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  • Reyna Bradford

A Job for Gem (written 10/23/17)

The preparations for barn hunt are in full swing, and they have now happily overflowed to include yet another eager dog.

I have two rats and am searching for a few more; I've ordered the hay bales; a friend and her husband are constructing the container tubes.


The large, enclosed area which I plan to use for our barn hunt arena stands empty, ready for hay, rats, and dogs.

The problem is that the arena is choked with high grass and weeds. Over the years no one has had a compelling reason to use that area, so it's basically just been left to itself. Now the vegetation is way too tough and tall for even a riding mower to plow through.

But seriously, who needs a riding mower when you have goats?

In this case, I've decided to enlist the help of the half-grown babies.


There are five of them still here, and they are always hungry. They would enthusiastically chomp down and tromp down all of the plant life in our arena.

The trick comes in getting them from their own corral down here at the house, all the way up the driveway and to the top of the hill, then from there cutting across the site where the old hay shed burned down, and finally spilling through the panel gate and in to the overgrown arena.


If you think that sounds easy, you've never tried to wrangle five teenage goats.

Gem, however, has. And she's pretty good at it.

And so, each day this week, and most days for the foreseeable future, the two of us go out to move goats. Both of us love it. Gem because it means she gets to work livestock, the thing which she wants to do and waits to do all day and all night. And me because it means I get to watch a working dog truly work.

There's something special about a totally wired, totally willing herding dog moving livestock. It's pure instinct, pure focus, pure work ethic, with only a handful of training thrown in. She gathers them up, I show them the way, and we move as one unit with a specific destination and a specific purpose.

It's another win-win situation. The goats get to eat. I get my barn hunt arena. The other dogs get a new sport to learn. And Gem, who will never be interested in barn hunt for its own sake, nevertheless gets a job to do. Her very most favorite job in the whole world.


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