The Wooly Fire Brigade
Page 2

On a recent day I decided to join the flock while they were grazing the section below the giant flag on C-Hill. Sheep start their day at the crack of dawn, following their natural inclination to move uphill and immediately begin grazing. I have no problem with the crack-of-dawn part, but the moving uphill conflicts with my natural inclination to stay downhill. I really had to remind myself to do as the sheep do when in sheepland.

About half way up the hill and within 15 feet of

 

the nearest sheep, I encountered Gringo, the flock's guard dog. Gringo is a Great Pyrenees, as tall as a full grown sheep and almost as wooly. He very gently put one paw on my shoulder, conveying the message that I am about as close to the sheep as he is willing to tolerate. He is very friendly in this situation, though, even accepts petting. But the paw stays firmly on my shoulder until the sheep have moved away far enough for Gringo to consider me no longer a threat.

Suddenly the sheep reverse direction and start moving downhill toward their bedding ground again. The herders, Arcadio and his son Umberto, had left their camp trailers and found the sheep where they're not supposed to be. So they sent their three sheep dogs, Guero, Chappo and Miki, to round up the herd and move it to the foot of the hill, the area that needs to be grazed today.

The sheep dogs, Border Collies in this case, only herd the flock, but do not protect the animals from predators and generally leave them alone when grazing. The guard dog, on the other hand, constantly mingles with the sheep and moves along wherever they go.

Sheep can get their drinking water from morning dew on the grass, or from a stream. However, with neither one present in the hills west of Carson City, it has to be trucked in. Two large troughs near the parking lot on McKay Drive and several oversized plastic buckets on the bedding ground have to be replenished daily. Sheep can be picky about what they drink and may refuse water that is contaminated with scum or algae.

Looking at hundreds of sheep at the troughs, kicking up dust while either drinking or waiting their turn, one may feel like being in Australia or

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