The sheep dog that ran away from sheep

Four-minute story

The sheep dog that ran away from sheep

The gamekeeper had long suspected that the shepherd was also a poacher. There was nothing that he could put his finger on, but on his rounds he did wonder. His job was to check up on the fields and woodlands that he patrolled, keeping other people away from his employer’s game, pheasants and partridges that were shot by parties of sportsmen who paid generously for the privilege. There were rabbits too, and hares with their long black-tipped ears that would run away across the fields rather than scuttle into a hedge like a rabbit.

There was little to distinguish the two men. They were both dressed to work outside in all weathers and it was quite something to see one of them carrying his old army greatcoat over one arm and looking hot and bothered as if he had needed to run after something or somebody. The gamekeeper was the taller of the two and always wore a tweed cap whatever the weather. In the summer he would sometimes take it off for a moment, but only so that he could scratch his head before covering it again.

The shepherd was a stouter man who wore strong braces which you could occasionally see when the weather was warm and his waistcoat was left undone. Today it was cooler and he was standing next to his truck when the gamekeeper appeared.

“Mornin’. There’s something I need to ask about.”

The gamekeeper was still now, leaning on the shepherd’s truck as if he needed to get back his breath. The shepherd said nothing.

“People keep telling me that they’ve seen your dog out at night, chasin’ about after things,” He paused. “Things like rabbits and a pheasant or two, I reckon.”

“Whose bin tellin’ you that then?”

“You know how it is Frank. People talk.”

“They ain’t seen my dog.” The shepherd nodded at the dog then looked straight at the keeper. “Bloody useless animal. Don’t know why I keep it.” He noticed the keeper taking a longer look at the dog. “Don’t believe me? You watch – he’s no good for anything.”

The shepherd drew back his arm then swept it round and called out to the dog.

“Go on.” he waved an arm in the direction of the sheep. “Go round. Go on, get round.”

The keeper looked on in amazement for the shepherd’s dog was sitting immediately behind its master, tense and nervous and obviously with no intention of helping his master by rounding up the sheep.

The gamekeeper shook his head and turned away.

“Perhaps it was someone else’s dog they saw.” And with that he took himself away, through a gateway that led him away towards a wood not far off.

Once the gamekeeper had moved out of sight the shepherd turned to the dog which was still cowering behind him. His next command was a short one: “Heal.” This time it was not necessary to repeat the command for the dog was off running flat-out, body low and following the shape of the ground, round in a wide arc so that the sheep were soon lifting their heads and moving towards the shepherd.

What was the trick that the shepherd played on the gamekeeper?

The two men are said to be similar in appearance. Can you think of any reasons why the writer should present them like this?

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