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Friday, 15 December 2017

Running a farm isn't for sissies, and so rather than paint a picture viewed through rose-colored glasses, I've always tried to show you the good, the bad, and the ugly. As those of you on my personal facebook page already know, at the end of November, Jury killed one of the barn cats. This is a no-no. We don't murder members of the family.

It started innocently enough. Three of the cats were raised in the house before moving outside. The dogs have been exposed to these cats every day of their lives.  Two other cats were the semi-feral barn cats we brought with us, Ninja and Nikita.  When they arrived here the feral cats had some issues dealing with the dogs. Nikita moved into the hay barn. Ninja left the property entirely. We assumed she'd been eaten by coyotes. Over the last 3 years we'd spotted her several times slinking across the dirt road near hunting camps. She was surviving on her own - a badass cat. Last summer she decided to come home and stay.  She would come up periodically to eat from the cat food on top of the boat. Since the dogs often chased the cats to and from the boat, I didn't pay attention to the warning signs. The Livestock Guardian Dogs were more serious about catching Ninja than the other cats.

On that day we had been clearing a wooded area near the boat. Brush piles that had existed for quite a while had been moved. I was driving the tractor and noticed Jury bouncing up on the boat. I didn't pay any attention until I glanced back not 20 seconds later to see Jury leaving the area with a jaunty air.

???

My eyes moved to the place where the brush had been removed and landed on a suspicious black lump.

I leaped off the tractor and ran screaming. She was dead. Just like that.

I was berserk. Screaming. Throwing sticks. Throwing rocks. Jury was genuinely aghast and horrified by my behavior. He ran around the barn, found a group of sheep and laid down with them.

I stood in the road crying and screaming as Other Half drove up. I think he thought I'd run over a dog with the tractor. When he realized the dog killed the cat, he almost killed Jury.

We cannot, we simply can NOT have dogs killing cats. Other farms may be better able to handle that, but we are not. The cats are vital, contributing members of the farm. We have a copperhead problem. We are surrounded by wooded area and that area is filled with poisonous snakes, to the tune of killing 14 copperheads within 30 feet of your house in one summer.  The cats have taken care of that. They kill rodents and harass snakes. The snakes no longer come around for easy rodent meals. We went from 14 copperheads in one summer to 3 last summer. The cats are here to stay.

The jury was out on Jury though.

Of the two Anatolians, he is the better Livestock Guardian Dog. He is much more maternal and nurturing to the livestock and clearly enjoys their company. Briar and Judge guard the livestock, but don't seek them out to just lie together and sing Kumbaya. Jury is a 2 1/2 years old now, he is almost fully trained and is pretty reliable with sheep, goats, and chickens. But cats?

I was almost willing to give him a pass on Ninja because none of the dogs ever accepted that she belonged, but then I worried about the tame cats. Other Half has already sworn that if Jury kills another cat, he plans on shooting the dog. Eeeek!

But do you trash a trained LGD for killing what he perceives is an intruder? No. But what if he's just killing for sport?

First of all, I'm not trashing any dog. On the other hand, I'm also not gonna stand by and let him start killing cats because he likes the sport. The dog already kills raccoons, skunks, armadillos, and feral pigs. I can see how this evolves to killing cats.

My first impulse was to re-home Jury onto a farm without cats. It left a bad taste in my mouth, but so does burying your cat. That presented other issues - finding a good home. I don't trash dogs. If for whatever rare reason I must re-home one, much care is taken. I considered a shock collar, but the logistics of timing the corrections would be a nightmare.

So I decided to get the word out that if the perfect home fell into place then he was available, otherwise he was staying here and enrolling in Miss Psychopath's School For The Elevation Of Cats To God-like Status.

My reasoning was twofold. Good homes are hard to find. If, by some miracle, the dog can be socialized through it, then he can stay and I get to keep a superior trained LGD. Stranger things have happened. Briar and the Blue Heeler were both confirmed chicken killers. Briar not only killed chickens, but ate them. Now both dogs ignore my free-range chickens. Why?

I elevated chickens to god-like status.

Around here you do not, for any reason, make a chicken move fast or squawk. If you are racing through the yard, playing grab-ass with your buddy, and you run through a group of hens, forcing them to scatter and squawk, the Wrath of a Psychopath will rain down on your head in the form of buckets, rocks, sticks or whatever else I'm carrying. The dogs know, Thou Shalt Not Ruffle Chicken Feathers.

My entire dog pack, Border Collies too, has just been enrolled in this course - a crash course, if you will. The fun game of Let's Chase The Cat will no longer be tolerated. Even though the tame cats often initiate the game, if you don't want a flashlight bouncing off your skull, you will resist the urge to play. The cat feeding station has been moved from the boat to the garden where the cats may eat and drink without worrying about a mad dash across the yard and a quick climb onto the boat. Now I toss out some cat food on the ground to occupy dogs, and cats begin to slink under the fence to meet me in the garden where they can battle it out with chickens for their chow.

The problem isn't solved, (i.e. he hasn't regained my trust) but Jury is back on night shift again. He is, at least in my presence, showing avoidance behavior around barn cats. He either ignores them, or turns his head to look away. On the times he, or anyone else, has given in to the urge to lunge in play at a cat, I've slung a flashlight or a bucket. This has proven to be amazingly effective. Because I live and work here full time, I'm able to supervise and intervene immediately. Until this week Jury has been supervised 24/7 in his interactions. He has just this week earned Trustee status where he can resume his duties. If I ever get to the point where he can be trusted with cats again, all the screaming and bucket slinging will have been worth it. If he kills another cat, at least I will know that I have done everything possible to fix the problem.

At this point, the ball is in his court.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 05:52 am   |  Permalink   |  3 Comments  |  Email

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