Yesterday was the day I had to go to the feed store. Usually I take Rainey, Nan and Tess. But earlier when I was working from home, Tess laid next to my feet. She would give a heavy sigh now and then and I would reach down and pet her. Then she would lay her head on my feet and take a nap.
I looked at her broad head on my feet and noticed that her muzzle had even gotten more gray and while hair were starting to appear more on her backside. Her tidy paws were beginning to spay outwards and her snores were deep and loud.
My work shift ended and Nan and Rainey leaped up with joy as they knew that I was going to do something. Tess struggled to her feet and looked deeply into my eyes. I walked to the office and crated Nan and Rainey and called Tess. She ran to the front door, her tail whipping in joy and bouncing up and down in delight. I slowly walked down to the barn perhaps to let her keep up with me but in this case, she bolted up and down the driveway, trying to figure out what my plan was to be. As I headed towards the truck, she raced to the driver’s side, barked and jumped up to be let in the truck. Her ancient body did not show her age as she leaped in the cab and she hovered over my shoulder as I warmed up the truck.
As I drove, her bright eyes were gleaming with joy as she knew we (meaning her and I) were off to an adventure with no other dogs. I opened the door at the feed store and she raced to the door. Tess has been going to the feed store for over ten years and knows the routine well. We stroll the aisle way while I pile items in my cart. She picks her pig ear out of the treat bin and it goes in the cart. Lastly, she does tricks for the counter help and gets quite a few dog biscuits. Then on the drive home, she gets to eat her pig's ear.
She enjoys this special time and I don’t begrudge her. She has deserved her retirement and her special treatment. Of course, she got special treatment well before her retirement. She doesn’t have a princess attitude but is a honest down to earth type of dog.
We got home, the sun had burst through the clouds, and it seemed like a good time to let the ewes and lambs out to tend on the front lawn. Tess has been my tending dog and I briefly thought of using another dog. However, I knew her days would be limited before she would lose her hearing or sight and not be able to help at all. Her hearing still is quite good and she can see well. Stiffness is what gets her now.
I opened the gate and sent her and she scooped up the flock and put them on the lawn. A few silly lambs ran back to the shed and I walked off to do chores and told her to bring them. I put away the purchased items and about ten minutes walked back out. She has brought out the silly lambs, put them with the ewes on the front lawn, and took up her position on the porch. She knows the boundary on the front lawn and makes sure the sheep do not cross that line. The boundary is that the sheep cannot go to the back lawn, on the driveway or near the pond pasture.
I saw on the front porch and watched the old dog at work. She would lay next to me on the porch and when an ewe or lamb would get near the boundary, she would softly slip off the porch and tuck them in. Then head back to the porch and wait. The sun kept us warm and she began to doze off.
Her snores were loud and one ewe tried to sneak down to the pond. Her head snapped to full alert and she began to climb off the porch. The ewe raced back into the flock. She went back to sleep. I leaned back into the porch post and began to rub her belly. One eye slowly opened then closed and she rolled over so I could get more of her belly to rub.
It was like old times; when we were in our both youth, full of life and vigor. She knew her job and did it well and I watched hundreds years of genetics at its finest. Now both of us are older and slower but still know our jobs. Tess was my right hand and now in her retirement is still my right hand.
It was a fine day for both of us to relive our youth and spend our time together as I know one day it will no longer be so and that pains me. Tess has shaped me and shown me how to manage my flock. It’s not all about racing about but proper placement. Even though she appears to be asleep on the porch, the sheep know she is not and she is in command and not I. It is as it should be.
As the day ended, we walked up to the house and she snuggled next to me on the couch. She fell asleep with her head on my pillow, I rubbed her paws, and she never moved. Soon her snores filled her air and her legs twitched as if she was tucking in that wayward ewe from the afternoon and I gave her an absentminded pat on the head. A few minutes later, she woke up enough to drag herself forward so head was in my lap and I began to write my blog. Just like old times and I hope we have many more.
It was an old dog day for both Tess and I and it felt good to be partners with her again.