We thought we heard him last night, barking, in a field to the north of our land. Then again ... maybe it was the dog who lives up that way. Today, Union Guy headed over there and walked around, but had no luck. After The Boy got home from school, Union Guy suggested that he take a look over near the one line of trees that we hadn't checked yet ... and sure enough, there was Bob, tangled around a fence. He'd jumped over, gotten snagged, and wrapped himself around a few more times in an effort to get free. The Boy unhooked him and brought him home, where Union Guy had his dinner ready and a repaired trolley line waiting. Bob is now fed, happy, and safely tied up in the pasture.
McKenzie has been behaving very well - he stays home, stays with the sheep, and has pretty well outgrown his sheep-harassing stage. He barks at the coyotes (and the geese, and trucks on the road ...) and is being taught manners by the horned sheep (Bruce the ram has taken advantage of more than one 'teachable moment' when McKenzie got too enthusiastic!) Mac does climb the fences if they aren't tight enough, but I think he can be contained (our fencing skills are slowly improving). Unlike Bob, McKenzie can't leap a five foot fence from a standing stop: he has to crush the fence down with his not-insubstantial-weight and then force his way over. A line of tight barbed wire across the top should stop that particular habit.
All that said, in the course of this latest adventure we had to do some hard thinking. We felt horrible wondering if Bob was hurt or lost or suffering ... but then again, McKenzie had things well in hand, he's quieter when he is by himself, and he stays with the sheep and doesn't need to be tied up. There was a measure of relief ... which of course was swiftly followed by guilt. We love Bob for who he is: his personality is somehow immediately engaging, and you just can't help but hug him when you see his goofy grin. Still, he doesn't seem to be a good fit for the job he was hired to do.
Bob has a wonderful personality and as a 'person' he is tremendously loveable. He is gentle with the lambs and sheep, and an excellent coyote deterrent. It is clear, though, that he needs much more space than we have: he simply cannot get it through his head that he only needs to guard our six acres ... he wants to keep an eye on everything he can see, which is, in fact, characteristic of his breed. The neighbours, though, don't really appreciate his help guarding their land.
It hurts to do it, but that doesn't mean it's not the right thing to do. I posted an ad tonight on the agriculture sale board where I first located Bob, last summer when we acquired our first sheep. There is a whole section on the board dedicated to herd and guard animals. In the right environment, I'm sure he'd do very well - but he needs something like a large cattle ranch (which is where he grew up) where he can keep an eye on the cattle and check out everything in the area unimpeded by fences.
It is painful to think of letting him go, but keeping him tied up is hard on him and on us, our fences are not likely to ever be sturdy enough to hold him (although with enough effort we might manage it), and it just seems unfair all around.
I did specify that we are looking for a "loving home", and I will be screening any prospective buyer carefully. It hurts to think of sending him somewhere else, he is such a neat character ... but it just feels wrong to keep him tied or harnessed or fenced in when his heart just needs to roam.