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.
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.
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.
The sheep and goats still in the larger penned area were mostly quiet. Were they trying to remain invisible? Maybe so.
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.
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.
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.
Perhaps happiness is a face covered in food?
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.
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:
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.