Bitzer is the self-improving sort. He reads novels (collar-rippers mostly, most of them dog-eared and a few only slightly foxed). He watches foreign movies and television, including Flocks News, which he finds kind of horribly opinionated and entertaining.
But if there's one thing he's ashamed of... well, there are quite a few things, but all of them are safely buried in the past, far away, down unmarked holes in several undisclosed locations. Still, if there's another thing he's ashamed of that can't be shoved underground, it's this: he's never learned to speak Sheepish.
Which is why Shaun and company ordered him a free introductory learning guide off the Secret Language of Barnyard Animals website, plus a freakish amount extra for instantaneous delivery.
"Baaaa!" said Shaun encouragingly, pointing out with his hoof the first phrase in the manual: Hello, my name is ___.
"Baa buh baaaaaabuh baa baaaa," Timmy's mother demonstrated, slowly and carefully.
Bitzer frowned. Bitzer grumbled under his breath. Bitzer shut his eyes and took the plunge. "Grrrah gruh graaaaagruh gruh graaaaaaaah!"
Shaun sighed and made a so-so gesture.
"Graa, uh, braaah, er--" Bitzer coughed into his paw and squinted at the page. "Baaaa. Baa buh baa baaaaaaaaaa." Which translates very roughly into Really. Why will you insist on caressing my alfalfa.
The flock burst out laughing. Timmy clapped wildly and tossed his dummy in lieu of a bouquet. Shaun shook his head, tsked, and buckled down to business.
In the slightly less than fifteen minutes they had to practice before Shirley finally found an opportunity to sneak in and devour the phrasebook, Bitzer had managed to inadvertently warn for the approach of the tapdancing pigeons, inquire where the pigs kept their thirty-second howitzer, and compose a very short rhyming couplet about a seasick ewe on the eastbound exit of the M8 outside Paisley.
Everybody was more than ready, after that crowning moment of doggerel, to call it a day.
While the others wandered off, chuckling sheepily among themselves, Shaun went up and threw an arm around Bitzer.
"Grff," said the dog, which is a shorthand way of saying I'm never going to get the hang of this, am I?
"Baa," said Shaun, which means Chin up, and also, under very special circumstances, Anybody for a game of catch?
Never one to let self-improvement go to his head, Bitzer dashed off to fetch his frisbee. Always one to let self-improvement go to her stomach, Shirley belched. (It was the Reader's Digest version she'd devoured, after all.)