One of the old sheep is frail, and she has trouble keeping up with the rest of the flock. I think she has trouble seeing and her legs are weak and she is very slow. She is often separated from the flock, struggling to keep up. I have worried about her getting lost in the burdocks up on the hill.
Yesterday, we heard a ewe bleating way up at the the hill where the old sheep go at night. The sound was so faint I almost missed it, but Red didn't.
I saw him leave the flock and stare up the hill. I released him and he disappeared over the crest and out of sight. A few minutes later, the old ewe came walking slowly down, Red behind her, guiding her to the rest of the flock, keeping a careful distance, moving slowly. He was leading her but not rushing her. I had not seen this before.
This morning, when we came out to check the old sheep, I looked for her and couldn't find her. Red was ahead of me, looking up the hill. I sent him to get her, and in a few minutes he returned with the old ewe in tow. She followed him down, and then surprised me. Instead of joining the flock, as I expected her to do, she stayed with him. He is very gentle with her, I see, ignoring her if she slows down, and waiting when she is tired. If she is struggling, she comes and stands near him, and does not get lost. He even lets he sniff him, something other sheep would not dare try. He watches out for her. She trusts him.
Red is an intuitive worker and herder, I am learning. He treats the flock in one way, individual sheep another. He is very careful around the old ones. If they challenge him, he gets right in their face. If they are slow and frail, then he is patient and generous. He looks for the old frail ewe now, and is easy with her even if she stands right behind him, something a border collie would normally never permit.
I love this story, loved seeing it, it reminds me of the connection we all have with one another, even if it is so often buried under human foibles, anger, judgement and craziness.