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Friday, February 09 2018

The lazy spiral of vultures overhead is my first clue. Curiosity gets the best of me so I slip on some boots and trudge out there. The sheep are still eating hay in their pens but the chickens have already wandered off into the wooded pasture - the Forbidden City. It calls to them each morning with promises of bugs, and grubs, and other delicacies found beyond the safe confines of the barnyard.

As I slide through the gate, Briar, the Livestock Guardian Dog, falls into step beside me. She has been watching chickens in the forest. Still six birds. Good dog, Briar. The vultures are circling toward the east, so I march toward the rising sun. In a very short time the cedars open to reveal the object of so much study.

The vultures are waiting on Judge.

One must be cautious when approaching any dog over a kill, but when the dog tips the scale over 100 pounds, extra caution is needed. Now is not the time to play dominance games. Buying dry kibble and shovelling it into a dog bowl doesn't give you the right to take anything from a dog as big as a mountain lion. He pauses as I walked up on him. I don't take a direct route in, but angle my path to glide past indirectly. He glares at me with lowered eyes. The crunch of bones is unmistakable. A few tufts of hair scattered in the grass. A spot of blood. Judge has fixed himself breakfast.

"Lemme see what you have there." I speak in a sing-song voice, careful not to imply that I am inviting myself to his meal, or God forbid, taking it from him.  He never stops eating, but doesn't threaten me as I come forward to inspect his rabbit. Poor bunny. Briar inspects his meal at a distance. She thoroughly checks out the murder scene, just in case any morsels or other bunnies are hanging around. Nothing.

The buzzards circle overhead. Waiting. They don't dare land on the ground to wait for him to finish. The Livestock Guardian Dogs despise the birds and had they landed Judge's second course would have been turkey vulture. While I am out there I take the opportunity to walk the game trails and explore a bit. The sheep now graze this pasture unattended. The browse is good but it doesn't come without risks. The best grazing is found in open patches surrounded by thick wooded areas. There are lots of places to hide a predator out here. The sound of crunching bones in the distance wafts through the cedar trees. Judge is proof that a very large predator can successfully hunt out here. I walk on.

Sheep's wool caught on mesquite thorns mark the way like traffic cones. Clearly sheep come this far. I push onward. The path is well worn. I round the corner and almost step on him. A dead raccoon. Briar ignores him. Nothing to see here. Carry on. I examine the body. Tufts of Briar's fluffy white hair are caught in the stiff dry weeds around the body. White bits of hair cling on weeds like crime scene markers. The dead raccoon is of no interest to Briar because she killed it.

"Did you kill this raccoon?"

She smiles. "I don't know what you're talking about."

I keep walking. Down another trail I find the body of an armadillo. This pisses me off. I like armadillos. I don't want my dogs killing them. I turn around to orient myself. The barn can clearly be seen from here. The dogs aren't ranging that far in their crime spree. Or is it?

I can't have it both ways. They either protect the pastures from intruders or they don't. I can't stand in front of them at roll call with a chart and a pointer, highlighting which animals are on the DO NOT KILL side and which animals are on THE BOOGEY BEAST side of the chart. It doesn't work that way. The same dog who doesn't kill chickens lies in the forest crunching up a rabbit. And one of the murdering bastards killed my armadillo.

There are no good answers. The sheep and the chickens are certainly safer because of them. But in the end, a dog is really just a wolf in better clothing.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 08:24 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

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