Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Lady needs a job. Sometimes I forget that German Shepherds were bred to work, but then she'll do something to remind me about her genetics. It will come through in the way she checks on everyone when we're out for a hike. She'll run ahead and sniff the dog in the lead, and I can almost see the thought bubbles over her head....
"Are you okay up here in the front?"
"Okay, I'm going to drop back and check on the ones in the back."
Back and forth she'll go, checking on everyone. She falls into a normal pace for 5 minutes, but then breaks away to check on everyone again. Unfortunately, most of the time there isn't a thing in the world for her to do. Truth be told, none of us here need herding, although I would never tell her that.
I did put her skills to use yesterday morning, when the turkeys would not properly respond to my encouragement to leave the bird feeder area. They sauntered off about 10 paces (and "saunter" really is the only way to describe how these massive turkeys move), and looked at me. Patient birds, turkeys. We've done this before. They wait until I go back inside, and then resume eating all the expensive seed I put out for the songbirds. Now granted, turkeys are technically birds. But these birds are not hurting for food. It's a wonder their skinny little legs can hold up their big fat turkey bodies.
After several failed attempts at verbal encouragement, hand waving, and foot stomping ("Shoo! Right now! I mean it!"), I let Lady out. Thrilled to be needed, she rocketed up the back stairs and within seconds had all the turkeys out of the yard. It is an amazing thing to watch a dog do what it was bred to do. She knows exactly where the property line is - even though we are rarely up on that back hill - and she knows that I don't want her to chase down the turkey and hurt it, I just want it out of OUR yard. That was impressive enough, and then there was last night.
At 6:30 pm, I was still downstairs in my office working on the computer when I heard the familiar sound of big dog feet tap-tap-tapping down the wooden stairs. I glanced over and greeted Lady as she came into the room. But no happy greeting in return, she was all business. She sat down next to my chair and fixed me with the intense "Lady stare," a look she gets when she is trying to beam some thought into my mind. It was pretty intense and since I was basically finished with work, I shut down the computer and followed her up the stairs.
I asked if they were ready for dinner, and of course they always are. But that didn't quite seem like it. I asked "Does anyone need to go out?" and yes - that was it. Only this time it wasn't just your average, okay we'll all go out. When I opened the sliding door, Katie came across the room like a speeding bullet, launching herself from the dining room and sailing over the threshold (as in, airborne). She raced to the closest grass and squatted. Lady went along to supervise, and then came back with her, while Lucky waited in the kitchen. Slowly it dawned on me. Lady came downstairs to get me because Katie had to go out. Holy cow.
It made me wonder what this dog could do, if I had a job for her and knew how to train her. Does anyone have a herd of sheep we could borrow?