A Stockdog Trialer’s Prayer

By Sal Manna


Dear Lord, I truly understand why this is called a trial,

For a team of stockdog and man requires power and guile.

Yet on days like today my dog seems to lack the former

And I am certainly lacking enough of the latter.


I sent my dog from my side to gather the sheep

And he swung wide behind them, together the flock to keep.

So why, Lord, is my good dog taking them left not right?

Those five ewes are surely running quite fast and are so light.


“Go by,” I told him and yet he rushes “away to me.”

My dog seems certain of his intent, from what I can see.

I repeat the command once more, louder and more strident,

And then realize that “away to me” is what I meant.


My dog considers my error and decides to take charge.

He heads the sheep into a corner and my eyes grow large.

One frantic ewe splits off and runs hellbent to the back fence,

Frightened and off on her own in a world that makes no sense.


They call me the dog’s handler but times like this I wonder

Who should hold the leash at the top and who should be under.

“Get around,” I yell, and he recovers the sheep ‘twas lost.

But at the end of the judge’s pen, what would be the cost?


Our run in this arena seems to have lasted all day

Though in truth not more than three minutes have passed away.

The judge yells for us to “move on to the next obstacle”

No doubt wishing we might avoid another debacle.


“I would if I could,” I answer back with an awkward laugh,

Hoping he will find some small humor in my unforced gaffe.

But as the run unravels, with no drive in the cross-drive

And no fetch anywhere else, I wish I were not alive.


The judge rises, about to call our run for “lack of progress”

Or perhaps to end it with a swift “thank you” for the mess.

So I shout out of sheer desperation, “I will repen!”

I cannot take it anymore and thus the run will end.


Dear Lord, when the day comes to end my run here on this Earth,

I pray it is not for “lack of progress” or lack of worth,

But that after a good try You judged that I should repen

And close the pearly gates behind as I enter heaven.


© 2017 Salvatore John Manna

(Used with permission. Thanks Sal!)