Friday, September 20, 2013

The Replacements, Part I

In Mid-December of 2012, as you may well know, we lost our livestock guardian dog, Mini.  In addition to the sadness of loosing a dog, there was also the matter of what to do about our livestock guarding needs in her absence.  Our bucks have their llama, but our does were in need of some protection, and I could clearly hear a good deal of coyote activity not too far from our farm, and there's always the threat of neighborhood dogs finding their way here.

Enter Zulum

He was the dog we had bred Mini to, and like her, he was an Armenian Gampr.  I already liked many of his traits, which is why I had picked him to sire Mini's puppies.  Rohana, from whom I had obtained Mini, generously offered to let him stay with us, either to fill in until we got a more suitable replacement, or he could stay on permanently if he was a good match.

Stella did her part to show him the local customs

So, that's, uh, considered a delicacy around here?

 And he seemed to get along pretty well with her, though he never quite got used to her laser beam vision

What the????

Stella seemed to think he was alright, if a bit of a kiss up to the management

I luff you!

Previous to being with the breeder, Zulum had been in a situation where he learned to distrust men, especially around food.  As a result, he was a huge love muffin with me, but very suspicious of Andy, which was not ideal.  We worked for several days on the two of them getting to know each other better, and Zulum started to relax and become less wary and growly around Andy, which was quite encouraging.

Then on Christmas Eve morning I came out to the barn, and he was gone.  Just-- poof-- no more big dog.  AAAARRRRRGGGGGG!  Great, this dog isn't even mine, I have him for about a week, and he disappears.  That'll teach Rohana to trust me with one of her dogs!  I looked all over the neighborhood for him, and for such a big dog, he was very good at disappearing.  I called Animal Control to let them know about him, especially since he was not fond of men, and because he was about the size and coloring of a mountain lion, which would probably freak out any number of people.

His wandering did emphasize why I would rather not keep an intact male on a property our size- once a dog gets an idea of what breeding is all about (and Mini was Zulum's first experience just two months previous to this), he is much more likely to go in search of breeding opportunities.

The day after Christmas, we got a call from Animal Control that he had been found, and were able to go collect him from some people just a mile and a half away (as the dog roams).  They told us that they'd posted a sign at the local country store about him, so we went to take it down, and it was a little piece of paper that said "Found: Brown Dog" and a phone number.  No size, gender, location, or any other details that would have narrowed it down from approximately half the dogs in our area. The only way it would have been less helpful is if it had said "Found: Dog".

We put him back in the barnyard and watched to see if he'd try to get out again, and it turned out that he was going under the fencing, as opposed to climbing over it, as we had seen Mini attempt.  This huge dog was like a mouse- if the head fits, the rest will find a way.  Sigh.  A day or two after his return, Andy accidentally nudged Zulum while he was eating, and we were back to square one with the trust issues.  The next day, some friends came over to breed a goat, and I had to put Zulum in a stall because I didn't trust that everything would run smoothly otherwise.  He barked for over an hour straight, which gave me a headache and freaked out my friends' doe who wasn't used to dogs at all.

I figured that I had the time and energy to fix either his trust issues, or his wandering the neighborhood issues, but not both of them.  I also worried that he was an insurance claim waiting to happen since we have a good deal of visitors to the farm and not all of them have been blessed with common sense.  If I lived alone on a large, remote property, he would have been perfect for me.  But I have a spouse I am pretty fond of, and we live in an area with lots of neighbors, so I reluctantly returned him to Rohana.

Which meant we were back to not having a livestock guardian dog, until I got an e-mail from a fellow small farmer...