life on the funny farm

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Social - Annabelle

Next one down on my siggy line...

Wife of Fred for 23 years
Mom of:
Patrick (16)
James (16)
Rosie (14)
Julie (13)
Daniel (12)
My children around the world:
Milly in Taiwan
Eun Hae in South Korea
Felice in Hong Kong
Nadya in Germany
Obrin in New York
And our critters Blue, Sunny, Cindy-Lou, Annabelle, Fiona, and Sophie; Mamfy, Mali and Punkin; Nick; Frog 1 and Horny Toad; Charlie and Dizzy; Minnie and Alice; Elfie, Frex, Crope, Tibbit and Ozzy; Genevieve, Pippin and Finnegan; and a dozen or so chooks.

I'd like to ask God why He allows
hunger, poverty, and injustice
in the world,but I'd be afraid
He'd ask me the same thing ...

is Annabelle.

Annabelle is our farm dog.

That means she is on patrol to watch over the critters on our farm. Namely, the goats.

See, at our old place, before we ever had a livestock guardian dog, we had sheep. And one day some neighborhood dogs got into our pasture and tore the place up. They killed one ewe, leaving her week old lamb without its mother. It was around that time I started to learn about LGDs.

Turns out they've been around for thousands of years. They are used to keep livestock safe from predators such as dogs, wolves, coyotes, mountain lions and anything that would think of taking a goat, sheep, chicken, calf, etc. LGDs consist of several different breeds, but most times when you see a large, white, hairy dog? It's a livestock guardian. Great Pyrenese, Akbash, Anatolian, Kuvasz, Komondor, Maremma. There are others, too, but that's all that comes to mind at the moment.

Guardians are NOT to be confused with herders like Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Shelties, Collies, German Shepherds. Those dogs are bred to move the livestock from one spot to the next at the direction of the farmer/shepherd. LGDs patrol and protect. If you have more than one LGD in charge of a flock/herd, and there's trouble afoot, usually 1/2 of the dogs will run out in pursuit of the threat, and half will stay glued to the flock. There is no training required for them to learn this, it's all instinct. If you've only got one LGD, and that's all we've usually had at a time, it will run about 1/2 the distance between the flock and the threat. See, sometimes critters that work in packs, like wolves or coyotes, will create a distraction to draw the guardian away, and the others will circle in to the flock. Easy pickins. That's why the LGDs have learned to never completely leave them. So cool.

When our old LGD, Bear, was getting up in years, we decided we would need a new one. Couldn't find any in our neck of the woods, but we learned of some puppies in North Carolina. So I loaded the kids up in the car and we drove the 7 hours down to NC to a large goat farm. How do you choose which of these adorable balls of fluff to take home? Near impossible. But we chose our little cutie with the badger-colored ears and the heart-shaped nose.

Before too long she figured out what she needed to do. Bear taught her everything he knew before he passed. I never got too confident of how well she would be able to handle things if they got dicey, b/c she just seemed like such an ol' softie. But then one night we heard a huge ruckus, and ran outside to find Annabelle in a vicious fence-fight with a neighborhood dog. The goats had all run to the barn when the trouble began while Anna kept this very large dog at bay. We closed the goats up and put Annabelle in with them until we were finally able to get the owner to come collect their beast. Annabelle saved the day that night.

Now she has chickens to add to her collection of critters to keep safe, and she's as gentle as can be with her new charges.

With her human flock, too, I know I would never have to worry. If the kids are out in the fields, she follows them around, quite literally, like a puppy dog. She is gentle and sweet and affectionate and always smiling.

Since her tail is always wagging, I sometimes call her Swisher. Sometimes Belly Button (from Anna BELLE).

Whatever we call her, she's our good dog.

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