A Fiber Farm Blog

Posts tagged ‘Livestock Guardian Dog’

Bella & Kitten Update

It is time I gave you an update on Bella and the kittens.  First…..Bella.  She went to both the vet for her annual checkup and to the groomer last week, so for her, it was a great week.  She weighed in at 93 pounds!  The vet said she was a healthy girl and at the perfect weight.  It was a very hot day and she enjoyed plopping down on the cool, tile floor at the office.  A few days later she spent the day at her grooming appointment.  She seemed to enjoy that day as well, another hot day spent inside.  When she got home she looked and smelled so nice that she got to spend an hour or so in the air conditioning with me.

Groomed Bella

And the 3 kittens……wow have they grown!  They are 4 weeks old now.  In a couple of weeks I will be looking for a good home for them.

Larry 1

Curly 1

Moe 1

Are they not the cutest things you have ever seen???

 

 

Bella – a Livestock Guardian Dog

Bella 10

Bella was delivered to us on Valentine’s night, 2014 and our hearts have been hers ever since.  We had lost Balto in November the year before and it was just not the same without one of these big, white, beautiful, loyal Great Pyrenees dogs on our farm.   She was 10 weeks old when she arrived and nothing but a big, squirmy ball of fur.  She moved and wiggled around so fast that it was almost impossible to get a decent picture of her.  But as we have come to expect from these dogs, it didn’t take her long at all to become trusted among the alpacas, friends with the cats and to settle into her new home.

Bella 2

Bella 3

We get lots of questions about livestock guardian dogs so I thought I would introduce you to Bella by answering the most common questions.  Here we go…..in the order of how often the questions are asked.

#1 most asked questionWhat does a livestock guardian dog (LGD) actually do?  Bella’s most important job is to protect the alpacas.  We keep her in the pasture with our females and crias to make sure that they stay safe.  Our biggest predator problem is coyotes and while they have never bothered our alpacas, Bella makes sure that they don’t come close.   She has a booming bark and sends them on their way pretty quickly.  It is interesting to me that Balto and Bella had very different methods of sending the coyotes packing.  Balto, who had a knack of getting out of the pasture any number of ways, would actually leave the pasture and chase them till they were off the property.  Bella, alternates from running along the fence line and barking to trying to round up the alpacas for safety by herding them into the barn.  She will run back and forth, between the alpacas and the fence, until the threat is gone.  I think another very basic instinct that these guardian dogs have is the ability to show compassion and care for a sick, scared or newborn alpaca.  I am in awe and brought to tears every time I see this happen.  But I have seen it enough to know it is true.  I have seen both Balto and Bella welcome a new cria.  They sit back patiently to guard and watch at first but then, when Mom seems to be ok with it, they will sit or lie beside the young cria.  I have seen Balto sleep beside a weanling the first night that he was without his mama and I have witnessed both Balto & Bella not leave a sick alpaca’s side until there was nothing else to be done.  They are very protective and take their job extremely seriously.

Bella with Alpacas 1

Forever Royal & Bella

#2 most asked question – Does Bella really live in the barn?  Where does she sleep?  Doesn’t she get cold?  Doesn’t she get hot?  Bella lives in the barn with the alpacas.  She spends all day in the barn and sleeps in the barn at night.  This is the way it has always been for her.  Her mama and papa lived in the barn and she was born in a barn, so that is all she has known.  It is important for both her and us to know that she is with the alpacas to do her job.  Bella has her own area in the barn, a place that the alpacas and donkeys cannot get to.  Her bed is in this area and it is a place she can go to still be with and see the alpacas but have some space all her own.  Bella has a very dense coat, particularly in the winter so she doesn’t seem to be cold at all.  And you would be surprised how warm it is in the barn with all the animals and hay in there.  When the weather is very cold or we are expecting ice, we will shut the doors at night to keep the wind and weather out and all the animals stay very comfortable.  The hot humid days of summer are harder for her.  She does get hot.  We keep her groomed so that she stays as cool as possible.  She drinks out of the automatic waterers that we have for the alpacas so she always has access to clean, cool water.  She also has her own fan that she can lay in front of on hot days.  It is back in her little private area of the barn so she doesn’t have to try to share with the alpacas.  I will admit that we have let Bella in the house from time to time when it is really hot.  She gets to come just inside the mudroom and lie on the cool tile floor.  It doesn’t take her long at all to relax and rest in the cool house.

Bella12

Bella Keeping Cool

#3 most asked question – How hard is it to train a LGD?  It’s easy…..they train themselves.  It is instinct and in their nature to protect.  We have had 2 Great Pyrs since they were puppies and it has been fascinating to watch them go from the puppy stage to being an effective LGD.  The first thing I noticed was that, even very young, they seem to have a sense about when to approach the other animals and when not to.  They seem to figure out which alpacas don’t much care for them being around and which ones don’t seem to mind.  They fit into their surroundings and get along with other animals very, very quickly.   At first, the alpacas don’t seem crazy about having a puppy around, but they all very quickly learn to get along and trust each other.  As they get older it is fun to watch them pick up more and more of the behaviors that will make them excellent LGDs.  Of course, like any puppy, we have had to spend some time on basic puppy manners and obedience, but they are LGDs in their hearts and their guardian instincts seem to come naturally as they get older.

Bella with Alpacas 2

#4 most asked question – What does Bella like?  What does Bella dislike?

Bella likes:

Spending time with humans

Walks with Jeff

Splashing in the ponds

Playing with other dog friends

Her best friend…..Cooper the Cat

Cucumbers – straight out of the garden is best, pulled right off the vine…..yummmm!

Grooming – Believe it or not, Bella loves to go to the groomer and doesn’t seem to mind being brushed too much.  There is a little bit of diva in her I think.

Going to the vet – again, a little strange maybe.  Bella, because of her size, is a huge hit at the vet and she certainly loves the attention she gets.  She seems to love hearing the vet say what a pretty, big, healthy girl she is.  And there always seems to be a few kids there to fawn over her too.

Duck eggs – the fresher the better.  The days that she can get to the duck eggs before we do is a good day!  She seems to love it that the ducks lay their eggs on the ground where she can always get to them.  Much easier for her to get than chicken eggs and they are bigger eggs to boot!

Car rides

Watermelon on a hot day!

Bella dislikes:

Moles – the word “dislike” might be a little mild.  She hates moles.  She will dig them up and kill them without a thought.  She has literally saved our yard from being tunneled to death!

Fences around gardens – it’s because of the cucumber thing

Long, confusing days with lots of people around – like shearing day

Loud noises – she is terribly afraid of fireworks or cars backfiring.

Bella at Pond 1

#5 most asked question – Does Bella ever get a bath?  I think it is kind of funny that this is asked so much.  I hate to think that she looks or smells that bad and I really don’t think she does.  I tell people all the time that she doesn’t really ever get a bath.  It just doesn’t do any good.  She lives in the barn and honestly getting her wet just turns everything to mud anyway.  She does love to get dirty though and many of our pictures are of one dirty dog.  The only exception to this is when she is groomed.  She seems to love getting bathed there and comes home smelling like lilacs or something I wonder is embarrassing for a barn dog but she seems to love it while it lasts.  It’s the diva thing again.

Wet Bella 2

Bella Resting

#6 most asked question – Every time I come down your driveway I see your LGD sound asleep.  Are Great Pyrs lazy dogs?

I think this is funny every time I hear it.  I’m sure it seems that way but you have to remember that these working dogs are often up all night long.  They work the night shift so to speak.  That is when most of the action happens and they need to be on guard.  It seems like they are very busy right at dusk and then again at dawn.  Still, I will often get up in the middle of the night and hear Bella barking……doing her job.  She doesn’t bark unnecessarily but there is just a lot going on in the dark.  So wouldn’t you, if you had been up working all night, be more than ready to take a snooze in a nice patch of sunshine or shady spot when the notion hits?  But trust me, even though she may look dead to the world when she is asleep, not a lot gets by her.

Bella Sleeping

Bella 1

So these are the questions we get asked most often.  I hope you learned a little about livestock guardian dogs, Great Pyrenees, and of course Bella.  We purchased both Balto and Bella from the Colemans with Wing and a Prayer Alpacas, Amity, Oregon and we cannot recommend them highly enough.  Even though Bella is a working dog and spends most of her time with the alpacas, she is also a huge part of our family.  If we are home and working outside, Bella is out of the pasture and right with us.  She loves to take long walks, splash in the pond, go on car rides or just nap in the shade………as long as we are right there with her.  It is such a comfort to know that she is taking care of things out in the pasture and ready 24/7 to guard and protect both the alpacas and us.  We couldn’t love her more!

Bella in Tall Grass

 

 

Balto

For many reasons, I need to get back to blogging! But there is an important post that I must do first, and to be very honest, I have been putting it off. We lost our livestock guardian dog, Balto, last November and I just haven’t had the heart to blog about it. We are moving on here at the farm and there are a lot of exciting things happening so I need to get this done. I really haven’t been able to talk about him to date, but I owe it to Balto to let everyone know how much we loved him, how much we miss him and how much we regret that we let him down.

Balto
October 5, 2012 – November 9, 2014

Sweet Balto 2

We lost our beautiful Balto on November 9, 2014. He ran out in front of a pickup, was hit and killed pretty much instantly. The couple that hit him (or maybe I should say, Balto hit them) were wonderful, stopped and checked to see if there was anything they could do and then notified us immediately. While it was all so very sad, it was a comfort being able to be with Balto during his last few minutes and to be able to bring him home afterward. He is buried alongside Daisy and a few of our alpacas in a shady spot in the back pasture.

Balto was an amazing livestock guardian dog. He stayed beside a sick cria for days even though all the alpacas had by instinct “given up” on the little one. He slept beside a young weanling when he was moved over to the “big boys pasture” and let poor little Nillie the cat curl up on his blanket the night she passed. I’ve never seen a dog that could size up a situation with other animals so fast and seem to know if it was best to come up close and protect or respectfully watch from afar. We all terribly miss his presence in the pasture……comforting, protective and vigilant.

Balto & Cria 1

Balto & New Cria

Balto loved people as much as he loved animals and took his job very seriously. I think Balto felt it was his job to befriend and protect the world. He knew no boundaries, had no prejudices and I doubt thought twice about going under a fence, over a fence, squeezing through a gate, dodging through barbed wire or crossing a busy road just to visit a friend. No matter how many ways we tried to keep Balto in, he always eventually found a way out. He was smart, much more agile than his size would indicate and very, very strong.

Balto meets Duck

I have loved every dog I have ever owned to distraction, but Balto will always, always have a special place in my heart. He taught me about big, beautiful and loyal Great Pyrenees dogs and I can’t ever imagine not having one in my life and on my farm. He had the most beautiful, soulful brown eyes and I swear when you looked into them you could see right to his big heart. I will always regret that we didn’t try one more thing to keep him home and safe.

Balto, we miss you still and we are so, so sorry we let you down.

Balto’s Bad Day

Balto, our Great Pry, desperately needed to go in for a grooming.  We have been having a relatively cool and wet spring so far, but even so, you could tell he was getting hot.  So our vet recommended that we get all that hair off of him for the summer.

Sweet Balto 2Balto loves his farm, all his responsibilities, Shadow and the rest of the family.  And he is a very agreeable dog……except when he has to go somewhere.  He hates wearing a leash, getting in the car and he especially hates going to the vet.  Even though we knew that it was not going to be a happy day for Balto, well, it had to be done.

We dropped him off at the vet at 7:00 a.m. and it was a full day process for him.  He was bathed, groomed, blown dry and finished off with a complimentary toenail clip.  The very end of the day gave him the opportunity to have a quick check up with the vet and get caught up on all his shots.  An all day spa treatment was what it was, and yet, Balto hated every minute of it!  He clearly would have rather spent the day at the farm!  When I arrived to pick him up he looked dejected, humiliated, and just plain exhausted from it all.  And to add to his upset……he was totally unrecognizable!

We got Balto home and he drank tons of water,

Balto Shaved 2

Had to convince all the other animals that it was really him, the same old Balto,

Balto Shaved 3

Had to rest in one of his most comfy spots,

Balto Shaved 4

And needed a little relaxing time to just enjoy being home after his bad day!

Balto Shaved 5

So tell me, does this look like the same dog to you???

Balto Shaved

 

 

Are Ya Hungry, Balto??

Balto, our Great Pry puppy is about 8 months old now.  We got him from Randy & Barbara Coleman, Wing and a Prayer Alpacas in Oregon.  I can’t even tell you how much we love this dog…..he is just so big, so sweet, so lovable!  We have enjoyed watching him grow and become a better livestock guardian dog every day.  But sometimes we have to remind ourselves that he is still a puppy.  He loves to romp and play, loves to explore and well, I’m afraid to say…..loves to eat everything in sight.  There’s not a lot of things that Balto hasn’t taken at least a pretty good bite of.  In addition to countless bags of fiber, numerous plastic bottles from the recycle bin, paper plates galore, 2 moles and some things just too gross to mention, Balto has eaten:

Mini Blinds

The mini blinds in the garage.  These are the old metal ones, not plastic mind you.  Balto actually didn’t feel well that day and the vet had suggested we keep him in the garage for the night.  Imagine what he could have accomplished had he been feeling up to snuff!

Chairs

Has started to nibble his way up the arm of the adirondack chairs.

Hammock

Kellie’s hammock.

IMG_6265

Pretty much all of the garden stakes.  Who knows what I have planted, and where now.

Swimming Pool

And the kiddie pool.  Too bad this is the pool that Kellie fills up for him to take a dip and cool off.

Sweet Balto 2

I’m sure there will be a few more things destroyed over the summer as Balto grows up a bit more…….but, with a face like this, one can forgive about anything!

Just Need a Little Momentum (Mo)

I won’t lie and say that the last 5 months or so has been the best.  There has been a lot of worry, a little sickness and then a lot more worry.  We have had weeks around here where it didn’t seem like one thing was going our way.  And to add to the stress and worry, the winter has seemed to have lasted forever!  But we have had many, many good things happen the last few months as well.  Along with that bad winter, we received much snow and a changed weather pattern that has brought enough moisture to end our drought.  Our ponds have filled back up and our pastures are green once again.  We were able to re-stock the ponds a few weeks ago and just this weekend have gotten our garden planted for the year.   The hens began laying eggs this winter and we now have fresh, delicious eggs every day.  So now that it looks like Spring has finally arrived, we just needed that push, that little momentum shift to begin seeing life on the warm, bright, sunny side again.  And that little momentum that we needed arrived on Thursday as the first cria born on our farm.

We had done a little breeding last spring, but to tell you the truth, the summer was so horribly hot that we didn’t want to put the alpacas through the stress of a test.  We had determined that several of the alpacas that we had bred were not sound.  We did not know for sure about PowderKeg but felt certain that she was not pregnant.  Nevertheless, we kept watch just in case.  On Thursday afternoon she delivered our first cria on the farm, a male.   His name is Momentum, PARSONSPF Momentum to be exact, but his around the barn nickname will be Mo.  Our sweet Great Pry, Balto was there watching over him the minute he was born.

Mo & Balto

Then the alpaca aunties took over, cleaning him up and making him presentable.

Aunties at Work

It looks like Mo hates it when adults spit and try to smooth down his fiber just like human kids hate is when their moms do the same thing.  Uggh!  Why do us moms always do that???

Spit Wash

Now, at 3 days old, Mo is a clean, happy, beautiful and energetic new cria.

Mo & Mom

You just never know when your momentum is going to change for the better!

Momentum

 

Chickens’ Day Out

Sunday was a beautiful day here in Missouri, especially for February.  It was unusually mild, mid-50s and just a nice day to be outside.  So it was the day I decided to let the chickens out of their coop.  As the weather gets nicer I plan to let them out most of the day so that they can forage around and enjoy more space.  It was a little nerve wracking, letting them out of their safe space. I wondered if I would be able to get them back in the coop.  I was also worried about how our dogs Balto and Shadow would do and if they would bother them.  Balto is our new LGD and judging by the calm, protective way he had acted around all our other animals, I felt he woul be fine.  But I had no idea how Shadow, our black lab, would react.  But the time came when we were ready to let the chickens explore more of their world.  Chicks Day Out 1

We opened their door……

Chicks Day Out 2

And it didn’t take long at all for them to venture out…..

Chicks Day Out 3

Balto took a good, up close (and rather personal) look to make sure all was well…..

Chicks Day Out 9

Then while the chickens were exploring the new world outside, Balto was curious about their world inside…..

Chicks Day Out 5

Shadow was perfect around the chickens…..didn’t scare them or bother them in any way.  Everyone got along beautifully.

Chicks Day Out 7

Chicks Day Out 8

The chickens wandered a little further than I though they would, but when I went out around 5:00 to get them inside and safe for the night, they were already settled down back in their coop.  The chickens first day out went really well. 

Chicks Day Out 10