Sunday, November 20, 2016

To Serve and Protect. The Poor Farm Livestock Dogs.

I have always been dumbfounded by farmers, homesteaders, and hobby farmerettes, who raise chickens, sheep, goats, pigs or other animals of prey, but don't keep a livestock dog. These same folks will then complain about the frequent loss of their animals to coyotes, raccoons or other predators.

Unless your livestock is kept locked inside a concrete building with a stone roof, or in your bedroom (I had a hospice patient once with a pet rooster she kept at her bedside) you'll never be able to limit livestock loss without a good livestock dog.

We have two.

The queen bee, leader of the pack and literal top dog is Fannie, our 6 year old Great Pyrenees we found in Indiana. She comes from a family of goat protectors and would literally die before she would knowingly let a coyote take one of our defenseless animals. She often rests during the day when we, the farmers. are out and about, while at night, she patrols our property from sunset to sunrise.

She has never called in sick, taken vacation time or asked for a raise. She will, however sit very close to you and beg to be petted...with just her big amber brown eyes. If you ignore her, she will reach up with her paw and nudge you. She is basically my dog and is never more than 20 feet from me when I am outside. If our grandchildren are visiting she abandons me to stay close to them, She knows who is most vulnerable, who needs are greatest.

Because we live on a mile section with no neighbors, surrounded on four sides by fields, coyotes can creep up from nearby woods, howling on the edge of "her" territory.  She keeps them at bay with her sidekick (cue second dog) Ashland,

Ashland is four and 3/4 German Shepard, 1/4 Huskie. His name came from the streets as I found him on Ashland Ave. in Chicago. His job is to do whatever Fannie tells him to do. If she says "jump" he will leap straight up and over the moon. If she says "back away from my food" he backs up across the yard, and down the road until she says stop. And if she tells him, "we got coyote issues" he follows her wherever she tells him to go, barking as she barks. He loves me but adores Keith and when we come home from any trip, Fannie comes to my side of the car and places her big fluffy head in my lap, while Ashland goes to Keith's side and (if allowed) will leap into his lap.

Both our dogs are outside year round. They can't do their jobs if they are inside. Often they sleep near the livestock, in the well bedded feed shed alongside our ducks, or under the many bushes and trees on our property. On calm nights, they will park themselves right in front of the Looney Bin door, protecting their owners. Their long coats have adapted them to the winter cold and they have several good places to go to get out of the wind, rain or snow. It is not at all unusual to see then sleeping on top of snow drifts when the sun is out. They eat dog food, scraps from our kitchen and raw meat like beef heart, liver, lard  and bones.

They are big dogs who work hard and they deserve real food in large amounts.

Every morning when we come outside they greet us at the door more thrilled to see us than we ever deserve. Their excitement is so great, they can barely contain themselves. You would think they would tire of us over time, but they never do. Their loyalty is amazing and humbling and they are definitely the unsung heroes of The Poor Farm.


  1. They sound perfect. Farm dogs are definitely hard working animals. I'm surprised that you found the one on a street in Chicago. -Jenn

    1. Well, he was sadly in a pet store on Ashland Ave. I was walking past delivering meat to a restaurant when there he was all puppy cute. We prefer rescue dogs, not obvious puppy mill type dogs, but he had me at hello.

  2. You have just described our two collies dogs on the farm. We rarely had trouble with unwanted critters, the four legged or the two legged kind.We kids always felt safe, when we wandered too far from the farm they would grabbed our wrists and take us home. Loved those dogs.

    1. I grew up in Chicago and did not get a dog until I was an older child and we moved out of the city. Have loved them ever since, the bigger the better.

  3. I would love to have a dog again. Growing up we always had another kind of working dog, beagles. It would be great to have property to hunt on and train a dog. We just don't have enough for a dog to "do" around here for one to feel productive. Maybe the next property.

  4. Beautiful dogs. I would hate to be without my Bok; I think he loves me more than I love him!

  5. I grew up with (raised by?) German Shepherd dogs. Your 2 are such a boon to you and TPF.


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