The Shepherds’ Dog
Wolves were around, and we already had lambs. The fire had burned low but a few fresh sticks kept it going. We needed the fire – the sky was clear and it was cold – and it kept the wolves away. Some of the sheep were huddled for warmth and some just doing what sheep do.
Then there was this light. I’d been dozing with half an eye open but this was something that I hadn’t seen before and I knew it was important. We had to go – we just had to. My master picked up an orphan lamb – don’t know why – don’t think he really knew. Then we just left everything and went, across the fields, past the pens, we made the track and headed off towards the town. Now I’m a country boy. I just love the wide open spaces and normally avoid buildings. But we just had to get there. I don’t think any of us knew what to expect.
Well, I’ll call it a town – it was some houses on a hill, some large, some small. But we didn’t go to any of these, we went to the cowshed round the back. Cows, a couple of donkeys, and a child with its parents. Strange, I thought, what are they doing here at this time of night? But there was no doubt that this was the right place. We went in. I didn’t know if I was supposed to be there so I crept up beside my master. He put his hand on my head so I knew it was all right. I licked his hand.
Then the child looked at me.
Looking back, it was strange, wonderful, but I didn’t know why. I still don’t. All I do know is that we had to be there. It all felt so new. We left the lamb with them.
We left quietly so as not to disturb them. But soon they were all leaping round and shouting. People must have thought that they’d been at the wine. But we went back to the sheep. They made up the fire and talked. I couldn’t understand any of what they were saying but by the tone of their voices they were asking questions. And finding no answers. I just lay down beside my master. His hand came down on my head again and gentled my ears. I just put my head on his knee and watched.
It didn’t happen again – there was no need. Things had changed.