Three introductions, if I may:
The first is to Jenny Morton, Professor of Neurobiology, of the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, in England. I asked her if a ewe could recognize her offspring — or a sheep its mother — after a period of time, say, five years. She replied “Yes, I am sure they can recognize their dam — and other sheep as well.” She has been studying a flock in Australia and the data, as yet unpublished, supports that conclusion. Just now, we are in the midst of weaning our twelve black lambs, the Black Lamb Gang, and while the noise is diminishing we are heartened that the relationships will last.
The second introduction is to the Coppingers, Raymond and Lorna, whose approach to guardian dogs, in their book Dogs, is both academic and practical: up to maybe twelve weeks, a dog’s neurology is sufficiently open for it to receive and adapt to its surroundings, whether it’s loud noise or sheep, so that sturdy, large dogs, built for the rigors of outdoor life, can become members of a flock and protect it as if it were their own.
The third is to Rona
She was born on April 14th, and she joined us at eight weeks, coming from an environment which included sheep and goats. She weighed 11 pounds when she arrived and now, three weeks later, she weighs 18. She could swim in a pasture pond at the age of ten weeks. She is a Great Pyrenees, and here she sits with Flora, our oldest, paying as close attention as Flora will allow, looking out from the dam over the pond. Flora will put up with Rona’s leaps and nips, but not intrusions into Flora’s food.
Fife — 150 pounds — will accept greetings from Rona, but has no interest in a dog who wants to leap and nip. Tibbie chooses not even to eat anywhere near her.
Our task is to expose her to our sheep and the other dogs so that she learns their civility and adapts, and also to give her sufficient space and time to collapse and absorb her lessons.
The other day Rona came down from the pasture by herself and decided where she should be.
So grows the tree. I think she’s a keeper.