Sunday 28 September 2014

Dog Days

The last two weeks since I wrote have flown by and been consumed with dog activities. 

On the Friday Ruby arrived and she has settled in quite nicely.  The poor dear eats lunch mid-afternoon since that's about when I remember.  She doesn't seem to suffer for it.

The following Thursday Millie was booked for her surgery.  We were to arrive at eight.  I had been feeding her in the car for a month.  This was the day, and as I was pushing her into the car she escaped.  Two more times I caught her but she would not get into the car and I could not drag her or lift her into the car. 

I had just caught her the second time when my neighbour arrived after I telephoned her for help.  She had come right away.  Her idea involved long towels looped underneath Millie and I had just remembered Beau-dog's car harness.  I gathered up these things and together it worked.  We had the harness and a towel for the hind end. 

Beau came too to keep Millie company, he in the front seat and Millie in the back.  She was nervous.  At the Vet's she slid nicely along the floor, me pulling on the harness and the Vet Tech pushing on the back end.  She weighed in at 88 pounds, a bit lighter than I expected. 

I commented that it had been a hectic morning and a particular beverage might be in order.  I went to the drive-thru for coffee on my way home.

Getting her home and settled wasn't too bad as Millie was groggy.  On day one I tied her outside.  When I returned a half hour later Millie was walking up the driveway having just inspected a passing vehicle.  She had slipped the harness and I dubbed her a Houdini relation.  On day two I found her in the alleyway in the barn, having jumped over the four and a half foot door.  She had worked under the metal rack over the window and ripped out most of the screen.  I have since tied these to the wall. On day three she was outside, having chewed the mesh from above two stall doors and jumped each of them.  Later she slipped the harness while tied up and I was watching.

A piece of wood, nails and hammer resulted in the four and a half foot doorway becoming a six foot doorway.  She hasn't gotten out since. The harness has been very well tightened.

Now the world looks differently.  Today Millie came out with me and Ruby to mind the sheep.  After a thorough check of the field and some play time with Ruby, Millie disappeared back to the house.  By late morning she went into the box stall by herself and stayed there to rest.  It has become her happy place.  I locked her in for a few hours midday and then let her out late afternoon.  She has walked on a lead without being dragged. 

As desired Millie is becoming more grounded and solidly oriented to the Small Barn rather than the house.  Today she did get under the veranda for a short time - I could tell as she got fine dirt in her incision!  We went out this evening for a short time and I left Millie out to keep an eye on the sheep.  As we drove down the driveway I observed her enter the Small Barn heading for her stall.

I have learned that Millie really does trust us.  She is very loving and accepting of each of us now.  I have learned that she will allow us to do anything with her without responding in an angry snarl or physical behaviour.  She's a big dog so it is good to know this about her.  I have really pushed her in the last ten days and she has taken it all.  She knows now that no harm will come to her.  She knows that we might lock her up, but we let her out again. 

The harness has remained on her and will for another week.  Right now Millie is not on night duty.  I have not even heard her bark at night from inside the barn.  In addition no cars have been chased.

I really need Millie to check the Middle Field when the sheep go out.  We heard coyotes in that area this evening.  I really need Millie to teach Ruby some stuff. 

Ruby started barking this morning at something.  Millie had returned to the house but she heard Ruby and began to bark as well.  The sheep herded together and watched and listened.  All was well.

Ruby likes to play chase - including chasing sheep.  She knows she is not supposed to do this.  The sheep do not run helter skelter away from her but they do move away from Ruby - especially the one she is chasing.  I can correct her verbally and she does respond - if I see her.  In general she does not stay out in the Middle Field with the sheep.  However this evening Ruby had gone out into the Front Field with the sheep and was chasing them.  I need Millie to help correct this behaviour too.

Ruby is very grounded in the Big Barn.  The sheep look at her and stamp their feet and Ruby just looks back and says "I'm here right where I'm supposed to be".  I have seen her lick Clover's face twice.  I have seen adult sheep try to butt her and Ruby just moves more quickly.  All in all, Ruby is settling in well.

Dog days yes, and the Indian Summer weather makes me think of the dog days of summer.  These days are numbered for sure.  And I know - and am reassured by my neighbour - that next year will be totally different when the sheep and dogs are well bonded.  Stay tuned!

Monday 15 September 2014

Photogenic Ruby

Hubby got out the big camera and we had a very sunny afternoon for taking pictures.  Here are some of the special ones.

Although she has a nice pen on the other side of the barn, Ruby has adopted this location as her preferred perch.  Here, outside the hen's area - the hen's workbench, really - Ruby can see outside and the entire inside of the barn.  As well, she can squeeze under the workbench where today I found her sprawled out and sleeping.

Here she is looking out the back door of the barn, through which the sheep come and go during the daytime.

I quickly put a bandanna on Ruby to begin collar training her, which seems foreign to Maremma owners.  The bandanna is made of cotton and can slip off or break if hung up.

Like me neighbour's Great Pyrenees, Ruby as a snarly greeting smile.  The sides of her mouth curl up and you wonder if she's going to growl, but she's happy to see you - it's a fancy smile!

A priceless puppy photo with the droopy ear.  She is 3 months old so these gangly looks won't last long. 

Millie's eyes are brown and her nose is a dark pink while the 'classic' Maremma is like Ruby with black eyes and nose.

Oh, the ears are properly in place now, but the hip is drooping.  Oh, well, this is a long time for a puppy to be still!

Amusing, Ruby stayed tucked behind me.  She did not accept Beau near her barn and told him so.  Ruby fiercely defends her barn with snarls, barks, growls and raised fur.

Beau had to leave the barnyard.  He wasn't really too hurt as he is rarely allowed in there.

I have taken to wearing overalls or coveralls since Ruby jumps, sometimes on my back.  She is learning quickly - and the hard way at times - not to jump.  As of this writing she now greets me by coming to me and sitting, then rolling over for a belly rub.  The jumping is subsiding, so maybe the laundry volume will return to normal.

A happy puppy and a happy puppy owner!

Sunday 14 September 2014

Ruby Tuesday

It was a Tuesday when he got the Maremma puppies.  My new friend, the elderly gentleman who has Millie's mother, got all five puppies.  The owner is an impatient man and threatened to shoot them to get rid of them.  And at one third of what I paid for Millie, yes, we'd take one of the puppies.

There were three females and two males and he wanted to keep the males.  So, my neighbour and I went over on the Friday to pick out our puppies.  Hubby and I had wanted to go together but he was not available and someone else was coming for a puppy on Saturday morning.

Ruby came up to me several times and sat down for a good scratch, which none of the others did.  Ruby was the smallest of the litter but that didn't matter to me.  She is three months old.

Coming down the road to the house she puked.  My poor car; I put it through so much.

I had prepared a pen for her, one in which she could get in and out but the sheep cannot.  The sheep will bash her before accepting her.  The dog needs its own safe space to call its own.  I pulled the car through the gate and right up to the barn, then carried Ruby into the barn and heaved her over into her pen.  She is solid.  She stayed in the pen, exhausted, stressed, sick.

The pups had been well handled by grandchildren.  They had been living with sheep and were also used to chickens.  Llamas are very new to Ruby.  The adult parents were on the farm.  And the puppies are related to my neighbour's amazing Maremma, Charlie.

I gave Ruby some water and cleaned up my car.  I checked on her every few minutes and she just stayed put in the pen.  A little while later the dairy farmer arrived with a wagon load of second cut hay.  Ruby fell asleep nearby as we unloaded and stacked the hay.  I fed her some kibble.  She stayed in her pen and slept for the remainder of the afternoon.  She was upside down and looking very content.  I had locked the sheep out of the barn for the rest of the afternoon.

In the evening she ate up her kibble again which was followed by some dry heaves.  She explored a little bit, returning always to the barn.  The barn quickly became her safe place. 

The sheep did not want to go into the barn at night.  They did not want that dog-thing in there.  I bribed them with grain and Smudge - oh so food focused - was first into the barn.  Ruby stayed snug in her pen while the sheep took turns stamping their front leg, one of few offensive behaviours they possess.

On Saturday morning Ruby came out to the field with Millie and I.  She kept going to the sheep and they kept trotting away from her.  All the while Millie just ignored Ruby.  Then Millie came closer to me and it was Ruby that was aggressive with Millie, growling with high scruff.  I told them both to behave and they did.  There was one deep growl from Millie and that was it - for now.

Ruby already knows her name.  She is learning that I do not like to be jumped on and that "off!" can be followed with a good shove.  "Ah, ah, ah!"  receives a very quick response.  I suspect she has already been corrected for chasing and trying to play with the sheep.  She knows when I ask her to slow down and will sit and wait for me to say it's okay to move forward again.

When I returned to the house she eventually slid under the fence or gate and followed me toward the house.  Beau saw her and chased her.  Ruby ran up and into the barn.  Tonight I took Beau up to the barn on a leash.  Ruby clearly defended her barn with barking, growling and raised scruff.  It was some time before she backed down.  Beau of course does not care, really.  He is not aggressive and barely cares to be assertive.  Unless his ball is concerned...

We watched her this evening after the sheep were tucked into the barn with her.  Ruby came out of her pen and laid near the chicken area where she can see outside.  Coyotes began howling across the road and Millie began her night time barking routine.  Ruby did not bark.  It was safe in her barn.  The sheep stamped their feet and kept their distance.

We are pleased with Ruby.  The long range goal I have at present is to breed her.  For now, she needs to grow up.  She really is just a baby Maremma.  It amazes me how smart she is and how instinctive the protective aspects are for these dogs.  Stay tuned for more Ruby stories.

Thursday 11 September 2014

Being here

Eight seconds

We had a very nice visit with KJ and CB last week.  Hanging in my mind is CB's question, "How long did it take you to decide to buy this place, about 8 seconds?"  And that is pretty much how it was, really.  With all of the challenges over the past seven months it is encouraging to hear the views of others, that this is truly a lovely place and what a beautiful adventure.  And then, "Can we come and visit again?"  The answer, always, is "Yes, certainly.  Just let us know...."

Many deduce at first glance that this is an old house and it is not.  It is eighteen years old and was a rebuild following a fire.  There are several spots around that seem to be the remnant foundations of previous buildings.  I plan to research and find out more.  In addition I have met a man in his eighties who remembers coming here when he was a child of about ten.  There was an Ayrshire dairy herd here then.

Being there for a friend

When our friend called she was distraught, upset to say today was the day she had to put down her beloved dog.  It had to be today.  He cannot manage any longer.

We had said recently she was welcome to bury him here on the farm.  And so we organised our day and prepared for her arrival.  We had located a pet cemetery at the back of the small forest behind the house.  We went there and selected a spot.  Hubby got some tools and he went out to dig the hole.

He came back a while later to report he'd hit hard ground and needed a pick axe.  Off we went to the neighbour's to borrow one.  In the end the hole was not as deep as desired but it would do.

And so she arrived with the body of her beautiful old beast in the back of the car.  Hubby gently scooped him up and laid him kindly in the sheet lined wheelbarrow.  Goodbyes were said with teary eyes and the sheet was wrapped around him.

Hubby laid him in the prepared place and his owner took up the shovel and tearfully filled in the space.

We walked.  We talked.  We hugged.  After a cool drink on the veranda she headed home.  The next day she returned with her son and they placed a marker on the gravestone.

We were glad to be there for a friend.


A steady and gentle rain is perfect for running in, at least that's my experience.  I do like a soft and gentle rain.  If you are a grazing animal and need to eat, rain is accepted.  So, off we went the other morning, Millie and I and the flock of sheep.  I wore a full rain suit, thanks to hubby who often keeps me dressed for the weather in cool stuff.  I'm not sure rain gear is cool but I remained dry.

I headed to the cabin as the sheep had selected that area of the field for grazing this morning.  I removed some of my rain gear and hung out there.  I propped open the door and Millie actually put both front feet inside.  I put a chair nearby and petted her on the dry parts under her neck.  Because of the wet I had not brought a craft with me, but had my rifle along.

Rain.  It is needed.  It rained all morning.  I'd had enough after an hour and so had the sheep.  They headed in to the barn and I followed.

Northern Harrier

I saw this bird hanging around the other morning and hubby got out the big camera.  We asked our avid bird watching friend and she quickly identified it as a Northern Harrier.  They used to be known as a Marsh Hawk.  We thought it was a Golden Eagle but the tail feathers are wrong.  He - I am assuming gender - has been around a few other days.  Enjoy the photos.

Descriptions state that the Northern Harrier has an owl like flat face, which can be seen in this photo - okay, maybe you have to zoom into the photo to see it.  In addition, a distinguishing feature is the white patch at the top of the tail or the rump.

Each of these anecdotes is about being here...

Friday 5 September 2014

LGD happiness, Garden and Craft

We've had lots of company over the past few weeks.  It has been great to share our farm adventure with friends and family.  They can now put animal names and faces together.  It is fun when people arrive and want to meet the animals.  It does surprise non-animal people that I can tell the sheep apart and have names for each.  Keep in mind however that I haven't figured out the chickens.  I can only readily distinguish one, Blondie, and that is because she is so much lighter in colour than the other reds.

Millie has been very busy indeed.  We are more than half way through a month of antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease and she seems to feel fantastic.  As hubby pointed out, it is possible that she has had the disease for years and this is the best she has felt in several years.  She seems to sleep a bit less, is more interested in the sheep and is eating lots.  Finally this big dog is eating big dog portions. 

I feed her breakfast in the car, thanks to DB's suggestion, to get her used to getting into the vehicle.  I have booked her spay surgery for later this month.  After eight, when hopefully the coyotes have all gone home, Millie meets me at the back door and we head out to the barn.  At first I bribed her with treats, now she just comes.  Actually now she's looking for me.  I open the gate to the back field and let the sheep out.  I go into the barn to feed the chickens and gather the eggs.  I get my lawn chair and head outside. 

These days the sheep wait for Millie to go first.  She takes her time, smelling and inspecting things.  We head out into the Middle Field where the cabin is located, and the sheep head to the right and down into the hollow while Millie goes straight and checks out the perimeter.  Millie continues around the entire field.  She goes into the bush along the back of the house and travels all the way back to the barnyard path and returns to the field.  I have been very impressed with this routine of boundary checking that she has taken on.

We spend about twenty to thirty minutes checking the field.  I more or less stay with the sheep during this time, paying attention to the south end of the field where we know there is coyote activity.  Then I set up my chair in the shade at an elevated spot.  I work on my craft which is interrupted by Millie sucking up to me.  This is the major suck up time of the day.  This is when Millie sucks up any love I am willing to dole out to her.  Sometimes I take the dog brush.  I remove burrs from her coat.  We have chats and I scratch her ears a lot.  Then she'll fall down and ask me to rub her belly.  Otherwise she lays down and dozes and observes the surroundings.  The nose goes constantly.

On occasion she has growled or even barked at something in the woods.  When the sheep run she does too.  Millie's goal is to get in front of the sheep to protect them from anything bad.  The sheep think she is chasing them and run faster.  Slowly, the sheep are becoming accustomed to her.  They run away from her less frequently.  The sheep move away and regroup instead of running headlong back to the barn.  Millie really wants to bond with them; instead, at this point in time, she is bonding to me.  We expect over the winter and with new lambs in the spring that the sheep will bond more closely with Millie.

Millie is very busy at night, barking at coyotes and other noises.  I awoke at three one morning to a howling coyote and Millie responding in kind with a howl, then a bark.  This went on for about five or ten minutes.  Now that she knows of the fields out back Millie is also more attentive to these areas, which is desired.

Oh, I recently met Millie's mother, Hillary.  I was speaking to her owner, petting this dog that came up to me and kept pawing me.  Her owner kept telling her to stop that.  She had a lovely demeanour and was the friendliest of the dogs.  The pawing behaviour was a giveaway since Millie does this.

The garden is exploding.  The broccoli has been yummy but is pretty well done.  Remember that I went small and only planted a half package of most seeds.  The cauliflower has been disappointing but there is still time.  The zucchini has been crazy and the relish, muffins and BBQ-ed products scrumptious.  Bush beans have been lovely and I wish I had planted more.  The butternut squash is like a crazy beanstalk plant, with tendrils overtaking space wherever it can.  The tomatoes are to the point where I must pick some daily.  We have had a beautiful freshly grated beet salad thanks to Sister.  There are carrots too.  Oh, and the red romaine continues to produce.

So, fresh veg we have lots of.  Some meals consist of all fresh garden veg which is just divine and oh so healthy for us all.  I am already planning on expanding the garden for next year.  I need to decide where to put asparagus and rhubarb.  The garden will always be a work in progress and that is just fine. 

So, my latest Shepherdessing craft - is that a word / phrase?  Oh, I was an academic once and that allowed me to make up words, so it will still work.  I was taking knitting with me which has been great.  However I realised that I really want to get Dot's fleece carded up.  So, I got out a larger back pack and stuffed it with a bag of some fleece and a smaller, clean bag.  While sitting I tease out the tufts of fleece, allowing the breeze to carry away the chaff and toss the undesirables.  The good stuff goes into the clean bag.  This has been working very well.  At the end of the day I card this up on the drum carder which I have set up on the veranda.  Each day I am able to produce a few more batts of fleece ready to spin.

I have a lot of fleece work to do.  It really needs to happen outside.  As the nights get cooler it is on my mind that any outside work must get done soon.  The seasons and the weather prioritise many of my days' activities for me. 

It's 8:01a.m. and Millie wants to get the sheep out.  She and Beau have played chase around the house and Millie has discovered digging in the sand pit left by the pool.  It is great to see her happy.