Friday, October 06, 2006

Romeo Meets His Match

Now, once upon a time at the turn of the millennium, Granny had a friend who lived in Fairbanks named Marie, and Marie had an Australian shepherd dog named Annie. Now, Annie had auburn hair and big, brown eyes, and the sweetest face. She was a very good dog, a very well behaved dog, and all of her ancestors had been bred to herd sheep. This meant that when she saw a group of creatures, she thought of them as a flock of sheep. Didn't matter if they were people or geese or ducks or moose -- if there was a group, then Annie thought of them as a flock of sheep, and wanted them to behave like sheep. Indeed, because she had such good sheep herding genes, she believed it was her job to make certain that they did behave like well tended sheep.

So, one evening Marie decided to go and see an outdoor production of Romeo and Juliet and she took Annie with her. When they got to the play, Annie was very impressed. There were benches for the people to sit on and a stage for the actors to act on. There was even a creek right beside the stage. Oh, having a play outside was a very good idea! There were a couple of other dogs at the play as well, because in Fairbanks people take their dogs almost everywhere they go. The other dogs, a rottweiler and a Doberman, lay down quietly at their people's feet and slept. Not Annie. Annie watched the play.

Oh, it was so exciting. People moving about. People shouting. People doing strange things while other people sat on benches and watched them. Annie was intrigued. Annie was fascinated. Annie was trying to figure out whether or not this flock was going to need herding. Perhaps they did -- here they were, there they went. Around and about. No stillness to it at all. Annie kept waiting for them to settle down and they didn't. Annie watched very carefully -- were they going to need her to round them up or were they going to manage on their own? Once in a while, Annie would look at Marie, but Marie never gave her a signal to control this unruly flock, so she stayed where she was, but she never relaxed her vigilance.

Then the flock became more unruly. There were young males all over the place, challenging each other with strange sticks! Annie knew about dominance fights among flocks, but she had never seen two groups go at it like this. And with sticks! Didn't they know they were supposed to butt heads? This was a great puzzle to Annie, because this flock didn't know how to behave at all. It didn't even know the right way to be unruly.

Now Annie was very alert. She might be needed at any moment! Oh, she watched and she watched. Her head moved from right to left and left to right as she watched this unruly flock dancing about with the strange sticks. Many of the people in the audience were watching Annie as much as they were watching the play --— they had never seen a dog watch a play before, they were used to dogs going to sleep and ignoring it. Annie was a new thing to them, just as the play and the strange sticks and the odd unruliness were new things to Annie.

One of the flock with the sticks seemed to be more important than the others. Many of the others watched what he did and listened to what he said. He seemed to be a very dominant flock member, and the others called him Romeo. Romeo challenged first one and then another. He was all over. He even jumped over the creek! Then, he came out into the audience and he started jumping over the heads of the people who were sitting down. Annie was amazed! She had never in her entire life seen such a thing! A sheep leaping over the heads of the others. Oh, surely this was not allowed. Annie looked to Marie, but Marie didn't direct her to control him! Amazing! Romeo leapt over a man, "Oh, man!" he said. Then, he leapt over a woman, "Oh, woman!" he said. Then, the most amazing thing of all -- he leapt right over Annie, "Oh, dog!" he said. As he leapt over Annie, it was more than she could tolerate! This unruly sheep was completely out of control. This could not be allowed. And so, with all of her ancestors standing behind her and guiding her actions, with all of the good sheep dog heart that she had, Annie took a little nip, just a little nip, such as any good sheep dog would give any unruly sheep --— not enough to hurt, just enough to herd. Right at Romeo's backside as he sailed over her head, Annie aimed her nip. And, just by a silly little millimeter, missed. And all of the people, who had been watching Annie and watching the play, laughed out loud with delight. And Romeo never knew how close he had come to adding, "Oh, pain!" to his lines. And if Annie had connected, Granny would have called this story Nipped in the Bud.


Gina said...

Oh, hilarious!

Thank you for the laughs, and I enjoy reading all of your "vignettes."

This story reminded me of my parent's dog, who is an Aussie and German Shephard mix. She does the same thing, and has been known to herd children, albeit with no nipping!

J said...

I wonder if Romeo and those unruly sheep ever did learn to behave?

ML said...

I love that story! Thank you for the laugh! Annie reminds me of my Sheltie, Penny. She loved to herd anyone and anything!

Melissa said...

I am cracking up. And I can so picture that in my head, as I have an Austrailian Shepard who is just like that.

Ginnie said...

What a wonderful story. Is the dog in the picture Annie? I love the look on her face...she certainly could get the better of any Romeo and I would have loved to have been in the audience when she "almost" nipped the bud.

Maya's Granny said...

Ginnie, Sadly, I don't have a picture of the actual Annie, but she looks just like this one I found on Yahoo images.

Annie is a pretty wondrful and spectacular dog. Her friendship is an honor.

kenju said...

Granny of Maya, I have anew title for you:

Great teller of true tales!

Cuppa said...

What a hoot! Thanks for the chuckle this morning. If you published a book of stories for children it would be a best seller I am sure because adults would enjoy reading them just as much as their children would enjoy hearing them.

My sister had a dog who thought it was his duty to herd people. He didn't nip at our heals, but he would run himself ragged trying to keep us all together on our walks around the 120 acre property. During family weekends at the farm, different groups would head off in different directions and Scruffy wouldn't know what to do. Should he protect the teenagers down at the swimming hole, or keep an eye on the adults walking the trails through the woods, or perhaps chaparone the young couple who wanted to go off by themselves and explore the woods beyond the marked trails? He would be one tired dog when we all gathered back at the old farmhouse for the night.

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