Thursday, February 4, 2016

Livestock Guardian Dogs - The Unit Working As A Whole

We like to have as many of the guardian dogs with the main flock as we can, however the pack is always dynamic and this shifts for various reasons, such as what is happening on the ranch (breeding, lambing, maintenance mode), and how many dogs are here and if they are getting along.  We have learned to trust that the dogs have a good reason for moving about, and often we don’t know what the reason is. 

For the majority of the year we have three groups of sheep: rams, main flock and off sorted animals (culls, wethers, and/or dogging sheep).  The off-sorted group probably don’t need a guardian dog but the dogs seem to think that they do. 

A couple of the dogs will move around to the other groups and visit but it’s typically the same dog(s) staying with the same lot of sheep.  Even though all of the dogs might not be set with the same group of sheep, they still work collectively to deter predators.  The land is still crisscrossed and marked by dogs (several different dogs - giving any outsider the impression that a pack lives here), the dogs are vocal and they often travel in pairs.  In the winter all the sheep on the place are within a short distance of each other for ease of winter feeding.  If one dog sounds the alarm, all the others know it and listen.  If the alarm is urgent the other dogs are at attention and looking.  If high excitement ensues and there is movement after something other dogs may leave their group of sheep and join in.  Once again it is the dogs deciding who needs helps and who is going.  (I’m still wondering how they sort it out).

It might happen that one of the dogs encounters a coyote on it’s own, but this would be more likely when one of the dogs goes for a walk about away from the rest and happens to cross paths with one.  If a dog goes off in pursuit of a predator, at least one other dog will know it and will join in.  Zeus primarily works on his own, and sometimes he and his rams are well apart from the others.  So if any of our guardians are going to face coyotes alone chances are it would be him.  Zeus did have a partner, but we lost Willow a couple years ago and have not yet replaced her because the rams have been closer to home since then due to washed out fence lines.

There is always a dynamic chorus of events taking place, within the greater landscape around us and within the hub of our place and everywhere in between.  Very seldom is something ever ‘just-this-way’ because it needs to be - and that is the beauty of working with nature.

File photo, from the archives

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Dog Frosted

The frosted dog days of winter, they're cold but not frigid, maybe a bit grey, but calm and serene.  Coyote Mic, ... she wears the frosted look so well.

It appears as though I've caught her fashion expression in this next photo.

An earlier file photo of Jayde wearing the same frosted look. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Back to The Easel

A recent artwork request I started last week of a West Highland White Terrier.

The reference photos are not of great quality so I had to use some internet photos to gauge where I was at while still trying to capture the personal character of this particular fellow.  That’s tough and I don’t think I’ll try to pull this off again.  I’m almost through with this one so will hopefully have something to show again soon.

While that one sits on the easel for pondering, I started laying out a felting project.  There is no single reference photo for this one, so I’m putting the idea and the photos together.  I have a working title already though which is a good sign.  Sunrise Guardians

planning the layout

picking colors

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Solo Photo - Winter Bird

It's not sheep or dog related but I wanted to share this photo as a solo photo today.

It was a surprise photo in that, in the midst of all the other shots I took this morning, I wasn't aware I had taken this one.  It's one of my favorites from the bunch.

These were taken just outside the house.  I sat on a five gallon pail watching birds come to the bird feeder until my fingers got cold.  It's very much like watching sheep but much, much harder to catch a bird in stillness.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Two Too Many

We are preparing to sell some cull ewes so there was a little bit of sheep work to bring the small group in and tag them (in Canada, all sheep leaving the premise must be tagged with a specific type of ear tag). 

BJ and I headed out to tackle the job.  The stock dogs have had several weeks off from stock work so BJ and I were a little rusty in footwork and teamwork.  Me more so than her.  We had to gather the group and move them a short distance to the building but we got off route three times with her deciding which flanks to do regardless of direction from me. 

When I was through with sorting and tagging, I brought the puppy BlackJack out and introduced him to a small group of wethers that were left over.  BlackJack has a bull in a china shop kind of personality and his work style is similar.  He’s going to be an interesting dog to train up.  I expect he’ll be ready for training right around springtime when the weather turns. 

The stock dogs live in anticipation of heading toward the training area and they watch eagerly when I head that way with one of them.  I swear that those dogs who didn’t get to work were very put out, making me conclude that I have about two dogs too many.  It’s the wrong point in life to think of this but when else would I think about it if not at the point of too many.  Fortunately I’m lousy about selling dogs, so I guess we’ll all make do and share the work.