Sunday, March 9, 2008

The shepherd's biggest fear!

I experienced something this week for the first time that all shepherds dread. Dogs attacked my sheep on Thursday and it was a day long nightmare. I first heard frantic barking while in my house in the back bedroom at a little after 11:00. I quickly acted and took my sheepdog Whisky with me to the sheep paddock behind the house. What did I confront but the neighbor's two huge, black dogs that had managed to jump the woven-wire fence? I was shocked to see they were leaping on the backs of the pregnant ewes! My own dog barked frantically at them and the fearful intruders jumped back out of the enclosure like deer. It amazed me that my own dog's barking frightened the attacking pair into leaving the so abruptly! I am so grateful as I have no idea how I would have wrestled two dogs off the backs of the sheep in the enclosure. The next thing I knew the rogue dogs had rounded the back of the horse paddock behind the sheep shed and had fled to the front of my property. They then very suddenly crossed the main road. The pair ran down the other neighbor's drive to their sheep barn and were barking frantically at the flock of Jacob sheep penned there.

I turned around and quickly ran back inside my house and called 911. The dispatcher had me call the local town building which I did before going back outside. The clerk asked me to try to catch the dogs so I then pursued the dogs onto the neighbor's farm but they fled again right past me and back across the road and up my drive. I was finally able to corner them against a gate and catch the shaggy, smaller one. Then the broad-headed ,bigger dog surrendered and let me take him by the collar. I took the heavy chain hanging from the bigger dog's neck and threaded it though both dog's collars and then dragged them inside my enclosed poultry yard. By this time I was really exhausted. I tied them to a fence post with the chain and went in to call the township again as I had been instructed to do if I got the dogs. I somehow managed to force the dogs into big wire crates I use to move lambs and then let the town know they were ready to be taken away. After some time passed the assistant animal control officer finally called me but only to tell me it simply was not convenient for him to come out right now. He told me that since I had the dogs trapped and the sheep were not dead I should hold the dogs until late in the day when the main dog catcher got off work! Now I was really getting upset because I wanted the dogs off my property and the situation resolved. 

Now these mixed breed dogs that got in with the sheep were very young. They were no older than 9 months in age. They were probably too young and silly to really understand they could bring down a sheep and tear it apart. The real danger to my sheep was them being so frightened and upset they would spontaneously abort their lambs. The other main risk was that the ewes would injure themselves trying to escape the attack by trying to get out of the fenced yard. Heavily pregnant sheep can go into shock under situations like this. I can tell you had I not been here I am almost certainly would have had dead sheep to deal with on returning home. As it turned out, this women who owned the dogs latter admitted to the Humane society she had not been out to feed or water the dogs for over 12 hours and that she was not staying in this residence right now. Those poor dogs huddled day after day on one chain joining their heads tightly together in a small, un-insulated doghouse in the worst weather with no food or water most of the time.

-So back to the story, I was not getting the help from the township and I really needed to talk to someone and find out what my rights as a farmer were as well as where I stood on prosecuting the owners of the dogs which had been allowed to run loose by the owner on many occasions before this. My husband was out of town and it was no use to contact him. So another hour or so latter in disgust I called and asked for help from the local sheriffs dept. They referred me to the Humane society and put in the call for me to the person who followed up on complaints. Then I had to wait some more before the Humane Society could respond. It was frustrating because as the day warmed the snow all thawed and melted away and then most of the tracks left by the dogs were obliterated. Most of the evidence of the attack was now gone. My sheep had now calmed down after 6 hours and it was simply hard to make anyone see what a frightening situation I had been in.

The Humane Society sent out a representative to talk to me about the situation at about 3:00 in the afternoon to see if they could pursue prosecuting the case as an animal cruelty situation. My only other recourse in getting the problem solved so the dogs would not be back over here would have been to have a dangerous dog case brought against the owner in town court as there is not a leash law in this rural township. At last the dog catcher came out after 5:00 and the owner was traced and came around as well.  The situation was tense and I went in my house to let the town and Humane Society work out with the owner what would then happen. With a lot of push from the Humane Society the owner agreed to surrender the dogs to the Humane society rather than pay fines for the dogs not being licensed or inoculated for rabies.

I will put up some wire above the current fence soon so no other dogs will be able to get over my sheep fence. Twentythree years I have kept sheep here and never have I had dogs get in with the sheep. I do have guard donkeys but they do not stay with the sheep at lambing time. For now I can relax and know the intruding dogs are being fed at the shelter and that they will never return to my area to worry my sheep again. Tonight the snow is falling in large flakes and its very quiet and the wood stove burns bright. I will have a another cup of tea and go back out to check on the ewes one more time and then turn in.


Anonymous said...

A terrifying day for you Beth but all came out OK in the end.

Happy lambing

Mike & Lorraine

Gimmer said...

Thank you. I think higher fence is the only answer because I won't get any help keeping rogue dogs by the system that is for sure.

Gimmer said...

That should say keeping out. I best get a nap.

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