Monday, September 3, 2007

Munchkin's Sheep Substitute

My summer vacation is almost over. My first summer in 14 years without my first sheltie, Munchkin. Munchkin loved to hang out on the deck in the summer. He would sit at the edge and watch the street for hours at a time. His concentration was so intense, it must have been exhausting for him.
Shelties are herding dogs. If you don't give them a job (sheep), they will find one for themselves. Munchkin made it his job to alert me when motorcycles drove past our house.

Munchkin would bark his head off at every motorcycle that went by. I don't know why. I wondered if he assumed it could be Jeff. I think he was smarter than that. Bikes must have been Munchkin's "sheep substitute". He also barked at people walking, running, or bicycling. If I had him off his leash, Munchkin would run into the road after the person. He would run up to the person and just bark. "Get back with the herd, you dumb sheep", is what I imagined he was saying. Munchkin never left the yard otherwise. He was always by his shepherd's side.

When Munchkin was a puppy, I would bring him to the local little league park. The fields were fenced in, so I could let him off the leash to run. He would tear around the field at top speed in wide circles. There was no doubt that this dog had been bred to herd. The circling instinct was so strong.

When it wasn't "deck weather", Munchkin had two favorite spots. One was the back of the couch. He would sit on top of the seat back cushion so he could see the road out the picture window. His other spot was on our bed, which also had a window view of the road. From either place, he could do his job of letting me know about any loose "sheep".

Misty has taken over Munchkin's spot on the couch. She scratches at the window whenever someone comes to the house or walks by. Munchkin trained her well. Occasionally, Misty will bark at a motorcycle, but when Oreo doesn't join in, she stops. I wonder if she still misses Munchkin. After Munchkin died, Misty sobbed for weeks whenever we left the house. That stopped after we got Oreo. Did she miss Munchkin, or did she just not like being alone?

Oreo has a lot of Munchkin's traits. He circles the kitchen table while food is being prepared, and runs in wide circles outside. When he's on the deck, he barks at people walking down the street, but not motorcycles. Oreo can't jump on the couch, so maybe that job will end with Misty.

Oreo has helped all of us deal with the pain of losing our best buddy, Munchkin. When I'm sitting on the deck, like I am right now, I can still picture Munchie laying on the edge, with his ears perked up, just waiting for the sound of a bike (sheep). I hope that image never fades away.

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