All it takes is one

In such a dry country, crossing water is something we don’t normally have to do. Usually sloughs dry up in the spring and we can go through them, or around in the case of larger, more permanent water bodies. But this year has been very wet and water is lying or flowing in areas where it rarely has before. This meant that to get to a good portion of our sheep pasture we had to cross some water. This slough is only about 6 inches deep and the deepest point, so no problem for sheep to cross – if they want to. ‘If they want to’ is the critical piece of this sentence, unfortunately for those of us who want to control our animals movement. The first time we crossed the slough, there was enough dirt sticking above the water to convince the first sheep they could make it, and the rest followed, as sheep do. The second time, we had just gotten through a rainy spell and the water was higher so it was much more of a challenge. It took us over an hour to convince them to cross- even though the lead sheep were standing in water most of the time! I even managed to grab a ewe and steer her across the water at one point, with hopes of the rest following. The rest of the ewes took no notice of this sheep making it through, and she promptly turned around and waded back over with the rest. Eventually, once man and dog were frustrated and tired, the sheep decided to take the chance and walk across.
The next time across, the sheep showed signs of balking again, so I grabbed the pail of dog food out of the side-by-side and shook it like a pail of grain. An old ewe sure liked the sound of that and followed me across, followed shortly by the rest.
Once more we had to cross this same slough (it separates some of the pasture from another, as well as from the yard, so it really is inconvenient!). This time the sheep had been in a pasture that the slough runs through, so some were on the right side, so I thought, they will see those other sheep and go straight over! So Jack and I gathered the sheep and steered them towards the shallowest part of the slough where there were some tracks. Well the sheep looked over at those other sheep as if completely stumped by how they could get over there.
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It seemed that this was not going to be as easy as I thought. Then Alice the guard dog started to head across the slough.
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And wouldn’t you know it, the sheep followed. They didn’t take the shortest or shallowest path through the slough but the one that Alice showed them was safe.

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