It was a cold, wet March day when I first made my way down the gravel and dirt road to Our Lady of the Rock Priory, a 22-year-old Benedictine Monastery on Shaw Island. Shaw is one of the San Juan Islands in the northwestern part of Washington state, all of 12-square miles in area, and reached only by ferry. The monastery itself is perched on a lovely mossy rock surrounded by trees, with a magnificent view of wide open pastures, lush and green this time of year, 100-year-old forests, and a saltwater bay and estuary. Yes. I could already picture one of my Kerry puppies (sired by "Skye," Int. Ca. Ch Lefebvre Farm's Top Hand HIC) ruling this kingdom, which is why I had come.
Here I met Mother Therese for the first time--all 4-foot-plus of her. She was dressed in her denim working habit, rubber barn boots, a 200-weight polar fleece vest, and a black wool watch cap pulled down over her head and ears. She offered her hand, gave a very friendly shake, and welcomed me to the monastery with a twinkle in her eye.
I already knew that Mother Therese had become enamored with the dam of Skye's litter, Keristars Meghan. I also knew she had read Edith Izant's book, The Kerry Blue Terrier, from cover to cover, had a collection of books on Kerries, and felt that owning a Kerry was consistent with the rare animal collection at the monastery's self-sufficient farm, which included two registered Kerry cows, a breed developed in County Kerry, Ireland.
Maeve's day starts out real early (for city folks), as she is needed down at the barn to supervise the milking of the dairy cows. (The monastery is one of the few state-licensed farms to produce and sell raw, unpasteurized milk.) In addition, Maeve has to say hello to her new friend-the young Jersey calf. While in the dairy barn, she patrols the bales of hay to make sure no varmints have moved in during the past day. Twice a week, Mother Therese and Maeve take off and deliver the milk to their customers on the island. Maeve knows the route and customers better than anyone at the monastery, and greets her special friends and buddies along the way, including her mum "Meghan," with whom she happily plays for a few minutes.
Back on the farm, Maeve accompanies Mother Therese to the pastures to check on the other stock. It's quite a responsibility for one little girl to watch over all these animals and their little ones. She has to look out for the goose (actually, to look out for where he has been, as he leaves quite a mess!). Along the way, Maeve demands her "Good Morning" from each of the nine other nuns at the monastery, a welcomed interruption from their daily chores.
Normally, the next stop would be the pigsty, but the pigs have all gone to market and there is nothing but an empty sty and the smells of old friends. So the next stop is to see the llama mama and her little one. Since the llama's head towers a good 8 feet above the ground, Maeve climbs up on the chapel porch to get nose-to-nose with her. Mother Therese says that all the farm's mother animals allow Maeve to approach their young ones. Other dogs are treated in a much more aggressive way.
After a tour of the farm, I was invited to stay for lunch, a courtesy often extended to visitors to the San Juan Islands who are at the mercy of the
Washington State Ferry System and their schedules. Shaw, being one of the smaller islands, does not have the frequency of ferry service as the
larger more populated islands, so you must plan your time well.
As we sat down to lunch at the guest house, my attention strayed to the window, where I could see an enormous gaggle of 100 or so geese feeding in the pasture beyond. Puget Sound lies on a flyway used by thousands (if not millions) of Canadian Geese on their annual migratory treks from north to south and back again. Obviously, the "honkers" had chosen the monastery as one of their hostels, presenting a real messy problem.
As I watched, the geese suddenly rose en masse, followed by a streak of blue. It was Maeve, making what we call in herding a big "out run," circling the geese in an attempt to collect them. The result was the flushing of the geese, and they all took off in search of another pasture--one without a Kerry on duty!
It was then that it struck me how well Maeve was living up to the "all-round farm dog" heritage of her breed. She patrolled and guarded the property, protected the barns from vermin, kept watch over the stock, accompanied her mistress to market, and displayed a herding instinct that would have made even her father proud (whose herding instict is certified). In this world apart from the world, Maeve is proving every day the incredible versatility of the Kerry Blue Terrier.