Furry firefighters

The sound of the dog’s distant but loud bark piqued my dog’s curiosity. The bark spoke of urgency and intruders. As we continued our walk, I soon realized who the intruders were. They were firefighters hard at work clearing land of flammable dead brush. My dog picked up their scent.

These weren’t your typical firefighters, though, using hoses and shovels and axes. Their firefighting tools? Their mouths.

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Goats and sheep wait in a pen for freedom … and breakfast.

The county has hired these furry firefighters to help clear land of dangerous, dry brush. It’s cheaper than hiring crews to use lawnmowers, apparently. And way more fun to watch.

I dropped the dog off at home and grabbed my camera. When I headed down the trail where the sheep and goats were, I could first see a plume of dust. I rounded the corner and saw them all in a tight pen, awaiting medicine before breakfast. They liked the wait and the taste of the medicine about as well as you might expect.

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“I want to see what’s happening up there!”

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This one reminds me of a brown teddy bear I got one year for Christmas.

The handlers got to work dosing the sheep and the goats. They led a few at a time into a divided corral and gave each the necessary medicine. They worked quickly and efficiently, sometimes barking at the animals to get them to cooperate.

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Making sure each animal gets its medicine

The sheep and goats still in the larger penned area were mostly quiet. Were they trying to remain invisible? Maybe so.

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“If I stand really still, maybe they’ll forget to give me my medicine.”

A working dog kept them in line and helped lead them into the corral when it was their turn. It’s hot work for a black and white dog, and at one point, he clearly needed a break. He hopped over the fence and trotted over to large water buckets. Instead of leaning down for a drink, he dove in and curled up in the water. Then he stood up to take a drink. His break didn’t last long before he hopped out of the bucket and back over the fence.

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A well-deserved break

At least three Great Pyrenees—the calmest you’ve ever seen—lumbered slowly around the field or lay down along the perimeter. They protect the flock from coyotes and other predators. I wondered whose job it is to look out for rattlesnakes.

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Guarding the firefighters

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Freedom! (Can you find a guard dog in this photo?)

The first group needed some encouragement to run out into the field, but they seemed happy once they realized it was time for breakfast. They wasted little time beginning their meal, though a few posed for me.

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Striking a pose

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Posing while eating

Perhaps happiness is a face covered in food?

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Low lying branches aren’t off limits to the goats.

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A goat poses; sheep graze.

This little guy below (pretty sure it’s a lamb based on other pictures I took of it with its tail down) came out of the corral a bit distressed. He bleated several times, listened and looked around. I decided he was looking for Mom. After a few moments of bleating, listening, looking, he tunneled under an old fence and trotted off to join the others.

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Calling for Mom?

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A good start to the day’s work

If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll see the already-cleared area at the bottom of the picture, just below the fence.

According to an article about the firefighting efforts, county officials expect these furry firefighters to have grazed 175 acres of dry brush across the county by the end of the month. Pretty impressive. And did I mention they’re fun to watch?

Watching them graze also brought me peace and made me think of goats and sheep and their shepherds in Biblical times. Despite the grueling work, there must have been moments of tranquility as the animals grazed.

Thought I’d end by sharing a favorite Bible verse about sheep with you:

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Do you have a favorite sheep or goat verse from the Bible? What do you think of their firefighting abilities? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Furry firefighters

  1. I want some goats for grass eating on our farm. But, we’d have to live there and they escape, we would need a dog too. It’s not going to happen. I like the environmentally friendly goat idea. I think it’s great that they’re using them to clear land for fires. Super idea! I still think about the goats and sheep in Revelation being separated.

    • It would be hard without you living at the farm all the time, but maybe you could rent goats from time to time to clear the parts you want cleared? I’ve often wondered what made goats the “lesser” animal in the Bible. Baby goats and baby lambs are equally adorable, and I’m not sure adult sheep are any better than adult goats.

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