Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New addition

So this post comes as a bit of a surprise, since we were thinking we'd be a one-dog family after our CCI puppy goes back for advanced training, but today we adopted a Great Pyrenees Livestock Guardian Dog.

We've been toying with the idea for a few weeks, because we know we have foxes and coyotes behind the property. While a donkey or llama might protect against those, there are also plenty of raccoons that would love to dine on chicken, and I know from friends' experience that donkeys don't guard against raccoons. Plus, we're bordered on two sides by public greenspace, which means that anyone could walk up to our fence and - despite locks and chains on the gates - steal the horses. Police say that the best theft deterrent is a big, barking dog. While our Malamute mix Elias certainly fits the big, barking dog bill, he'd probably just as soon eat a chicken as guard one. He doesn't bother the ones in the backyard, but he has gone after the ones at our barn even though he was on a leash, so he's not trustworthy around small foodlike creatures.

So, enter the idea of a Livestock Guardian Dog. Many of them are rare breeds, but the Great Pyrenees seems to be the most common. We've spent a lot of time researching the breed since we know they are independent by nature, and wanted to be sure what we were getting into. We contacted the local rescue, and found a number of dogs in Texas that might fit the bill. Then, as I was browsing on Craigslist the other day, I found an ad for a 6 year old female Great Pyrenees that was being used to guard goats. I contacted the owner, asked a few questions, and Fuzzypony and I drove out tonight to see her.

What a sweet face!

While we were visiting, she greeted us nicely and was happy for pets, but after a few minutes went off and patrolled her pasture.
Poor girl is covered in matted hair. All the brownish hair from Fuzzypony's hand on down are mats.

After she had finished her patrol, she came over and lay down in what was clearly her accustom spot. You can see how bad the mats on her haunches are in this picture.

Katie, as she was being called, was advertized as being a 6.5 year old purebred Great Pyrenees. The current owner had adopted her 6 months ago and was using her to guard her sheep and ponies from coyotes. In her past home she also guarded chickens and geese. She's not a wanderer or a fence jumper (GPs often are, apparently), and while she was very sweet to Fuzzypony and I, left us to go attend to her patrol duties. She seemed very laid back but with good guardian instincts. She let us look at her teeth, pick up her feet, and feel all over her body. She seemed in good weight but was absolutely covered in mats.

I called the hubby and we discussed. Although we didn't really want to get a dog until we moved to the new house, this one had all the skills we were looking for. So... I loaded her up in the back of the Volvo and took her home. Geez. I can't believe we have another dog.

At home, we took her around the backyard while our other dogs stayed inside. She marked territory and did a lot of sniffing around. We then let our dogs meet through the glass door - Elias was very excited (he doesn't like other dogs in his territory) but Reba seemed friendly. We let her out with Reba for a moment but Reba seemed a bit cowed by her, so we took Reba back in. We fed the GP (three cups!) and watered her, and then set up a bed for her in our outdoor shed. It's not fancy, but she's got several blankets, it's up off the ground, and she can see the entire yard. At her last home she had no shelter at all, so I figure it's probably a step up in her life.

After she had a chance to settle in a bit, we took her and Elias out to the front yard to meet on neutral territory. They sniffed a bit, seemed to get along, and then we went on a short walk together. She does NOT walk on a leash very well, but did OK for her first time out. When we got back, Fuzzypony and I set to grooming her... and grooming and grooming and grooming. She was very tolerant for all of it, simply laying there and enjoying the attention (and occasional treat).

After an hour of grooming, most of her neck ruff was brushed out. She's going to be a very poofy girl!

Pretty in profile.

Still a long way to go with the grooming, but definitely looking better (Elias is poking his nose in to see what's going on - he HATES being brushed).

The aftermath.

Over dinner we discussed names. Elias is named after Mt. St. Elias, the highest coastal mountain in Alaska (hey, he's a Malamute, that's what you get). We looked up the names of some mountains in the Pyrenees and decided that Anie (pronnounced Annie) might be appropriate. It will take a couple of days to see if it fits her, but so far it seems like it might.

I think she's going to work out well. She's a very gentle girl - she took her treats from my hand ever so carefully - and she likes to be with people, but she takes her job seriously. Tonight when we put her back out after grooming, she drank some water and sat by the back door for a bit, then took herself off to the shed for bed. I expect she's out there now, keeping watch. It's kind of comforting to know, actually.

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