Pet of the day: Nothing sheepish about Thomas
Thomas is a 1-year-old Gotland Pelt wether, which is a sheep breed from the Swedish island of Gotland. He is loud, proud, affectionate, intelligent, inquisitive, athletic and playful. His buddy Quentin is also a good guy, but he lacks some of the Thomas chutzpah.
Every day the boys want two walks - being shut up in a paddock is an insult to their intelligence. In the afternoon they usually walk along the river’s edge that abuts our property.
We've been walking our sheep and goats along the riverbed for about 15 years and have found that it is a different experience to walking dogs. Instead of looking for places to pee and rabbits to chase, they look for new things to nibble. A grassy knoll in the middle of the riverbed is a favourite place, and they like to eat gorse flowers.
Racing along the mountain bike track is great fun and they are interested in observing jet boats, trains, four wheel drives, motorbikes, mountain bikes, people, and dogs.
I carry a stick to ward off dog attacks, but it has been used more to stop the sheep from unintentionally intimidating dogs. Intimidated dog breeds to date include huntaway, labrador and German shepherd. Quentin once insisted on a nose-to-nose with a doberman. He also likes to try to communicate with other animals - sheep and even paradise ducks.
At night they expect to go on the leash and accompany our dog on his walk along the cul-de-sac street. Thomas learnt to walk on the leash in about 10 minutes, and they are both better at this than most dogs. If they think they are missing out on this walk, protests can get very noisy - to the extent that a neighbour once telephoned to find out what was going on. There was also the morning when the neighbour came to tell us that Quentin had a bucket stuck on his head!
Sheep are not woolly chunks of meat. If you treat them well, they are every bit as rewarding pets as dogs and cats. Unfortunately, their toilet habits preclude them from coming in the house. I’m sure Thomas would enjoy racing up and down the stairs.
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