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Of Moms and Sheepdogs


Moms. We Worry. It’s What We Do.

Oh, we don’t mean to, believe me! But when you raise sheepdogs, it kinda comes with the territory.

And to be quite honest, I’m really not even a dog-kind of person. In fact, I’m better known in our neighborhood as the Crazzzy Cat Lady. (Emphasis on Crazzzy. But I digress!)

Wait. What???  Stay with me here. There is a fascinating byline beginning to unfold.

Sheepdogs are working dogs bred to guard and herd sheep and other livestock, right? So right off the bat, moms and sheepdogs have some commonalities. As young moms, we spend much of our waking time corralling, guiding, correcting, yapping at, nipping the heels, and loving our charges. It is a thankless, scary, never-ending task. But we keep them safe. It’s our job and we do it well.  Most of our effort goes totally unnoticed by the world, but that’s okay: this seemingly odd alliance of sheepdogs and mommas sees and nods with quiet approval and encouragement.

But then the lambs grow and become restless, and they long to frolic in greener pastures. And while we innately know that growth and wanderlust are vital to maturation of healthy lambs, we feel compelled to follow them at a close distance because we know what dangers lurk in the corner of that unknown field. Protect and defend. We’re mommas. It’s  what we do. We run in just quickly enough to expose our fangs to make sure the foe knows we mean business. We growl, and we chase, and and put ourselves between the enemy  and our oblivious sheep. A momma’s love is fierce. Don’t mess with a momma. And never, ever mess with a sheepdog momma. That’s a double whammy!

Keep it up, Moms. They need you. They see you in their peripheral  view and want you there even if they won’t admit it.

But then the inevitable happens: the day we know in our heart of hearts is coming, but we shove to the back of our very being.  We blink and our little lambs have suddenly transformed into the young adult men and women we’ve prepared them to be.  And with some of these sheep, we sense something very vaguely familiar. 

Because, you see, it takes one to know one. We recognize them by their attitudes and actions: they have quietly joined our sheepdog/mom coalition. Not all will choose this path, just a few…  but we moms know. And we understand. You see, these are the sheepdogs. Most of the time, we don’t even know they are there. That is, until we need them.

Sheepdogs. They Protect and Defend. It’s What They Do.

9/11. Funny how three little numbers and a slash can stir up such raw emotions, isn’t it? Most who are reading this were profoundly affected by that horrible day in America’s history. We take time each year to remember and reflect. I won’t go into all the details of my memories from that day, but I would be remiss if I did not mention the weighty impact of this moment in time on my family.  My sons were young – the oldest in 6th grade, the youngest in 3rd. We did not shield them from the news; they grappled and mourned for America with us as the events of that day unfolded. We watched together as First Responders reported to Manhattan. We prayed together as military units prepared to deploy.  The fierce protector  in my very momma-ness wanted to erase it all. But of course, that was not to be. I didn’t understand it at the time, but this was the beginning of my awareness of sheepdogs and what it would mean to parent one.

Now, somewhere in the midst of all the day to day commotion of raising sons, I was introduced to an excerpt by Retired US Army LTC Dave Grossman, “On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs.” (On Combat published in 2004 – https://www.policeone.com/police-heroes/articles/1709289-Book-Excerpt-On-Sheep-Wolves-and-Sheepdogs.)  Aaaaand my ah-ha moment! We are sheep. Terrible wolves are in our midst. But here’s the good news – the sheepdogs are, too!  And just like us mommas, they are ever vigilant where sheep are concerned.

Fast forward a few years from that horrific day in 2001. In 8th grade, my oldest son informed me he was going to go to college at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Not “planning to go,” but going.  “Okay,” I thought to myself.  “A soldier. He wants to be a soldier. Oh, not just any soldier, but an officer. In the Army. During wartime. In a war that is not always so tangible.”

I’m not sure how any mom prepares herself for this initial announcement from a kid this age, so I did what all sheepdog moms-to-be do. I busied myself researching all that is military and West Point. I volunteered with our sons’ JROTC high school unit. I talked with every active duty soldier and retired veteran that came along my path. We went with our son to academy admissions seminars. And when the congressional nomination call and admissions packet came five years later, we prayed a prayer of thankfulness for this chance he’d worked so hard for.  My transitional journey from mom of a sheep to mom of a sheepdog was just about to begin.

Fast forward a few more years… Off to college my youngest goes, to study Criminal Justice, with the ultimate goal of serving as a police officer.  His desire: to also serve and protect, but through a slightly different avenue.  In the middle of so much unrest across the country, with crazy protests, and so much disrespect and distrust of law enforcement, and… (Okay. I’m not going there right now. I just can’t even.)

It’s a good thing I’ve got some practice under my belt on this whole sheepdog-momma thing. It looks like I’m in it for the long haul.

Arighty then! In a fleeting moment of contemplation, I wonder why they have both chosen the Road Less Traveled. Is it in the way we raised them? Is it just purely the idealism of twenty-somethings? Or is it a passion within the soul that defies explanation?

Perhaps I’ll never know for sure. But this I do know:  Both Moms and Sheepdogs love fiercely and protect loyally.  And I am so very thankful for these sheepdogs and the moms who raise them.

(Origami Owl Locket Design and Photo by Carol Onkst, O2 Independent Designer #10493. Order website: http://www.westpointmom.origamiowl.com, FB page: http://www.Facebook.com/OrigamiOwlByCarolOnkst)