I am The Cat Shepherd Bodacious and my day usually starts when I feel like it. Sometimes it starts when the scullery door to the house is opened and I enter for a breakfast of crunchy cat biscuits. Other days I begin my routine job when I count sheep with human and canine assistance. My co-workers are Pepper who is a scruffy border collie crossed with a fox terrier and The Big Fellow, a large black wolf-like GDR. We recently had a new canine join the crew, a border collie called Zak. He is here on trial for the moment to see if he can help herd the flock of sheep as their numbers increase. I enjoy walking the fields inspecting the ewes and lambs. Some are old friends whom I greet with a welcoming head butt. Others try to head butt me but I tend to avoid them. Ram lambs can be quite stroppy so I must watch out to avoid unwelcome butts. Most of the time nothing really happens as we walk through the fields counting the ewes and lambs. After sheep counting I sometimes catch a snooze in front of or on the Aga in the kitchen.
My employer is a good one and the benefits are worth staying around for. So I do not plan to move on at this time. But I am an independent cat and should not be taken for granted. I am NOT child friendly and do not suffer fools gladly. I am a busy, hard working, professional, smart cat. Humans have been known to try and pick me up but quickly drop me due to my teeth sinking into their hand or arm. The only human I have any respect for is my boss shepherd. She is a female farmer which means she gets her own flack as people always ask for the “real boss” and she can’t really point to feline me and say there he is or they would laugh even harder.
I came to this farm from my unknown kitten-hood in the nearby city of Kilkenny in Southern Ireland. As a teenager I walked into a novelty toilet seat shop where the owner looked after me for a few days calling radio stations, the local SPCA and the Garda Siochana to report my missing owner status. The human shepherd found out about me and took me home to where I now live. No one came forward to claim me so I’ve stayed here. That was 7 years ago.
I am only a shepherd in the minor leagues if one compares my flock to Australian or New Zealand flocks of many thousands of white woolly sheep. My flock is a rare breed of sheep called Zwartbles. They make loads of milk that could produce cheese or a delicate ice cream. They also have fleeces of fine rich dark chocolate wool which is spun and woven by the humans into warm beautiful blankets at the local Cushendale Woolen Mill.
My flock of Zwartbles sheep are farmed in fields by the banks of the River Nore in County Kilkenny. The land has been in this human’s family for many generations, so every building and field has a known unwritten history of its own.
On cold misty mornings walking up and down hills, the mist of our own breath filling the air, we feel we are on our own until the sheep come trooping baaing out of the misty banks of air. When winter frost is white on the ground in the dark dawn of day you can see the black sheep far across the field like shadow moving whispers till they get close and start calling for their breakfast.
There are many other jobs that need to be done which I help out with such as when lambs get their vaccines. I like to sit on the work table or window ledge and chat with the sheep and human as vaccinations or worm doses go to each sheep or lamb. When farm machinery needs greasing or servicing I hang around giving instructions. I like helping around the garden and when not supervising sleeping in box hedges. If someone passes I always shout at them to say “Hello! need any help”?
Lambing is a busy time of year with a lot of waiting around day and night for sheep to start lambing or to finish lambing. I wait hours to make sure the lamb presents itself correctly when exiting the womb. When we have very cold windy nights lambing, the fresh born lambs need to be dried off quickly so they come into the kitchen to get warm and dry in the bottom left oven of the Aga. I watch over them or sometimes get in next to them depending how cold it is outside.
In rain, sun, snow and wind I pad down laneways, cross winter streams, carefully walk through muddy gateways, weave my way through long summer grasses, jump on to fence posts to survey my flock of sheep or wander along wall tops to view the sheep from a great height. My favorite throne from which I watch sheep to count their numbers are the fence posts at the gate as it is all action. So far my tail has never been closed in a gate but I have sometimes been left on the wrong side of a gate and had to crawl under or through it.
I love to ride the quad feeling the wind in my ears and watching everything pass by as I sit on the warm engine. When fields are being topped in the summer heat, I wait in the shade by the gate for a ride back up to the yard. In winter when the big round bales must be brought out to the sheep, I ride atop the bale high up with the birds till I’m made to get off.
I have sporting days of catching young swallows as they try out their wings for the first time. The humans get very cross when they catch me with a swallow in my mouth. My favorite birds are chickens. I call them my egg makers as they create my favorite food, a raw egg!!! I have never chased an egg maker even when they have had (very tempting to most cats) baby chicks running around their feet.
At the beginning of this year my fans kept asking me to have my own Face Book page and Twitter address. The human reluctantly did so and she was stunned how my following grew. I have my own Cat Shepherd diary pages on our Zwartbles Ireland website which I review meticulously to make sure nothing insignificant is reported. I hope you have enjoyed my brief introduction of my life as a Cat Shepherd. Your more than welcome to continue following my daily adventures via twitter @1CatShepherd my face book page Cat Shepherd or look up my Cat Shepherd Diaries on www.zwartblesireland.com