Tuesday, February 18, 2014

River's Kids

CH Castle Rock Moon River 3*D kidded last week, with a buck and a doe that are both full of personality.

The doe kid is the bounciest of 2014, and also seems wise beyond her days

It is possible that she knows where all the bodies are buried...because she put them there.

Her brother, on the other hand, is a total momma's boy, who would rather be on my lap than with the other kids.


We're easing into kidding season this year...sort of.  We have had 18 kids out of six does so far, though the beginning of March will have us with our hands full with ten does due in a span of two days.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Replacements, Part III

Between what was going on with our livestock guardian dog situation, and Rohana's goat questions, the two of us had been chatting quite a bit over the course of several months.  So I was aware that Mroot, Mini's dam, had been bred in December and that she was expecting a litter in February.  And we knew when she had her litter that there were plenty of females available.  Andy and I had discussed whether we would go ahead and get a puppy from this litter in addition to keeping Cassie, or if we would wait another couple of years before getting another LGD so that the older dog would be able to help train the younger dog, and that there would be more space between the two age wise so we wouldn't be dealing with two older dogs at the same time.  When we decided that Cassie wasn't going to stay, we knew that we needed to find the time (in the middle of kidding season, no less), to take a little road trip to pick out our new puppy.  It felt right going back to the breed we knew something about, and getting a little sister of Mini's seemed like a good call as well.

I have never had a puppy who was less than five months old.  This was not by design, life just happened to turn out that way, which is not unusual when a couple of your dogs have come from rescue, and your first dog was a year old when you were born.  Not having had a really young puppy before, I was not altogether prepared for the intense amount of cuteness involved in a two month old.  That soft little belly! The puppy breath! It was almost overwhelming.

We spent the whole drive home trying to come up with Armenian or other European names as a tribute to her country of origin, and settled on Anush (which can also be spelled Anoush, and is pronounced AH-noosh), which means "sweet", and seemed fitting as she was born on Valentine's Day.  While she is sweet, if we'd had a few months to get to know her, we might have gone with Exuberant as that describes her very well.

*Looks up Armenian word for Exuberant....it's Hord...nope, that would not have been her name after all.*

Someone was not quite as happy about the puppy on her first day home.

Lalalala I refuse to acknowledge the existence of any so-called puppy
Nope, no puppy in this direction either.

 The puppy, on the other hand, thought Stella was fantastic.

Imma be just like you when I grow up!

See! I'm doing it now!
Stella seemed a bit annoyed with the attention from Anush.  It could have been that she was just annoyed that there was yet another new dog here, though since we have had her, she had dealt with the arrival and departure of six other dogs.  It could have been that she just didn't believe this one would be staying for long and didn't want to bother getting to know her.

After about 48 hours of either pretending the puppy didn't exist, or, if she did exist, that she was annoying, we finally saw:

Woot! Stella inviting Anush to play!

We were back to having dogs that got along, and who could exercise with each other twice a day.  The nice thing about getting Anush so young was that the goats did not feel intimidated by the new dog, and let her know that she was to respect them.  Being young during kidding season was also good for us because there's a bit less shaping that you need to do, and less trouble they can get in.  We mainly tried to let her know that she didn't need to be around people ALL the time, and that when we say "Go On!", we mean that she needs to give us our space.

Anush is definitely quite different than her sister.  Where Mini looked worried all the time, Anush is alert, but confident that should anything come up, she'll handle it, no worries mate!  When greeting her at the gate, she will often get all four feet quite far off the ground, so excited is she to see you.  When I would get upset with Mini, she would stay far away from me until I had calmed down, but Anush will still come to me with "I'm sorry!" written all over her face.  Mini would hang out for a couple of minutes and then wander off to keep an eye on things.  Anush wants to sit on my feet and slide over onto her back for a belly rub.  I'm pretty sure she would crawl into my clothes if I let her, but still manages to keep her eye on everything.  We know we've had mountain lions in the area and coyotes, and they appear to be uninterested in coming onto our farm.  She doesn't bark as much to hear her own voice, which is really nice.

We're pretty sure this one is here to stay.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Replacements, part II

In January of 2013, one of the nicest people I've met through having goats, Lynda of Foggy River Farm contacted me about possibly solving our lack of livestock guardian dog (LGD) problem.  She and her husband had come to the realization that they no longer had as much livestock to guard as they had when they first got their Anatolian Shepherds, and since the upkeep on large dogs gets expensive, it made sense to find the dogs new homes where their cost/benefit ratio would be in better balance.  I was thrilled at the idea of having a dog who had been around my breed of goat before, and who was already a bit over two years old, so I would not have to go through the puppy training again. 

The spouse and I went over to pick Cassie up, and she did very well on the car ride home.  I let her sniff all over the yard and barn to become accustomed to our "normal" smells, and to get acclimated a bit.

Cassie, looking at me like So Now What?

Thinking they should meet quickly, before Cassie had a chance to get possessive of any part of the farm, and shortly after she'd had a chance to smell Stella's scent all over the barn, I brought Stella out for a meet and greet.  Within seconds of opening the stall door between them, and without giving a warning growl or anything, Cassie jumped onto Stella, pinning her down and biting her neck, while  Stella tried to escape and let loose a torrent of yelps.  My yelling wasn't stopping Cassie, so I lifted her by the scruff of her neck (all 90lbs of her) off Stella, screamed at Stella to get out of the barn while she had the chance, and pushed Cassie back into the stall to end the attack.

That's right, this is MY house now, and don't forget it!
So that was a bit of a surprise.  It definitely meant that I would need to spend more time having the two get to know each other.  She was very sweet to me and to Andy though and warmed up to us quite quickly.  The next order of business was to introduce her to the goats.

iPhone picture in low light-sorry for the lack of quality
The ladies in the barn yard were a bit suspicious of this large new dog in their living space.  Eventually one of the younger girls got brave and decided to take a closer look.

That seemed to go pretty well.  She went back into a stall for the night since I wanted to make sure that I could supervise her when she was let off leash with the does.

The next several days we worked on her getting to see Stella do chores with us- she was on a leash so she would not be able to go after Stella, but she could see that Stella was supposed to be there and that Stella was getting praised for her activities.  They'd spend quite a bit of time around each other, and Cassie didn't show any signs of aggression towards Stella.  In the barnyard, she was out with the does only during the day, and often for only about half of the day before she started getting too "playful" for the goats.  I did let her run around in a pasture that the goats weren't in to take some of the edge off, but it was surprising just how much energy she had, especially considering that she was 26 months old.

After a couple of weeks, we decided to try seeing how Cassie would be with Stella if she could actually get within a few inches of her since it is important, at least for our operation, for the LGD and the herding dog to get along.  The LGD is supposed to live full time with the goats, and needs to understand that the herding dog can come into the pasture and move the goats around and remain unmolested.  One can restrain their LGD and then bring in the herding dog, but that adds extra steps to working with the livestock, and every extra five or ten minutes in an already long day adds up quickly.  I also know that accidents happen, people get forgetful, gates get left open, etc., and I didn't want an accident to result in a mangled Stella.

So, we slowly eased the two dogs into closer proximity, with me watching like a hawk for any sign of aggression on Cassie's part.  Her tail remained low and friendly, the hair on her back remained down, her body language appeared relaxed and not at all stiff.  Stella casually walked by, in front of Cassie and with her eyes focused on something else, and again, with no warning or change in body language, Cassie suddenly attacked Stella. This time, it took the two of us to separate them, and Cassie even got her teeth through Andy's jeans.  Stella got pretty badly bruised this time and was quite sore for about a week.  *Sigh*

We'd also had a bit of an issue with Cassie running right through the does or deciding to trot right behind a doe who smelled interesting.  She had to start dragging a small log (this or staking young LGDs when they go through adolescence is pretty common and temporary) to allow her to move around, but which would take some of the edge off of her speed, giving our goats a chance to get away from her intense attention.  She especially seemed to like plunging into a crowd of does who were at one of the hay feeders, sending them scattering.  One of the times she did this, one of our young does slipped and got stuck in a feeder and I found her dangling by her hoof in a very awkward position, twisted and flipped around.

Piapiac, modeling her cast
After taking Pia to the vet, where she was such a trooper about getting her leg set and the cast put on, we decided to try Cassie out in the pasture with the dry does.  Maybe more room would be good for her, and there would be less of a risk of one of our pregnant does getting stressed by her.

After a week or so, we noticed she had decided that the shed in the pasture was off limits to our does.  We had considered tying her out in that pasture to try to make it so she couldn't chase the does, but the only place close to shade and water was the shed she wouldn't let the does near, so that was not going to work.  At this point we were also getting deep into kidding season, and having gone into January already exhausted, I was starting to run short on time and energy to fix the behavior of a dog who was acting like an adolescent puppy.  Livestock guardian dogs have to think on their own, and they can act quite differently on one farm than they did on another farm, and this was proving to be the case with Cassie who seemed to have reverted back to being a puppy, though she had been a responsible adult with her previous family.

Now, I should say that I have found from many conversations and from my own experience that all LGDs have their quirks.  It really depends on your situation as to what quirks are adorable and little and can be dealt with and which ones are just not right for you and your situation. Which means that while a very mellow dog can be good on a small farm, that dog may not work on a large ranch operation.  Some dogs are more about guarding their home territory and the animals thereon from anything that falls into their definition of "strange", and some dogs are bonded with their herd or flock, so don't touch the sheep, but go ahead and help yourself to as many chickens as you want.  So even though some of Cassie's behaviors were not what I needed, that did not mean she was at all a "bad" dog, or that she couldn't fill the purpose for which she had been bred.  She was clearly dog aggressive, but people friendly, and from her barking at night, we knew she was working to keep something(s) away from our place. Lynda was incredibly generous with her time helping us trouble shoot some of Cassie's behavior and find solutions to keep her here, especially considering all of the challenges of having a newborn and a busy organic farm.

I was starting to get the feeling that someone who had bigger animals than we do (which, let's be honest, includes the majority of livestock), and who had a lot more room would do better with Cassie.  Anatolian Shepherds can take longer to mature, which in turn means they have a longer average lifespan than other giant breeds, so it was possible that in a couple more months, she'd just "click" into being a fantastic dog.  However, my hands were already full with everything else on the farm, and kids were hitting the ground every day, so just did not have the energy to put into a very large puppy who had a will that was proving to be stronger than mine.  Yes, that is saying something.

About a week and a half after giving Lynda the heads up that we weren't the best fit for Cassie, Andy drove her back to the coast, leaving us once more in need of an LGD for our does.

Next up: Third try's a charm?