Tuesday, July 03, 2012 7:33 AM
Sandy and the missing prize sheep
By Lee Jennings
The blue ribbon lay on the truck seat beside Mr. Baker as the family pulled up to the farm house under a starry summer sky. The ride from Sanford for the sheep show had put 5-year-old Emma Baker and Sandy the farm hound to sleep in the back seat. Mr. and Mrs. Baker had talked in hushed tones all the way home. Everyone was excited and tired because the Baker Farm had won the grand first prize for the healthiest and most beautiful sheep at the show.
Emma had named the sheep Lambie, after a cartoon character, when it was first born, and the whole family just loved it. It was quite special because it was the first sheep that would follow Emma around the barn and stay right with her out of the pasture too. Sandy also played with Lambie, and the two were friends from the beginning.
The prize for the sheep was a very honorable prize and was published in several newspapers and agricultural publications worldwide. The Bakers were thrilled and thankful to receive the honor of the blue ribbon and knew that this sheep went beyond winning a prize but was also like a part of the family.
When the truck came to a stop, Mrs. Baker got Emma out of her seat and carried her inside to get her ready for bed. Sandy woke up and followed Mr. Baker to the trailer behind the truck to get the sheep. Mr. Baker led them both down to the barn, where he put Lambie in the fold. He and Sandy secured everything, and then sleepily walked back to the farmhouse. The kitchen light was on, and the golden glow welcomed the two inside.
Mrs. Baker was already in her robe getting a glass of water before bed, and Mr. Baker headed to wash up for bed, too. Sandy flopped down on the cool hardwood floor by the fireplace and was asleep in no time.
The next morning, sunshine poured into the windows of the farmhouse, waking all of the Bakers with the happiness of summer. Birds were tweeting, and the sound of the air conditioner purred under the summer heat. Mrs. Baker went to the kitchen to start breakfast, and Mr. Baker joined her. Sandy was ready to go out and start exploring the morning, while Emma played with some dolls at the kitchen table.
Sandy walked down to the barn and sniffed a few times. Something didn’t smell right. There were strange smells unlike the night before. There were also footprints that hadn’t been there when she and Mr. Baker took the sheep down to the barn. What was going on?
Sandy ran in the barn with her nose to the ground. Oh no, she realized then that the barn door was standing wide open. She and Mr. Baker had closed it the night before.
Sandy ran to the sheep fold, and sure enough, Lambie was missing! The other sheep were there, but not Lambie.
There were lots of footprints around the sheep fold, and it looked like the prize sheep had been taken by strangers! Mr. Baker and Sandy began searching frantically around the farm to see if they could find the sheep anywhere before they called the police, but there was no sign of her anywhere, only her tag that had fallen off in a scuffle.
Emma’s eyes filled with tears as she heard Mr. Baker on the phone with the police. Mrs. Baker held her in her lap, almost in tears herself. The morning that had started out so happily had turned sad so quickly.
The police came as fast as they could. Sandy heard them tell Mr. Baker that they would search for the sheep and do all that they could to get her back safely. But Sandy was already on a trail. She loved that sheep like no other, and she could smell which way the thieves had gone. There was a trail through the ditch full of briars and wild blackberries, and Sandy could smell where they had walked, carrying Lambie.
Sandy wouldn’t stop looking until she had found Lambie or had no strength left to go on. Her nose led her through a tobacco field and on down a country road about two miles. Then she spotted an old abandoned farmhouse way off the road. She followed the smell of the footprints and could smell Lambie even stronger. The thieves had gotten tired and had put Lambie down to walk. Sandy could smell the spot that they put her down.
Sandy knew now why she didn’t hear a car pull up in the driveway last night to alert her that visitors were on the farm. The thieves were quiet and had played a recording of Mr. Baker’s voice so that the sheep came right up to the door of the sheep fold. Then they grabbed Lambie.
Sandy went up on the porch of the abandoned farmhouse to hear the three men inside talking about what they would do with Lambie. They wanted to use her to get a prize at an agricultural show in Atlanta. Sandy had to work fast. She stayed low and walked out back to find Lambie tied to a tree.
Sandy gnawed at the rope and got it untied and started herding Lambie back home. Lambie was dirty and tired and hungry. She was slow, and Sandy nudged her several times. The trip back home was very hard. Sandy had to stay right behind Lambie but couldn’t bark because she knew that the three men might hear her.
Finally, Lambie reached the ditch beside the Baker Farm but got stuck in the briars. She was bleating and scrambling around trying to get herself free. Sandy didn’t want to leave her, so she started barking loudly and quickly.
She hoped that the thieves had not found out that Lambie had been untied and traced her back to the farm. About that time, Mr. Baker came running out to the ditch, seeing Sandy standing there barking. He looked again and saw Lambie tangled in the briars.
Mr. Baker was so happy to see Sandy and Lambie. He reached down and began to untangle Lambie, who was scared and hurt.
Within an hour, Lambie was fed, washed, cuddled, and her cuts had been balmed and bandaged. Sandy lay beside her in the barn, with a smile on her face. The Baker family stood in the barn, happy for the rescue that Sandy had made. Emma hugged Sandy and was so happy that Sandy was all right too.
The police were notified that the sheep had been found, and Sandy led them and Mr. Baker to the old abandoned farmhouse where the thieves were arrested and then put in jail.
Sandy was tired and ready for something to eat. Mr. Baker gave her a bath, and Mrs. Baker fixed her some milk gravy and hamburger, one of Sandy’s favorites. Then, Sandy went back out to the barn to keep watch. She lay down on the soft grass by the barn door. She was thankful that Lambie was back home safe and sound. And she was thankful to have a master that searched for the lost sheep and yet gave Sandy the freedom to guide the sheep home. We all have a master that loves us so much that he gives help when we’re at the end of our rope, and gives us the opportunity to also offer that help to others.
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