By Wendy Beasley
Moel Sian was bred by Ceri Rundle of CSJ fame from her very good Moel sheepdog line, but never really did what she was bred for. Circumstances at the time meant that she didn’t really get started with the sheep and before long she proved her worth as a very good brood bitch, producing fine working dogs, and so never really got back to her day job. When Ceri heard that I was looking for new blood to introduce to my Stardell line she suggested that Sian might suit me and after a trip to Wales to meet her we were very happy to bring her home.
Her pups have gone on to excel in working trials, agility and obedience and I am more than happy with the one I am currently working. She has also acted as surrogate Mum to the young dogs we have taken in for training including a boisterous male GSD that was more than twice her size. Her gentle correction and reassurance puts youngsters at their ease, and absolutely nothing frightens her, so she really is a steadying influence.
We do working trials and over the four years that we have had Sian she has travelled the length and breadth of the country with us and been calm and confident in all sorts of new and challenging surroundings, something she clearly did not learn on the Welsh Hill Farm that had been her home for her formative years. She had moulded seamlessly into our pack, and although her breeding days are over and she has settled into a happy retirement we wouldn’t be without her, and consider her as much a part of our family as the ones that grew up here.
Sian is one of the six border collies we have at the present time with three working and three retired. When we go out training all the dogs come with us and once the training is over the “oldies” get a run so this is how we set out last Saturday, when we went out to do some tracking. We are lucky that we have a choice of land to work on, but on this particular day we chose to go just up the road and work on the small meadows in our village.
One of the meadows is rented by a hobby farmer who has sheep on it, but the other three are empty allowing one each for the dogs to track. As I was finishing the last track with my dog I saw someone leaning on the gate watching, and as I got closer I recognised her as Judy the owner of the sheep. She asked me if any of my dogs would herd sheep as she was trying to treat one of them for fly strike but could not get near it to spray it. Although we knew that ours had all been rigorously trained to ignore sheep, Paul pointed out that we did not know if Sian would be any use so decided to try her.
Armed with a long tracking line Paul and I decided to try to corner the sheep with the line between us acting as a visible barrier and at this point we kept Sian on the lead. This did not work as the sheep were far too fast and kept skipping around the ends, so at Judy’s suggestion and with her agreement we decided to let Sian off the lead and see what she could do. Her reaction was instantaneous, and at nine years old and with sheep just a distant memory instinct took over and she went into full sheepdog mode.
With absolutely no hesitation she gathered them all together and pushed them towards us, keeping them in a tight bunch by constantly circling. We were unsure quite how to shed the required sheep but as I moved towards it, it moved slightly away from the rest, and almost as if commanded Sian shot in and drove it away from the others just like something from “One man and his dog.”
She pushed the one sheep up against the fence and along towards the corner as Paul and I moved in with our tracking line. The sheep decided to front it out and stood and stamped its foot at her, whereupon she shot round the back and bit its leg and it decided to move after all. Once we had it penned in the corner Sian dropped to the floor and watched and Judy was able to hook the sheep in her crook spray it and let it go. Sian was all for getting it back but understood the “That’ll do” command which is the only one I know, and she followed us out of the field.
Unfortunately as we walked back to the van I noticed she was looking a little the worse for wear and realised that working so hard in the 28 degree heat at nine years old had taken its toll on her and she was suffering from heat stroke. Luckily we were not far away from home so were able to get her there quickly and hose her down which soon put her right, and after a couple of hours rest in a cool kennel she was ready to go again. Judy was so delighted that she brought round a bottle of wine the next day although I felt a big juicy bone would have been more appropriate.
Sian is now a bit of a hero in the village as everyone has heard of her moment of glory, and although all her kennel mates have done great things in trials none of them could claim to be proper sheepdogs.
So Sian is a sheepdog and even after maternal duties and change of lifestyle it is still all there, but you can’t have her back Ceri!