Saturday, December 17, 2011
The (More Than) Great Pyrenees
Meet Fannie. At approximately 100 pounds and covered head to toe with thick white fur, she is one huge member of our farm family. Without her we'd have far fewer chickens, ducks, goats, peacocks and calves while the coyotes living in the woods nearby, would have fuller stomachs.
We'd also sleep much better at night.
But that is the small price you have to pay for one of the best livestock guard dogs to ever slobber on a farmer. Fannie is a Great Pyrenees who in my book more than lives up to her name. As I write this she is patrolling just outside my office window, returning each coyote yippity-yap with a deeply serious gruff bark of her own. Translated she is saying, "I'm on duty now, this is MY family and MY farm, don't even think about trespassing you lowly excuse for a predator you!" And off she goes around the house slowly and steadily increasing the diameter of her circle as the evening progresses.
By the middle of the night she will have parked herself far out in our pastures, the fuzzy Short Stop of South Pork Ranch. If the night is calm she will rest with the livestock. If the coyotes are wound up she will run back and forth around our property keeping the pesky Wile E. Coyotes at bay.
In the morning she will have returned to our inner circle, accompanying us on morning chores. If our grandchildren are visiting she latches onto them, following them as engage in top secret pine collecting missions, not leaving their sides until they return to the farmhouse.
Eventually, in the mid afternoon she will take a dog nap out in the open or inside a calf hutch often lying next to a newborn bovine to keep them company (and provide warmth); or perhaps she'll get a little snooze next to a farmer and his grandson.
Originating in Central Asia or Siberia ,the Pyrenees is also a relative of the St. Bernard, contributing to their development. It has a long history as a guard dog of sheep. While other early dog breeds made their way to Europe, the Great Pyrenees remained in the high mountain regions until the Middle ages, when the breed gradually gained popularity with the French nobility as a guard dog. By the late 17th century, every French noble wanted to own one. Armed with a spiky collar and thick coat, the Great Pyrenees protected vulnerable flocks from such predators as wolves and bear. The Great Pyrenees has proven to be a very versatile breed working as an avalanche rescue dog, as a cart-puller, sled dog, as a pack dog on ski trips, a flock guardian, dog of war, and as a companion and defender of family and property. The AKC officially recognized the Great Pyrenees in 1933.
We recognized the "greatness" of our Fannie as a puppy. From the first week she came to our farm it became obvious we belonged to her and it was her job to protect us. Greeting us at the door first thing in the morning and then tucking us in at night before she starts her rounds, she is worth every bit of the approximately 80 pounds of dog food (plus table scraps) she consumes each month. She remains outside all winter, tolerating low temperatures well, sometimes sleeping on top of our picnic table in order to keep a more elevated eye on "her" responsibilities. She is as gentle with kittens and chicks and children as she is ferocious towards any livestock predators.
She is the Great Pyrenees and no farm should be without one.