More Losses…..Larick, Ceiba, Broch, and Toobies

More Losses…..Larick, Ceiba, Broch, and Toobies

 

 

We have had more losses here at the ranch.  Our Livestock Guardian Dog pack was older and being giant breeds their lifespan isn’t as long as the border collies.  Still these dogs have guarded our goats, sheep, llamas, chickens, rabbits and cats against all sorts of predators.

 

Larick March 2006 – October 30, 2016

Larick the Big Boy

Our Larick has been a working LGD since his first breath.  This boy only stepped paw into our cabin in Colorado ONE time in the entire 7 years we were there and for only a few minutes before he ran in terror back out the door.  Larick was NOT a house dog.  He was a guard.  He has guarded against bears, mountain lions, badgers, hawks, eagles, owls and other assorted birds of prey.  He has been bitten by a rattle snake and lived to tell the tale.  He and his brother Rowan, were the two LGD that had been bitten by rattle snakes.  Rowan was bit in the front leg, but poor Larick was bitten in the face.  His entire head swelled up and I was worried we would lose him.  But I covered him with essential oils which helped dissipate the venom and bring the swelling down so that he could recover and not suffocate with all the facial swelling.  The vets in mountains of Colorado also told us that a dog bitten in the face was surprised by the snake, but a dog bitten in the leg was in a fight and more than likely killed the snake.  Larick was the one taken by surprise and his brother Rowan finished the job. That is how those boys were.  They were a team that worked well together.  We got both the boys when they were 5 months old and Larick was with me for 10.5 years.  That is a long life for a working Anatolian.

Climbing Mt. Larick

Back here in Michigan, Larick’s life was a little more tame.  Granted he had to deal with all those people driving up and down his road, jogging people on his road…like what is that all about, he so didn’t get jogging, and that blasted postie person that violates our mail box almost every day no matter how much he told them to go away!!

We have a lot of coyotes here, several packs that surround us.  And they have stayed away for most of the time that we have been here in MI.  Recently with the loss of four of our LGD, the coyotes are starting to come up much closer and even coming onto our land and up on the backside of the pens.  Larick would be horrified at this and up singing you the song of his people all night to make those nasty coyotes leave.

 

He was such a gentle soul and let the baby goats stand on him, jump and run off him, and just generally use him as a spring board play ground.  He never growled at them when they ran all over his body  no matter how much pain he was in.  They were his goats and he loved them.

Larick with a newborn kid goat

Both Larick and us all thought he would go out in a blaze of glory defending his goats.  Little did we know when we got 3 new Anatolian dogs to train for his replacements that one was going to be his end.  He was attacked by one of the new Anatolian dogs, Toobies.  Toobies almost killed Larick and only because Charlie heard one of the other new dogs (Rachel) throwing a fit, did he run to see what had happened.  Charlie came upon a horrible scene and it took numerous buckets of water thrown repeatedly at the offending younger dog to get him to release Larick’s throat.  We had to rush Larick to the vet after hours for emergency surgery and even after all that and convalescing in the house for two months, we had to make the decision to let Larick go.  It absolutely broke my heart but I am glad that I had those two months with him in the house and that he had two months inside off duty on the sheep skin rug getting little tidbits of deli meat each day with his pain meds.  He transitioned into the house markedly well for an old giant male dog that had no interest in houses in his entire previous life.   I will miss you my baby, with your calm confidence, steadiness and my complete faith in your protection.  But most of all I will miss all those quiet moments in the goat pen when you quietly came and laid your huge heavy head in my lap and just sighed.

 

 

Ceiba June 2014-October 30, 2016

 

We only had Ceiba for a short time of about 16 months.  She came to us at a year old and was our hopes for a new Akbash female to both guard and to breed.  She was not happy the moment she got here and no matter what we did to try to work with her she would have none of it.  We tried having her in the house to get used to us and to be out with the goats and guard.  We spade her to try to calm her and gave up any thoughts of breeding her.  She was so terrified of people in general and me in particular.  Even after 16 months working with her, she still saw me as a predator and stranger.  When she was in the house she would not bark or growl at me.  She would never come to me.  She never bit me.  Never did in the entire 16 months we had her.  She wasn’t aggressive even though her bark sounded fierce.  She was just terrified of everything in the world around her.  When she was outside, she would bark and growl at me sometimes for 8+ hours per day.  I couldn’t leave the house to even work in my vegetable garden as she threw a fit.  We tried essential oils, Bach Flower Remedies and even medications to calm her and let her be at ease.  But there was nothing that we could do.  She barked at every vehicle, person, or biker that went by on the road.  She barked at every one of us here at the ranch and ran from us.  We were not even sure if she guarded the goats as the only time we saw her, she knew we were there so she changed her behavior.  I was totally bonded to her but she was not to us and I had never seen a dog that was so singularly unhappy at her very core as she was.

Ceiba with Larick and Willow

Shortly before we let her go, we did see something phenomenal as in that she had never shown this behavior before.  The new Anatolian that had attacked Larick was let into the pasture where Charlie, myself and two other people familiar with LGD and the breed were standing.  We wanted to evaluate both that new Dog, Toobies, and also a few of the others.  Toobies tore through the pasture almost running down goats and humans alike in his high energy and disregard fro everyone around him.  We had no warning this was going to happen but out of the corner of our eye, we saw a white flash.  Ceiba make a straight high speed bee line for him from the other end of the pasture, and hit him at a full run body checking him and almost knocking him down.  She has decided his behavior was dangerous just as we were deciding it was as well.  Obviously she was way faster than we were.  But that was the only time, in the entire time we had her that she seemed to have any confidence and act in a behavior that would seem appropriate for an Akbash LGD.

Finally at the advice of her breeder and the vet, we let her go.  It was one of the hardest things I have ever done and since it was also the same day that we let Larick go, there were tears plenty all around.  Finally she was at peace.  Because being here she had no peace inside her head no matter her outside environment or circumstances.  This is the hard part of Livestock Guardian dogs.  They are bred to be independent thinkers and to be able to make their own decisions.  Unfortunately sometimes they chose to be unhappy and there is just no fixing that.

 

Broch ?? – October 26, 2016

 

Broch was a Great Pyrnese that I got from a shelter in Trinidad, Colorado.  The shelter estimated he was about 10 months old when we got him and he was with us for 8.5 years.  So by our estimate, Broch was 9.5 years old when we let him go.

He had problems with his hips from the day that we got him.  They didn’t seem to be very strong or set correctly in his hip sockets.  We knew that this would ultimately be the reason that we let him go and it was.  Brock was mentally still all well and very much with us but his pain had gotten to the point that it was unbearable any longer.  No pain medications would really help him because he didn’t have any cartilage at all.  By this more advanced age, he wasn’t putting much weight on his back legs at all.  His front knees and shoulders though were starting to have issues as well.

Broch

This higher level of pain was increasing his grumpiness that had always been there to an extent.  It was making life for him, all the rest of the dogs and all the humans here unbearable as his pain levels were too much.  Dogs express pain differently than humans do.  He didn’t limp like Rowan did so it wasn’t as obvious how much pain he was in.  Since he had lived with his pain his entire life, he hid it well.  But with his increasing bad temper and flare ups it was more obvious he couldn’t manage his pain any longer.  That was when it was time for us to let him go.

Broch, such a Happy Boy

 

Broch had guarded outside when we were in Colorado, but once we moved to Michigan, he was officially retired to the house.  He guarded me and the house.  He was so loving and sweet to people and one of his absolute favorite visitors was Mable.  When Mable came to visit, Broch’s eyes would light up.  He loved biscotti and Walker Shortbread and would almost climb into the chair with Mable if she had any treats.  Broch also was one of the softest furred dogs.  His hair on his head was silky soft and just wonderful for spinning.  I have had many folks get some of Broch’s fur for spining dog hair classes.  I miss you boy, but I am glad that you are free of pain finally.

 

 

Toobies October 2014-October 5, 2016

 

Although Toobies was only with us for the summer, he did make an imprint on our lives.  I thought I should include him because it didn’t feel right to not.  He was a beautiful dog physically and personality wise was very interested in people.  He didn’t seem to have a lot of interest in guarding the goats.  He was much more into people.  I don’t think he would have made a good LGD from what behavior we saw with him.  He not only attacked Larick and tried to kill him, but he would walk off and escape the pens and leave his stock.  A good LGD that was bonded to his stock, will NOT leave his stock to go on a walk about.  Toobies wasn’t chasing predators, he was just on a walk about.  And a good LGD works with his partners to guard against and attack predators, not to attack the other dogs in the pack.  Sometimes you will encounter a dog that is a LGD breed, but isn’t an LGD.  Not every single dog that is a LGD breed will be a good LGD.  It requires a certain confidence and strength, as well as a desire to guard the stock and be with them.  He didn’t the necessary confidence to make good LGD decisions, and he didn’t seem to have the desire to protect and stay with the stock.  We didn’t dare bring him into the house and use him as a house guard with people or to re home because we didn’t feel he could be trusted after the way he tried to kill Larick.  We didn’t feel that our border collies would be safe.  so we had to make the very hard decision to let him go.  Being the right decision, did not make it any easier.  I am sorry but you can rest now.

Toobies

What we couldn’t know until after the decision was made was how it would affect the rest of the pack.  What we saw was absolutely amazing and removed any doubts that the decision to put Toobies down was the BEST decision possible.  His brother and sister were also here.  And his brother Ike, was showing some aggressive behavior that had us worried.  We thought it was triggered by Toobies but were unsure.  I can not believe the change in Ike since Toobies has been gone.  It has only been a month since we let Toobies go, but his brother Ike is a completely different dog.  He is steady, calm, only shows strength or aggression at predators when he should, and he is settling down and starting to finish nicely.  I never thought I would say it, but he may very well be my new Larick.  He has that serious focus for guarding that Larick had although being a young dog is a lot louder than Larick was in his later age.  I do recall though how loud Larick was when he was younger, so I know that Ike will calm and settle down.  I am developing great confidence in him and feel that my goats are much safer with him around as am I.

All around the month of October was a particularly difficult month for both Charlie and I.  It will take some time to heal and it is much quieter here on the ranch.  So much loss in such a short time.  There are hard and difficult sides to LGD and ranch life.  This is one of them that no one ever talks about.

 

 

 

Kizy, a LGD, Livestock Guardian Dog

Kizy, a LGD, Livestock Guardian Dog

 

 

Kizy ( ?- July 15, 2016)

 

We got Kizy, our Great Pyr, in 2009 while out in Colorado.  She was $50 off a Craig list ad.  We were her third and final home.  She has been a joy to have for years.

Kizy in Colorado

This huge puff ball of fur could have dragged me all over creation, but she was one of the most gentle dogs I have ever seen.  I attached my lead around my waist and put the other end on her collar and she would walk at my side with the lead limp.  She has always done that with me.

Don’t get me wrong…she was also stubborn as a mule!!  I remember one day when she was sitting on our two seat settee in the cabin in Colorado, and she was taking up the ENTIRE settee…I told her to get down.  She refused.  I tried to push her down and she sat up and growled at me.  I told her not to growl at me and pushed her again.  She took my entire arm in her mouth and closed with pressure.  She didn’t bite but she was telling me that she wasn’t moving.  I, on the other hand, told her that she WAS moving, threw her down, yelled at her and tossed her butt out of the cabin.  I didn’t speak to her for 2 solid weeks straight.  I acted as if she didn’t even exist.  She was crushed…..we talked at the end of the two weeks and it never happened again.  Even up to the day that we had to lay her to rest, if I spoke of that day, she hung her head because she remembered well.  But just to be clear, I did catch her on the new settee about a week or two before she passed.  She saw me coming and hopped down as fast as possible as if to say you didn’t see me do that.  So stubborn……

 

Kizy wearing mom’s dreadlock hat

After moving to MI, I fell a couple of times from the kitchen down the two steps into the living room.  The last time that happened, it was a complete fall, flat on my back, two steps down on the concrete.  I was in so much pain I had my eyes shut, and was yelling.  Charlie wanted to help me up but I said don’t move me.  I had to let that pain subside a bit before I could even open my eyes, let alone move.  When I was able to open my eyes, imagine my surprise to see Kizy’s concerned face about 1.5 inches from the end of my nose!!  I wrapped my arms around her and pulled myself up off the floor with her help.  I adore my border collies, but I could not have done that with one of them.

Kizy adored children.  Even small afraid ones.  Those were her favorites, and she was very gentle with them.  The cats also fascinated her, the smaller the cat the more interest.  It was her innate protection for anything small.  That is part of being a LGD, Livestock Guardian Dog.  She guarded our stock in CO even though she wasn’t bonded with stock like a LGD from birth.  She guarded in the pens that surrounded the small livestock pens.  She was a bit more bonded with humans than stock but since they were MY stock she guarded them with joy.

When Bj passed on in Colorado, I was heart broken and sitting in the barn yard.  Kizy came to me and I wrapped myself around her and her fur and just sobbed.  That happened a few years prior when Chaz’s Father passed and a few years before that when Chaz’s Mother passed.  Each of these passings was super hard on me and sobbing in the barnyard wrapped around Kizy hugging her was one of the few things that helped.  Every time one of those important people had passed, it worked out that Chaz was offshore.  So Kizy was my furry Chaz to help me through it all.

Kizy on the settee

After moving to MI, she retired to the house.  Our pens were not set up in a fashion that she could roam around them, and she was getting old.  We reckon she was about 3-3.5 years when we got her so at her passing last Friday, I do believe she was 10.5-11 years old.  She had greatly gone down hill in the last six months with her hind quarters not getting proper brain stimuli and this was causing her great pain and making it difficult for her to control her feet to stand or walk.  It was hard letting her go because even to the end she was worried about who would guard me.  We lost Rowan about a month ago and he was another LGD that has always fixated on guarding me.  She knows that Broch is the only LGD in the house left that guards me and he is only a year younger than her.  But I assured her that Broch would protect me as well as our border collie Cinnamon, who has stepped up and taken her mother Abbey’s place as pack leader and lead guard border collie.  Kizy saw the spot that was to be her final fur resting place and I asked her if she wanted me to plant flowers on her head like I did Abbey or on her heart like I did Rowan, and she laughed and said I could do what I wanted because she would just dig them up anyways.  Defiant and stubborn to the end!  You will be missed my darling puff ball….sniff.

Abbey Gail

Abbey Gail

 

Abbey Gail Dec 3, 2000- May 17, 20016

 

My darling sweet Abbey.  My heart is broke.  You were never a dog, you were always a human with fur.  I remember the arguments that Abbey had with Bj about watching the cooking channel at the office in CO.  Abbey said cooking channel was stupid and put on something cool like Animal Planet.  She loved to watch me cook but on TV they never drop anything so cooking shows were boring!!

Gorgeous Abbey

Abbey would express her happiness at watching certain TV shows and commercials.  She went mental over cat commercials….and a good footie match on TV.  oh my.  I remember the afternoon we had on a football match (soccer for you Yanks), and they kicked the ball from one end of the field to the other.  This meant the ball went from one end of the screen to the other and Abbey was behind the TV trying to find that darn ball.  She has turned off the TV numerous times in her excitement and jumping up at the TV.  She had a special video tape we made for her.  It had 15 minutes of football, 15 minuets of animal planet, 15 minutes of football, and so on.  She would take that with her to Granny and Granda’s house and watch it with Granda all the time we were gone on any trips.  Funny but she had Granda trained well.  She would sit all pretty in front of the TV and stare at the blank screen.  Heave a big sigh and look over her shoulder at Granda, turn and stare at the blank screen.  She would repeat this until Granda turned on the TV and popped in her tape.  She mae be daft, but she was nae feel.

 

Abbey with Charlie

And yes she would bark at the cows on the TV even if they were the cartoon laughing cows as she was smart enough to KNOW they were those HORRID COWS!!! and they must go.  She barked at the Cow statue at Country Dairy, the laughing cow cartoon TV cows, the cows out on the range in CO as we traveled all over, and even the mere mention of cows or if I spelled C-O-Ws…even that she knew.  She did NOT like cows!!  she said they were mean and hurt mama.  That would be when the Highland Cattle that we had briefly…well one of the cows came after me and kicked me.  Abbey never forgave the entire species of cows for that, not even once.

Abbey watching Tiger

Abbey was a red tri color….red, cream, and white…border collie.  She is a proper Scottish border collie, born and raised in the highlands of Scotland.  Hoof and Mouth was rampant when Abbey was first born and no one was allowed to the farms until things had cleared up.  By that time Abby was already 4 months old.  We were looking for an 8 week old puppy and the farmer did have two litters available.  One litter was 2 months old and one was 4 months old.  We looked at both litters and had one from each chosen, both having the same markings and coloring.  I was drawn to the younger litter.  We walked into the farmers kitchen where the pups were not allowed and Abbey walked right in as if she knew where to go.  She walked under my chair and laid down.  She chose me and it was settled.  We took her home.  Later we found out that the farmer, who was not home when we chose the pup, told his wife that he had wanted to keep that pup.

Abbey was all about work.  She took her job of taking care of us seriously.  She came into the house and took over the role of head dog even though Tessa was 18 months old.  Abbey was the boss of the Scottish border collies until the day she passed.  She moved with us from Scotland, to Colorado, to Michigan.

Abbey as a pup, always watching

We did breed her one time and she had 6 pups.  One pup we kept, Cinnamon, who is similar in build to Abbey.  She is nothing like her in color as Cinnamon is a blue Merle, but she is super smart like Abbey.  Cinnamon was very bonded to Abbey and it has been hard on her with Abbey gone.

The last day that we had together was a lovely day here in Michigan.  I was planting flowers and plants in various parts of the yard and Abbey was wandering around with me.  She would not settle down and kept pacing so I was always trying to find her.  Finally she did lay down and rested in the grass at the back of the house by the gazebo.  I was planting some flowers there for a while and pulling some weeds.  I decided I had enough and since Abbey seemed calm, I put my tools away and got out a pillow from the gazebo.  I put the pillow on the ground by Abbey and laid on the grass with my head on the pillow.  I stretched my arm out in front of me and Abbey laid her head over my arm in my hand.  It was breezy and the wind chimes were singing by our heads as we laid there soaking up the sun bits coming through the tree tops. It was peaceful and wonderful and horrible all at the same time as we only had that half hour before we had to go to the vet to let her go.  How can my heart be so filled with joy and so broken and full of tears at the same time?

 

The aftermath of the first night Abbey was with us

Charlie had dug Abbey’s final resting place before we left and I showed it to Abbey and told her it would be her new bed for her tired worn out fur.  I told her that SHE would be free to play and romp with BJ who passed on three years prior and that her fur would sleep here.  I told her that I would plant some flowers by her head and we trimmed up the tree branches so that we could place a glider underneath to sit.  I hung some bells and a few chimes on the big pine boughs and call them Abbey’s bells which I have to ring every time I go out to see her.  She chose to have Charlie put her final place next to Rowan on the one end and he had passed on 4 days prior.  She knew it was time but she did NOT want to leave us.  Her heart had developed a serious murmur a year prior, she was having difficulties walking and in severe pain every day…yet she did NOT want to go.  She was 15.5 years old and will be missed more than I can ever say.  I am sad when any of my animals die, but Abbey is the first of those that I just can not bear.

 

A lot of passings…..Gracie and Rowan

A lot of passings…..Gracie and Rowan

I haven’t wrote for a while as there has been so many passings happening here on Alba Ranch that it feels overwhelming.  I know that loss is part of life and particularly of ranch and livestock life, but sometimes things just get you down.

On my birthday, April 13, I lost one of my Nigerian does.  I have had high hopes for this gal since the day she was born.  She was born first and was rather small but spunky.  Her sister was much larger and thrived, until things went wrong and we lost her at 4 months old.  So Gracie was still in my mind a lot.

Gracie as a kid with her mom and sister

She was a doeling off the only daughter I had from one of my best does.  I had worked with her mother for ages but she just would not work with me.  I sold her to one of my friends and she is as good as gold with her.  We all have preferences and I just was NOT hers!  I was greatly looking forward to little Gracie growing up and being a solid steady milker in my herd.  She was pregnant and went into labour on my birthday.  This was her first and ended up being her last.  She had one buckling that was huge and stuck.  We tried to help her pull it, the vet tried, we finally had to put her down after making certain there were no other kids stuck behind the first one.  That buckling was super huge and took up all the space and of course had passed during the trauma of this delivery.  I lost them both that day.  That was my first time losing animals like this and particularly with the Nigerian dwarf dairy goat breed.  In 10 years of having goats, I had never had to go or even try to go into the back side of a goat and help pull a kid.  My hands were too large for her and a friend had to help and with her small hands there was just no moving that stuck kid.

We have lost 2 of a set of triplets this year.  One at birth and another that was weaker around 4-5 days old.  I have heard others talk about this as common place but in my herd this is not common place and was hard to handle alone as Charlie was off shore working.

 

 

Rowan March 2006-May 13, 2016

 

My Rowan, big boy, mama’s boy, Roweeeeeena….these were a few of the nick names that Rowan had.  He came to us in 2006 out in Colorado with his brother and my first pair of dairy goats.  He has been a loyal buddy and although he would guard the goats when I asked him….he really preferred to guard me…MOM!

Rowan in his fav spot guarding mom

This last three years he has only guarded part time in the summers as he has never been able to tolerate the cold well.  And he had been full time retired this last year into the house. He started limping on his front shoulder a year ago and it would go away, come back, go away,…and repeat.  He seemed ok in between bouts of limping and there were no apparent wounds, injuries, swelling, sores or anything.  I wondered if he pulled muscles when romping out in the pen with the other dogs.  During the winter we added some pain killers to his daily routine to help with the pain as it was becoming more regular with the coming part and less of the going away part.  I knew that he was not getting better and we had to make the decision to let him go on May 13 as he just couldn’t walk without extreme pain and that was with pain killers.  His shoulder had finally swelled up and even with essential oils and lavender, the swelling was going down but the pain and limping was not. He had no other health issues but being the big Anatolian boy that he was, his not being able to walk was debilitating for him and impossible for me to help him due to his size.  He was ready to go and it was a smooth passing without incident other my my heart cracking.  I still remember the day when he was about 2 years old and had been barking all night long for approximately 9 months….yes I said 9 months..that I told my husband Rowan was not going to make it to his 2 year old birthday as I was going to strangle him.  I didn’t mean it..honest …..and I miss him dreadfully.