More Than Just Guardians

This week I’ve had the pleasure of hearing that 2 different puppies from our 2014 litter have earned their keep. I, of course, love my dogs and can’t imagine living without them so to hear of the fantastic success of these pups on their new farms makes me so happy for the shepherds that now own them.

Opal watches her sheep through the fence.
Opal watches her sheep through the fence.

Last July Mia had a litter of 8 pups. They are now just 7 months old and already doing a great job of keeping their farms safe. At an age when most house dogs are in their “puppy” stage these gentle giants are already hard at work, keeping the world safe for their various charges. They are still puppies, and still need guidance about appropriate behaviors, but they are learning the ropes and using their instincts to do what they are bred to do, guard their flocks.

Opal watches over 35 ewes on a farm across the street from our house. She is currently penned right next to them rather than in with them because the sheep are still getting used to her and she needs to learn about lambing by watching the process to see how it all should be handled.

Opal's sheep are a little camera shy
Opal’s sheep are a little camera shy

Most of what these dogs learn is by watching their people to see what is “normal” what should be allowed. Their learning curve is vertical for the first year, but if you take the time to show them what to expect they become invaluable for years to come.

Wednesday night our dogs were barking in the corner of the pasture closest to (but still about a half mile away from) Opal. When I called to them they stopped and I could hear Opal barking. Then ours would bark again even though I had asked them to stop. I assumed this meant there was something in the trees that I couldn’t see so I left them to do their job. After a few minutes Al stopped and walked away, Mia sat quietly watching in that general direction, and Rocco alternated between barking and whining. Interesting, but not interesting enough to keep me up past bedtime, I went to bed and slept peacefully through the night knowing they would handle whatever it was.

Meanwhile, over at Jenny’s house, Opal was barking, Jenny was checking on both her dog and the sheep, seeing nothing Jenny went to bed. It was, after all, about -2°F so why linger outside. Early Thursday morning Opal was still barking. When that didn’t get the response Opal was hoping  for she switched to a high pitched yip, almost like the sound a coyote makes. Jenny remembered me telling her that kind of yip is Mia’s way of saying “Come here right now I need help!” so out into the dark cold morning she went.

Suffolk ram lamb
Suffolk ram lamb

As she neared the fence Jenny heard the sound of a brand new lamb calling for momma. So that’s what all the fuss was about? A ewe was in labor, something Opal hadn’t yet experienced so she didn’t know quite how to handle it. She did know that this new development was something Jenny should know about. It was a good thing too because a new lamb is a wet lamb, and at sub-zero temperatures they freeze to death rather quickly. Jenny scooped the little guy up, checked momma to see she had been milked (which means he had nursed) and ran him back inside. He was dried off and checked out, all seemed to be as it should, a healthy little boy to start the season off.

Suffolk ewe with her new ram lamb
Suffolk ewe with her new ram lamb

Mother nature has designed lambs to handle freezing temperatures without issue, once they are dry. But to help him out a little she made him a cute little jacket to help him keep warm. Upon returning him to momma he drank a good second breakfast and then settled in for a mid morning snooze.

Born black or mostly black, Suffolk sheep wool grows out light so by the time they are a few months old they will look like cream colored sheep with dark head and legs. This little guy has some spots under his blanket but will soon look just like his momma.

Friday morning I popped on Facebook to check on status updates from around the world and found that one of the other pups, Molly, had her own success story.

Molly relaxing in the snow
Molly relaxing in the snow

It appears that cats are not the only curious creatures. Geese like to see if the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence. Even when there is a dog on that side of said fence.

Typically, when a goose, chicken, turkey or other bird sticks it’s head into a dog pen the poor bird looses that head. I mean it really does look like a chew toy does it not? And it’s being offered through the fence so wouldn’t it be rude not to play with a toy that is being offered? Oh the joys of being a dog. So many toys so little time.

BUT, when a goose stuck it’s head into Molly’s pen she tried to help the poor thing. Apparently it’s easier to stick your goose head into a pen than it is to get it back out again. So when this particular goose became distressed by being stuck Molly tried to help push his head back to the other side of the fence. When she couldn’t manage on her own she barked for help until someone with thumbs came to her, and the trapped gooses’, rescue. Once free he waddled off with his mate to go do other goose things, none the worse for wear.

Such is the life of guardian dogs, saving their flocks from harm, the weather, and their own curiosity.

Much thanks to Wild Angels Ranch for allowing use of their photos.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Laura says:

    What wonderful dogs and the job they do is so important! I can hardly wait until we have our own land and flock and guardian dog. Congrats on breeding and raising such wonderful dogs!

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