Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Canine Crew Part II

Photos and brief information of the individual dogs can be seen on the two newly updated pages, Livestock Guardian Dogs, and Stock Dogs (you can reach these pages anytime via the top navigation bar).

I chuckled at the exclamation of thirteen being a lot of dogs because I used to do the same.  Before the ranch I gave strange looks and judgment to people who had more than five dogs (I had five dogs back then so five was okay).  Now, a dozen dogs is part of my life and I know several others who have a dozen or more, and we can’t imagine not having the dogs to help fulfill the roles we’re in.


Here's a little slice about living with a lot of dogs and why we do.

With the livestock guardian dogs the terrain, the work situation, the type of predators, as well as the dogs themselves, determine how many dogs are present - not necessarily the number of sheep.  We have a lot sheep (relatively speaking), we also have hilly terrain, large spaces and bush and wetland.  If it were flat land and smaller acres we could do with less dogs.  We do not have large predators but we have numerous coyote in this area who know this terrain as well or better, than the dogs do.

Since it takes about two years for these dogs to mature into their roles and become reliable, sometimes pups are around before they’re really needed (which is our case right now).  Sometimes you get caught needing more dogs and you don’t have them.  Dogs get injured, dogs get old, young dogs can’t handle some of the tasks, one dog doing all the work, wears that one dog out faster.  It’s a fluctuating dynamic you’re always adjusting to.

As for stock dogs, I could make do with three or four, so long as two or more were able to work together.  One of the six stock dogs here is 14 years old and retired.  The next is over half way there.   I have four middle aged/young dogs. Enough to keep busy with for sure.

The cost for keeping this many dogs is in the thousands of dollars each year.  The cost of the guardian dogs is a ranch expense the sheep flock has to cover.  The stock dogs are a cost we swallow personally through any extra income we can generate.  We have a separate bank account set aside for dog veterinary expenses since large dogs are not cheap to vet.  The dogs receive veterinarian care when needed however it’s likely we are more conservative on this than most pet-dog households.  We do not take dogs to the vet at the drop of a hat, especially the livestock guardians.  Unless it’s an emergency or a problem we can’t help with, they get cared for at home.

We feed dry food and suitable household leftovers, yogurt etc.  We pick up meat trimmings and raw bones from the butcher in town.  In the cold winter months I make a porridge to add to the food.  I shared a blog post about that last winter.

When you have a string of dogs you have dogs at various stages in life.  In this case we have dogs who live a working, not always cozy, life.  Stuff happens.  This means we face the death of dogs, both planned and unexpectedly, on a more frequent basis.

It is a lot of dogs.  No doubt.  And certainly, my deep affinity for dogs encourages me to have them.  One can not face a life with dogs as rich and deep as this without a deep affinity for them, because living with them is both joy and trial enough, but to pull yourself through the emotional hell of losing dogs time and again, requires something akin to deep, deep devotion or beyond.



3 comments:

  1. Two great photos, expecially the black and white one. This is all very interesting. I would find the logistics of caring for the dogs most daunting, never mind the sheep, too. You live a life of hard work, but are to be honored for your Independence and fortitude.

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  2. Beautifully written. I felt every word.

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