A Shepherd’s Tale Translated

TV is often disappointing and for that reason, if I’ve decided to watch TV, I look for documentaries. Last night I stumbled across one about the French Pyrenees and the shepherds and animals that live and work in those rugged areas. Unsuspecting, I had stumbled across a life lesson for all of us.

First, let me tell you how the show opened my eyes to something about which I had zero knowledge. It was training (schooling) regarding  how the sheep herders raise their mighty Great Pyrenees dogs, those beautiful, fluffy white animals that always have a smile on their faces.  The dogs have gone in and out of vogue here in the US, but in Europe they are not a stunning appendage of “look at medom” but a necessary part of the work.

I always had assumed that the dogs were raised like any other dogs and given special training, similar to Border Collies, I suppose, to work with the sheep. But for the Great Pyrenees, it’s totally different, unless I have the Border Collies totally wrong. Who knows. The GP pups from a tender age of just a few weeks are placed in a barn with a group of sheep. The cute, yelping little things are not greeted tenderly but receive head butts as they are inspected by the sheep and viewed as intruders into the small group.  Pity the poor little things, but they do manage to survive.

Gradually, the pups identify with the sheep, begin to lick their faces and the sheep, similarly, accept the pup as a new, albeit, unusual member of the flock. It’s a rough entrance exam, but they pass and from then on, their interaction with humans is extremely limited. The limiting of petting or acknowledging in any way adds to their identity with the flock and their bond.

The next step in the shepherd’s plan introduces the dog, which is now several months older and a lot bigger, into his final sheep group where he will become an acknowledged member/guardian. It is here that the true work begins for the dog to be member and protector of the flock from everything from coyotes to bears.

Now the transition is complete and, again, minimal contact with humans is maintained in order not to disrupt the bond between the dog and HIS flock. Job well done, the shepherd can sleep at night knowing the protector is on guard.

The dog either believes he is a full-fledged member of the flock or has assumed a protective stance all his own after his young introduction to full membership. There’s where the eye-opening experience for me began after I, the next morning, saw an article on school segregation and how it still exists in our country.

Pulling kids out of the mainstream and segregating them insures that they will either not be full-fledged members of this culture or that a resentment will grow.  Perhaps I’m naive or wrong and I don’t see the advantage here, but it surely can’t be right. No, I don’t believe that these kids get a fair shake because I don’t believe that segregated schools  aid in maintaining our country’s tradition of inclusion or provide a better education.

True, there may be some benefit to have others who are similar to yourself which may relieve stress and permit a healthier learning environment. But I don’t believe that’s what lies beneath this educational plan. It’s more to maintain the one-up-one-down tradition we’ve been working hard to eliminate, or so I thought.

The ugly head of segregation isn’t what I as an American want to see in my country and I wonder why we aren’t even more verbal about stopping it. The ruses are many that are used to support school segregation and you can find them, if you choose to do so. It’s not hard.

And the dog whistles are many. Just read carefully and you’ll see how special school, school vouchers and vocational curriculum are set out. The plan isn’t to provide equal opportunity but to steer kids just as it is in red-lining real estate to keep pockets of the poor, segregated population in place. And, while we’re at it, it’s a reason that community bus lines don’t provide service to all areas. Some people just want to keep other people out even if they have to ride buses because they don’t have a car. Only the car owners are allowed is the implicit message.

Next time you see  a seemingly benign documentary, see if there’s an underlying message that’s applicable to our culture.

Published by: Patricia Farrell

A licensed clinical psychologist, published author, former psychiatric researcher, post graduate instructor but a fun-loving person, just the same. I've had a series of professional spots that have not only increased my knowledge, but fired up my curiosity. Living is learning and that's what I intend to do. My latest area of interest is computers and coding.

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