When Joan’s siblings left for their forever home in April, she and I sat with the lambs and mamas for awhile in the paddock.  The mamas were not sure about Joan, they’d not been raised with a sheepdog.  The lambs loved her.  I think it brought Joan some comfort to be surrounded by the others.  She is quite stoic, for a pup, so didn’t let on that she was affected by her siblings’ departure.  But I know that animals grieve.

These past couple of weeks I’ve been playing hospital with a few of the sheep on the farm in light of some parasite problems, brought on by this summer’s rains.  I’ve nursed some weak mamas back to more normal energy, I’ve said goodbye to a beloved yearling Angora goat, and I’ve just had to say goodbye to Mac, our 6 month old Cormo lamb.


Mac did not respond, over the last two weeks, to any of the treatments I gave to him.  I’m unsure, but wonder that he was predisposed to being weaker genetically.  His sister, Mary, is thriving.  His mama, Martha, is o.k.  The mama’s sometimes take awhile to get back to their pre-baby vigor and she was still nursing him and his sister.  So I expect her to be a little behind. Compared to the rest of the flocks, they are in average to good health.


Joan watching over Mac



That morning, Mac’s mama and sister wanted to be outside to graze and he just couldn’t get up to join them.  I carried him from the barn stall and sat with him under the trees for a long time, knowing he wouldn’t make it through the day.  He was weaker than the day before.  He was done trying to get up and move around.  Every day in the past couple of weeks prior, he’d had days where I saw improvements and response to the treatments I was giving to him and would become hopeful.  Or he would have a ‘bad’ day in which he didn’t want to do much and lagged behind.  But this day, I knew.


I wished I’d had the courage to put him down by myself.  I did make phone calls for help, but didn’t get responses in time.  He lay under the apple trees and it was a beautiful day.  The clouds above were puffy and glided along, high in the blue, blue sky.  The grass was dry beneath him and it was shady.  The birdsong was steady and lyrical.  There were no flies or insects bothering him and he was comfortably positioned.  He was not alone at all…



….for Joan stayed with him the entire day until he died.

Joan sat with Mac on Sunday, the entire day, where I placed him under the apple trees.  Some times she snuggled along side him.  Some times she placed her head on his neck or kissed his face very gently.

I knew, when she came over to me in the afternoon, that he had passed.  I went over to where he was under the tree and he had his last breath in my lap.


And then, Joan went off to be with the other dogs, the goats, alpacas and sheep.


46 responses to “Sheepdog

    • Thank you, Maggi. As sad as it was nursing Mac, I was so relieved that he could be in peace and that he had Joan right with him to the end.

  1. As fierce as Joan is in guarding her family, flock and farm her gentle soul provided the comfort Mac needed as he left one home for another. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Such a touching story but so amazing to watch an animal do what they do in such an unassuming way. You have a wonderful assortment of beautiful creatures on your farm.

  3. So sorry for your loss. I cried while reading this. Joan is a lovely, warm, caring sweet guard dog as shown even until the last breath. I am amazed at your strength and heart. Joan is so special and a great asset to your farm as you already know.

  4. Such a beautiful story, Tammy, thank you so much for sharing the story and pictures. It’s amazing to me what animals sense and pick up on, how Joan knew what both you and Mac needed that day. I think she was helping provide comfort to the two of you. It also shows the care and concern that you provide and how it’s mirrored back to you. I know Sunday was a difficult day, hoping you have peace, comfort and much love.

  5. Tammy, I know you worried about sharing this, but thank you so much for doing so. You are our window on your world of fiber farming, with all its ups and downs. I appreciate so much how much you give of yourself to make that possible.

  6. Tammy, I was waiting for your story after your IG story. I’m so sorry for your loss, Joan’s loss and Martha’s loss.
    You have an incredible pup in Joan. I think she’s an old soul who has seen much beyond her months. Her strength in empathy and compassion looks like stoicism. The pictures of her guarding Mac and resting on him tells me she is wise beyond her months, or maybe she’s wired that way as a Maremma. Nevertheless, Joan’s compassion brought me to tears. She knew that Mac needed to have company so he wouldn’t die alone. Her body language spoke volumes. She knew what her role was instinctively. What a pup and farm partner! Wouldn’t it be amazing if humans could learn these lessons too? Sending lots of love to you, your 2-legged and 4-legged family ❤️

    • “Wouldn’t it be amazing if humans could learn these lessons too?” I feel this way daily. It is so encouraging to spend time with our fur friends.

  7. I’m not generally extremely emotional, but that story got to me. So sorry that you’ve had another loss, Tammy.

    • Gosh Pat, thank you. It was that I felt it important to share that exemplary compassion and empathy in Joan, our four-legged friends, that I really wanted to share.

  8. Such a beautiful story. Mac had as peaceful a passing as possible thanks to you and wonderful Joan. I remember watching his birth on your Instagram stories. So sad to hear he’s gone.

    • Thank you, Annie. I know, my helper Maggie was here this afternoon and we talked about that subzero morning that he and Mary were born, in the tack room in the barn. So sad that he couldn’t be with us longer, but feel blessed to have had him while we did and also for the opportunity to witness such faithful devotion in Joan.

  9. Tammy,
    Following your farm life day by day it’s a Life Lesson. I admire you so much, you are a strong and sensitive person.
    Joan it’s just a puppy and she is doing so well. She will became a brave and sensitive sheepdog.
    Big hugs!

    • Thank you, Ariadna. She IS doing so well. The hardest thing about having Joan is that I love her so much, it is hard for me to not have her as a house dog. And that is a way I feel about a lot of my animals, too! So I can’t be bringing everyone into the house, I have to trust that her being in the field is the best thing for her and for the flocks. She is so brave and sensitive.

  10. I was a Hospice volunteer for quite awhile. It remains the greatest privilege of my life. One of the most important things I learned from it is that, like having a baby, our bodies know how to shut down and release our spirits back to God. Obviously Joan was born with this knowledge. I am so grateful to you for having the courage to record and share these days with us…not only because these everyday miracles are given to us to witness, but also all of these natural events don’t generate fear in the animals and I don’t believe that humans were meant for fear between each other no matter what they were called upon to share. I’ll pray that God will hold you and your grief close and you will be able to close your eyes and rest your head against His chest and just breathe.

    • Thank you, Teresa, for such a kind comment and sharing your experience. It is good to learn from others. Hugs, Tammy

  11. Sweet Joan. Sweet Mac. Joan is fitting in perfectly with all her new family members. So sorry for your loss. Praying for cool breezes and no more parasites for all. Big hug.

  12. Such a loving writing and brought tears to my eyes. I’m so glad you took these beautiful photos and wrote your story of Joan and Mac. Just precious and the reason why I follow you. 💜

    • Dear Patti: Thank you so much. Sorry for bringing the tears, I don’t mean to share so many tearjerkers. I do love my animals, though.

  13. I have tears in my eyes reading this. Joan is such an amazing dog with such a gentle soul. She was sent to you for more than protecting your flocks- she has touched the hearts and souls of all the animals and humans living on your farm. Hugs to you and Joan💕

    • Thank you, Karen. I marvel all of the time at the world and how things fall in and out of place and space. Joan is here to model and remind me of so many good and real things.

  14. Tammy, thanks for sharing this beautiful yet painful experience. Reading about Joan being with Mac brought me right back to my last days with my mom. I feel so blessed that I was able to spend time with her until she was ready to pass. Life is hard and beautiful all at the same time. Thanks as always for your touching and thoughtful writing.
    Lots of love to you and Joan.

    • Thank you, Carol. It’s true, hard and beautiful. We were with my dad, vigil til he passed, too, and somehow it softens it that you’re there. Still hard. XO – thinking of you all and the big move this week!

  15. So sorry Tammy for your loss. It seems that farm life can be hard on the heart quite often. I am so glad Joan has come into your life, the comfort she gives the animals and you are quite amazing. She surely has a heart of gold just like you my dear friend. Sending my love your way.

    • Thank you, Julie! It is heartbreaking, repeatedly, but I won’t stop farming. And Joan is definitely a comfort(and some work, too!!) But mostly, she gives so much to all of us, being such a Nanny.

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