Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"SELF-Sufficient" With a Little Help from Some Friends

It's so easy for us humans to claim "self" sufficiency when in reality, all the running around work on the farm is done with a little help from some very important friends.  Whether it's guarding or herding, we depend heavily on our canine contingent out here, just off the one-lane road.

On the frontline of guarding, our Great Pyrenees, Torre, stands tall and BARKS A LOT.  He runs from field to field all night long (and all day-long, too) never leaving the property. He keeps us safe from predators of one kind or another.

About the size of a polar bear, he bites first and asks questions later.  I call him a flying mop.  As he bounces from one location to another, his long white hair (and yes, it's rather matted and often covered with Burdock burrs, and he's not very gussied up and beauty-shoppe combed as are those Great Groomed Pampered Pooches we see at the Westminster Dog Show) takes flight.  Torre is a working dog. His matted coat serves as protection for both the elements of weather, and weathering a fight.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and beauty is as beauty does.  Torre is death on coyotes, stray dogs, encroaching deer (that eat everything in sight) and other intruders including buzzards, crows, and --oddly--hawks that chase mice near his food bowl. 

The other "half" of farm-related canine duties is handled entirely by our veteran Border Collie, Jessie.  She's been with us for over ten years.  She speaks English and she does whatever it is that she understands we want done.  Whether it's gathering the chickens from all manner of hidey holes to going out and finding, then retrieving the cows--as much as a mile distant from the house--or keeping the cows at bay as we feed out the hay bales, she's Top Dog.  She's also great at playing Frisbee, although the other two--much younger--B.C.'s out-shine her in agility.  (She's the one with the Frisbee in the photo.)
Border collies are legendary in their prescience.  I heard of one that kept a toddler from going toward (and winding up in) a swift-running river for a considerable amount of time, when the child had strayed from its front yard.  The Border Collie kept herding the child away from the water's edge and barking furiously until the parent discovered the situation.  

Both pups (the blackest two above) are in training.  They are not ready for prime time yet, and often make a total bungle of any job we give them. Practice (we hope!) makes perfect.  Usually (she says with anticipation) by age three they begin to put things together having had a lot of OJT. (On job training)(translated: yelling and screaming by two frustrated farmers after the puppies have messed things up royally, which happens with some degree of regularity.)(Our vet told us that it was well known in the herding dog community that many farmers assigned an alternate name of "dammit" to their dogs--As in "SIT, DAMMIT!!!"

Nonetheless Border Collies add sparkle and dimension to our lives.  Without our canine friends....we would be far less "sufficient" in so many ways.

1 comment:

  1. Elora, your blog is a beautiful chronicle of your country life, and the images are also very beautiful. A wonderful way to live.