Saturday, October 30, 2010

An Off Day

We are processing cattle at the ranch again this weekend. I got up at the crack of dawn and got ready, but my pain level was high enough I really didn’t want to ride. The boss said they are not short handed today because the kids all made it home, so here I am.

I left the gap under the gate open last night so the pups could patrol. They spent a good deal of the day patrolling and exploring somewhere on the 250,000 acres, but were back in the corral early, so I decided to trust them to their own instincts. I have heard almost no coyotes this year near our pasture, and haven’t seen a single one, which is a pretty significant thing.  They seem to be doing their job.

When I stepped out on the back porch, I could see them far off, socializing with the calves. I whistled and dropped to my knee with my arms out, which is their specific invitation to come to me. Either they don’t see well, or they are not sure what their responses should be yet, because if I don’t do this, they stand and stare at me stupidly. As soon as I go down to my knee, they come running full steam, ducking under gates and through fences to throw themselves at my feet, paws up, in the most enthusiastic display of submission ever witnessed.

They then proceeded to escort me out to feed the two bottle calves and let the sheep and goats out, with Cider, (my Golden Retriever) busily seeking the perfect cowpie or other item for me to throw. They are very tolerant of Cider, and he is the ONLY other dog allowed in the pastures where they guard. Cider is constantly at my side, so the pups know he is okay, and they submit to his authority still, as an adult dog. I am afraid this may not ALWAYS be the case, so he is not allowed to eat near them or behave in any way that they might feel invades their territorial rights.

As the goats and sheep filed out the gate, the pups happily went with them and disappeared into the tall grass of the large pasture. Cider and I went the other direction and strolled a ways, checking on the condition of various calves as we went. Cider went blasting past me, gleefully wagging his entire body, as he bounded back and forth with a large stick in his mouth. He was making fierce and terrible growling noises that I never heard him make before, all the while, clearly beside himself with joy. It wasn’t too long before the growling made sense. It was not a stick, he had discovered, but one of the puppie’s treasures…an old deer leg they had dragged home from somewhere on the ranch. Cider clearly envisioned himself as a mighty hunter, and was so excited, he couldn’t stop long enough to hand it off for me to throw for him. His fierce growling continued, when suddenly I heard a crashing through the brush. Without warning and with breathtaking speed, the Maremmas charged in, from out of nowhere, to confront the danger. Equally as stunned as myself, Cider spit the deer leg out at my feet and stared wide eyed at the pups. They visibly relaxed when they saw the situation, and I took the deer leg myself and packed it home, to prevent any bickering about ownership. 

It seems me and the critters are in pretty capable hands. They escorted us back to the main gate, then continued their patrol. Last I saw, they were moving from group to group touching noses with the calves, who now respond with nonchalance to their protective presence.

Maybe tomorrow, I too, can go to work.

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