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.
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.