Every successful operation has its vital core and this here is ours. Meet Jessie, the worst shepherding shepherd on the planet. When we move our sheep, we actually stop first to ascertain that he is, indeed, in the house so will not lay ruin to our perfect plans. He has managed to chase sheep nearly all the way to the road, get stepped on, separate babies from mamas, and have a couple nasty surprise encounters with our very annoyed ram.
No, a lean, mean sheep-herding machine he is not. In fact, he's none of those things. He's just turned 9 years old, is about 20 pounds overweight, and we're pretty sure he's about 75% blind in both eyes. Unfortunately, his hearing is excellent. Extreme near-sightedness coupled with keen auditory capabilities in a breed of dog trained to protect translates roughly into a lot of scared-poopless visitors. So, people who don't know him might beg to differ with the "mean" part.
The phrase "bark is worse than his bite" was coined for our Jessie. He truly is harmless unless directly threatened, but wow can he put on a show. He nearly caused the expiration of an elderly neighbor this past summer who had the poor timing to stroll softly up our long driveway one afternoon when Jessie was in an unusually deep nap. In her mid-to-late 70s, she'd come to inquire after our salad greens when she'd noticed our cooler and sign from earlier in the day had been put away.
Long story short, she surprised Jessie, who in turn really, really surprised her. I burst out of the house in pajamas to coach her on staying calm too late to stop her from backing up into the electric sheep fence. Which caused even more screaming, which confused and aggravated Jessie, which....well, you get the picture.
A thousand apologies, a glass of water, and a big bag of salad greens on the house and we parted (and remain) friends, but whew! I've since nailed a sign advertising the presence of our Australian Shepherd at the base of the driveway and try to keep an even closer eye than before for visitors, but every now and then Jessie gets the chance to prove his protective mettle.
So, one might be forgiven for asking just why we keep this blue-eyed trouble-maker around. The answer is, overactive bark glands and underactive shepherding instincts aside, he's one great farm dog. While other farms on the island lost most or all of their laying flocks, we hung on to each and every beautiful hen. He doesn't tolerate raccoons and he insists on harmony across the land. The cats are not allowed to torment the hens or even each other (that last being an extremely tall order). He watches over me like a hawk, and while grumpy about the attention-sharing piece, extends his scope of responsibility to cover Dylan as well.
He's also part of the family - the only one with any good breeding among us.