Building Trust With My Sheep

Robin at the feeder.  I took this picture a few days ago. 

It’s about trust I thought as I squatted next to the hay feeder after cleaning out the barn.  It’s been so cold, I haven’t spent more time than necessary with the animals than to give them hay, grain, and water.

But today it was in the low 20’s, which felt like a heatwave compared to the below zero temperatures we’ve been having.

I clasped my hands between my knees and lowered my head. I was as still as I could be.  I just wanted to be with the sheep, to be as much a part of them as I could.

I’ve found that if I don’t use or move my hands, the sheep who are the most skittish will come a little closer.

So I squatted and soon Suzy came nibbling the stray strands of hay that were scattered around my feet. That wasn’t much of a surprise, Suzy will gladly let me scratch her back.  She’s never been afraid of me.

But still, there was a closeness I hadn’t felt with her before. I wasn’t doing anything for her and still, she chose to be around me. With all the hay scattered on the ground around the feeder, she chose to eat the hay under my knees, around my feet. And I found it comforting that she was so comfortable being around me for so long.

As if I belonged.

Then, Robin who eating out of the feeder, our heads the same height, looked right at me.  I looked back, careful not to make any sudden movements.  He nibbled at the hay, then brought his nose to my face and started sniffing.  I could smell him too, that curdled, sweet, yellow sheep breath.  And I knew we were okay with each other, that he was okay with me, as long as I didn’t move my hands.

Merricat came up to me briefly, tried to nibble on my hat then walked away.  But the rest of the sheep just went about their business of eating.  Not ignoring me, but not indulging me either.

That’s when I felt that my being there was about trust.

I want them to know that I can be among them without any other purpose but to be with them. That’s it’s not always about “doing”, about food, or cleaning up the barnyard.  That trust comes from being able to be around each other comfortably.

Trust, I believe, is what made Pumpkin walk into the stall when he was sick.  At first, I tried to move him there physically, by pushing and pulling him, but that didn’t work.  What did work was trust.  Me trusting he’d go where I wanted him to and him trusting me enough to do what I wanted him to.

How he knew what I wanted, I can’t say.

So even though it wasn’t my intention when I squatted down among the sheep this afternoon as they ate, we were continuing to build trust between us. From Suzy, one of my first sheep who has been on the farm for nine years, to Robin who was born on the farm 8 months ago.

It’s as if Suzy was saying to me, I trust you and I was saying to Robin, you can trust me. 

3 thoughts on “Building Trust With My Sheep

  1. I have enjoyed keeping up with Robin throughout this past year. He has the most beautiful eyes and sweet face. Great picture, thank you.

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