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Whistleblow & the Sheep-Guarders, A Parable

Whistleblow and the Sheep-Guarders:  A Parable

By Jon Kuhrt

Once upon a time in the town of Northrun, there was a shepherd called Whistleblow.

He was one of many shepherds who worked for Lord Northrun who owned most of the land in the area. Each shepherd had their own flock to look after.

Whistleblow was loud and had strong opinions, but he was fair, honest and a good shepherd. He knew his flock well, whether they be old ewes or young lambs. He knew how to find the best pastures and keep them safe. His sheep trusted him and the flock grew in number.


Safety was important because in the fields of Northrun lived many wolves. Some were tame, left the sheep alone and posed no risk. But others were dangerous.

Many people would find it hard to know the difference, but Whistleblow was good at spotting which wolves were a risk. He would keep a watchful eye and then act quickly to deter any wolves causing harm.

In the neighbouring flock to Whistleblow’s, one particularly notorious wolf had attacked lots of sheep over a long time. The situation had not been dealt with well and it had caused a lot of harm across the whole area.

Sheep-guarding officers

So because of these risks, Lord Northrun decided to hire a specialist team of ‘Sheep-guarding officers’ to help ensure the flocks were protected.  These Sheep-guarding officers had not actually done any shepherding themselves, but he was impressed by their presentation, paperwork and procedures.

The Sheep-guarding officers instructed the shepherds in the new arrangements. In amongst lots of guidelines and protocols, the shepherds were told that they must never interact with the wolves themselves. When a wolf appeared, they must call one of the sheep-guarding officers in to deal with the situation. 


Whistleblow was concerned about these arrangements and was not sure they would work. The sheep-guarding officers did not know the sheep like he knew them. They also did not know which wolves to really keep an eye on. And how would they respond in time?

But he thought the Sheep-guarding officers must know best, after all, some of them had post-graduate qualifications in Sheep-guarding!


A short time later, some wolves did attack Whistleblow’s sheep. He called the sheep-guarding officers but there was no reply.  He tried again but there was no response.  The sheep-guarding team were all in a team meeting and could do not be disturbed.

So with his sheep at risk, Whistleblow tackled the wolves himself. He chased them away and ensured that little damage was done.

He thought that the Sheep-guarding officers would be pleased with what he had done as he had protected the sheep.


The next day, the Head of the Sheep-guarding saw the messages from Whistleblow and asked her Personal Assistant to make an appointment for her to see him. When she arrived she said, ‘I am here to deal with the wolves’. So Whistleblow told her all that happened and what he had done.

Instead of being pleased, the Head Sheep-guarder was angry.  “You failed to follow procedure. You are not trained to get directly involved.”  ‘But…I protected the sheep’ replied Whistleblow ‘Isn’t that the most important thing?’

But the Head Sheep-guarder said, ‘Its far more complicated than that. Remember, you are only a simple shepherd, I am the expert’ and she stormed off.

More attacks

A few weeks later, Whistleblow’s sheep were attacked by wolves again.

Again, Whistleblow contacted the Sheep-guarding team but again no answer.  The team were at a 3-day residential training course on Advanced Sheep-guarding.

A month later the same thing happened a third time. Again, no answer. This time the team were away at a hotel for the Annual National Sheep-guarding Awards ceremony.


Whistleblow thought he should let Lord Northrun know what was happening and why the approach of the Sheep-guarding team was not working.

So he wrote down all the details about the attacks: what the wolves looked like, the times it happened, the names of the sheep that were attacked and the action he had taken.

He sent his report to the Sheep-guarding team, Lord Northrun and also to some other shepherds who were friends.


When the head sheep-guarding officer read Whistleblow’s report she was incandescent with rage.

What did a simple shepherd know about sheep-guarding? She was one of the foremost sheep-guarders in the country! How dare he pass comment on their professional work!

She went straight to Lord Northrun and insisted that Whistleblow was sacked.

Lord Northrun said, ‘I will not tolerate being disobeyed and we must take action. But we need to think about how – I cannot really accuse him of not protecting my sheep.’

The Head Sheep-guarder replied ‘Well you need to do something. If you don’t clamp down on this Whistleblow, then you and I will lose far more than a few stupid sheep.’

Used by permission.  The author blogs at: