I have now fostered 177 dogs, 7 cats, and 1 sheep.
Last night, as I was putting the final touches on a pizza and the grill was heating up on the deck, my oldest son yelled, “Hey, there’s a sheep or goat or something outside.”
Of late we’ve been having an ongoing battle with deer that have eaten nearly all my dragon beans, given the lettuce patch a crew cut, and recently begun munching the blueberries that are ripening on the side of hill where Brady said the sheep/goat/deer was, so I assumed he had spotted another deer. We aren’t used to seeing them come so close to the house, but this year seems different, plus it was storming so maybe it was hard to see clearly.
“I’m sure it’s just a deer.”
“It’s wearing a collar,” he said, heading out the front door.
I grabbed a slip lead and followed. When more thunder rumbled, the animal bleated, so clearly it wasn’t a deer. I wasn’t sure if it was a goat or a sheep – but it was scared and took off up the hill at the sight of us. We crept up the hill slowly. The animal, which turned out to be a sheep, was in the woods in a clearing where Nick split and stacked our firewood. It was brown and nearly camouflaged against the wood.
When I walked towards it, it skittered away, dragging a blue wire, the kind you used to tie a dog outside. The trailing end had another clip attached to a small bolt that had obviously come loose from whatever structure had been keeping the sheep contained.
Now, I have never been around sheep. Never. A goat a few times. A cow, more than a few times. But this was my first sheep. My first observation was that it had a long tail and every sheep I’ve ever envisioned had that small nub tail. This one’s tail swished as it moved away from me with every move I made.
I decided to treat it like a lost dog. Ian grabbed a flake of hay from the barn, and I got a handful of carrot chips (all I had in the fridge I thought a sheep would like and would be safe for it to eat).
This time I approached slowly and crouched down nearby, shaking the hay out. The sheep stared at me, but since starring directly at a dog is a sign of aggression, I kept my eyes down and away and angled my body sideways. I made soft sounds, reassured the sheep that I meant no harm, and waited until it looked a little more settled. Then I crept closer and tossed a carrot chip to it. The sheep sniffed the carrot chip and then ate it. I continued to toss chips, and it came closer and closer. Finally, it was within reach, but when I shifted to reach for its line, it turned to trot away. I jumped up and stepped on the line. We wrestled for a minute and the collar was almost over its tiny head, so I backed it against a stack of wood and looped the sliplead over its head.
Caught! But now what? I know nothing about sheep. And the sheep wanted nothing to do with me. Ian walked behind and shooed the sheep and I pulled and coaxed it forward by feeding it carrot chips. We got the sheep into a stall in our barn (which Nick quickly modified so she couldn’t escape under the gates), gave it more hay and a water bucket.
Obviously, the sheep belonged to someone. I posted on Nextdoor and Facebook, but all I got were bad puns and sympathy for the sheep. Then I remembered my new neighbor who reminds me of me when I was younger – organic, earth-focused, and creature loving. Could it be her sheep? I texted and she came right back with, “Yes, it’s ours. By any chance did you catch it?”
We kept the sheep overnight and the next morning Shea walked over and explained that the sheep was a bad decision—they’d agreed to keep it for a friend. Someone else was going to take the sheep on Friday. Any chance we could keep it until then? My horse True is fascinated with the sheep; they seem to be bonding. She’s no trouble, so we’ll have an extra boarder for a few days.
Shea kept apologizing and thanking me, which I told her was unnecessary. It was a fun family adventure; I learned a little about sheep, and of course, as I always think when odd things happen around here—it’ll be great material.
Okay, enough with the sheep interlude. Back to dogs…
Tito was adopted this past Saturday by a woman who told me, “You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I dreamed of him.”
I told her I didn’t think that was crazy at all—I believe our animals find us. I do think she has a big job ahead of her, though. Luckily, she seems to understand that. Plus, she has an incredible older dog named Louie who had perfect manners and was completely nonplussed by Tito’s overtures to play. When the adopter asked Tito to sit for a treat, he was too excited to focus on her request until Louie stepped in and sat beautifully. Then Tito sat right beside him. I wished I’d gotten my camera out quickly enough for that picture, but here’s one of Tito sitting nicely.
Anyway, I’m happy for the big guy. Sad, he can’t be ours, but happy he seems to be with his ‘person.’
So for now, we are fosterless. Which is probably a good thing since my new book comes out two weeks from today!
On Thursday, we will welcome a former foster dog back to stay with us for two weeks while his family is vacationing and Fanny is very much looking forward to this guy. He was one of her favorite playmates! Watch the Another Good Dog Facebook group to see their reunion.
And while you’re on Facebook, please consider following/liking the book’s Facebook page, 100 Dogs & Counting. (It’s also on Instagram!) I will post there regularly this summer, sharing live videos, readings, reviews, and some virtual visits with a few of the dogs (and people) in the book!
Thanks for reading!
If you’d like regular updates of all my foster dogs past and present, plus occasional dog care/training tips from OPH training, be sure to join the Facebook group, Another Good Dog.
For information on me, my writing, and books, visit CaraWrites.com. You can find even more information on my new book, One Hundred Dogs and Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues, (Pegasus Books, July 2020) on the book’s very own Facebook page and Instagram account.
And if you’d like to know where all these dogs come from and how you can help solve the crisis of too many unwanted dogs in our shelters, visit WhoWillLetTheDogsOut.org.
Our family fosters through the all-breed rescue, Operation Paws for Homes, a network of foster homes in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and south-central PA.
If you can’t get enough foster dog stories, check out my book: Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs . It’s available anywhere books are sold.
I love to hear from readers and dog-hearted people! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many of the pictures on my blog are taken by photographer Nancy Slattery. If you’d like to connect with Nancy to take gorgeous pictures of your pup (or your family), contact: email@example.com.