More about the Highlands

As I write this, on April 19, 2019, we are actually on our second trip to the Highlands, which will get blogged about some time later.  But since we’ve been more into living life than blogging it, we’re quite behind on the blog.  Now with a little free time on our hands on vacation, I’ll invest it in catching up on some memories that still need to be recorded here.

While I’m on that topic, let me mention that this blog serves two purposes.  First, of course, there are family and friends back home who are interested in what we’re doing while we’re away.  Second, and just as important, it’s our memory book.  One day we’ll convert this blog into one big document, have it printed and bound somewhere on nice glossy pages, and put the result on our photo album shelf at home.  So in a lot of ways, we’re writing to our future selves when we blog here.

Alright, now on to today’s post. When we visited the Cairngorms area in October (First big vacation: Grantown-on-Spey), we did several day trips that were very interesting.  Most have been covered in the past (Tea On A Steamer TrainSweet ToothThe Highland Chocolatier) but we have a few more things to say about highland animals.

Wildlife

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park was of the most interest to our nature-loving 11-year-old, who can be seen in some of the photos below.  But everybody enjoyed getting up close to a polar bear.  Most of the wildlife park is for visitors to walk through, but one section you drive through, and the animals walk around your car.

Highland Wildlife Park, with polar bear
Same polar bear, up close
Mary Ella, examining wildlife from the passenger seat
Wildlife, stoically being examined from the passenger seat
Wildlife blocking the car’s way

Dogs and sheep

Perhaps the most fun we had was on one particularly cold and rainy day when we went to see a demonstration of working sheep dogs at Leault Farm.  This was particularly fun because the dug after whom this blog is named seems to us to be part Border Collie (though who knows?), the kind of sheepdog that the shepherd we visited assured us was “the best” at the job, and the only kind he uses.  You’ll see him in the videos below.

Each dog has its own set of commands specific to it, by including the dog’s name in the command.  So for example, one of the commands you’ll hear sounds like “ollie-Merc” because Merc is one of the dogs and “ollie” means to come back to the shepherd (if I remember right).  Each command also has its own corresponding whistle version, again uniquely tailored to each dog, so that the shepherd can give the command from far away and the dog will hear it.  Other dogs will ignore the commands that aren’t for them.

He said it takes two years to train a dog to be a sheepdog, one year to learn the commands and then another year to learn the whistle versions.  He doesn’t give any rewards, such as food or treats, while training the dogs.  He claims that the fun of working with the sheep is the only reward they need.  You’ll see how true that seems when you watch the dogs’ general eagerness to be involved in everything happening in the videos.  (The shepherd has to repeatedly tell the dogs who aren’t involved to lie down.)

Visitors are permitted to help shear the sheep.  Note the eagerness of the dogs to keep that sheep right where it is.

Maneuvering a group of sheep around the field by giving a dog commands:

Verbal commands and whistle commands:

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