Another Shetland shepherd, a friend, lost one of her sheep this week. I stopped in to check her blog this evening to catch up on what had been going on with her. I have been fighting an infection and hadn't been up to sitting at the computer much as the medications I had been on had terrible side effects.
There, reading her blog, I found a beautiful tribute to a ewe that had served my friend well. By the time I finished reading, tears were falling from my face to the keyboard. The entry was a gracious account of the relationship these two had together. Not real close as a favored dog might be, but you could tell of the love and respect my friend has for this ewe who was 15 years old at her passing.
Shetland shepherds are different than most other sheep people I've known in my life. Most other people view sheep as a commodity to buy, to sell...to trade. Others I've known aren't really callous, by any means, towards their sheep, but they don't hold their animals in as high a regard as Shetland sheep people hold their sheep. There's something special about both these little, tough, intelligent sheep and the people who shepherd them. Most - and I've noticed even Shetland shepherds with very large flocks who don't necessarily have time with each sheep, each day - come to view these creatures more towards, for lack of a better word, "friends" rather than "livestock". More than one of them will make time to slow down and sit among their charges. It's not unheard of to have a sheep lie down next to its shepherd, even putting its head in the shepherd's lap. There's a bond there that goes beyond investment, wool, lambs, markets, feed rations. The bond is from heart to heart, soul to soul. Kindred spirits, I have come to believe.
My friend's ewe had loved apples. She knew when the old girl would not touch the favored treat that the end was near, so she made her as comfortable as possible in a warm, quiet place with plenty of bedding to comfort the gentle old one. By morning, the ewe had passed on to run in lush green pastures by cool brooks of sparkling water.
Tomorrow, I will take my sheep apples to honor both the memory of the old ewe, and my friend. And I will tell them of their bond and respect they had for each other...as we cherish our own...