Updated: May 10, 2020
We adopted Beatrix five years ago before moving to our farm. She was a rescued dog with some significant special needs. A double-merle bred puppy, she had two beautiful blue eyes but it also made her susceptible to certain health conditions. Deaf from birth, Beatrix had big challenges. She became a loyal and playful family dog but we often worried about meeting her needs especially a high-need for stimulation probably related to her full hearing and partial eyesight loss. She barked loudly and incessantly which was not the best situation for our suburban neighborhood. Farm life helped with more things to do and spaces to roam, but Beatrix still seemed high strung and frustrated.
We knew some of her breed history from a test done on the mother. Beatrix had traits from Corgi and Australian Shepherd as well as Alaskan Malamute. With her herding breed DNA, we wondered if she might have latent instincts for working livestock and decided one day to introduce her to the sheep. We braced ourselves for chaos as this hyper-active, barking dog clashed with our suspicious young sheep. To our amazement, Beatrix was perfectly silent. Instead of charging in, she approached the sheep calmly and about five feet away, she went into the herding dog crouch. Each time the sheep moved, Beatrix adjusted and settled back into her vigil. This went on for long periods of time with her attention fixed on the sheep and her demeanor completely calm. It was as if she had finally discovered her purpose.
Now, things are not perfect with Beatrix the herding dog. She still has barking and frustration issues. Her deafness has made training difficult so she doesn't yet move sheep on command and our small farm doesn't really create a need for moving herds, but whenever we signal to her that we're going to see the sheep, Beatrix gets a sparkle in her brilliant blue eyes.