Tuesday, December 20, 2016

"Bossy" friend...

Last night I sent my friend Marion a general chatty email.  In it I mentioned that the two young kid goats that are here on the farm are a bit of a menace.  They were bottle raised, so are super friendly, and like to be all up in the business of anyone who enters the pasture.  Right now the pasture footing is a mix of snow and ice, and it is a bit treacherous walking about out there.  Yet, walk I must, carrying food and water and taking care of the animals.  The kids don't know anything about personal space, and stay in mine.  As I try to walk with an armful of hay the kids walk in front of me, right in tripping range.  They walk behind me, inviting the larger goats to butt them, which often results in the kids bashing into the back of my knees.  When I feed the rabbits, the kids try to swipe the food from me. In general, they are in the way and a nuisance. I explained all this to my friend and she sent me back a long email, She had some excellent suggestions for ways to make my chore time safer.  For instance, I should not carry that hay in my arms, as it impedes my vision and can affect my balance, increasing my chances of a fall. She suggested that instead I use a small sled to drag hay from point to point.  An excellent idea.  She had other suggestions, as well, including that I should let Bravo come to the pasture with me each time I go there.  She reminded me that helping with the livestock is his job.

I read her email at 5:00 AM.  Well before dawn. Then I thought about her ideas while I made my husband breakfast, packed his lunch and tidied up the kitchen.  When it was light enough to see, I headed out to feed and water all the stock.  Bravo went with me, as he always does. When I got this puppy last May, several people who are familiar with his breed warned me to be very careful of him around stock. The told me that puppies can easily get in trouble when they are around larger farm animals,and be injured if, say, a goat, were to butt them. They said that if my puppy was frightened or injured by my livestock, it might make him afraid of animals for the remainder of his life.  I took their advice to heart and have monitored Bravos contact with the stock quite carefully.  I have tried to let him be around the animals every day, but not necessarily interact with them much.

So this morning, as I slipped and slid across the frozen yard, I was wondering how, exactly, I should teach Bravo to keep the pesky kids away from me while I did chores.  I felt confident that he could do this, but not confident of my ability to show him what I wanted him to do.  Now, let me interject the following.  On the internet sites I read that are dedicated to English Shepherds, (that is what Bravo is,) people often gush about how their dogs are intuitive.  How they read their minds.  When they write things like this I know I roll my eyes just a little.  Bravo is smart and terrific and really an amazing dog, but a mind reader?  As someone who has lived with dogs my entire life, and worked with them professionally for 32 years, I wasn't really buying into this theory that my puppy was clairvoyant.

                      Here are the naughty kids.  Barley and Hops.  So cute, so much trouble.

I threw some hay over the fence in an attempt to keep the critters busy while I fed and watered the rabbits. My ploy worked for the horse, donkey, and adult goats.  But Barley and Hops left the pile of breakfast the minute I opened the gate and entered the slippery span of path I needed to navigate.  I thought, "I need to find a way to train Bravo to keep the kids out from underfoot."  And just then, out of nowhere, Bravo appeared, and tackled Barley, the larger of the kids.  He had never done that before. Usually he entertains himself by exploring the pasture, playing with a toy, or having me toss his ball to fetch. This morning,  the entire time I worked on feeding the rabbits, getting them water and treats and pellets and hay, Bravo was intently keeping Barley away from me.  It was like... well... It was like he read my mind.  Now, to be fair, he concentrated solely on one kid, and Hops, the other kid, was an underfoot pest, but dealing with one kid was much easier than working around two.

I'm going to buy a sled to haul hay. And I am going to keep thinking about how I want Bravo to keep the little goat kids away from me when I am working. Because, as it turns out, I have super smart friend AND a mind reading dog.  Life is good.

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