Oct. 2, 2010 5:17 pm
Updated: Oct. 10, 2010 8:48 am
AR relevancy-livestock guardian dog-sheep-lamb-dinner
The Maremma pups are almost 7 months old now. They have been doing a pretty good job of protecting the sheep, goats and the orphan calf that have been placed in their care. I have not seen a single coyote or bobcat in our pasture this summer. That’s a first.
There was only one night I was awakened by coyotes howling close-by. I ran out to check the stock. The pups had gotten out and were not there. The coyotes suddenly got quiet and minutes later the pups squeezed thru the back fence and came to greet me. I can
only assume they ran them off, but there had been no sound of a skirmish. Of course, if I was a coyote, I would run from these two in a heartbeat.
There are different schools of thought about managing these dogs. Some feel there should be minimal contact between owner and LGD (Livestock Guardian Dog) so the dogs will bond with, and protect their stock. I fall into the camp that believes that behavior
is already instinctive for them, and handling and socializing these dogs is safer for the dogs, the owners, and anyone else on the premises. It would be devastating to me, if my 100+ lb dog was out of control and had to suffer because I did not socialize and
condition both of them enough to be able to get them to a vet, should emergency care be required. I also believe, a dog is a dog, and dogs need human interaction and approval, as it is their nature, regardless of how independent they are.
That said, I have spent a great deal of time with the Maremmas. Cider, my golden retriever and I, have gone out and taken naps in the grass with them on lazy days. We’ve shared crackers (there is a food reference!) and there’s been lots of scratching, walking
the perimeter fences (which hold goats, but not dogs) and some manners lessons. We’ve developed a pretty good relationship, and they generally get very happy when I show up.
Cletus, the larger of the two, almost 100 lb at 6 months of age is also the class clown. His feet are still abnormally large for his body, and he looks a LOT like a polar bear. His size makes him intimidating, but he is somewhat clumsy. I was rubbing his belly
one day, when he wagged his body in appreciation and fell off the porch.
Bruno, smaller and more refined is the more serious of the two. He does, however have a case of kleptomania. His collection of jawbones, pelts, leg bones and stuffed animals continues to grow. I noticed a calf bottle in his pile the other day, as well as a
shoe. He is very dependable, however about staying close to the animals. They have shown themselves to be very impressive dogs.
Cletus has apparently decided that
I am also
his responsibility. Although we thought we had one corral dog-tight, I discovered that they are only there by choice.
There is currently a bull in the big back pasture with my milk cows. This would not be a problem, except I have to bring Dolly-cow in each day to supplement her, as she lost far too much weight nursing calves. Usually, she will hang around the gate where Randy
or I can sneak her in, but on this particular day, she was on the far side of the pasture, and I had to go after her.
With a case of nerves, as I did not know where the bull was, I steeled myself and headed out to get her. I had only gotten a hundred yards or so, when Cletus showed up and placed himself at my side. He stuck with me like glue all the way to Dolly, and back
to the corral. Once the gate was shut, he gamboled off to spend time with Bruno and the stock again. I was glad he had accompanied me even though the bull didn’t show up. I was fairly confident he would have done his best to deter him, should the bull have
seen me and decided to charge.
This morning, I decided to ride my “colt”. He’s not that young of a horse, but he IS fairly green. I haven’t had a lot of trouble with him, but my condition makes it a little scary if a horse makes unanticipated, quick moves while I am mounted. I just don’t
have the balance, strength or reflexes I used to have. I was somewhat uneasy, as I had not ridden this particular horse since last March, and 7 months is a LONG time to expect ANY horse to sit idle and still be quiet and submissive. It wasn’t all THAT long
ago my mare screwed my head in the ground, resulting in a lifesaving emergency surgery, and a year to heal badly broken ribs. Nevertheless, I was determined, so I nervously stepped astride. That was when I saw Cletus, out of the corner of my eye. He managed
to squeeze himself under a gate, like a credit card, and enter the corral I was riding in. He took up a position where he could see us, and remained there for the entire hour while I worked my horse, keeping a watchful eye.
When I finally dismounted, he quickly trotted over and examined me. Seemingly satisfied, he left the corral and went back to his day job.
There is not likely much he could have done, had I gotten into trouble, but it sure is comforting to know that someone is there to watch my back.
Polar bear double