Escalation

We’re having another of those lovely weekends where the high temperature today (40 degrees) is thirty-five degrees lower than yesterday (77 degrees) and the sheep are therefore ecstatically happy. Echo and I are both gloomy about it, but at least the sheep are happy.

Today’s episode of crazy started innocently enough, with Holly and Nina play-fighting under the watchful eye of Holly’s family.

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“I’m the toughest!”

“Nuh-uh, I’M the toughest!”

I’m still not used to Nina’s haircut, but I will say she has a much easier time bouncing around without all that fluff in the way. She and Holly weren’t really fighting, mostly just hopping around and stopping to bonk heads a little bit whenever they happened to bounce into each other. The grown-ups don’t play that game very often, but it’s very popular with the lambs and yearlings.

As such things tend to do, the bouncing and playing escalated until Neo got excited and wanted to join the game.

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“I want to play, too!”

Neo didn’t mean any harm, he just wanted to play, but he is quite a bit bigger than Holly and Nina, so they switched games from “Jump Up and Down and Bonk Heads Sometimes” to “Run Around Like We’re Crazy.” This is a Splendid Game even grown-ups can play, so of course Lady and Will had to come join in, too.

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“Wheee!”

Little Nina’s ears are just barely visible behind Neo. Lana, in the background, keeps one eye on her wayward offspring while continuing to devote most of her attention to breakfast. I’m not sure where Liam was, I think he was around the corner eating out of the boys’ feeder.

Running around as fast as possible without actually trying to catch or get away from anything in particular is apparently great fun; it only took one or two laps before even the pregnant girls got pulled into the game, much to their delight and my dismay.

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“Charge through the gate!”

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“Jump over the mole tunnels!”

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“And round and round the hoop house we go!”

They ran at least four or five laps around the hoop house before Lady and Nova bumped into each other, took mutual offense, and had to stop and have yet another fight over who’s boss.

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“I’m the toughest!”

“No, I’M the toughest!”

And so the whole thing came full circle, to two of the girls bonking heads (albeit a little less playfully) after bumping into each other, while everyone else stands around and watches.

Except for Lana. She’s still eating breakfast.

Happy Birthday, Miss Miracle!

My little Mira is two years old today! It doesn’t seem like two years since she “helped” me write up a blog post about her birth, and Prince Bran the Brawny’s a day later.

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“Too many pictures of that other lamb, not enough about me!”

And showed her pictures of Maisie from Equinox Farm as encouragement. Anybody who’s read about Maisie on thecrazysheeplady’s blog will know that probably wasn’t the best choice of role models I could have picked.

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“And see, Mira? She was a tiny preemie who had to wear lots of sweaters, just like you! And she was very brave and grew up big and strong!”

“Hmm, I think I could get some good ideas from that sheep…”

She definitely grew up big and strong willed. Although it was definitely Princess who taught her how to head-butt people to get her way, not anything she saw on the internet.

Since I probably won’t get around to making birthday posts for Bran and Will, here’s a short little video of all three of them from when Mira was about three weeks old. Mira was running laps around Princess, Will was determinedly trying to play Climb On Mom, (a very important lamb exercise that helps prepare them to play King of the Hill when they grow up) and Bran was just trying to get someone to play with him. Johnny hadn’t yet made his appearance in the world when this was taken.

They were so cute and little when they were babies. Now they’re all grown up and… still cute, just slightly less little.

We had a small birthday party this morning, after I gave everyone breakfast. Mira was very excited about her birthday crunchies.

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“Look at the camera, Mira!”

“Mmm… I’d rather look in your pocket, thanks.”

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“Mira, come on, I’ve got crunchies in my hand! At least pretend you’re looking at the camera!”

“Mmm… you’ve got a lot more crunchies in your pocket!”

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“That’s a good girl!”

“Fine, I’ll eat the crunchies in your hand, and look at the camera while I’m eating them. I’m not going to smile, though, ’cause I know you’ve still got more in your pocket you’re not giving me!”

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“Happy birthday, Mira. I love you, baby girl.”

“Uh-huh, I know. Can I eat your buttons?”

It’s been two good years with my precious Miracle girl. I hope we have many more happy returns and mini-Miracles to look forward to.

De-Floofed

Lana and Nina got sheared yesterday. It’s a traumatic experience, especially for babies like Nina who have never been de-floofed before. But on the other hand the sheep are much more comfortable without their bulky fleeces, at least once they get over their embarrassment and convince the rest of the flock that they haven’t been replaced by Scary Impostors.

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“Look at this haircut they gave me!”

“I think you look fine! It’s nice to have new Shetlands around, tell me, have you seen Lana anywhere?”

Liam kept wandering around through the flock yesterday afternoon looking for Lana, even when she was right in front of him. He seems to have figured it out this morning, after spending the night in the barn together, although he still looks a little confused about why she suddenly looks different. He stood in the barn and watched us shear her, I’m not sure why he’s confused, but he certainly is, poor guy.

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“MeanShepherdPerson is Mean! I knew I didn’t trust her for a reason!

“Nooo, ShepherdPerson is nice! She has  crunchies!”

We’ll see how Liam feels after he gets his own haircut. He hid behind a hay bale for two days last year.

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“You’re not going to lure me in with your tricky crunchies of treachery!”

Not having any free-standing hay bales to hide behind this year, Lana is hiding behind the waste hay keeping a suspicious eye on me. Which is actually pretty much how she always acts, so I’m not worried about it. She’ll still come into the barn at night for crunchies, as long as she can hide behind Liam while she’s eating them, so she’s free to be as suspicious as she likes during the day.

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“Hurry up, before ShepherdPerson sees!”

The Soay girls took advantage of my distraction to sneak back into the barn, which is also pretty normal behavior for them. Sometimes they’re outrageously bad at being sneaky, and sometimes they’re scarily good at being sneaky, and they seem genuinely unable to tell the difference.

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“I think you owe me some crunchies, MeanShepherdPerson!”

Nina seems to have mostly forgiven me already. I suspected she would, given her fondness for crunchies. She managed to scarf down a few before Mira noticed and said nope no way all the crunchies are hers.

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“Nope, no way! All the crunchies are mine!”

Mira was extremely freaked out by Nina’s haircut, and spent a lot of time running from her in terror yesterday. She’s still giving both Nina and Lana a wide berth and glaring at them suspiciously, but she’s not going to stand for any competition for my food attention, no matter who her rival turns out to be. Mira will even try to butt Lady away from me, and Lady’s much higher in the pecking order than she is.

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“I am a sweet little baby, Mommy! I need some more food! Everybody’s mean to me out here!”

Cue instant 180-degree shift in attitude. She’s the funniest girl, she’s convinced she can play the helpless little lamb to me, like I couldn’t see her butting Nina away literally seconds ago. A lot of people think that sheep are dumb, but I’m convinced I sheep think humans are dumb. Probably because they can be a bully one minute, turn around and act sweet the next, and the silly human will give them crunchies anyway, apparently completely  fooled.

It’s really hard for me to see if she has any udder development, because I never see her from the rear for more than a second or two before she notices me looking at her and comes running, but she is getting a bit tubby around the middle and I still haven’t seen her cycle, so I’m pretty sure there’s a mini-Mira on the way. Heaven help us all.

Valentine’s Day

Not much romantic going on in the sheep field today, but Lana was in heat on Saturday so here’s a picture of that.

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“I’m in love, but I’m also really hot, so I’m just going to plop down here by the fence.”

Lana was feeling hot both figuratively and literally. It was over sixty degrees Saturday, and the poor Shetlands were melting. I tried to catch Liam and give him a haircut, but he very firmly said he’d rather melt.

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“I don’t need a haircut, why would you think I need a haircut? I just got a haircut last spring, it can’t be time for another one!”

I’m hoping that spherical shape is because he needs a haircut and not because he needs a diet.

The sheep were much happier when the weather turned cooler again. Even grumpy Barney got excited.

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“Wheee!”

The funniest thing about Barney’s long staple dual coat is the way his floof bounces when he hops.

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“Wheee!”

The funniest thing about Nina is watching this big ball of floof with tiny legs bouncing, running around, and actually managing to keep up with Holly and Mira. She and Lana are scheduled to be de-floofed this Saturday, which will no doubt make it easier for her to frisk around to her heart’s content.

In the yard, Watcher has no time for this Valentine’s Day nonsense, he has sheep to bark at and Echo to pester. He’s made a game of “stalking” Echo with his collie laser-eyes and then pouncing on him and chewing on his ears.

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“The mighty hunter stalks his prey…”

“He’s going to jump on my head again, isn’t he?”

Watcher jumps on Echo, Echo puts up with it for a few seconds, then they start running around tussling and play-chomping on each other.

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“I got your ears!”

“I got your neck!”

Echo seems to think my lap is “base,” so when he gets tired of playing he comes and flops over by me wanting me to hold his paws and give him belly-rubs and nose-kisses. Echo is a very affectionate dog, I think he’d approve of Valentine’s Day.

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“I love you, you’re my favorite person! Pet my belly some more!”

Sweet Echo. It takes a lot of petting and cuddling to keep him happy (and he is also rather fond of crunchies). But on the other hand, he can’t eat any of my chocolate, so on the whole he makes a very good valentine.

Little John’s Little Brother

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“I’m bored, what can I do?”

Uh-oh, a bored Apple is never good. A bored sheep in general is never good.

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“Hey, it’s my big brother Johnny! I’ll follow him around!”

Well, that seems harmless enough.

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“Hey, wait up, Johnny! I’m going to follow you around?”

Jeb and Barney detect that shenanigans might be about to start, and get their disapproving faces ready.

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“I’m following you, I’m following you, I’m following you…”

“OK, that’s starting to get really annoying. Maybe if I ignore him he’ll go away.”

No such luck. Apple followed Johnny all over the field for at least ten minutes. It was like watching a slow-motion chase scene.

 

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“I’m following you, I’m following you…”

“Apple, stop that!”

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“Yes? You said  my name, now I’m definitely following you!”

“Apple Stop That is not your name! And I’m still ignoring you!”

I’m really pretty sure if Apple knows his name at all he thinks it’s Apple Stop That.

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“Ugh, whippersnappers these days.”

“There was none of this nonsense when I was a lamb, I can tell you that!”

Poor Jeb is getting to be almost as grumpy as Barney. I have no idea why that might be. Total mystery.

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“ShepherdPerson! He’s driving me crazy! Make him stop!”

“I’m not doing anything!”

I’d feel more sympathy for Johnny if it wasn’t so amusing to see someone getting on his nerves for once. Serves him right to get a taste of his own medicine now and then.

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“I am ignoring you! I am ignoring you so pointedly that I’ve forgotten you exist!”

“OK, but I’m going to follow you until you pay attention to me!”

I turned around to ask Nova why her children are like this, but she and Mira were in the barn. They finally circumvented the Mira Deflector Shield, by discovering that if they butted the gate to the storage area it’d bounce open, and if they rattled the wall enough they could vibrate the box of crunchies off the shelf.

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“Cruuunchiiiiiies!”

I think I figured out why Nova’s children are so naughty.

Moocher Mira

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“Mommy, I think I need some crunchies.”

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“You know, the crunchies you keep in your pocket. I need them.”

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“This pocket! Right here! I need the crunchies that are in this pocket right here!”

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“Oh, yummy! Thanks, Mommy, I needed those!”

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“I’m going to go eat hay now, but don’t go inside! Stay right there in case I need more crunchies later!”

Funny Miss Mira. Hard to believe she’ll be two years old in two weeks.

Many Hooves Make More Work

I had a problem with my hay this week, I’ve run into a couple of bales that the sheep won’t eat. As far as I can tell there’s nothing wrong with it, it doesn’t smell or look moldy, but it does look like there’s a different kind of grass mixed in it? It’s a slightly different color and those bales are heavier than the rest.

All the hay came from our property, so it’s all the same stuff they eat all year, but for some reason they won’t touch those bales. I don’t know if it’s just a plant they don’t like or if it’s something toxic, but if they’re turning their noses up at it that firmly I’d rather be safe than sorry.

This means pulling all the bales down and sorting them out. The sheep were very keen on supervising all this activity with food, but moving the hay required moving a stepladder and a few buckets about ten feet from their original location, and everyone was too freaked out to walk past them.

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“Hmm, this bale looks good!”

Well, almost everyone. Liam couldn’t stand all this food being moved around and inspected without “helping” me. Mira wasn’t scared of the stepladder, but she’s still obsessed with the crunchies on the shelf. The novelty of climbing on the hay has worn off for her, as evidenced by how much hay she’s spread all over the barn aisle.

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“Maybe I should try that bale over there!”

Liam was a very enthusiastic taste-tester, and it didn’t take long at all for the other Shetlands to come pitch in. Even shy Lana!

The Soays were still suspicious of the moving ladder and joined Mira in poking at the shelves trying to reach the treats. I’m not sure if they genuinely thought they could reach the treats, or just wanted an excuse not to walk past the ladder.

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“You try that one, I’ll try this one!”

If Mira makes such a mess, I hate to think what the barn would look like if the Shetlands took up hay-mountain climbing. I was just thinking I probably ought to shoo them away, when Nova slipped trying to climb up on the shelf and knocked something over catching her balance.

The crash startled the Soays, making them all jump.

The Shetlands saw the Soays jump, assumed they must have seen something super-scary, and took off for the door.

The Soays saw the Shetlands running, assumed they must have seen something super-scary, and also took off for the door.

Everyone (except Mira) ran about halfway to the ram pen, then stopped and looked back to see if they were being chased.

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“Do you see it??”

“All I see is Mira and ShepherdPerson laughing at us! What were we running from, anyway?”

“Don’t ask me, I was only running because you ran!”

They quickly concluded that there was no super-scary thing, and came charging back.

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“Hurry! Or Mira will get all the food!”

They decided with all these mysteriously moving ladders and disappearing super-scary things, they’d rather crowd around the door and watch from outside the barn. Just in case.

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“Don’t worry, we’re still keeping an eye on you!”

Fortunately I had way more hay than I needed, so even tossing the bales they don’t like I should have plenty to last until the pastures come back. Now the only problem will be convincing them it’s safe to come into the barn at bedtime.

Under Ovine Supervision

I don’t have many pictures of myself with the sheep that aren’t selfies, but my mother took a few for me the other day while the girls were “helping” me with their breakfast. Breakfast is a very serious matter, and they have to keep a close eye on me to make sure I don’t mess it up.

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“Me! Me! Feed me!”

Nova, Mira, and Nina are all sure that they need a few crunchies to tide them over until breakfast. In practice, they’re getting in my way and slowing breakfast down, but that doesn’t deter them.

Duchess would also like crunchies, but is mainly hiding behind me wondering why there’s a NotShepherdPerson pointing a camera at her. It took me over two years of patience to make friends with Duchess, she’s a very shy girl.

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“Whew, getting breakfast is a lot of work, isn’t it, ShepherdPerson?”

Mira walks in ahead of me so she can stand up on her hind legs and paw at the shelf where I put the box of crunchies, just in case I forgot where I put them. Nova and Duchess walk beside me in case I put my hands in my pockets, and Nina brings up the rear in case I drop anything. They like to have all their bases covered.

Once we get into the barn, Nova and Duchess will take over trying to reach the treats on the shelf, while Mira and Nina hop up on the hay stack and make suggestions about which bale they’d like to eat today.

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“Wait, Mommy! I need to taste-test that before you put it in the feeder!”

By the time I took out the last little bit of hay for the small feeder, the other girls had left me in favor of the feeders, but Mira was still trotting along back and forth after me, pointedly reminding me about the box of crunchies every time we passed by it. She couldn’t wait any longer by that last trip and insisted I let her grab a snack on the way. She’s been even more greedy than usual lately, so I’m thinking she’s pregnant.

The mid-April lambing season seems like a long way away now, but hopefully the time will go quickly.

I Miss Things Being Boring

I should have known better than to brag about how peaceful things were. I jinxed myself.

The other day two of my least aggressive sheep, Lana and Bran, got into an epic battle that didn’t stop even when I put Bran off by himself in the lambing pen/sick room/penalty box in the barn overnight. Usually a night in separate stalls is enough to make sheep forget whatever their quarrel was, but apparently not this time. Bran was going crazy and wouldn’t stop chasing Lana around, so I had to put him over with the boys for a while.

The boys certainly gave Bran a taste of his own medicine. Duke was surprisingly indifferent, but the Dukelings, Johnny, and Jeb(!) chased Bran all over the field until they were too tired to run anymore. The Dukelings were ecstatic, this is the most excitement they’ve had in ages!

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“AAAAHHHHH!!!”

The day was gloomy, and in order for the pictures to be light enough I had to turn the shutter speed down until the pictures started blurring, but they still turned out better than I thought they would.

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“AAAAaaahhhhh!!!”

The Dukelings kept up as best they could, but they started falling behind by about the fourth or fifth lap. Johnny stayed right on Bran’s tail the whole way.

Jeb kept stopping about halfway down the hill, and rejoining the chase when they’d pass him on the way back. I’m surprised he joined in at all, he’s not usually aggressive. Must have been something in the air that day making all the calm sheep go crazy.

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“Aaah-oof!”

One of the Dukelings got clever and decided to wait and ambush Bran on the way back. He discovered that when a fast-moving large object meets a fast-moving small object head on, the small object tends to go flying. He wasn’t at all discouraged, just got up, shook himself, and took off again.

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“Stop chasing meeee!”

And off they go again…

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“Stop… *huff-huff* chasing… *puff-puff* me…”

Finally they all got tired and decided to just stand around and pose intimidatingly at each other instead of all that running.

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“My name is Apple Stop That and I’m the boss of this entire field! Don’t forget it!”

I don’t think Bran believed him, but he was too tired to argue. Once they could all breathe properly again they settled down and now they’re all getting along for the most part. I can’t imagine that Bran has any more pent up aggressive emotions left to vent, but it won’t hurt him to stay with the boys for a while anyway.

Boring is Good

Barney hurt his foot a few days ago, but he’s fine now so I suppose it was just a strain. When the ground keeps going back and forth from frozen solid to soupy mud this quickly, it’s not unusual for somebody to slip and fall and end up limping for a day or two.

When he started limping I moved him over with the girls so he could sleep in the barn without being pestered by the Dukelings, and it only took him one night to make a miraculous recovery. If he was a Soay I’d think I got played, but I don’t think Barney is devious enough to fake an injury like that. I’ve decided to leave him with the girls for a while anyway. He deserves a break from being a ram-buddy, and there’s no one in the ewe pen anymore that he absolutely can’t get along with.

With him recovered and the late-pregnancy drama not distinguishable from normal drama started yet, it’s been one of those lovely times when the juiciest gossip is just who ate breakfast with who at which feeder. Boring to post about, but a nice break for me.

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“I seee yooou! Dad and Lana, sitting in a tree!”

Liam was trying to have a nice breakfast with his two favorite things, Lana and food, but there’s Duchess being a third wheel and Little John’s head popping up over the hay rack every minute or so to see what his dear old dad’s up to.

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“He did not get that from MY side of the family!”

Of course not, Liam is a highly respectable sheep who wouldn’t dream of climbing on a hay feeder for no good reason. There’s not much question of where those troublesome climbing genes came from.

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“The hay on top is better!”

Johnny may not have gotten his father’s personality, but he did get enough of Liam’s genes that he’s taller and his head is bigger than most of his mother’s side of the family, so he doesn’t just eat high up on the feeder, he reaches right over the top and pulls hay out that way.

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*Gakk-choke-cough!*

I’d think he’d give it up once reaching the hay requires bending his neck at an angle that looks physically painful and makes him choke, but noooo. He keeps pulling it out and dropping a lot of it all over the Dukelings eating next to him.

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“But it really does taste better this way, Shepherdperson!”

OK, Johnny, whatever you say. The hay-climbing thing is another instance where I’ve decided not to question why they insist on doing that, and just accept that they do and for some reason it makes them happy.