Fleece, fleece sheets and our working dogs

Each of the fleeces that we shear in our Sheep Barn must be brought into the house for skirting, and we do this by bundling each into an old bed sheet. By keeping each separate in this way, I can identify the sheep that it came from (we staple an identification card to the corner of each sheet listing the sheep name and number, the breed and color) and eventually record the information about the fleece on that sheep’s records.

Immediately following shearing, we bring all of the bundles in and stack them around our dining room by breed and color for easier skirting, since I go in order by breed, and within that breed, by color. As each fleece comes to my attention and I flip it out onto the table, I drop the bed sheet that once held the fleece over the side of the barrier (an X-pen for dogs) that keeps our three working dogs away from the wool. Eventually, when I have a full laundry load of sheets, I collect the pile and run the load – until then, they lie there stacked up, awaiting more sheets.

I know that for our dogs, there is nothing so enticing as the scent and taste of wool – in any form. In the early years of our flock, I didn’t block off our dining room during skirting, and our dogs would sneak in and ‘steal’ entire bundles of wool, dragging them off to various hiding places around our house. Even after I began blocking off my skirting area, I noticed them trying to sneak bits of wool through the barrier, digging at the small bits that littered the dining room floor.

Several years ago, I accidentally left the door to my office open, and Chance found his way in. I went looking for him after noticing him missing, and found him in my office, happily having a one-dog party. He had burrowed deep into the big bag of dark chocolate Romeldale combed top, tearing off pieces and throwing them high into the air. The entire room looked like the once beautiful bag of combed top had exploded, dropping bits of dark brown wool everywhere: they were scattered over the desk and table, gathered up in the corners, and even hanging from the ceiling fan! Obviously, Chance has very good taste in wool, since this is one of the most difficult colors for us to produce (the other is deep cinnamon brown) and the most expensive fiber product we sell!

All of our dogs are now getting on in years to the point that even the youngest (Chance) is an old guy at nine years of age. Unlike earlier years, they have now lost most of that pent up energy and spend most evenings lying around and dozing: Lisa and Chance on any one of our oriental rugs, and Coda on his orthopedic mattress. As our main working dog, Coda has serious issues with arthritis and has obviously decided that the mattress gives him more mobility when he gets up.

Coda shifted closer to me as I took the photo, but Lisa, seeing no reason to move, remained with her head near the wonderful aroma of the fleece sheets.

The other evening as I went to get myself a beverage, I noticed that Coda was not on his mattress as usual, so I went to find where he had gone. I didn’t have to look far – and I should have known. Both Lisa and Coda were lying on the several fleece sheets that I had dropped on the floor headed for the laundry. I’m sure that Chance would have been there, too, had Lisa let him, but because of their on-going feud, he lay in the laundry room where I had a small pile of towels from the barn.

Yes, there is no better place to rest when you are a working Border Collie than the heavily sheep-scented pile of sheets or towels – surrounded by such great smells, I suppose their dreams are filled with misbehaving sheep and very strict Border Collies – and probably lots of snuggles from the shepherdess afterwards for a job well done!

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  • Eileen says:

    my male cat LOVES fleece. He turns in to Pepe La Pew around it!

    • Dee says:

      I’ve heard this about all kinds of animals, actually! When our chickens lived in the barn, we used to find them hunkered down and sleeping on top of the sheep as the sheep went about their days. Of course the sheep were wearing coats, so this wasn’t a problem for the fleeces, thank goodness! It did bring a smile to my face, though!

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