Counting sheep doesn't help you sleep

By Rachel Wise

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Rachel Wise
Rachel Wise

I know there are people who will argue . . . they will tell me of sheep that come when they are called, sit, stay, do tricks and rescue people from burning buildings.

To those people I say those aren't real sheep. Real sheep run away when called, unless you're trying to send them away in which case they will run you over. Real sheep lie down on their backs instead of sitting, then they get stuck and can't get up and they die.

The only trick a real sheep can do is to run through a fence like it's invisible, then acknowledge that it is indeed a fence, and it can't possibly come back through it because - well, it's a fence.

A real sheep would never rescue you from a burning building. It would bleat something about how you roasted uncle Bart and served him with spuds, so there, and it would leave you to it.

Anyone who claims to have a clever sheep needs to make very sure that haven't just allowed the dog to get a bit hairy and missed a few optician's appointments.

The lambs I have been painstakingly bottle feeding this spring have finally been weaned.
It was hard, not because of their pleading little sheepy faces at the gate, nor the incessant shouting about starvation, cruelty and lamb abandonment I was having to endure every morning at not-lamb-breakfast time.

It was hard because the path from the paddock gate to the chook-house became a solid wall of immense and woolly sheep-shapes, both of them blocking my way, stomping on my feet and pushing and shoving to get to bottles that I kept explaining to them just weren't there.

By the time I stopped feeding them the lambs were too tall to step over and too wide to step around so the trip to feed the chooks took on epic proportions.

I'd plot a course to the chook run only to be buffeted north by Fluffy, then tackled by Stuffy and veering south by southwest. Regrouping, I'd find myself heading for the creek at an oblique angle, before a shoulder-charge from Fluffy would send me veering out of control towards the bonfire pile.

The poor chooks would be peering out, watching their pellets, vege scraps and toast crusts hurtling about the paddock in all the wrong directions.

I was sure that the lambs would eventually realise bottle feeding was no longer on the menu.

But when?

A week went by, two . . . I'd tried hiding until they were looking the other way and then sprinting. Then remembered I don't do running. I'd tried feeding the chooks earlier, under cover of darkness, but it seems sheep can see in the dark.

I was contemplating driving down the road and coming in through the neighbour's.

Then last Tuesday, suddenly, I wasn't mugged.

I was so delighted that I almost swung the chook bucket and skipped. But from past experience that's risky while wearing gumboots.

I fed the chooks and, unhurt and unhassled, walked back to the gate.

Still no lambs.

This had gone from a delightful surprise to a nasty suspicion.

Sure enough, a bit of squinting and a head count revealed too few sheep in my paddock, and two too many at the neighbour's place.

For reasons known only to - well, nobody as sheep don't have reasons - the wee tykes had gone through the fence.

Thankfully there is a gate through to next door's paddock.

It's a handy gate to have, as it's frequently used to get their sheep and my sheep back on to the correct sides of the fence, plus the occasional cow and, once, Philip the miniature horse when he was invited over for a birthday party.

I didn't think it would take long to perform a lamb retrieval, as of course I had a secret weapon. I had what they wanted. I had . . . lamb bottles.

So I whipped inside and retrieved the battered softdrink bottles from the cupboard and the lamb teats from the drawer.

I tipped a bit of milk in each bottle, but I didn't bother to warm it as I decided they didn't deserve the full deluxe treatment.

Confidently I marched paddock-wards and presented my secret weapons towards the lambs.

They took one look and walked away.

I headed them off and re-presented the bottles.

"Hey, look, I have your milk."

Lambs about-faced and walked off again.

I shook the bottles, I cajoled, I enticed.

Nope. Lambs are now weaned, it seems.

I had to chase them - did I mention I don't do running?

So you folk with the smart sheep - take a look under that fleece and if you do actually have a sheepdog in disguise, may I borrow it?

• Rachel Wise is Hawke's Bay Today's associate editor.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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