I was talking to Mick Crowe this morning (irishworkingsheepdogs.com) and I was telling him about a service pup I picked by my dog Bruce yesterday. There were nine in the litter and after looking at them for a few minutes I picked a bitch that caught my eye.

I picked her because she seemed independent and confident, yet very interactive with the breeder. But the reason I was telling Mick about her was because she only had a ¾ tail. Mick was saying “sure her tail won’t matter if she’s any good” to which I replied “not to me or to you Mick, but if I need to sell her, it will be the first thing anyone else will see”.

This discussion prompted me to recount this story to help illustrate my point.


In the past, sheep farmers on high ground often reared a goat kid with the lambs so that it would integrate and run with the flock as it grew older. In the winter when it would snow, if there was a wind the snow would drift and gather against fences, hedgerows, natural obstacles etc.

This situation caused great danger to the sheep for the simple reason that when the wind blows the sheep give way to resistance and they go with the wind, and sure then they’d usually end up in the snowdrift and get smothered.

The goat however is an independent fellow. He is not afraid of a bit of short-term discomfort in order to get the result he wants. Sheep on the other hand, when left to their own devices will take the easier softer route. But when they have a leader among them, they are happy to follow him. That is why the farmers reared the kid with the lambs.

So, in the blizzard situation the goat walks straight into the wind and finds safe harbour. The sheep will follow their comrade the goat into the wind and they will be lead to safety. They all avoid the snowdrift.

As with a lot of things, and particularly sheepdogs I think, it is often easier to go with the wind. Maybe by buying a pup whose pedigree everyone knows and can nod approval at and discuss the ancestors’ merits. Or by running a handy dog that has a nice appearance and can get placed in nurseries or in a Sunday trial. It’s a comfortable place to stand in . But what about the kind of dog that cause a lot of headscratching , that makes you question whether they are good enough or whether you are good enough, and that inevitably attracts the disapproval of the crowd?

I think sometimes we have to be the Goat and bet on ourselves and stick with a feeling regardless of the ‘social weather’.

Be the goat.