Thursday, January 19, 2012

Overworked and Underpaid: The Livestock Guardian Dog

It has been two weeks since Louise the Livestock Llama passed away, leaving her partner Thelma in charge of guarding the sheep. I’ve since come to realize, unlike Cagney and Lacy, the division of responsibility was never equal. Thelma isn’t security team material, she’s more like the bad teenage babysitter who is so concerned about what the boys alpacas next door are doing she lets all the children sheep run wild. In an effort to pick up the slack, Willamina the Great has taken on the added responsibility and has been pulling a lot of double shifts.

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Willa and I have had our differences over the years, and I know for a fact a few chickens have met their demise with her. She does seem to be outgrowing her wild youth though and maturing into a responsible adult. She still has the occasional outburst of energy, but now that she resides exclusively with the alpacas that are taller than her, she doesn’t seem to want to play chase as much. It seems to only be the smaller animals that trigger that impulse.

Unlike Thelma, she absolutely earns her keep around here. Each evening of late, just after I tuck everyone in for the night, I hear the blood curdling howling start; there is a pack of coyotes camped out in the ravine behind the barn. I suppose they are using the spring-fed pond as their winter watering hole. It sounds as if they are coming within feet, not yards, of the perimeter fence. Willa makes it emphatically clear where the boundaries are in case they’ve forgotten, going so far as to have created a rut where she patrols back and forth.

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We are bringing another rescue llama in to keep Thelma company, and hopefully refocus her attention back to the sheep, but it is Willa who allows me to sleep at night. Bringing up a livestock guardian dog from a pup isn’t easy; they will try your patience, they will bark at harmless croaking frogs for hours, and they might even eat a chicken or two.  Waiting them out is worth it though, eventually you will wake up one day and realize they have quietly become worth their weight in gold.

14 comments:

D Brown said...

she's a keeper! and CUTE TOO!!!

Lori said...

Yay! Willa!!!

Beth said...

cutie. she looks tough! part of the family. (:

thecrazysheeplady said...

Amen! I was wondering what Willa was up to. :-)

Tombstone Livestock said...

Love the first picture, looks like she is saying I'd give you a kiss if this wire wasn't in the way. give her a big hug and a treat, she is sweet.

Reny said...

What a sweet dog! Love your blog.

Wendy said...

Yeah! Willa's da Dawg! How can you not melt when you look at those big brown eyes?

Michelle said...

So will you get another LGD puppy for Willa to train before she gets really old, so SHE can do all the hard work instead of you?

Milah said...

I know what you mean...the last dog we got was about a year. Training them takes a lot of patience and time.

goatgirl said...

I once had a teenage babysitter like that. Hubby and I came home late one night to a wide open door and the babysitter asleep on the couch. Luckily the baby was still in his crib.
Good job Willa.

Nancy K. said...

You are so right ~ PATIENCE is the key! Everyone I know who bought a LGD puppy (without having owned or raised any LGD's previously) ended up giving up and giving the dog away before it was two years old. It's really a shame as they are not inexpensive! It takes a lot of training and perseverance to raise most large breed dogs but those that are to live bonded with livestock and with minimal human interaction take a special skill. I'm so glad that Willamina has worked out for you! She sure is beautiful!

Beyond My Garden said...

We had a Great Pyrenees. She guarded our home some but mostly our baby. They both came home the same month but Hattie only lasted until just after our son's 2nd birthday. She never let him crawl off the sidewalk. she stood over him and walked as he walked. she died getting spayed. so sad. I loved her bark.
nellie

Danni said...

Oh, Christine - that first photo of Willa is amazing. She is so beautiful.
Some relationships take a lot of work, but often it is precisely those that are the most powerful.
:-)

Hopewell said...

Just found your blog. I'm a Hoosier stuck in Ohio saving for my small farm. Love your blog!