffed, poor things, for their green fields,
They cried so loud I could not sleep:
For fifty thousand shillings down
I would not sail again with sheep
Today I turn to words which are attributed or influenced by St. Francis, the Patorn saint for animals.
Prayer for my Pet
In Your infinite wisdom,
Lord God, when You created the Universe
You blessed us with all living creatures.
We especially thank You for giving us our pets
who are our friends and
who bring us so much joy in life.
Their presence very often helps us get through trying times.
Kindly bless my pet.
May my pet continue giving me joy
and remind me of Your power. Amen
One thought on “Sheep dogs!”
Ah yes, Sheep Dogs! Loyal, attentive, hard working, loving companions! Among my family of farmers, sheep dogs of one sort or another are included; Jo, Henry, Bently, Claire, Kahn, Bonnie, Laddie and Lassie. They are generally pleasant, happy dogs, both inside the house or in the barns, or exploring in the fields. Their work however, is always that of companion and watchdog rather than active herders, although they seem to try whether cars, people or livestock.
I was touched by a story on the local news this week about an organization that seeks out homeless individuals who have companion pets so that the animals can have food and fresh water available when provisions are also given to the pets’ owners. While some people object to this distribution of resources, compassion for these animals is completely appropriate in my way of thinking.
The poems are fun! Thankfully there are less violent means for bringing a dog’s life to an end, and I would never, ever want to sail with sheep onboard! They stink!
I am immensely grateful for pets in my life, past and present, and the comfort they bring us. Thank you Edward for reminding me that they are totally worth the time, expense and effort!