Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dog stories

I've been inspired by Sara, over at My Favorite Sheep, to try the short movie option on my camera. I didn't plan on it when it happened, but I saw this interaction between Buster and Holly and just thought it so typical of them, I wanted to capture it. Please pardon the poor quality and the jiggly nature of the movie. I was standing in the middle of the adult ewes that we had penned and were de-worming and they weren't so interested in standing still so I could play around with my camera (if your sound is turned on, the bells you hear are those the adult ewes wear).

Holly is still continuing to amaze me with her instinctual behavior. And now there is another twist to the story of her showing up here just when she did. A few months ago we had four Great Pyrenees........and now we only have two. The elderly male we had adopted last fall was already ill when he came to us, so our goal with him was to make him as comfortable as we could for the the time he had left and I think we succeeded. He seemed very happy to be with the other dogs and the sheep, and although he slept a lot, he still wanted to patrol and work when he felt up to it. When the weather got hot back in early summer, it was obvious that the time had come to let him go. Every breath became a struggle for him and we made the difficult decision to put him down. Luckily for all of us, he didn't have to be traumatized by loading him into the car to go to a veterinarian's office for his final moments. My husband, who is a small animal veterinarian who makes house calls, performs this service for someone nearly every week, but we've been fortunate to not have to make the decision very often ourselves. Buddy went very peacefully and we know we did the right thing, even though it was very sad.

Our original guard dog, Abby, has been with us for eleven years and was quite old by Pyrenees standards. She's been a wonderful, dedicated guardian for our sheep. About a month ago, she just disappeared. Here one day and gone the next. She would occasionally be out of sight for a day or two, but never longer than that, so the first few days, we weren't alarmed. Then, it turned into a week, then two and now about a month. These dogs are not terribly social, especially with strangers, so we don't think someone took her. She just wouldn't let anyone get close enough for that to happen. I've heard about dogs going off to die, but have never experienced it before.....and that is what we think may have happened. We have searched for her, but with 160 acres, there are many places she could go and not be found. I still expect to see her sleeping under the trees with the sheep or hear her familiar bark during the night. If that never happens (and at this point, I don't think it will), I want to think she went out and chose her spot and then peacefully went to sleep. It's just too hard to think about otherwise.

So, that leaves us with two Pyrenees. Hannah is a little more than five years old and does not have very strong guarding instincts. She will patrol and bark at night, but she would much rather be sleeping under the screened porch or in the hydrangea bushes beside the garage. She's very sweet and quite goofy at times, so she will live out her life here with us even though she does a less than stellar job.

And then came Holly into our lives. If not for Holly being here and working so well already, we would be beginning the process all over again with a 6 week old puppy and be a long way from giving our sheep the protection they need to survive here on this farm overlooking the Kentucky river. We hear the coyotes every night. We know when they are feeding their pups and when they are training them to hunt on their own. We share this land with them and are willing to co-exist as peacefully as possible. Having the guard dogs with the sheep keeps the coyotes away. Our dogs don't kill the coyotes. They just warn them and chase them away from the flock. At less than a year old, Holly has some big paw prints to fill and she is doing an admirable job already. This is not a time-table of events I would have planned for, but you know that old saying about how "life happens when you are busy making other plans". I'm prone to spending a lot of mental and physical energy trying to make things turn out "right" (not that they always do). I know there is a lesson somewhere in all this, probably meant just for me.


  1. Great post. Now I want some bells! Where can I find them or are they something you've just collected over the years?

  2. Sara-go to The Swiss bells are the ones I use.I love hearing them. The dogs get keyed into hearing them also and if the sheep get disturbed and are running, the dogs start barking!

  3. Great post. Loved the video and about the dogs. We have a border collie that is getting to that end of life stage, but everyday I think this is it, she perks up. We just keep trying to nurse her back to health. I hope a Holly drops into our lives.