Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sheep, Shepherds, Transhumance and Building Bonds

A centuries old relationship and an inspiration for today.

When looking at dogs, there is nothing more beautiful or true than watching them do the job they were bred to do.

Here is a video, produced in France, that records the daily life of a shepherd and his dogs. The video is in French, but you don't have to know the language to understand the connection in the working relationship that exists between this man and his little dogs.

The bucolic setting reminds me of years ago when I shared my life with dogs and horses and a few miscellaneous animals on 104-acre farm.

This was long before I began formally training dogs, and I don't even remember training my little mixed troupe of dogs, led by an English Shepherd, to do the job they helped me with each day.

Every morning, I would call the horses up to be fed. Sometimes they came, sometimes they didn't. Either way, the dogs would go out, and as I was calling, they would sweep out behind the horses and push them in toward me and through the gate. Many times, all I would have to do is stand back and let everyone find their places.

I think it's a shame that there are so few opportunities in the urban United States these days to find places where dogs and people can wander freely together.

Many times, it's in just these situations that easy connections develop. It's like a friendship where you don't have to say what you're thinking. They just know.

If you've forgotten how this feels, or are just ready for inspiration, watch this little video. To begin with, the Pyrenean Shepherd mother and her pup are simply adorable. If their bewhiskered faces and devotion fail to melt you in the opening scenes, the hilarious "circus tricks" sequence will.

You will see shortly, that along with providing comic relief, the tricks have a purpose. As the video rolls on, you see the tricks transformed into valuable skills as herd moves from the pastures and on into town.

The high point is the appearance of a stop sign and a blind, busy intersection on the road ahead. What will happen? Will the group make it through?

No problem. The canny shepherd slams on the brakes, and right on cue, the entire group -- shepherd, Pyr Sheps, Great Pyrenees body guard, sheep and all -- come screeching to a halt at the corner.

No one even thinks about entering the traffic because the now suddenly hard-nosed little Pyr Sheps make sure everyone toes the line.

On signal, they all proceed into town like an orderly group of children on a school outing.

If you are as fascinated with the nature of this ancient sort of human/animal connection, I would suggest a YouTube search on the agrarian practice of transhumance. It's a tradition of seasonal movement of livestock with their people between summer and winter pastures.

It's a practice nearly as old as human civilization itself and is the root of many beliefs, language and work models that are still very much alive today.

Here come the cows!

This is a beautiful video that show how the sheep are all dressed up and fleece dyed rainbow colors for the big event. A gorgeous look at a lifestyle that's ages old.

Three young shepherds, mind-blowing alpine scenery, two Pyrenean Shepherds and about a gazillion sheep.

1 comment:

Debbie said...

O.K. Now I really want a Pyr Shepherd! Wonderful clips. I really enjoyed them.