Monday, March 09, 2009

Puppy Update -- The Great Pyranees and her flock

The puppies are almost 3 weeks old and all fat little creatures. Mom has slimmed down incredibly. She's now getting 5 meals a day -- hard boiled eggs, raw meat with bones, oatmeal, granola and soup with potatoes. Donder is spending some time away from her puppies now, each day. What a good mom she is!

3 of the girls and 4 of the boys are for sale. They'll be ready to leave their mom on April 15th -- born on February 15th. Donder is a pb Great Pyranees. Dad is a pb Maremma. Both are working dogs, guarding our sheep, angora and saanan goats and helping the llamas with their job. The puppies are living in the barn.

We are keeping one of the females.

Our oldest Great Pyranees -- Missy -- a spayed female and unrelated to these puppies -- died on Thursday of a stroke. She was 6 years old.

Missy was one of the loyalist dogs I've ever met. She would rather have our approval and petting than eat. She was a fierce protector of our flock and us. And she loved it when we had visitors to the farm -- especially children. She would sit at their feet bobbing their hands with her head to be stroked. And the smaller the child the more Missy would sit by them -- not wanting them to be afraid of her.

Once, when Missy was only a year old, Robin and Ian were building a fence in the pasture. Ian came across a new born fawn laying in the long grass. The men tiptoed around the baby fawn and continued to lay the fence. A few hours later, Missy and Emma (the smooth collie) came down to the pasture. Robin thought that the doe would come and move her fawn, but she didn't. In only a few minutes the dogs found the fawn. Missy sniffed it and immediately sat with her back to it -- facing the direction that danger would come. She didn't leave the fawn's side for over an hour.

That summer, Missy allowed the doe and her fawn to graze our whole acreage, including my garden -- and every summer after that. Other deer are barked at as intruders but that doe has the protection of the guardian of the farm.

Another story of Missy -- In the summer of 2007 there was a fire on the mountain side directly above us. The forestry people sent a water bomber and a helicopter to put out the fire. In the middle of the confusion, a bear came out of the woods and killed one of our chickens. Missy went after it and chased it away from her territory. It came back a few hours later and Missy again chased it. Robin went with Missy this second time -- afraid that she would get too close to the bear and be harmed.

She was amazing to watch -- she barked at the bear and followed it a few paces, out of reach of its powerful claws. She ran back when it turned toward her, but followed it when it retreated -- so that she convinced it to leave her territory. Once the bear was safely away, she came home. After that, the bear, skirted around our farm on his nightly rounds and visited the neighbors instead.

On another occassion my daughter was picking wild strawberries with a baby goat at her side. This goat was born with a heart defect and was less than 10 inches tall. Tiny Tim was a bottle baby and followed my daughter around all day long. On this particular day, Tiny Tim was grazing beside my daughter -- and about 8 feet away. A coyote came out of the woods, aiming for Tiny Tim. Suddenly Missy was there, barking and chasing the coyote right up the mountain. Tiny Tim lived out his life without having to worry about predators.

The Great Pyranees is an amazing dog - bred to work and to bark if there is anything out of place. Quiet and intensely loyal if all is as it should be. They are not "obedient" like a collie and will not "come" if there is any danger in its territory. Don't ask your Great Pyr to be quiet and go to sleep if there are coyotes or bears near the barn. They are bred to make life and death decisions to protect livestock. And they do their job in an incredible way.

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