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. Read for more…
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.
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……
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
I am writing this post in the aftermath of this weeks hard sad decisions that had to be made. Many folks have a romanticized idea of homesteading, ranching, farming, living in the country ect. It is great but it is hard work. It is rewarding but sometimes you have to make seriously hard decisions. City folks do NOT get that. When I first came out to Colorado, I didn’t really get it but I had some ideas of it as even living in Michigan as a child I saw some things where hard decisions had to be made. Today’s children do not know reality or what a hard decision is. Life is too soft, folks are too dependent and most don’t even know what self sufficient is. I had someone tell me once that eggs do not come from a chicken’s butt, they come from Styrofoam cartons in the store. ummmm…yeah..OK!!
LGD is short for Livestock Guardian Dog. There are many breeds of LGD. Most breeds commonly known in my area are Anatolian Shepherd, Great Pyrenees, Akbash, and Mareema. For more in depth information on what a Livestock Guardian Dog is and what breeds fall into that category you can see this article on Wikipedia. I have had Livestock Guardian Dogs ever since I got my first goats. In the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, I have just about every predator on my ranch. Mountain Lions, Bears, Rattlesnakes, Coyotes, Hawks, Owls, and other assorted flying stuff. I have even had a raccoon terrorize my chickens for a while until I padlocked the pen. No matter how smart he was, he did NOT know how to pick a lock!! I have never lost a goat kid or lamb to a predator. What I did not know was that one of my LGD was hurting his charges!
It is a good idea for every rancher that raises livestock and does any breeding to have a camera system for the critters. Obviously we can not be with them all the time and they don’t always act the same when we are not there. With our new system, I have been able to ascertain that one of my dogs must have had something go haywire in his head as he is hurting his charges and my livestock. He has been the boss lead LGD for over 6.5 years. If he had this flawed thinking all this time, I would have seen many injuries over the years before I had the monitor. I never saw any real damage. Occasionally I saw a goat ear that had an injury but never knew for certain if that was caused by the dog or getting it caught in the fence. I did have a large amount of bottle babies but know now that was Mitch’s interference with taking the baby from the mom at birth. Unfortunately, Larick has learned that behavior as well. If I have the mother and kid separated for the delivery and let them bond for a day or two before putting them back in the herd, I do not have any problems with Larick. With him, it is only a labor and delivery issue. And to my knowledge he has only done it one time. Once however is enough.
Mitch’s behavior has escalated and this week ended in him attacking one of my goats after she head butted him away from her daughter whom Mitch was chasing. I saw it on the monitor. It was horrible. He did not kill her as of yet, but she has serious puncture wounds that I am currently tending and hope that the infection will stay under control. Mitch was one of my Great Pyrenees and I have a special bond with him. He has attacked on two other occasions but with extenuating circumstances both times. Should he had attacked either time? NO!! but I do understand why he did so and after deliberation we decided to not put him down and watch him closely. He appeared to be OK….for a while. Months would pass…then… After this attack I could no longer make any excuses for him. He looked all sweet and innocent but I watched that horrible video at least 6 times to imprint it on my mind. I did not want to forget what I saw. I had to wait over night to take him to be put down and it was hard to walk by him in the pen and even look him in the eye. He was 8 years old, healthy and in the prime of his life. I felt awful. I cried so hard I could hardly speak or breathe…I cried for hours. Then I cried more. I sat on the floor while they sedated him telling him I loved him, crying on him and making him soggy. He just had this sweet innocent look on his face. But I knew differently. I had seen what he did, I had heard his viciousness and I saw the damage to Sweet Pea’s throat and heard her screams! This is a hard part of ranching and livestock raising that has to be addressed. Many people think that this never happens but it is not so. As a responsible person and ranch owner I had to make a decision. A hard decision. A sad decision. One of, if not THE hardest decision I have ever made in my life. Putting Mitch down has broken my heart. The pain and anguish others may understand as they may have had to put an older sick dog in pain down. But what they and others can not understand is the pure anguish and guilt that I feel because he was a healthy younger dog. I feel like I murdered my dog. Charlie said that I did not murder my dog I saved my goats! I know that my feelings are not logical and they are flawed yet they are there and strong. Why is the dog more important to us than the goats? The Goats cost LOADS more money and have earning potential. The dogs are there to guard and protect them but when one of the guards turns on his charges, he becomes a liability instantly! Re home him people say to me. HOW the hell do I do that knowing that he can’t be trusted, that he has attacked stock on a few times. That he bit me before. HOW?? I can’t in good faith. It would be wrong. It would be irresponsible. As his owner and his care giver, it was my responsibility to take care of this.
I am sad, heart broken, filled with anguish and so utterly disappointed and upset. It was a sad hard decision that I had to make. I made the right decision. Why does it not FEEL that way?
Update: Another 7 weeks or so has passed and the ranch is a totally different place these days. I believe that Mitch was harassing the stock for many years. He might not have been outright attacking them; but he was harassing them, pushing them, biting and grabbing them without doing damage and generally being menacing rather than protecting. The difference in ALL the animals on the ranch is so overwhelmingly obvious that there was something definitely wrong with Mitch.
The llamas NEVER spent much time at the barn area and now I can hardly PRY their butts out of there. I can shoo them off and run them out of the pens and they come right back. The other LGD Larick, NEVER hung out at the barn. I always assumed it was that he was the perimeter guard and Mitch was the close personal guard. However, Larick has attached himself to the barn, has taken over one of the huts as HIS dog house and does his perimeter guarding some but is much more accessible to the barn and his charges. I think a certain amount of that is grief, but some if that he just likes being up at the barn.
His brother, Rowan, was brought over to the house dog side when he was only 8 months old as he never got along with Mitch. He does guard on the stock side in an emergency situation but never will do more than 2 weeks at a time. One of those times, Mitch and Rowan got into a fight and Mitch almost killed him. I did not think that Rowan could or would guard stock. He NEVER stays at the barn. Was never near the stock, but looking back now I believe that he never wanted to be near Mitch. Mitch never left the barn or the stock.
Two weeks after Mitch was put down, it was clear that Larick was grieving and depressed. I decided to take a chance and watch closely while putting Rowan into the pen with Larick. Larick and Rowan had fought many times they had been together in the last 5 years. They have not only NOT had any fights, they are guarding together, playing together, and both stay close to the barn and their stock at all times. Rowan has been in with Larick for about 5 weeks now and he seems to be loving it. I am not certain if he will want to continue guarding once the snow and cold comes because to be honest he is MY dog and likes to lie in the cabin by the fire. Right now, he seems to have found his place after 6 years and is doing his job and happy with it. He has always been our first line of defense. I always know when ANYTHING comes remotely near this ranch as Rowan has always told me his entire life. Except when he is off duty, in the cabin and pretending to be my lap dog!
Larick is still very skittish around me. He is allowing me to pet him very occasionally. He does come to the gate and fence, will wag his tail at me, and will eat from my hand. I am very glad that I did not put him down that horrible day. We have made some progress but he does not trust me and it will take some time before he and I can be friends again after the Mitch thing. He was never a close human dog. He has always preferred his humans at about 20 paces away.
Another surprise is the way the goats are acting. Sweet Pea has not head butted to my knowledge either Larick or Rowan since they have been in there. She does walk a wide bit around them when they are playing and running. Since the boys never pay attention to her, she seems to be settling in with them rather well. Odd that since she was always trying to HIT Mitch. She knew that Mitch was not safe.
It is nice to look into the monitor now and see the llamas all lying down in the pen, the goats milling about in between them, Larick crashed out in his hut with only his paw sticking out and Rowan lying flat out in the road kill position in the middle of all the llamas and goats in the middle pen. THAT never happened when Mitch was here. The llamas are happy and humming, the goats are happy and playing, Larick is still grieving but getting better, and Rowan appears to have found his niche on the ranch. All seems well and only because we removed ONE dog. The difference is stunning.