Farm & Ranch Living

He’s a Force for Good

Named for a beloved movie character, Obi-Wan is a genuinely good dog—and his life on the ranch outshines any on the silver screen.

- CATHY MODICA VALLEY CENTER, CALIFORNIA

While I love all of our ranch dogs, Obi-Wan is remarkable. He is a Belgian Laekenois— a rare breed initially developed for herding and grazing sheep. We picked him up as a pup in Belgium and then spent a week touring that country with him. He was unfazed by the many draft horses we saw there. Allowed into restaurant­s, he’d settle at our feet, where the wait sta brought him all sorts of gourmet goodies.

We take the sheep out each morning to graze, and though I trained Obi early on, his natural abilities amaze me. Our sheep graze in a di erent area every day, and he keeps them going in the right direction. He watches for stragglers and leaders alike, and he ensures they stay together, calm and moving at a comfortabl­e pace.

Obi works along the sides of the flock without disturbing the sheep. When I stop walking, he understand­s it as, “this is where they’re grazing” and guides them into the area. Then he becomes a living fence, working just far enough away to keep them settled and eating. When we are done, I tell him it’s time to go and he calmly directs the flock back to the road.

Our ranch was an avocado grove that had been let go many years before we purchased it, but about 70 trees remain scattered throughout. They are survivors, as the irrigation has not worked for more than 20 years and they still produce fruit. When I tell Obi to watch a particular tree, he keeps the sheep away from it. My sheep love avocados, and the leaves and branches, but I want to enjoy my avos, too!

I choose where the herd grazes, but Obi seems to have an innate sense for how much should be eaten down. After a while, he moves in on the flock to push them a bit further along, then resumes his role as a fence. There are fields I’d like to see taken down to the ground, but that’s not Obi’s way, and his way is probably better for the land.

Beyond working sheep, Obi is my go-to for everything on the ranch. Need to fix something? He right by my side “helping” (or, as I call it, “snoopervis­ing”). Have to make a hay run? He’s with me in the truck.

When the work is done, Obi is ready to play with his toys and the other dogs, who range in age from two months to 13 years. At 26 inches tall and 60 pounds, Obi is a big boy, but he plays, as Goldilocks would say, “just right” for each of the other dogs: gentle with the old and young, but less gentle with the others, whose play is more race-andtackle oriented.

In our home Obi keeps watch over us, getting up on the bed for a few minutes at night and then retiring to his big smooshy dog bed. He is all heart, and he lives up to his name—smart and kind. To be awe-inspired by one’s dog is something not many people experience. Obi-Wan is a blessing.

Look for our Farmer’s

Best Friend runner-up pups in the August/September issue!

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