Pepper Makes It Better

After Scooter’s tragic demise a couple of months ago, we’ve been left without a traditional herding-breed of dog. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve wished I had him around to help, and not just with the sheep. Scooter had an uncanny ability to know exactly where I wanted animals of all kinds (including chickens and ducks and geese) to be, and how to position himself to optimize the chances they’d either get there or stay there. Remarkable that a dog who could be so dumb in so many other ways (including trying to cross an unlighted road in the dead of night with a car coming) had such sharp instincts with the livestock.

Wilbur the puppy has continued to settle in, and he’s growing like a weed. We like him, boundless energy and chewing tendencies and all, but I doubt he’ll ever be more than a guardian and companion.

We’d been waiting for my professional work to slow down, so we could renew our search for a dog with herding genetics. One litter of shepherd puppies came into the local animal shelter, but were snapped up before we could take one. Then, last Friday, the intrepid Mrs. Yeoman Farmer spotted a new listing on the shelter’s website: a beautiful-looking, four year old Australian Shepherd mix female. She’d been a stray, but was totally housebroken and even leash trained. and despite being labeled a “mix,” she looked almost purebred.

MYF drove to the shelter during Yeoman Farm Baby’s next nap, and liked the dog so much she put down a deposit to hold her. The Yeoman Farm Children and I went in on Saturday, and instantly knew this dog was a keeper. She has a wonderful, calm disposition. She was really good with the kids. And she even got along with Wilbur (we took him with us to the shelter, to test their interaction).

We took her home that day, and she’s working out extremely well. She really is housebroken. After a couple of days of stand-offish adjustment, she and Wilbur have even begun playing and rough-housing together in my office.

The only problem was a name. The shelter had named her “Carly,” but that just wasn’t going to work for us. Every time I called her, or even referred to her, I knew I’d think of Carly Simon screaming “You’re so vain!” And MYF had similar associations with the name. After considerable deliberation and negotiation, the whole family managed to settle on “Pepper” as an alternative.

We take her on the leash with us all over the farm, particularly when doing things with livestock. But especially since she was a stray in the past, we don’t want to let her walk freely until we’ve had a solid adjustment period and she’s positive that this is where she belongs. Back in Illinois, we had one shelter stray wander off and disappear because we let her free too early.

It’s unclear so far whether and how well Pepper’s herding instincts will eventually kick in; she’s mostly intimidated by the livestock, and will not enter the barn unless she’s carried through the door. We’re hopeful that this will be temporary. But even if she never matches Scooter’s abilities, we’re none the worse for the deal: she’s an absolutely wonderful companion with me in my office. I’ll take that.

The only other odd thing about her: she doesn’t like cameras. At all. The shelter had the hardest time getting a good picture of her for the website. I tried snapping a few pictures, but she turned and ducked her head every time she saw the camera.

Finally, I had Homeschooled Farm Girl hug Pepper tight and make her face the camera. So…this may be the best photo you get of her for awhile.

One thought on “Pepper Makes It Better

  1. Love the story…so glad you found a great pick. We got our first herding dog this year…an australian shepherd. Though we are going through an adjustment with her jumping on everyone, she is an excellent farm dog. She herds our goats and knows what animal we want to get or move. Love your blog!


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