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Friday, September 16 2016

Lest I give anyone the impression that raising Livestock Guardian Dogs is easy, and that your big white dog which keeps sneaking out is somehow inferior in some way to my teenagers, who in print appear perfect in every way, let me reassure you. The raccoons around here can probably cuss like sailors courtesy of my example each time those two disappear.

The trick is that they CAN NOT BE LOOSE TOGETHER. They can't.  It's as simple as that. Independently they will lie around like responsible livestock dogs. Together, they are frat boys on spring break. We are blessed to be in the middle of nowhere, so when two large white dogs the size of calves go on walkabout, it is highly unlikely they will be hit by a car. On the other hand, they could be killed by hogs, bitten by poisonous snakes, or shot by hunters. AND - if they are running amok, they are not protecting the effing sheep!

Of late we have settled into a routine with Judge on Dayshift, while Jury is locked in the barn, and Jury loose at night while Judge is locked with the goats. Briar may either be with Judge or Jury. This has been working really well - until Thursday night.

Thursday we left to deliver several baby goats. Because the babies were in the back of the truck screaming, and we didn't want Judge to follow us down the road, we locked him in the barn with Jury. Together. Where they could plot. We returned far later than planned and it was already very dark with a bright moon in the sky. I was physically and emotionally exhausted and all I really wanted to do was go to bed. That's normally when things happen. I was not to be disappointed.

I opened the barn aisle gate and the boys bounded off into the night with a jubilant jog. I called them back to sort them for their shifts. Their jog accelerated into a flat-out gallop into the night. By the time I screamed at them, they had reached warp speed. There was a sonic boom as they broke the sound barrier when they discovered Other Half had left the gate open between the barnyard and the big pasture when he was planting wheat earlier.

I wanted to cry. I wanted to cuss. I wanted to throw things. Two giant dogs can cover a lot of territory on those long legs and they clearly had no intention of coming back on their own. There are rules I accept out here. You cannot catch a large animal running through thick brush if it doesn't want to be caught. I leaped onto a 4wheeler to take a pass through the pasture in hopes they would decide to lope back and follow me. Nope. Nothing. Nada. There was absolutely no sound but crickets and owls. They were so far away I couldn't even hear their bells jingling. At this point I felt like Merle Haggard's mother.

If you were not raised in rural America in the 1960's perhaps you've never heard the song "Momma Tried" in which a young man laments about how his mother tried to steer him straight despite his wandering ways. This chorus kept running through my head as I cussed in the moonlight:

I turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole.
 No-one could steer me right but Mama tried, Mama tried,
 Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleading, I denied.
 That leaves only me to blame 'cause Mama tried.

Yes, I was Merle Haggard's mother in the moonlight, but I refused to drive around in the dark, calling for dogs that would ignore me. I refused to sit up and worry about them. This was Darwinism at work, I ranted. I provide a safe home, meals, and medical care. If you are too stupid to accept that, then let Natural Selection sort it out. And with that, I went to bed. Yes, I was a tad angry.

And perhaps a bit harsh.

I woke up around 2:30 am and peeked out the window. They had returned sometime earlier and were both safely in the barnyard with the sheep. I have no idea if they ran 30 minutes or 3 hours. I went back to bed. At 6:30 am they were both still in the barnyard with the sheep. When the sun came up they were both still home. Apparently God and Darwin smiled on Big White Puppies that night.

We have returned to our routine and I'm even more cautious about letting them out together, especially on the weekends when they may encounter hunters. Briar lies around the barnyard watching these shenanigans with amusement. At their age, on this property, she would have been exactly the same way, but she's older, wiser, and slower now. She still enjoys the occasional off-property romp, but she doesn't go far, and she comes when called. When she was their age, I had a property small enough to employ electricity.

It's important to keep all this in mind if you choose a Livestock Guardian Dog breed. Do not hold my poster boys up as the epitome of perfection. They roam. All Livestock Guardian Dog breeds roam. Keep that in mind if you live in the city. These are not good city dogs because they WILL make a jail break from time to time. Out here, they 'might' run into trouble, but if you live in the city, trouble, in the form of a fast-moving Chevy, is right at the next intersection. If you live in the country and have a small place where you can fence with electricity, you're in luck. But if you have a large property, with varied terrain that makes it impossible to keep them from pushing up a fence 'somewhere' along the perimeter, until they mature, get ready to play an on-going chess game with teenagers, and stand in the moonlight with Merle Haggard's mother.

You can listen to the song from the link below:

The first thing I remember knowing,
 Was a lonesome whistle blowing,
 And a young un's dream of growing up to ride,
 On a freight train leaving town,
 Not knowing where I'm bound,
 No-one could change my mind but Mama tried.
 One and only rebel child,
 From a family, meek and mild,
 My Mama seemed to know what lay in store.
 Despite all my Sunday learning,
 Towards the bad, I kept a turning.
 'Til Mama couldn't hold me anymore.
And I turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole.
 No-one could steer me right but Mama tried, Mama tried.
 Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleading, I denied.
 That leaves only me to blame 'cause Mama tried.

Dear old Daddy, rest his soul,
 Left my Mom a heavy load,
 She tried so very hard to fill his shoes.
 Working hours without rest,
 Wanted me to have the best.
 She tried to raise me right but I refused.

I turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole.
 No-one could steer me right but Mama tried, Mama tried,
 Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleading, I denied.
 That leaves only me to blame 'cause Mama tried.

Read more: Merle Haggard - Mama Tried Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 10:43 am   |  Permalink   |  3 Comments  |  Email
I think you just convinced me that I don't want an LGD on my 10 acres.
Posted by Patty on 09/16/2016 - 07:29 PM
Actually that's about what Briar started out with and she did fine. (But she went through a stage where she needed Hotwire!)
Posted by Forensicfarmgirl on 09/16/2016 - 07:39 PM
(Now that I've stopped grinning with recognition of the event and admiring most handsome pup) -- They are SOOOO FAST! And two together become totally deaf. Glad they came home. My hunch is that they came home sooner rather than later. The first time Gunny took off like that after coyotes, I thought, "Oh crap, he'll be gone all night" as my late great Catahoulas would have been. But he was home within about a half hour, having secured the perimeter as he defines it (we're in unfenced National Forest). I firmly believe the primordial guardian gene kicks in and they think, "This is fun, but what about our flock?" - they want to get back and make sure all are safe at home. Scratches to both beautiful boys (and the rest of the crew)!
Posted by Tina G on 09/17/2016 - 09:45 AM

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