Paying Homage to the Guardian Dog
I sit here contemplating this new year and I am looking at my schedule of events, to do’s and so on. I am scheduled to pick up Roz this Saturday. She is our new Anatolian guardian dog for the flock and farm in general. She is a well seasoned five year old and my hope is that she will be ready to provide a much needed service.
Many of you might know that for the last two and a half years, I had been training another Anatolian from a puppy, Nisa. She and I built a solid working relationship, but also a friendship. Nisa loved walking the pastures with me, prancing back to me for a quick lean into my leg and my pats on the head. I treasured these moments with her. And she loved playing fetch and rolling on her back for tummy rubs.
As time went on, however, we found she was too obsessive in her thinking. She would clean lambs to the point of injury. And she would want to control the movements of the flock, regardless of countless corrections I would do. Finally I realized, it was not working out. A sad fact that became very apparent when my husband found her with a ram lamb and one of his horns was chewed off. Sycamore survived, but I had to face that Nisa could not be trusted with the flock. I had to make a tough phone call to the breeder to discuss the situation. Harriet was both counselor and responsible breeder. She was concerned for my flock, the dog and me as I held back tears describing what was going on. I was feeling that somehow I had gone wrong in the training and failed Nisa, not providing her the tools to perform her job. Harriet assured me that was not the case. There was something off with how Nisa’s brain was working. She was somewhat obsessive compulsive. This would be tough to train out of her. And based on how responsive she was with people, a better fit for her might be as a pet instead of a worker.
I did consider keeping her as a pet. That would be the emotional decision, not a business one. I had invested quite a bit of time and money into a guardian and the farm was in desperate need of a guardian. I was speaking to the pig farmer next door and he was telling me of all the coyote sightings recently in our area. And he has suffered piglet losses himself. Any one who has a flock must take seriously the predator threats and partnering with a guardian dog is how I am combating this threat to my investment in my flock, rabbits and chickens. So, Harriet came up with a solution. She took back Nisa a few weeks ago. Driving to Charles City with Nisa’ s head resting on my shoulder was difficult as I blinked away tears so I could focus on the road. She is now being worked with so she can be placed as a pet with a carefully chosen family. And we are getting Roz. She has worked with lambs, chickens and was looking for a guardian gig. The fact she is available is a true blessing. Another blessing is a breeder who takes care of her dogs, even after they are sold.
So Saturday, we meet the newest staff member of Sweet Tree Hill Farm. And I have high hopes she will be a match for our farm. And protect my livestock like a pro. I am in awe of working dogs and I look forward to my new partner.
Posted on January 2, 2014, in Farming philosophy, In the Pasture and tagged Anatolian, coyote, farm business, guardian dogs, pasture management, predators, raising sheep, shepherd. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.