When Farm Meets Forest

When Farm Meets Forest: A Herd of Sheep Near Hardware Ranch Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer
A Herd of Sheep Near Hardware Ranch
Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer

Pyrenean Mountain Sheep Dog Near Mendon Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer Pyrenean Mountain Sheep Dog
Near Mendon
Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer

Last week, while driving along the western edge of Cache Valley just north of Mendon, I saw a huge herd of sheep complete with a sheepherder’s hut. I slammed on the breaks and jumped out with my camera to catch a few pictures of this rippling river of white. As I approached, a big beautiful white stepped out of the flock. This sheepdog was on the job, protecting the flock from any intruders. As we took a long look at each other, I remembered the story of a similar dog who made quite a splash in the local news 20 years ago.

In this story, a Bear Lake resident, Jimmy Stone, spotted a white Pyrenean in Logan Canyon, and got to worrying if it was lost. He started taking daily trips up the canyon to fill a bowl with dog food and tasty treats. The dog came down to eat the food, but would not leave the area. Jimmy hiked up a nearby ridge, and with the help of his binoculars, discovered the dog’s secret: This loyal guardian dog was sticking with 3 lost sheep. Hoping to lure all 4 off the mountain, Jimmy dropped off a bale of hay. The sheep did not come own, so the dog carried the hay up the hillside – bit by bit. Jimmy dropped off branches of crispy apples. The dog carried them up. The sheep were not coming down, and the dog was not leaving without them. Winter snow arrived. Jimmy bought out all the corn dogs at a local convenience store and threw them like tiny footballs up to the dog. More snowstorms arrived. It was time to ask for help. Search and Rescue showed up immediately with snowmobiles and sleds. This story has a happy ending as the search and rescue team managed to get the dog and the sheep safely off the mountain.

Meanwhile, back on the side of the road north of Mendon, I found out this huge herd of sheep had spent the summer in the mountains above Hardware Ranch. They had been brought here by trucks and were now gleaning a local farmer’s alfalfa fields. Soon the trucks would return to take them to Nevada to spend the winter.

How different this huge herd was from the early pioneer days in Mendon when most people only owned a family milk cow and a few smaller animals. It was the job of the local “herd boy” to gather the milk cows and take them up the mountain to graze during the day. Apparently taking the cows home was the easy part of this job. Each cow knew exactly where she lived and would peel off the group at their own garden gate.

Unfortunately, over time, as the livestock populations increased, the Mendon mountain got severely overgrazed. Each rainstorm would send rocks and mud crashing down the steep slopes. Trying to persuade the town council to get the livestock off the mountain and let the vegetation recover, John O Hughes made a bold move. During a council meeting, he took his glass of water and dumped half of it over the head of a bald man. Everyone watched in stunned silence as the water rolled right off the bald head and soaked the man’s shirt. Hughes then dumped the rest of the water onto a man with a bushy head of hair. This man’s shirt stayed dry. That settled the debate.

To this day, the Mendon mountain is green and wooded. It’s nothing short of a hiker’s paradise.

This is Mary Heers and I’m Wild About Utah


Photos: Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers.
Featured Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections, Courtesy & Copyright © Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio upr.org and Courtesy & Copyright © Anderson, Howe, Wakeman
Text: Mary Heers, https://cca.usu.edu/files/awards/art-and-mary-heers-citation.pdf
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Postings

Great Pyrenees, Dog Breed Profile, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, https://www.hillspet.com/dog-care/dog-breeds/great-pyrenees

Stone, Jim, Stone, Karen, The Legend of BIG BOY Safe or Stranded: An Account of a Real Life Living Legend, Balboa Press, January 7, 2021, https://www.amazon.com/Legend-BIG-BOY-Safe-Stranded/dp/1982260386

Kent, Steve, Dog who refused to abandon sheep in Logan remembered in book, The Associated Press, January 23, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/sheep-canyons-utah-dogs-logan-5a2db87b1fd300b1b39d0de3885ea5eb

“Six hikes are detailed in the Wellsville Mountains above and west of Mendon”
Wallace, David, Cache Hikers 2023, Bridgerland Audubon Society, 2023, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/product/cache-trails/

A game called ball; a game called chase

A game called ball; a game called chase: Sable Courtesy & © Katarzyna Bilicka, Photographer
Courtesy & © Katarzyna Bilicka, Photographer
Me and my partner have three dogs who love two games and this is their favorite time of year to play them. The first game is called ‘ball.’ There is one rule in ball: ball. The goal is to have the ball and taunt the other player that you have that ball. Sometimes, there are two balls and the stakes for both wealth and risk increase. But most of the time, there is just one. Me and the dog who loves ball the most, Sable, will go outside especially this time of year after all of our snow has melted and the ground has firmed well, and, with a ball chucker to ease my deteriorating shoulder, hunt for any token to play with. Usually she finds one first, leaping upon it like a fox hunting shrews in snow, then parades the ball with full royal vanity, pomp, and pride. My play then is to have another ball I’ve kept hidden in my pocket: the new most valuable ball. As I slowly reveal it, Sable freezes and stares. “Oh dear,” she thinks, “ball.” As I clasp it into the chucker, her jaw goes slack and now yesteryear’s ball drops to the ground with a dull thud. All she wants is this new old ball, because, well, ball.

Sable will then do one of three things. Most often, she gives a short enthusiastic dash in the direction that she believes I will throw the ball, then quickly sits to wait with patience, even though she’s already decided her lead. Sometimes, she will run all the way to the end of where she anticipates the arc to be complete to get an even more keen lead. And sometimes, she will try to snatch the ball right from the chucker. Wily is the game of ball.

Either way, as soon as she’s done one of those three things, I direct her to settle and wait. If she’s gone down the field to gain a lead, I will turn on my heels and throw the ball the other way. Ha. She must learn not to over-anticipate. If she is but a short way in front, I’ll throw the direction she anticipated to teach that good guesses are sometimes right. If she gets scrappy and goes for it before I’ve even let it go, I’ll make her sit and wait for it to already be downfield and out of sight, then when she’s settled, I let her go and she sprints like lightening to snatch the treasured new old ball. Once retrieved, she comes back in full tilt with fuller pride, and parades it yet again. I’ll find that first ball she dropped, and the game continues. New new old ball. Same new old game.

The second game played is chase. Sometimes it’s just my other two dogs which play, sometimes it’s all three, and sometimes it’s all four of us. This game is simple, though there is still one rule: chase. We’ll zip and zag all about the garden, ducking under trees, hiding behind bushes, and intermittently stalking the chickens as intermission to catch our breath. We run, tumble, and freeze when we all see a Eurasian collared dove unwittingly selecting millet off the ground while we are here, instead of biding its time in the safety of a perch until we’ve gone indoors. Even though chase requires fewer materials and less patience, it’s still, like ball, best enjoyed outside and in free form. It’s harder to break lamps that way, too.

So as our spring blooms and the ground firms, see what draws you to be outdoors yourself, whether it be games, or dogs, or robins, or sunshine. Rediscover that it’s no longer hard to love being outdoors if it was, just as each crocus and violet surely must renew that same urge each year after it, too, getting through winter. Remember that no matter which draw you choose, even if none at all, every day a new surprise awaits for patient and keen eyes: the raptures of such a season of renewal, emergence, and life. Doesn’t it feel good to be outside and play.

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.

Images: Courtesy & © Patrick Kelly
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://www.logannature.org
Included Links: Patrick Kelly & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly

Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon, https://www.logannature.org/

To Be a Dog in the Sun

To be a Dog in the Sun Courtesy and Copyright Katarzyna Bilicka, Photographer
To be a Dog in the Sun
Courtesy and Copyright Katarzyna Bilicka, Photographer
Every winter comes with its ups and downs, and the downs are not always on the slopes. Sometimes we catch a bug or a nip. Sometimes we get those winter blues. Sometimes it’s even not safe for us to be outside and take a deep breath. Those are my most down days I feel: when you look out your window in the morning and see… thickness. Those are the days where we must hunker down indoors, though we long for the out of.

What I tend to do on these days in order to build that down into an up is lean in. I’ll do chores, bake something, stew something up, and make the most of it. If I must be indoors, then by god I shall be indoors. I keep myself busy so that I am still doing something. But what does one do when it’s been days or over a week of staring out that window at the thickness? What does one do when the house is clean, more bread is imprudent, and the stews all begin to form a beige film on your palette? What do you do when making the most of it becomes completed?

Now, I’m sure for every person there are different strategies for these issues. Maybe some folks don’t ever run out of steam. For them, that must be lovely. For the rest of us, though, Plan B is truly where creativity can shine, can it not? For where does imagination come from when our habits can no longer be relied upon and we must remember a bit of play?

I have found that my Plan Bs on those lingering thick sky days are a countermeasure to my Plan A, naturally. What I have discovered, from peering about my home, is that when the air is so bad outdoors and there is no more work to be done, the next best thing you can do is be a dog in the sun.

Me and my partner have three dogs, and from them we get so much. Endless fur on our clothes, large vet bills when they chase porcupines, barrels of love, and life lessons aplenty. When the air is too poor out, even for our dogs who typically love running and wrestling about in the yard and on hikes, they all do one thing which for its naturalness makes incredible sense. What they do is they find any ray of sunshine which peers into our home, even if dim and gray, lie squarely within its frame, and sleep like they’re storing fat for spring. What this means to Plan B can be straightforward. Have I ever plopped myself on the carpet alongside the pack and also napped in the light which happens to peer through the smog? Absolutely. It’s delightful. I highly recommend it. It’s warm, and soft, and the gentle snores from all make it an especially delightful respite. But what this also means to me is to be cozy in the light. Natural when possible, lamplit when not.

In the day I’ll put on the kettle, make some tea, and do any work I must in the sun with the aroma of spring leaves seeping into my nostrils and pores. When the sun is poor and my work is through, perhaps I’ll sit under a good lamp, maybe even stoke a fire, I’ll have a wee dram of uisce beatha fresh from aged shores and pull up a good book. I’ll read about a land where the air is clean but the company kept not even fiction can muster better, for that is another perk of having dogs: the good ones are good company, and those that aren’t are not themselves truly to blame, and therefore are good still the same.

So, when you find yourself noticing that the air once more is beginning to yellow, which makes your blues turn to gray, do what you can to keep your mind at ease while giving your lungs not their daily dose of PM2.5 and 10. And, if you find yourself like I often do after these long winter stretches, of having a cost benefit analysis of mind or lungs, remember that there can be a Plan B. Remember, that you can also be a dog in the sun. Find a book, have a slow down, drink something hot, warm, or neat, and gather yourself to the sun. Find your square of white light on the carpet, and give it a lie. Soak it up, feel the warmth, and remember that even on those days where to be in the wilds of Utah would do more harm than good, good still always may visit you from the wilds themselves.

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
Images: Courtesy and Copyright Katarzyna Bilicka, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © Shalayne Smith-Needham AND J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin. https://upr.org
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://www.logannature.org
Included Links: Patrick Kelly & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly

Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon, https://www.logannature.org/

Responsible Pet Ownership

Responsible Pet Ownership: Cat Courtesy Pixabay Genocre, photographer
Courtesy Pixabay
Genocre, photographer
Our Homes, Our Pets, and Our Natural Environment: Supporting Coexistence through Responsible Pet Ownership.

Nature perseveres in even the most built environment. The cycle of life continues, in our parks, our backyards, and the green spaces in between. Hawks hunt for rodents, rodents forage for seeds, and both seek out mates, no matter how temporary.

We rarely pause to consider how the ‘wildlife’ we bring with us impacts the natural world around us. Our dogs, from stoic german shepherds to the fluffiest toy poodle, are descended from wolves. Our cats, distant relatives of the middle eastern wildcat, are arguably semi-domesticated, after only 12,000 years of human intervention. Perhaps in another 12,000 years the common house cat will be as perky and eager to please as the average golden retriever, but I doubt it.

No matter how loving, our pets are descendants of great predators and they have the ability to negatively impact the fragile ecological balance that persists around us. Some simple commitments allow us to continue to coexist. First, spay and neuter your pets. Unplanned litters contribute to animal shelter crowding and stray populations. Intact pets are also more likely to roam, and to disturb and harm wildlife.

Second, maintain control of your pets at all times. It may be adorable to watch your fox terrier romp unhindered through an urban park, but she is potentially searching for rodent burrows and bird nests to demolish with glee. Your cat is a fierce predator, with the unfair advantage of a delicious and reliable supply of cat food. The ready flow of calories you provide gives fluffy the energy to hunt with enthusiasm. Keep your dogs on a leash or under voice control and your cats indoors. If your feline demands fresh air, consider building her an enclosed catio. Generations of demanding cats have ensured that the internet contains instructions for easy and affordable catio construction.

And last, take a moment to observe and appreciate the vibrancy of life around you. All around your home, animals are hunting, eating, breeding, and dying. Nature has found a way, and we all have responsibility to respect and protect our local natural ecosystems and the essential biodiversity that relies on the interconnectedness of all it’s parts.

I’m Stacey Frisk with the Cache Humane Society and I’m Wild About Utah!

Images: Courtesy Pixabay, genocre collection, https://pixabay.com/photos/cat-feline-animal-animals-pet-825365/
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/
Text:    Stacey Frisk, Director, Cache Humane Society, https://www.cachehumane.org/
Included Links: Hilary Shughart & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Catio Spaces, https://catiospaces.com/

2020/2021 Bridgerland Audubon/Cache Humane Society Feline Fix Project https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/cache-humane-society-feline-fix-fundraiser/

Cats Indoors, Bridgerland Audubon Society, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/cats-inside/

How cat advocates can allocate time and other resources for the biggest impact, Bays, Danielle Jo, Animal Sheltering magazine, Humane Society of the US, Winter 2018-2019, https://humanepro.org/magazine/articles/pointing-way-pyramid

Inspired by diagrams for healthy diets, the community cat pyramid encourages a holistic approach to cat management and a strategic use of resources. Graphic by Patrick Ormsby/The Humane Society of the United States
Inspired by diagrams for healthy diets, the community cat pyramid encourages a holistic approach to cat management and a strategic use of resources.
Graphic by Patrick Ormsby/The Humane Society of the United States

Cache Humane Society, https://www.cachehumane.org/