Arrow grew into the absolute most trustworthy guardian any human could ever hope to ask for.
He steadfastly REFUSED to harm ANYTHING (that didn’t belong on our property**).
WARNING: This is not a fun part of the story, but it IS something many farmers deal with at one time or another…
One time, one of my children made a terrible mistake and forgot to feed and water a group of baby ducks. (I admit, I did not check up on my child that time. Learning that people will trust them and that sometimes it’s important is a VERY important lesson for a child – even if the lives of other critters may be sacrificed in the process). OK, so, my oldest was given the job of looking after a group of young ducklings. He forgot, and by the time I checked on them (2 days later), some had died of thirst, and others, while still alive, were beyond help. It was a horrible discovery for me, BUT, Arrow, my ever-faithful guardian, had not touched a SINGLE duckling.
I saved those I could, but those who were too far gone were gently laid on the ground to meet their ends naturally.
Arrow checked them all and he NEVER ONCE touched a ducking that was still alive. (I will admit I tried an experiment – I laid out a number of ducklings – some dead, and some near death). Arrow did NOT touch or harm those ducklings who were still alive.
As he got older, Arrow showed me critters who needed my help more than once. He was the most dependable guardian any human could ever hope for.
I once found him diligently licking the feet of a duck that had become stuck to the ground by ice that formed while it was playing in its water tub. It was the depth of winter and about 40 below outside. Arrow could easily have killed and eaten the duck – it was the very embodiment of a sitting duck. Instead, he very likely saved its legs and feet from frostbite by licking them till I could come to the rescue.
Along with Scanner, Arrow became so dependable, that for many years, I stopped thinking about the job he was doing for me altogether.
However, once Scanner died, Arrow became less effective. The very spring after Scanner died, we began to have trouble with coyotes again.
One morning I woke up to barking and looked out my window just in time to see a coyote running down our driveway.
By the time I got outside, it was gone, of course, but the damage had already been done. One of our turkeys had been wounded (mortally, as it turned out).
We brought her into the house to try and warm her and clean her wounds, but alas, she died anyways.
That is when I realized that even though our place was small, we still needed two dogs to protect our little flock. It turned out that the coyote I had seen run down the road was one of a pair …. the other had gotten into the yard while Arrow was distracted and tried to steal the turkey. It was the one in the yard who had injured the turkey.
Arrow needed a partner.
a.k.a. Gozer: Destroyer of Worlds.
Rubic was, again, an entirely different kind of livestock guardian. She was, in many ways, a perfect storm created by a combination of the best and worst of both the Great Pyrenees and my beloved Rottweilers. I am fairly confident that I understand Rotties, and having lived with 2 LGDs now, I also thought I knew livestock guardians.
Again, I was wrong.
We were not ready.
Rubic is a Sarplaninac.
We failed Rubic.
We failed our birds.
We failed our small farm.
Rubic was (*IS*, as she still lives at the time of this writing), an amazing dog, but she was likely never suited to a life as a poultry guardian.
Try as we might to convince her otherwise, she never could resist the allure of the turkeys. After killing and eating her umpteenth turkey, we finally admitted that she needed to live in a place that had no turkeys. She was the first (and so far ONLY) dog we ever had to “re-home”.
Through it all, Arrow remained ever-faithful.
**Arrow DID once kill, and mostly eat a muskrat that wandered onto our property. Clearly, THAT critter DID NOT BELONG. An LGD’s job is to make sure ONLY critters that belong get to stay on our property.
This is the forth in a series of posts about Arrow, and about grief.
Stay tuned for more in the coming days.
If you are at all curious why I named this guy “Arrow”: