The Shepherd's Dog...

From Appletons’ School ReaderIntroductory Fourth Reader (page 205) As published in 1884

The Shepherd’s Dog

  1. The shepherd’s dog is remarkable for its intelligence and sagacity. Far up among the hills, as well as in the green valleys and lowlands, he may be seen guarding and watching his master’s sheep. All over the hills of Cumberland, the mountains of Wales and of Scotland, and in many other parts of the world, thousands of these valuable dogs are to be found. Without them it would be almost impossible to make use of mountain pasture lands.
  2. Not many years ago there lived a Scottish shepherd poet, called James Hogg, who tended his sheep among the green hills and sweetly-flowing streams of the south of Scotland. He had good means of studying the habits of the shepherd’s dog.
  3. He mentions that at one time he had a dog called Sirrah—a very extraordinary animal in managing a flock. One of his exploits was as follows: About seven hundred lambs, which were once under his care, broke away at midnight and scampered off in three divisions across the hills, in spite of all that the shepherd and an assistant lad could do to keep them together.
  4. “Sirrah, my dog,” cried the shepherd, in great distress, “they’re a’ awa’!” The night was so dark that he did not see Sirrah; but the faithful animal had heard his master’s words, and without more ado he silently set off in quest of the runaway flock.
  5. Meanwhile the shepherd and his companion did not fail to do all that was in their power to recover their lost charge. They spent the whole night in searching the hills for miles around; but of neither the lambs nor Sirrah could they obtain any trace.
  6. “It was the most wonderful thing,” says the poet, “that had ever occurred in the life of a shepherd. We had nothing for it (day having dawned) but to return to our master, and inform him that we had lost his whole flock of lambs—that we knew not what had become of one of them!”
  7. “On our way home, however, we discovered some of the lambs at the bottom of a deep hollow, and the faithful Sirrah standing in front of them, looking all around for some relief, but still true to his charge. The sun was then up, and, when we first came within sight of them, we thought that he had as least managed to recover a good number of the lambs.”
  8. “But what was our surprise when we discovered on counting them that not one lamb of the whole flock was wanting! How he had got them all gathered in the dark, I cannot tell. The charge had been left entirely to himself from midnight until the rising of the sun, and, if all the shepherds in the forest had been there to assist him, the work would not have been done so well. I never felt so grateful to any creature under the sun as I did that morning to my honest Sirrah.”
  9. Another strange story told of a shepherd’s dog is as follows: A gentleman sold a large flock of sheep to a dealer, who had not the men to drive them. The seller, however, told him he had a very sensible dog which he could send to assist him to a place about thirty miles off; and that, when he reached the end of his journey, he had only to feed him, and tell him to go home.
  10. The dog soon after got his orders, and set off with the flock and the drover. But he remained absent so many days that his master became very uneasy about him. One morning, however, to his great surprise, he found that the dog had returned with a very large flock of sheep, including the whole of that which he had lately sold!
  11. The fact turned out to be this: The drover had been so pleased with the dog that he had resolved to steal him, and had locked him up until he should be able to leave the country with him. The dog grew sulky, and made various attempts to escape. At last he succeeded; and, strange to say, went at once to the field, gathered the sheep, and drove them all back to his master!
  12. Wonderful, however, as the Scottish shepherd’s dog is, there is a dog in another part of the world more wonderful still, because it is itself the shepherd! In some parts of South America there are sheep dogs which are entrusted with the care of flocks without any master to direct them. They go out with the sheep early in the morning, of their own accord; and they keep beside them all day, driving away the birds of prey that would attack the lambs, and the wild dogs that sometimes came in packs to worry the sheep.
  13. In the evening they bring them home, taking great care by the way that none of the lambs are too tired to keep up with the flock. If they become tired, and begin to lag behind, the dog shepherd will go and fetch them, one by one, carrying them gently in his mouth, until they are safe in the fold.
  14. The means taken to train these dogs to their work are curious. A little pup is brought, before its eyes are open, to a female sheep, and is fed by her several times a day. A wooly nest is made within the sheep pen, and the little stranger is laid within it; so that, when it creeps out, and begins to play, it has no other companions than the lambs of the fold. They thus become its brothers and sisters. As the animal grows up its delight is to be always with them to watch and protect them.

***I loved this as soon as I read it in an old primer/reader. What fun to share stories from so long ago!** Hope you enjoyed this little snippet! We love our dogs so much and without our crew of Great Pyrenees dogs, I would never sleep. The bad guys (coyotes) come too close to our farm, but no worries when the Pyrs are on guard... Smooches from the sheep- have a great weekend! Jim & Sandy Ryan ...where sheep may safely graze.