Every year I want to get nice selfies with the sheep for Hug a Sheep Day, and every year they remain unenthusiastic about the idea. Mira sometimes wants hugs, but usually only when I am busy doing something else and not giving her attention. Which makes her very sad, because I should never pay attention to anything except her.
The sheep were far too busy with their morning routine for hugs. First order of the day is always to attack the hay on their way out of the barn, because the hay you steal from the bales on the way out is the best hay in the world, far superior to that same hay when it’s in the hay rack two minutes later.
Eventually I must shoo them out so I can reach the hay myself, so I can fill their hay racks. Most of them run out to wait at the feeders, but the bottle babies stay underfoot to supervise.
“Hey, what’s the hold up? I want breakfast!”
Angel was also helping to supervise, but she was busy chewing on my coat and I couldn’t get a clear picture of her. Bottle babies are such darling nuisances.
My two oldest girls, Lady and Duchess. They hovered around outside the barn doors but weren’t quite willing to risk bottle baby wrath by following me back into the barn.
I always put a small amount of hay in the fenceline hay racks, to reduce crowding at the main hay feeder for the more shy and/or wobbly flock members. Which does work… I suppose… technically…
“All of this hay, just for me?”
…in the sense that they all crowd around the fenceline racks instead, ignoring the vastly inferior hay in the main feeder.
“This hay is not quite as good as barn-aisle-hay, but MUCH superior to that other hay!”
It all came from the same bale, but whatever makes them happy and keeps them entertained, I suppose.
“I’M not happy, there’s far too much ‘entertainment’ around here!”
Poor Liam, he is neither shy nor especially wobbly, but he doesn’t like all this drama. Also he was hoping for extra treats, since it’s recently gotten cool enough that I’ve started wearing the Magic Treat Coat again, with the endless supply of crunchies in the pockets. The sheep are clever enough to know if I’m not wearing the Magic Treat Coat I probably don’t have treats and therefore they don’t beg as much, but they’re always very excited to see the coat again every autumn.
He got his treats, because I did indeed have some in my pocket and I cannot resist a begging sheep face.
“I want some extra treats too!”
Lana is usually too shy to beg unless she can hide in the middle of a crowd, but she was atypically bold this morning. Coming up within three feet of me is practically a hug by Lana standards! I’m counting it as a hug anyway. She deserves an extra treat I think, both for being brave and for having had a rather dramatic week. She was in heat a few days ago and Duke and Liam kept fighting about it, which Lana finds very upsetting. It’s been a long time since there was friction around the general truce between Duke and Liam (Shetland girls belong to Liam, Soay girls belong to Duke.) I’m not sure what set them off this time.
Once the hay is put out, there is a great parade to the gate. Many years ago now, when Her Royal Woolliness Princess was a baby, she refused to let me go out the gate in the mornings unless I paid tribute in the form of a treat. After Princess died, both Nova (by virtue of being Princess’ daughter) and Lady (by virtue of being the new flock queen) insisted they should inherit the privilege. So I ended up giving them both a treat as toll for passing through the gate. Then the rest of the flock, significantly less cowed by either Nova or Lady than they were by the formidable Princess, said “Hey, why do they get extra treats and we don’t? Not fair!”
So now during the months of the year when I wear the Magic Treat Coat, I have a whole procession following me to the gate every morning like the sheepy Pied Piper, expecting me to bribe them before being allowed out the gate.
“Time for treats!”
It’s a ridiculous ritual, but once again I feel far too guilty to refuse all those adorable begging faces.
“Hey! Where are our treats!”
Holly using Flynn as a stepladder to peek at me over the fence rail is such a Holly thing to do. It’s a Splendid Game for all the Soay sheep to never look at anything directly if you can peek around a corner or through a peep hole, but Holly especially enjoys both climbing on her flockmates’ backs and being a sneaky spy sheep!
“Ugh, Mommy, make all these other sheep go away! They’re trying to horn in on my treats!”
Of course Mira is of the decided opinion that she is the only one who should have inherited the gate treats. Actually, she is the only one who should get any treats at all, ever, and I am a very bad mother for giving them to anyone else.
Duke never had much experience with this ritual before moving over with the girls, both because he spent most of his life over in the ram pen and also because I didn’t feed him treats from my hand when he was an intact ram. He has always been a very, very good-tempered ram all things considered, but the fall rut makes all rams unpleasant and I preferred for him not to be in the habit of crowding me when the hormones hit every fall. Now that he’s wethered and doesn’t go through rut anymore he can be much more spoiled.
“Gate treats are the BEST idea!”
We’re going to count that as an honorary sheep-hug, too.
My first collie’s birthday was October 27, so I’ve always treated Hug a Sheep Day as also being Hug a Collie Day. Watcher does not much enjoy hugs because he and Mira both see being held as being too close to being restrained, which is almost like I’m telling them what to do, (rude! Scandalous!) but Echo loves hugs. Sadly he did not get any on my way back to the house, because he didn’t want to leave the back porch to meet me at the basement door.
“I don’t want to walk all that way unless it’s food-time or naptime!”
Oh well. The day is still young, I’m sure he’ll get his hugs at some point today.