Thursday, December 13, 2012
Building Unity Farm - The Unconditional Love of Dogs
At the farm, we have a routine. In the early morning, when we do chores (stock the hay feeders, fill water buckets, haul manure etc.) we give the dogs breakfast biscuits. Great Pyrenees tend to guard their food, so the dogs carry their treats to opposite ends of the paddock and savor them. As we finish the chores, I ask Bundle to get her leash (it's sometimes a favorite tug of war toy for the dogs) and we run a few miles on surrounding trails. Bundle is very interested in finding deer, wild turkeys, and small mammals. Shiro is more interested in following Bundle then stealthily jumping on her when she least expects it. Since Shiro goes where Bundle goes, he does not need a leash at this point in his life (although mature male Great Pyrenees tend to wander).
I've cut 3 trails through the woodland - the Orchard trail, the Old Cart Path (used in Colonial days), and the Marsh trail. The dogs run as fast as they can along the Orchard trail and up the stairs I've built in an old rock wall to access the neighboring 55 acre orchard where they can play in the grass, roll down hills, and enjoy all the interesting plant/animal smells they discover between the old apple trees.
After a run around the orchard, we return to the Orchard trail and run back to paddock. Great Pyrenees tend to sleep during the day and guard at night when predators are most active. After their run, the dogs fall asleep under the hay feeder or in the hay loft. They never seem to mind the cold since they have a double coat of insulating fur. Bundle would rather stay dry but Shiro enjoys digging in the mud before sleep. It's puppy heaven.
Before evening chores, we run the Old Cart Path, often finding the 30 wild turkeys that roost in pine trees above our stream. In the longer days of Summer and Fall, Bundle and Shiro enjoy a few minutes of tumbling together in the tall grass of the pasture before heading back to the paddock. While we are cleaning the barnyard and replenishing food/water/minerals for all the animals, the dogs eat dinner in separate areas of the barn to avoid any squabbling over food. Although our farm is entirely vegetarian/vegan, the dogs eat an appropriate diet for an omnivore. Although it is possible, I would not recommend a vegan diet for dogs and cats.
After all the animals are secured and settled for the night, my wife and I return to the house to prepare our own dinner. The dogs begin the vigilant watch of the barn yard.
Two dogs, a 300 pound llama and a 5 foot electric fence has proven to be an effective deterrent for the coyotes, fisher cats, and foxes in our forest.
Whenever a predator threatens, the dogs bark at it wildly, raising an alarm. When I hear them, I venture out to the paddock to ensure all is well. The dogs great me as if they have not seen me in years. They can never be petted enough. Both dogs are incredibly strong and try to tackle me to the ground in play.
On the rare occasions that I must discipline the dogs (See The Guinea Fowl Who Lost His Mojo)
they are genuinely upset by the disapproval of their pack leaders (the humans). They sulk and beg forgiveness.
At any time of day or night, with fair and foul weather, in any situation, the dogs give their love unconditionally.
Bundle and Shiro are always happy to serve, eager to play, and thankful for a rub behind the ears. They seek approval and take their alpaca guarding work very seriously.
They look forward to the daily rituals we've developed and definitely feel a loss when my schedule breaks the pattern (going to Washington DC at 4am conflicts with the morning run)
We have affection for all the citizens of Unity Farm, but the unconditional love of dogs creates a special bond for us. I look forward to sharing the next decade of our lives together.
Posted by John Halamka at 3:00 AM