28 August 1998

Shepherd with a liking for biking

"ARE you sure that you dont know what shes done?"

"No, vet, I was just asked to bring her in for you to examine her. As you can see, shes quite stiff and is carrying her back left leg."

"Her injuries are consistent with her being hit by a car. Youd better leave her here and Ill arrange for her to have an X-ray.

"Well ring you when shes ready to go home."

I walked out of the vets wondering if I had forgotten something. I went over the events of the weekend in my mind, and then I suddenly remembered.

"Im sorry, I know what it was," I said as I burst through the door into the vets surgery. "She fell off the motorbike!"

The owner of the cat that was being examined looked taken aback, after all I hadnt even knocked at the door. Fortunately, the vet knew me quite well and laughed.

"I might have guessed it may have been something like that. Was she wearing a crash

helmet?"

"No, but Dave was, although not much else, only shorts and boots. She was riding behind Dave and the front wheel of the motorbike became stuck in a rut and they both fell off."

There were no real injuries. Jill was just badly bruised and after a few days rest, was perfectly all right again.

That was several years ago but the motorbike is still being used regularly for looking around the sheep and has proved invaluable. The dog wasnt the only passenger when Dave was stopped one evening just as it was getting dark. He had been having problems with

escaping sheep

and decided to lie in wait to try and catch the ringleader, as this is often the case with escapees. He sat on his motorbike in some bushes at the side of the large field with Jill tied up beside him. The sheep were all grazing peacefully, or so it seemed. One gradually wandered away from the main flock towards the fence and, ignoring the current passing through it, pushed her way through, followed by the rest of the flock.

Dave went into action. He started up the bike and headed after the fleeing sheep, not taking his eyes off the ringleader. She realised after a couple of laps of the field that there was a monster after her and tried to outrun it. Eventually, she conceded that it was impossible and her legs buckled beneath her.

Dave then had a problem. He wanted to take her to another field but although she appeared incapacitated, at any minute she could make an instant recovery. He took his belt off – at least his trousers werent dependent on it – and tied the ewes legs together. With Jills help he rounded the other sheep and put them back into their field then mended

the broken fence.

It was beginning to get dark by now so he sat the ewe on the petrol tank of the motorbike. Jill was used to travelling behind Dave as he had a large wooden tray fixed on the pillion so on his command she jumped on the back. By sitting the ewe upright, he could reach round her to the handlebars. It was a bit tricky manoeuvring the gate but at last they were out on the road.

They had only travelled a few hundred yards when Dave became aware of a blue glow behind him. The patrol car stopped and the officer, putting his hat on, started walking towards Dave. Jill being curious, put her head round the side of Dave. The police officer stopped in his tracks, rubbed his eyes and peered again. He shook his head and walked back to the car. Dave declares, he heard him say to the driver of the car: "Theyd never believe me back at the station. A dog on a motorbike, maybe, but with a sheep driving it complete with crash helmet? Never!"

When the motorbike was newer, it was used for covering some of the distances involved with Daves nomadic shepherding activities. He was asked to travel to a farm 15 miles away to move some sheep for the owner and, with Jill on board, he set off.

Arriving at the farm, there was no sign of the owner so having located the sheep he led the way on the motorbike, 200 sheep following, and Jill trotting along behind them. They negotiated the hundred yards along the main road and turned up the lane. Dave could see in his wing mirror that everything was going according to plan, so speeding up a bit he went on ahead to open the field gate in readiness for the sheep. As he rounded a bend, he met a Range Rover being driven at speed which skidded to a halt on seeing Dave.

"Are you the shepherd? The driver called. "Im sorry Im late. Its too dark to move the sheep now isnt it?"

"Theyre on their way, Madam."

"Whos bringing them?"

"The dog."

"How does she know where to bring them?"

"Madam, I told her the way: Down to the main road, turn left, a hundred yards, turn right, and Ill be waiting at the gate."

At that moment, right on cue, round the corner came the first sheep, followed by the rest, with Jill proudly bringing up the rear.

Sadly, Jill is no longer with us and none of our subsequent dogs have learnt the knack of balancing on the back. Dave still uses the motorbike to do some shepherding but finds the Land Rover is more

comfortable now.

Eileen Sullivan