Thursday, July 26, 2007

will and twist

A dog day in summer. Sky heavy with humidity threatening rain, a shard of lightening, thunder rumbling somewhere far away. A visit to the cheese farm where we get a beautiful cow's milk ricotta and superbly aged caciotta from Jody and Luisa Somers at their Dancing Ewe Farm over across the border in New York. Jody learned to make cheese in Tuscany. Luisa is from Tuscany. While they are only making cow's milk cheeses right now, Jody has grown a herd of a hundred or so sheep for milking next year. In New York City, and at farmer's markets, they sell their miraculous cheeses, and delicious lamb.

Jody has two sheep dogs. He is a master with dogs. Think sheep dog trials, national ratings, sheep dog guru. First he had Twist, red and white and clever all over. She was a runt and a wreck with very little going for her as a puppy when he took her on. But within a few years, she was so well trained and so full of heart she was one of the top dogs in her category in the country. Will is the younger of the two and still learning. He's black and white and very handsome. Movie star dogs who will appear soon in an HBO movie based on the Jon Katz book A Dog Year. On this hot summer afternoon, Jody gave us a demonstration with Twist, Will and the sheep. We went out behind the cheese house that he built by hand, another story, and stood at the top of the big field looking out over the most pastoral of views. With a few clicks, whistles, and a very soft voice, he sent the two dogs to work. An incredible choreography of man and dogs: circling, running, herding, doublebacking, returning, calling, answering.

When the work was done, Will and Twist finished their day with a dip in the water trough, lapping water and cooling off. They panted and lolled, relaxed. But their ears were always twitching, waiting for Jody's voice, always ready for the next job.

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