A dog in sheep’s clothing by Malcolm Bury

I had to deliver a dog to a neighbouring farm one day. As I was driving along the road leading up to the farmhouse, a sheep jumped out of the fynbos along the road and chased my bakkie right up to the house. As I’ve heard of this sheep behaving like the dogs with whom he was reared, I was amazed but not too surprised. He was already a familiar sight on the beaches along the Walker Bay coast. His owners loved to recount the disbelief on people’s faces when they saw this sheep running up and down the beach with their pack of five dogs. And when it was time to go home, Rambo with the same ease as the dogs, jumped onto the back of the bakkie. A real dog in sheep’s clothing.

Not for one moment did I think that he would one day be mine. But, when his owners moved away, Rambo moved onto our front deck where he would spend his days sleeping on a blanket in the shade. Whenever someone accidentally left the front door open, Rambo would tour the house and try out the beds, which got my wife in a state because he was not nearly house-trained and would sometimes leave a telling trail behind him. Oh boy, was he ingenious at finding access to the house!
One day we had a client bring in a Rott­weiler to the kennels for a couple of days. As he had warned us beforehand about the aggressiveness and size of this dog, we made sure all our dogs were safely locked away. But we had completely forgotten about Rambo on the front deck. As his ears picked up the sound of the approaching bakkie, he lazily got up and walked down the steps to greet the newcomers, as he was used to. Always the perfect gentleman, I mean sheep, when it comes to guests, our Rambo.
Halfway up the garden path, Rambo, the Rottweiler and Rottweiler’s owner came eye to eye. By the look of Rottweiler’s master’s bulging muscles he must have been spending many hours pumping iron in the gym. Rottweiler, on a very short leash, took one look at this sheep striding confidently up to them, turned heel and dashed back to the bakkie. By now the garden gate was already securely shut, but that did not deter him. With the grace of a highjumper he leapt over the gate, pulling his master behind him like a plaything, straight into the gate.
The ensuing tug-of-war, with Rottweiler on the one side of the gate and his boss hanging onto the leash on the other side trying to open the gate without any success, had my wife and kids in stitches in the house from where they were watching through a window. I had great difficulty keeping a straight face. In the end Mr Muscles let go of the leash and with one jump Rottweiler was back in the bakkie refusing to budge. Only after I had locked up Rambo, and with much coaxing, could we get him out of the bakkie and into the kennels. So much for this big aggressive dog!
Another time we had an old lady bring her little miniature Maltese to us. It was the same greeting procedure all over again. Only this time the little Maltese was the one better off. When this little fellah saw Rambo, he made a dash for him, jumped up and got hold of a patch of the long wool on Rambo’s forehead. He held on to it for dear life and there was Rambo running around the garden with this little white-haired growling “monster” dangling in front of his face! He must have thought himself very lucky to have found someone willing to play with him!
After much consideration we had to put Rambo in the pen with the other sheep. But often as I watch Rambo, nine years old now, grazing with them, I wonder if he ever longs for his cosy bed on the front deck. If only everyone and especially visiting dogs could accept that he was only another dog whose baa was worse than his bite, he might have held on to his position as receptionist.

(Malcolm is the owner of Syringa Kennels just outside of Stanford)


Malcolm feeding Rambo the sheep

Malcolm feeding Rambo the sheep

Rambo, the sheep

Rambo, the sheep

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