Monday, July 6, 2009

Sheep Dog at last!!!

She's finally here. Sophie arrived on Sunday afternoon after a several-hour car ride from Council Bluffs, Iowa. She's been in foster care since sometime in April. I wasn't sure what to expect since I've never had a dog like this before. My dogs have always been pets, slept in the house, and been catered to like children. This dog has an actual job to do. She will be the guardian of my sheep and has thousands of years of instinct to draw on to keep them safe. Sophie is a Great Pyrenees or Pyrenean Mountain Dog as they are known in some places. She is a spayed female and is roughly a year old as far as the vet can tell. She's healthy, and up to date on all vaccines and is ready to take charge of her small flock.

When she hopped out of the car on Sunday, she was a little wary of her new surroundings, and it was less than helpful to have both of our other dogs barking up a storm inside the house, but she came to me, rolled over on her back for a belly rub and instantly became our dog. She is wonderful. Very gentle, anxious to please, and very, very affectionate.

I've been reading up on how to work with this type of dog, and not "ruin" it in terms of its guardian ability. Sophie seems like the perfect dog for us. She has been guarding goats and although a little apprehensive when she first saw the sheep (I'm certain she's never seen one before) within a few minutes, she was in the pen with them, watching them move around and did not seem the least little bit confused or concerned. Mr. Independent, Cocoa, was the first sheep to approach her. He walked right up to her and gave her a sniff with absolutely NO FEAR. She stood calmly and watched him, and then looked at me and wagged her tail.

I had already decided to spend that first night out there with them since I had no idea what to expect once the sun went down. I needn't have worried. We made her a separate enclosure within the sheep pen using cattle panels (rigid 16' x 4' metal fence) and I put her in it, sat in a chair next to her for a few minutes, and then got up and got in the truck for the night. As it was getting dark, she dug up the grass next to the tree in her pen, and made a soft muddy place to sleep. She faced the sheep and settled in. There were a few fireworks going off even though the 4th was the day before, and she was a little bit startled a few times but she never barked, and never got excited. As the daylight was fading, the sheep came over to the fence panel separating them from her pen, and all laid down right next to it. The farm these sheep came from had two Great Pyrenees dogs that live with the flock so I was not surprised that they had no fear of her.

Tonight we moved the box from my truck that I used to picked up the sheep into her pen. This will be plenty of shelter for her if it rains. It's way big inside and there is a thick rubber mat to keep her off the ground if it gets wet. I latched the door open so she can't get trapped in there. She didn't show a lot of interest in it but I bet when it rains she'll be in there in a hurry.

She is a very easy going dog as far as I can tell after one day. Today we walked the perimeter of her pasture that she will be guarding. We did a couple of laps and took our time so she could sniff and mark what will become her turf.

As Mr. T would say, "I pity the fool" who tries to mess with her sheep.

Pictures to follow...

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