I have spent almost every Christmas Eve of my life with my aunt, uncle and cousins in a suburb of Minneapolis. This evening when we were driving north on I-35 to get to the family dinner, a pain in my right eye grew more and more intense. This is a sure sign of a migraine, so Ian turned the truck around and dropped me off at home before taking the kids up to the gathering.
I wasn’t incapacitated, and relaxing alone with some food stopped the progress of the migraine, so I did what anyone in my situation would do on Christmas Eve. I went outside to brush dogs in the chicken coop.
Being outside and being with those dogs are two of my favorite things in the world, and while I was with them, I felt no pain at all. As I suspected though, one of my dogs didn’t have much time for brushing. I started grooming Sassy (our sheriff) but she heard something important happening out in the world and took off barking.
Morgan (our deputy) considered going with her. With the perfect timing of a comedian, she first turned her head toward Sassy who was charging into the darkness like a lion, barking her deep, authoritative bark. Then Morgan looked back at me, sitting on the straw in my coveralls, holding brushes. She looked back at the door where Sassy had gone, and then trotted over to me.
Morgan rolled over on her back and I had the luxury of unpressured time with her, finally sorting through some of the snarls that had been waiting for quite a while. After chatting with her at length, I serenaded her with Christmas carols, which she seemed to appreciate.
Sassy was less appreciative of the carols. She came back to the coop and left several times to bark at something in the darkness. When she was inside, I noticed her turning her head in different directions and perking her ears, straining to detect the most subtle sounds. I suspect my singing made it harder for her to hear the really important things in the world. Finally, she left and didn’t return. She clearly had serious work to do.
I kept singing to Morgan, with songs full of shepherds and stars. She comes from a long line of shepherds. It’s only because she was raised with chickens that she cares for them the way she was bred to care for sheep. She has spent her life being watchful under the stars.
Finally, I stood up to go. After waiting to be sure the brushing was completely done, Morgan ran outside with a few low growls to join Sassy on patrol.
Tonight I will go to sleep especially appreciative that right here, on our farm, there are two beautiful shepherds guarding their flocks (of chickens) by night, vigilant under the wide sky. My love for those gorgeous dogs mixes with my love for the shepherds in those dear old carols and the joy they found while watching in the night.