Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas and the Guardian Pups






I don't normally post two blogs in one week, but this is my last blog for the year and it's one that is close to my heart.

When the “polar bears” first came home with us, it was to protect the two Nubian goats we had, from the many predators that boldly approached our house at all times, in all seasons. They were just small bundles of fur at that time, but absolutely fearless and already dedicated to a job they were born to do.



We put them in a small pen along with the goats, who mercilessly pummeled them, not being used to dogs. When the pups would cautiously approach them, the goats would run, fearfully and when cornered, they would bash and abuse the pups. Thankfully, we had done our research and made a small space in the pen where the pups could escape if the goats became too rough. This happened, again and again, but the pups were not discouraged. Instead, they became more determined. They were always gentle and tender with the livestock, making their approach slowly and even laying down exposing their bellies, inviting the animals to come and see their intentions were not for their harm. The tiny warriors would snarl and yip at my Jersey cow when she came too near ‘their’ goats and nothing, large or small was allowed to threaten the ungrateful and ornery goats.

Once I let them all loose in the pasture, the goats would go about their way, grazing and unaware of the watchful eyes of the puppies who were always vigilant of intruders.



 In time, the goats stopped fighting them and took their presence for granted. We got a couple of sheep shortly after and the pups had to go through the same routine all over again. The pups would flop onto their backs making themselves completely vulnerable and the sheep would ram them and abuse them, it seems, for sport. In spite of the ill treatment, the puppies continued to guard the lives of this ungrateful group. Eventually things all settled down. It was weaning time at the ranch and the boss always puts about 300 or so calves in the field behind our house where the goats and sheep spend the summer. 
Cletus, beside himself with excitement would run from calf to calf, attempting to touch noses with them and indoctrinate them into his care. 


They were so excited to have a large group to take care of. When the calves were moved to another large pasture, far away, the pups would make a daily trek to go find them and check on their welfare. They once traveled as far as 6 miles across the ranch to locate them, so dedicated were they.




The pups are full grown dogs now, weighing in at 100 and 120 lbs. They continue to take care of all the animals in their care, chickens, sheep, goats, cows. They have faced off raccoons, coyotes, other dogs, bobcats, cougars, and porcupines (with less than stellar results from the latter varmint mentioned). 



They continue to shepherd over and guard our animals, regardless of the response of those who are the beneficiaries of their courage. These dogs willingly risk their lives in defense of those who cannot save themselves. The sheep, when danger presents itself, have learned to follow them to safety and remain there behind the hedge of protection the dogs provide around them as they come between the sheep and the intruder.
I’ve even watched the sheep graze and cud, unaffected and more often than not unaware, of the danger the dogs hold at bay.















For me, it is a daily reminder of He who came to protect and save us. Born without knowledge of Him, into a sin-soaked world where men war against one another over power and greed, where madmen slaughter innocents in schools and in the womb, where men strive to deny His very existence, we have run from God, but all the while He loved and loves us still, enough not to give up. We have mocked Him, rebelled against Him, verbally bashed Him, misjudged Him and taken Him for granted. Still, He chose to come on our account and give His life on our behalf to bridge the gap between the sin saturated and the Holy, because we are defenseless and unable to do it ourselves. To those who have learned to follow Him, we are able to remain at peace, even when surrounded by pain, heartache, by tragedy, death and by the storms of life, as we reside behind the hedge of His protection. He is always gladdened by new members to His flock, yet never draws them by fear or force but by invitation and his unconditional love and dedication to them is eternal. 

This Christmas, when you celebrate the babe in the manger, keep your eyes heavenward  and remember why He came, because He was born and gave His life, with you in mind.




38 comments:

  1. That last photo is just beautiful.

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    1. Thanks Anna. I think there is something about these type of dogs that can't be defined but their hearts seem to come through on film

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  2. Thank you for such a moving tribute to your awesome guys and for the testimony for Our Father...you have me in tears, lady. Glad to call you 'sister in Christ'. May He bless you and yours, Kim, and keep you all safe!

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  3. Didn't mean that last comment to be anonymous...lol...it's me, Kim...Elizabeth Rainey!

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth and Merry Christmas!

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  4. And peace be with you, Randy Man and your beloved menagerie! God is Good. It never hurts to be reminded especially in the hectic days and weeks of the holiday season and in the aftermath of a senseless and violent act. You are always in the Lords warm embrace and I know he will continue to watch over you and yours in 2013. Love and hugs this Christmas and always....

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  5. What fantastic photos! We have not had very good experiences with our guardian dogs, sadly.

    Joining you in wishing our Sweet Savior a very happy birthday.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear that Leigh. They are certainly not like other dogs and I do think people need to have more information before buying them than they normally have. There is a list, WorkingLGD's on yahoo with lots of excellent information from the people there with lots of experience, and on FB there is a new group called Learning About LGD's which would be an immense help either to someone new to LGD's or to help problem solve for people who already have them. They are amazingly intelligent animals, but we need to know how to work WITH them as opposed to having them work FOR us, the way other breeds tend to do. Merry Christmas to you!

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  6. What a sweet story. Have a fabulous Christmas, see you around next year. I love to read your stories.

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    1. Thanks, Ann Marie. And Merry Christmas to you and your 16 muddy feet

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  7. They really are cute! Can you tell me if they bark a lot? We need a good guard dog (we have 2 golden retrievers); one that wil protect the smaller animals (goats, chickens) and our family. I want it to bark when there is real danger, but not at other dogs, etc.

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  8. By nature, LGD's do tend to bark a lot. It is their second line of defense, so they aren't good animals to have if you've close neighbors. My Maremmas are not particularly barky and have learned what is and is not ok, but I can't guarantee that other Maremmas will not bark. Pyr's tend to be more so, from what I hear and there are some that are less vocal but might be more 'hair trigger' and not as good around people. It pretty much depends on your situation. these links https://www.facebook.com/groups/392423130843141/?fref=ts which is FB Learning About LGD's and workingLGD's@yahoo.com would both be good places for you to check out and learn what ever you want to know about LGD's

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  9. What a great post and the picture of all the little lambs huddled around the dog is just precious! :)

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  10. Dear Petey, what an eloquent, precious, way of leading us to the One sure reality. I'm just a kid in many eyes but I thought as I read about your wonderful partners, here is a perfect illustration of God and Christ. Isaiah says He had no dignity or beauty to make us take notice of Him. We despised Him...we ignored Him as if He were nothing...but He endured the suffering that would have been ours. Wow, that whole chapter is like the biography of Jesus written like maybe 500 years before His birth, and now at this Christmas time you write about your Lord...who is my Lord, and who is Isaiah's. D-man's poem is kind of the same thing. I wish you Happy Christmas, Petey. God Bless you and as Michelle says above...yes amen. Dex

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    1. Isn't it the greatest miracle of all, Dex? So glad we are knit together in this family of Christ...and meeting more everyday we can spend eternity with...doubly awesome

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  11. This was a fascinating post. How old are the boys now? Had you had any other guardian dogs before you got them? I wondered what kind of dog the black and white one was in the first picture? It looks like either an English or Australian shepherd. Amy at Homestead Revival might want to look into English Shepherds.

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    1. Thanks, Catherine. I was just looking into English Shepherds. I'm concerned about a herd dog though. I would prefer them not to "herd" the chickens and yet, I know they really need to work. Not sure they'd be happy here. So far the Golden's have been an excellent fit, but our real need is for family protection at this point, even above animal protection.

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    2. Hi Catherine, the boys are only 2 1/2 now. They will be 3 next spring, and no, I had never had LGD's prior to them. The black and white is my husband's BC/Aussie cross. He is the poster child of delinquent canines. Not a good choice around chickens, they have a very high prey drive unless you are ONLY using them to help you 'herd' them. Even then, they could get rough. I would go on the LGD boards and ask if there is an LGD that is less likely to bark. My boys, when in the house don't, but they are protective. I have no doubt if anything happened they would be right on top of it...in fact, I fell once on the ice, they were in a back pasture but saw it...I was amazed at how FAST they got to me! There ARE people on the LGD boards who use them as service dogs, and there is a woman with 3 Akbash in her house for her own protection...so apparently in their situations the barking has not been an issue, but if they are outside doing patrol...they are going to bark at predators.

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    3. my above reply is to both Amy AND Catherine BTW LOL

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    4. I have done a lot of research into herding dogs and some of the English Shepherd lines are more suited to herding different types of animals than others. Some herd reluctantly and seem to do more like making sure certain animals are in their correct place rather than obsessively herding them around. Traditionally ES dogs were known as an all round farm dog, protector, companion and babysitter. You would want to look at one with a low prey drive and good bite inhibition. A good breeder knows what their dogs are like. For example, the ones hog favor to get their animals moving would not be suitable for a small holding with chickens. Lots of them just love patrolling their 'yard' and alerting their family to anyone coming up the drive. They shouldn't be too friendly with outsiders until their owner has told them it is ok. Can let you know of some breeders I have made contact with if you are interested.

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  12. Amazing story! They are beautiful dogs and you must be very proud :) I would love to have you share this post on Wildcrafting Wednesdays! I will have it live on my blog in the morning at:
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/

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    1. I will try and get it on there, lisa. Thank YOU for stoppin in!

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  13. I do want to make sure no one gets the idea that you can buy an LGD pup and just "throw them out there". There is introductions to be done and some training as far as corrections and limiting their access throughout puppyhood. I did not mention these in my blog, because it was not my point, so please don't run out and buy an LGD thinking there is no work that is required!

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  14. Beautiful post and Great photos. My first visit here.
    I have dozens of coyotes howling every night about 50 yards from my house, so I know its just a matter of time before I get a LGD. Maremmas seem to be the breed fo choice up here in Northern Vermont. My friend had 3 of them guarding her angora goats and yaks. Please come visit my herd when you get a chance: www.tailgait.blogspot.com

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    1. I am partial to the breed, although they certainly aren't the only breed in the LGD genre. They were just a very good fit for us! I'll drop by! Have a Merry Christmas

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  15. Amen! May you, your family and your farm have a very Merry Christmas! Staci

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    1. Thanks staci, and Merry Christmas to all of you!

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  16. Thanks so much for sharing your story on Wildcrafting Wednesday! I hope to see more posts from you soon!

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  17. What a great post! It's so important that people don't think that their family dog is automatically going to miraculously turn into a LGD when they start raising chickens or other livestock, but it takes a certain breed and training. Your dogs are gorgeous and clearly know their job. Please come share this at my Farm Girl Blog Fest: http://fresh-eggs-daily.blogspot.com/2012/12/farm-girl-blog-fest-13.html

    Happy Holidays!
    Lisa
    Fresh Eggs Daily

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    1. You are absolutely right, Lisa. There are SPECIFIC breeds that are LGD's. To have a truly effective livestock guardian you must choose one of these particular breeds, such as: Great Pyrenees, Maremma, Anatolian, Akbash or some of the other carefully bred and developed LGD breeds. Other breeds outside of the LGD genre MIGHT bark at intruders and have some effect, but will not bond with the stock and dedicate their life to them and do not think independently of humans, as they are bred to be directed and submissive to people, not livestock. LGD's are quite the opposite.

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  18. Thank you for your posts about your pups. We too have 2 LGD GP pups, who are being abused by the sheep on our farm. It gives me hope that they will all will get along eventually.
    Angela

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    1. As long as the pups have a safe area to escape from the sheep. It's amazing how the dogs eventually win them over. It doesn't take my guys any time at all now :)

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  19. Thank you for a beautiful and moving post. May God bless you and your family in the coming new year.

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    1. Thank you Laurie, and may He bless yours as well

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  20. These photos are so awesome! We have a great pyr/sheepdog mix who guards our chickens and does a great job. It was so sweet to read about how your dogs touched the calves noses and were happy to have a large group to guard. Thank you for sharing and Merry Christmas!

    Visiting from the farmgirl blog hop :)

    Tammy
    ourneckofthewoods.net

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    1. Merry Christmas Tammy and thank you for stopping by!

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  21. Thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesday! Be sure to vote for our People's Choice Awards from Wednesday the 26th through Jan 4th at:
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/

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