Yesterday evening, my four year old nephew and I were talking about Border Collies and how they herd sheep.
“Why do the dogs hurt the sheep?” He asked.
Oh dear. I tried to explain the difference between “herd” and “hurt”, but I had the feeling he was more than a little confused. So I showed him a few minutes of this youtube video.
My little nephew was fascinated and before long, he and his younger brother were chasing their eighteen year old uncle around the dining room. Apparently, he was the closest thing to a sheep that they could find to herd.
But there is one thing that I neglected to tell my nephew about herding animals. And that is that cyclists are pretty awesome in their own right as animal herders.
This morning, as I was biking to work in the dark, I spotted two deer standing by the roadside. As I neared them, they stood silently, staring deeply into my headlight. A vehicle came toward us from the opposite direction and I became a bit concerned: what if the deer decided to make a mad dash across the road and the car crashed into them?
I shouldn’t have worried. As I continued pedaling toward them, the deer suddenly realized-
“That is not a car!!”
And in a panic, they hightailed it for the woods.
It seems bizarre, but animals seem to trust speedy cars more than a person biking slowly by. I guess it is desensitization; they see car after car pass by day after day and they just get used to it. But around here, a cyclist is enough of a novelty to seem like an unknown danger.
So the fact that animals are afraid of me, combined with my slower, safer pace make me an ideal animal herder. I am so ideal that I think I will ask the Department of Transportation to give me a stipend for the role I play in keeping animals off the road.
After all, I have a great resume. I have herded sheep, cows, turkeys, mice, deer, snakes, turtles, rabbits, skunks and other animals to safety, away from the road.
Please realize, however, that I am still a novice. I can’t, for the life of me, direct dogs to get off the road. With a dog, I am the one who gets herded.