Once upon a time there was a man named Joe. He was an executive for a large company in Chicago. Joe was good at meeting corporate expectations and keeping his boss happy. He rose through the ranks and finally achieved his American dream. Then it all fell apart. His company started a new HR program with 360 degree reviews and Joe didn’t do so well with his own people. He only lasted another year before he was asked to resign and given a severance package. When his wife found out, she left him.
Joe was starting to wonder why this had happened when he finally got some good news. A distant relative had died and left Joe his ranch in Montana. Joe decided that this was just the break he needed, so he packed up and moved to the ranch. His uncle had done well and the house and property were in good shape but Joe still needed a job. There weren’t many openings for senior management in the mostly rural community, so Joe thought about farming. He looked around at the neighbors and realized that most of them were raising cattle, bison or sheep. One of them even offered to sell Joe a flock of sheep to help him get started. Joe paid the going price for the sheep and had them moved to his ranch .
After a short while, it became apparent to Joe that sheep weren’t all that smart. They just ran away every time he went out to feed them or tried to round them up. A few of them were always trying to get away and they got caught up in the barbed wire fence. Some even succeeded but inevitably got killed by the coyotes. Joe mentioned this at the local co-op one day and another man offered to sell Joe some smart sheep. He assured Joe that his sheep were much more intelligent than the average sheep and they would lead the dumb ones Joe had. Joe bought a dozen of these smart sheep to manage the flock but soon realized he had been taken. The smart ones would come in for food and could be herded into a pen for shearing but they had no effect on the rest of the flock.
In desperation, Joe went to the county extension office and explained his problem. The county agent came out to visit and after looking around for a few minutes he said, “Well Joe, here’s your problem. You’ve got lots of sheep but no sheepdog.” Joe looked puzzled and said, “Why do I need a dog? Wouldn’t a dog just kill the sheep like the coyotes do?” The agent replied, “I don’t think you understand. A sheep dog, like a Border Collie or Australian Shepherd, is specially bred and trained to manage a whole flock of sheep. They protect them from predators, they keep them moving so they don’t over graze a pasture and they keep them from running off. They will even bring them right into your pens when you need to shear them or feed them. Sheep dogs are good at what they do and every flock needs at least one.” Joe asked, “Where can I get a good one?” The agent said, “The county fair starts next week and sheep herding is one of the events. There will be lots of good dogs with their breeders. I’m sure you can buy one there. You should come. It’s a lot of fun too.”
Joe was there on the first day of the herding event and he was amazed at the tenacity and intelligence these dogs displayed. One dog could move a hundred sheep by just barking and nipping. The sheep did exactly what the dog wanted and the dog made it look easy. Joe settled on an Australian Shepherd named Jack and he went home that night convinced he was on his way to being a successful rancher. The next day he let Jack out with the sheep. Jack paced around nervously and kept looking at Joe. Joe never said anything so Jack sat down in the shade. Joe grabbed his cell phone and called the breeder to demand an explanation. The breeder listened to Joe’s rant and then said calmly, “Joe, he’s a dog. You’re the boss. Did you tell him what you wanted him to do? He’s smart but he still needs a master who gives him good directions. If you would bring him by my ranch, I will tell you what words and hand signs to give him to get him to work for you.”
Joe and Jack got the training and started working as a team. Whatever Joe needed, Jack was eager to do and they thrived together. Soon enough, Joe was making a good living and he owed it all to Jack. When Jack finally died, years later, Joe placed a sign over his grave that said, “One good Shepherd is worth more than a thousand sheep.”
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.