THURSDAY/OCTOBER 22/2020--A lot has happened in the year and a half since I started this expose of my challenge with the Pack and Mikey's inclusion in our family. Mikey has been the ultimate challenge in my learning to speak "dog"...we have had some wonderfully brilliant dogs in our "wild 'n' woolly" adventure over the last 40 years, but none so sensitive and challenging as this last pup. She was so playful with the sheep in the first year we weren't sure we SHOULD or WOULD keep her. Even that angst with us she felt and because of our insecurities she was insecure in her place here on our farm--was she a part of the pack or was she to be tossed aside into yet another unknown, unstable life? Dogs do adapt...they live with what is presented to them in the moment. They live in the NOW. They sense emotion and body language and react accordingly. As SOON as we worked it out between ourselves to adapt and work within her and her insecurities as a growing 'teenager'--subject to bouts of spontaneous playfulness and "Oh, S....". I shouldn't have done that! moments--as soon as we made peace and agreed to keep her and commit to allowing her to be a part of our family and the "GIRLIWHIG" pack, it all changed. Mikey relaxed. We relaxed. Personalities among dogs are no different than those among people--they are all one and different! Choose to adapt or NOT! We chose wisely. Mikey is a JOY! She is conniving and manipulative, never serious, loving with 'her tribe' and all children, however, weary of strangers, fast moving objects, and hats! She steals shoes and socks, but only to take them to her resting place, wherever that might be--day or night. She doesn't chew them, and she will return them to you SOMETIMES! It's never the same shoe or sock, but at random, one of our boots or shoes or socks will turn up missing and might be under "HER" tree, the one she most likely is asleep under, or half-way to the cabin on the hill or at the cabin. If you're in the house, she actually returns them to you, AGAIN, SOMETIMES!
THURSDAY/MARCH 28--What is it that these dogs really do when they pick up things that belong to us, carry them around, and perhaps, bring them to us? Is it OCD as so labeled, is it attention-getting or is it simply a means to communicate what is happening in their world that we need to address?. Mikey is only 5 months old and today at our regular time she brought me first one boot, then the other and her lead, laid them at my feet and went to the door to the outside and sat there. Hmmm...she doesn't pick up candles off the table, books, the phone--no, just shoes, hats, gloves, socks, all the things that I put on when we go out. Could it be any clearer than that? SILENCE--best to listen to what's not said, what's not done, and weigh the things that are communicated in actions.
MONDAY/MARCH 4--This is long, but it is a ’history/ update’ regarding "Mikey", our 5 month old Anatolian crossbred shepherding dog…We brought Mikey home at 11 weeks on December 18th..."Mikey" is now learning to be a part of Our LGD/+1Pack (composed of Mikey, her two biologically related pack members—Sissy and Annie, and me.) 'Sissy', the big, white 1/2 Anatolian : 1/2 Maremma has taken on the role of surrogate mom—She’s Mikey's aunt. 'Annie', the black 'n' white 1/4 Anatolian : 3/4 Maremma teaches her to play / fight / mole hunt and be ‘on alert’, to bark or not to bark…”that being the question”—She’s Mikey’s half-sister (same dame, different sire). Mikey is 3/4 Anatolian : 1/4 Maremma. FYI: Her goofy, lovable, old-soul, working guardian SIRE ("Wrangler") is a “registered” Anatolian that originally came from Possum Hollow Farm. Her granddame was an ‘Anatolian’, and her grandsire on the dame’s side, a Maremma.
…Tethering: Progress in the Making: January 16—She sat patiently tethered (on the 6' leash) more than an hour ~20 ft. from my horse and donkey while their hooves were being trimmed by my farrier. She had been nervous and skittish around the horse and donkey in the beginning. Earlier that same day, she sat, hooked to the fence on her 6' leash, patiently watching me, when I treated a sick ram. They were her first 'tie outs'. That was then. NOW? She doesn’t fight being tethered, but I have not left her alone more than 10 minutes, perhaps, when I sat watching ‘from around the corner’.
She was tethered 1 1/2 hours while we sheared sheep last Sunday 15’ from the shearer and me. I was sorting and gathering fleeces. She was fine, but of course, wanted to grab every scrap of wool that blew her way. She sat and watched with interest…got bored actually, after I removed her downwind of all loose and flying scraps of wool. She laid quietly and chewed her bone. No Big Deal!
While I caught and treated a yearling ewe who appeared to have foot scald (rain, mud, rain, wet, and more wet….) she sat tethered to the corral fence.
IF the mud dries and we can actually leave sheep inside the barn corral I will continue with tethering longer periods, supervised and/or unsupervised. Now, that’s a Big IF…Also, because there's a part of me that really doesn't like the idea of tethering. There ARE times when a dog needs to be restrained to prevent being hurt or hurting someTHING (2- or 4-legged), but to tether as a tool to get them acclimated to things around them seems somewhat against their nature. More about that in the blog...later!
…Mikey DID bark at the two Highland cows and Dog, the horse, and Eoyore, the donkey, in the beginning…She no longer barks at or is bothered by our Highland cows that are pastured here close to the house. When I walk out, if she is lying on the porch or just outside the gated yard, “BOOF-BOOF’ing, I can simply state, ”Thadaldo”, and she stops. She’ll then lie quietly and watch…and yes, we've been working on this. The cows tolerate and/or ignore the older dogs. The older dogs are (not surprisingly) intimidated by the cows and always give them a ‘wide birth’—Mikey mimics them…all is well!
She did ‘BOOF-BOOF’ at Dog and Eoyore initially. When they would come over to investigate this ‘new kid on the block’, Eoyore, being a DONKEY, would shake her head, lay her ears back, and seem to threaten Mikey, but meant no harm. Now—Mikey walks within 5' of the both of them, alongside our other two guardian dogs, Sissy and Annie, leashed or not. It’s a "Hi, see ya!” kind of greeting. Dog allows the lambs and sheep to walk under her belly, eat hay with her, etc.; she also tolerates whatever the older dogs are comfortable doing around her — getting hoof scraps when being trimmed, walking alongside when we all go WALKABOUT. Eoyore is GOOD that way as well, but she steals newborn lambs if we’re not watching; And, she enjoys a rather gnarly chase-the-dogs game on WALKABOUTS!
After being so viciously attacked by coyotes in May and again in September last year, our sheep are, unfortunately, very skittish of ANY and ALL dogs...Annie, who's 7 now, was and is, partly, the problem. I, however, was and AM the problem!!! I LET Annie GET AWAY with ‘play-chasing’ two bottle-raised lambs when she was a young puppy—I was suffering from A-Fib (Ablation ‘cured’) and did not have the strength to be out and train her when I should have. Those lambs are now ewes. I never ‘fixed this’. If there are sheep spread over the field, she gets behind them and chases the ‘odd ones out’ until they are once again grazing as a flock. She doesn’t continue the ‘chase’, but stops and watches from 20 yds. or so. This last year’s attacks by coyotes ‘freaked’ our sheep to the extent that we now have ovine-PTSD issues…the sheep run from any 4 -egged critter that resembles a dog and/or me, me being PACKMOM! They run from Annie, they run from Mikey, they run from Sissy (the quiet, neverchasedsheep older guardian dog)…and they run from ME(…after all, the dogs are always with me, i.e., PACKMOM)!! I realize I made the mistake of not fixing this!
Anyway…This is NOW! At least they always run towards the barn, the woods, or fortunately, to ‘Dog’ and ‘Eoyore’. It seems the horse and donkey have become their guardians! It’s not a bad thing, but the dogs and I are NO LONGER allowed ‘up close and personal’. My husband has fed the sheep since he’s retired 4 years ago, and had me avoid even being at the barn without thinking of the long term consequences. I usually go WALKABOUT the same time he feeds. Sheep are such creatures of habit and routine….As a result our 3Dogs+1PACK presence is NOT routine!
Annie and Sissy had had help to keep predators away up until several years ago…16 year old Gus died in 2014 and Woodrow retired himself last year! They guarded from the hills overlooking the barn, from high points in the pasture, and from the porch at the house…they barked to alert us or to ‘threaten the coyotes and foxes’, and they patrolled the perimeters both day and night. Since last spring, it’s just been Annie and Sissy left to do what 4 dogs had done! (NOTE: I have not let Mikey go with the older dogs yet—she’s too young, despite having been raised at the barn and in the field where her mom, dad, and 20+goats were kept!)
When the coyote attacks occurred in April and in September, we were caught by horrific storms, Hurricane Michael, and continual flooding rains. Both attacks occurred during the wee hours of the morning when the guardian dogs were ‘with me’. The night of the first attack in April, the three dogs (including old Woodrow, who is blind, deaf, and ‘on-his-way-out’) and I were sleeping on the porch, riding out a disastrous Northeaster. Because Sissy freaks out during storms, we’d come inside. I hadn’t thought much about it. We hadn’t had a coyote kill even one lamb in 15 years!!! That morning, however, Annie dragged in a lamb head during our early morning WALKABOUT to alert us that we had a problem. We found wool and smushed ground and remnants of a 25 lb. carcass 150’ beyond our barn. We lost a total of 5 lambs—three smaller lambs were hauled off, I suspect, as food for coyote pups.
Fence???? We knew we needed to fix fence, but farming has its priorities…urgent and notsourgent! Last year was the worst and wettest summer in the 38 years we have farmed this land. We got little done, including fence repair. I slept along with Sissy and Annie (and sometimes Woodrow) at my cabin—at the edge of the woods, at the top of the pasture field, overlooking the house and the sheep barn as much as I could all summer and fall. Thunderstorms occasionally drove us inside, like the night we were attacked in April. The second attacks in mid to late September occurred during Hurricane Michael and subsequent to that, a week of flooding rains. The dogs and I were sleeping at our cabin—the 6’ double-barn doors wide open. The dogs had access to roam the entire 200-acre farm as needed. Coyotes killed and fatally wounded 3 100+ lb. ram lambs during one hellaciously stormy night just over the hill beyond the house. The rams were pastured with our Highland steers. The next week, once again, on yet another stormy night, coyotes crept in among the sheep at the barn with the horse, donkey, and guardian dogs RIGHT THERE and killed a 100+ lb. ewe lamb. We kept the sheep in the pasture close to the barn…too wet to pin them in the barn. My husband stayed at the barn and another neighbor with a nightscope parked his truck in the field to try and catch the bastards, but they still managed to outsmart everyone. Three nights later they killed another ewe lamb 2’ from the barn!! ( The barn and barn corral were MUCK—we hadn’t thought to pin the sheep IN at nights—they were sleeping just above the barn and the dogs were close—as was Dog and Eoyore.)
NOTE: Annie and Sissy typically ‘yap-and-boof’ if they sense new or strange dogs about. They howl if there are coyotes. Annie patrols the perimeter and continues her ‘yaps - and - boofs’. Sissy stays close (as did Woodrow until this last year) and howls. They use their echoes to make it sound like there are more than just the two dogs.
We HAVE addressed the obvious overpopulation and pack mentality of the coyotes that reside here now by upgrading our perimeter fencing, and adding a third dog, Mikey, to compensate for the loss of the two older farm dogs….The question is:
Were my 'all too coddled' guardian dogs simply not where they were needed when the coyotes came? Did a pack of coyotes outsmart them and the horse and donkey? And/Or All of the Above???
5 coyotes were killed just over the hill a mile from our cabin, house, and barn during the two weeks of deer (buck) season in November. A 6th was wounded! Maybe our PTSD Sheep are truly wounded soldiers! And perhaps, Sissy and Annie (and Gus and Woodrow) had done more to keep the coyotes at bay all those years and months prior to the two devastating attacks last year than we’ll ever know.
QUESTION: Will I ever get my sheep to trust our dogs being with them “up close and personal”? I do not have a smaller 1 or 2 acre area to pasture the sheep. Our corrals at either end of the barn are 60’ X 100’ BUT IT IS TOO WET TO EVEN CONSIDER LEAVING THEM AND THE DOGS THERE — TETHERED or NOT!! We’re experimenting with adding Hemp (CBD) to the feed for our PTSD traumatized sheep. I’ll let you know how that goes! Here’s to potentially dopey sheep and problem solved…
I walk Annie and the new pup, Mikey, on leash as close as I can get (at most 15 yds.) without the sheep freaking out, as often as I can…at least once a day, hoping they will ‘get over it’. Progress is slow, but everyday at feeding time when the sheep are corraled, I walked the dogs around the corral as close as they will allow without upsetting them. We sit and wait while the sheep eat and watch. And when all is quiet and the sheep are eating hay, we leave—as would normally be how it’s done.
…Perimeter Fences — where trees fell and smushed wire sections, creeks washed out and made creep holes, posts rotted, etc., we repaired it. We reinforced gates, stapled cattle panels, and wired smaller, cut sections of woven wire fencing over every hole and crevasse and stream bed that would permit any critter larger than a rabbit and squirrel access at the bottom. NO coyote will creep under our perimeter fence into these 40+ acres without a struggle! Opportunists that they are, let’s hope they are too lazy to try and jump the 5+’ required to go over it. We replaced posts and added barbed wire at the top in wooded areas that we considered most vulnerable. Admittedly, these repairs should have been done long, long ago! What we put off — like fencing, an obvious time-consuming project — when farmingdaytodaystuff is slapping us in the face continuously, can and will kick us in the arse occasionally—but that’s farming, eh?!
When we first got Mikey, we (the 3Dogs and I) slept in the barn in a 12'X12' area with the gate to it left open…Mikey had never been inside a closed barn, let alone, a house. Mikey slept inside a truck-bed sized crate for safety next to my make-shift hay-bale/mattress/sleeping-bag bed, but graduated to sleeping in the hay lying next to my makeshift bed after a couple weeks. The sheep mostly slept outside the barn on the hill close by…I intended to pen them in the barn and corral late February for the short three weeks of lambing but the corral and barn remain too wet. Sometimes Eoyore came into the barn and on colder nights, our yearling ewes joined her. When the temperature dropped below 30, if it was raining ice and snow cookies, or the wind would have blown your head, and possibly the barn roof to ‘smitherines’, Mikey and I moved to the house. The older dogs stayed outside and slept in the field between the house and barn or on the porch. Mikey and I slept in the coldest room on the NW corner of our 100+ year old, wood-heated farmhouse with only ambient heat from the other rooms. Mikey slept in straw at the barn. I made her a thin wool comforter (from our raw wool to get her used to the smell of our sheep) for the house. She’s OCD and likes her ‘bed’….she takes her sock, her bone, and her stuffed “SnoopDog" to her bed day or night for that matter when she naps or goes to bed. She does not chew. She ‘grabs' things, in the moment: my sock, my shoe, my glove, one of my husband's Crocs, WOOL…she’s learned “RELEASE" / ‘Thank you, Mikey!’ "Release" is what I had used with my previous dogs. It’s more a 'drop it' command than a "NOT YOURS". Now, she is BRINGING things to us—food bowl when she’s hungry, shoes when it’s time to go WALKABOUT, WOOL when she’s got THAT LOOK OF MISCHIEF AND DECEIT in her eyes that it’s “playtime”…
It seems she deduced from my ‘release’ command, having explained to her whenever we headed out the door to do chores or go WALKABOUT that the socks, gloves, and shoes were ‘MINE, NOT HERS’, to take what’s my husband’s to him, what’s mine to me. She takes her food bowl close to the other two dogs, sits with it by her side, looks at the others, “MINE, NOT YOURS”. If Annie or Sissy come too close, she picks it up, drops it at her OWN feet, and gives them the look that they’d better not take her bowl. She is not aggressive with this, just funny! I AM having a hard time with the actual “NOT YOURS” lesson—the ONLY thing I could find that she can’t ‘live without’ is WOOL! Soooo…I tried using a handful of wool —she could care less about deer bologna, hot dogs, sausages, or rancid, smelly meat???!!! Two days, several attempts at “NOT YOURS” each day with a handful of wool … and she’s bored! Figured out how that worked—Ignores the wool in the one hand, ignores the treat in the other! Got This?!!
She sits, lies down (or rather back slides, which cracks me up) with and/or without being asked—whether treats are involved or not. When the word "FOOD" is directed at her, she sits and waits for her bowl to be put in front of her. It was an obvious struggle for all of us, when we first got her...Mikey had been fed in a large feed trough with her mom-- in the barn where she was whelped, adjacent to the field where goats were pastured. The goats also had access to the feed area. She was protective of food in the beginning, and anxious enough to gobble everything down quickly, when we fed her. Now she eats alongside Sissy and Annie (and Woodrow) either from her or their bowls. Mikey and I had two knockdown, hard core fights I AM ASHAMED OF REALLY: the first one on the 2nd or 3rd day she was here—over a bone she found on the hill just outside our gate at the house. Mikey was on the leash...I went over to take what I considered a rather nasty, ancient-looking deer bone away from her and she growled, baby teeth ready to do damage. It was a bit scary for us both. She was pretty nervous and insecure, at that point, having been here such a short time. I thought it necessary IN THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT to subdue her “aggressiveness”--I took the bone, got scratched and needle-toothed, laid her ass on the ground, and waited until she had completely submitted to me, belly up. We both took a breath...and THAT WAS THAT!! End of That Story…
Then, one day on WALKABOUT a week or so later, Mikey had a mole Annie had given her. I had had her off the leash while they were wrestling and mole hunting. I bent over not so much as to take the mole, but rather to attach the leash, and she growled. Why I panicked, I do not quite understand, but I did. I wasn't intending to take the mole. I simply wanted to snap the hook on the leash, so we could go on about our walk and head home. I’d decided we had been out long enough—it was cold and windy! Somehow in the midst of my attaching the hook, and her growling and trying to keep me from having and/or taking the mole, the leash hook first snapped closed and then, just as quickly, unsnapped itself open and Mikey took off with her mole. (I had the leash with the funky, scissors-like hook, not the one I normally use with a regular ‘dog hook’)…I managed to grab her collar, and of course, she snarled and tried to bite me. The 'fight' escalated from what was already an out of control situation. I tried to pin her ass, quiet her down, and snap the leash, taking the mole away, wanting not to get raked silly by needle teeth once again, while, at the same time, get her one newly erupted tooth that had dug itself a mega hole at the edge of my sleeve of this newly sweater fleece jacket I was wearing, free from entanglement. Well, we both survived. I hooked the leash, firmly stated, "Enough"(more like screamed at the top of my lugs), threw the mole over the fence, and simply walked all three dogs home quietly -- the two older dogs, tails tucked, and looking rather confused and shocked by all this commotion, gingerly walking alongside Mikey and me, as if to say, “WTF—We didn't do NOTHIN', Mom". I take this as an OOPS! I'll change the damn hook on the leash, work on ‘ATTACHING THE HOOK’, and walk the dog on the longer lead out in the field whether they all are playing, wrestling OR walking, and knowingly, TRUST MY DOGS! They follow me wherever I go anyway! Mikey ALWAYS returns to ME, when she and the other two wrestle and tumble and play mole games—leash or not. What was I thinking????
We do not have problems with being on a leash or tether. I’ve Got This! She’s Got This!
Giwani PonyBoy said about training horses, "IT TAKES THE TIME IT TAKES!" When we're out and about doing chores and attempting to assimilate our animals within our environment, it is the give and take of our time and our schedule in relationship to their concept of NOW that lies at the root of TRUST AND COMMUNICATION! Now means Now, I get that! Puppies don’t carry stopwatches, however…they must learn from us. It is Patience that is the bedfellow worth embracing to teach NOW…
WE’VE GOT THIS! NOW…
We are currently working on 'recall'. COME=HOME (my word) is no problem with or without the 6' leash, but Mikey is one of those totally independent, loosely wired laid back, Anatolian Sheep Dog puppies whose mind has already moved onto the next lesson, the next chapter, maybe even the next series. She will lie LION-LIKE, eyes rolled back in her head. “Do YOU NOT think it ridiculous to repeat time and time again, these rather ridiculous human commands. I'm fine with a simple gesture. I don’t need treats. Ask me to come back to you “HOME” . Perhaps, whistle using your two fingers, raise an arm. I will come, in fact, I will come to YOU wherever YOU think I should be—but at THIS PARTICULAR moment, you ask…WHY PACKMOM, WHY??? I got things to do, critters to visit, poop to eat, moles to chase, smells to follow, birds to watch!” NOW??!!So,I laugh...tug and/or drag this one obstinate little cuss to wherever I’ve asked her to COME=HOME to when she doesn’t. And I tell her I could and will tug=drag your ass back to the original spot, “NOW”, if you don’t! Will this fix this Game Called Recall? (I finally figured out Annie had sometimes turned it into a game—she’s knows that if she sits and doesn’t come when I call or whistle, I’ll come to get her, and when I do, she can then RACE me back to the original HOME spot!). Arrrrgh!
She’s ‘got it’! Only failure was my not realizing the sheep were ‘over the hill’ on WALKABOUT the other day. She was 100’ from me. She saw them before I could get to her and took off to be with them. I did NOT have her on lead—I thought the sheep were in the next field. They ran! She pursued! YIKES! What’s that about not ‘setting her up to fail’? She shut me out this time, when I called, but I got her, brought her back to where I was, then we walked as close as we could get maybe 75’ to the sheep and sat there, quietly for 20 minutes. And walked on. The other dogs had gone on about their business, but they came back and sat nearby.
(Anyway… Longer leads, more walks, more chores, more adventures, and no failures until we’ve all got this 100%!!! And perhaps, the sheeps’ CBD Hemp will help!)
So, Mikey is the most independent and intelligent shepherd guardian dog I have owned. And she is picking up on all the good and bad things her older sister and auntie undertake. These dogs were not purebred or registered; they were not from a breeder puppy mill, not from a hobby farmer, and not from guardian dog bloodlines from a large western ranch operation or from public grazing land herds. They came from a trusted friend in a traditional farming environment, much like that of our 'fathers and grandfathers' —they were well cared for, well fed, not 'coddled', and raised outside with their dames, sires, other extended guardian dog-family members, and LIVESTOCK (goats, sheep, cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and a horse or two)…more specifically goats, sheep, and chickens close at hand. Mikey was raised as an ‘only child’, her one brother lost during Hurricane Michael. She had no other human contact being raised by a single gentleman farmer when we got her at 11 weeks. (Mikey got her name from being born during Hurricane Michael and on my brother Mikey’s birthday, September 30th…actually, we were to have taken the one that was lost. Our friend intended to keep this wee girl.)
I consider it both a privilege and an honor to have her. She has, as have all my animals, already taught me far more than I could ever teach her! We’ve got years to go…
Defining Moment: As PACKMOM it just may be that I also have evolved at this point...
Let dogs be dogs…(let horses be horses)…make the right decision easy, make success and release the reward, exercise patience and allow for discernment, and stand your ground as PackMom….but most important above all—TRUST THAT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WILL SEE YOU THROUGH THE WORST AND BEST OF TIMES!
Thanks to TARMA SHENA and Farei Training (FB GROUP)….I’m doing my best to not ‘CODDLE HER’ (and train my husband to ‘LET GO’ of all 3Dogs--and ME! Heh! Heh!)
I’VE GOT THIS! WE’VE GOT THIS!….MY DOGS’VE GOT THIS!.