The morning was as mornings should be, sleeping in a bit late, not as late as yesterday, but still late by most people's standards, then having some leisurely coffee and relaxing. That is a good morning for me. But then I got the call.
"Whom am I speaking to?" I asked. This is the bylaws enforcement officer of St. Paul County. Oh. And then the story goes like this.
There was a complaint from a woman about barking dogs. Mind you, I am on a quarter section farm in the country, nowhere near a town in any direction. There is no neighbour directly to the south, east or north of me, and three to the west. One of those three called in to complain about the barking dogs.
I have to give the person some credit. He had already been on my website and had a look at the dogs I have and the number of dogs too. There is nothing in the bylaw that states a farmer cannot have lots of dogs, unless they are being raised to breed and sell, then something comes into effect regarding a kennel license. I don't breed dogs.
The dogs are working partners on this farm. Each has a duty to perform. 6 of the dogs are livestock guardian dogs, that is a specific type of dog bred for centuries to do one thing, and that is to guard livestock, which can extend to children and the farmers as well. They are phenomenal dogs, usually white and fluffy, large with large bones and massive heads. They are powerful and swift and are born and bred killers when the need arises. Any livestock guardian dog would give his life for his farm and his farmer. Without the dogs, I could not farm.
You see, I don't own a gun and this farm is located in a high predation zone. There is crown grazing land up Moose Hill, acres and acres of unpopulated bush and open meadow where the predators run free. I have seen bears, moose, coyotes, a big, big cat, and heard, but not seen wolves, thank goodness. Oh, I know, moose are not predators, but they can do a lot of damage to fences if they want to come into the yard to eat the grain and hay. My bunnies and birds run free, the bunnies because some escaped from the last litter and since the dogs protect them, they are still here. The chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and guineas are also free run, flying all over the place, yes flying, because most of them do. The turkeys roost on top of the chicken coop for the night. They could go inside, but they don't .They have two other coops that they could go into, but they prefer to perch on the roof, even through winter. They are safe because of the dogs.
The dogs are the most loving, gentle creatures to me. If I introduce them to my guests, they are friendly and wag their large plume like tails profusely. Yet, I have not lost a single lamb to a coyote or any other predator, except ravens once, and one goat kid to a fox. The animals go into the bush during the summer days. The dogs keep this farm safe and they keep me safe. I can walk in the bush at night and never be afraid, knowing they are protecting me.
Their first line of defense is barking. They have a system. The females position themselves at the opposite ends of the farm and they are the first alert, listening, smelling and watching all night long. They may bark to warn the predators that they are there. That bark is one the big boys know well and are not on alert for, but when the female's bark changes to a real alert, they are off like lightening, barking and growling in the direction of the threat. The females do not usually leave the yard, but the males will go into the bush and fight if they need to.
Predators would just as soon go to another farm where the pickings are easier than fight with a pack of dogs. That barking is what sends them away. Once in a blue moon a lone male coyote will come closer. Big mistake. My dogs can scale a 6 foot fence in a heartbeat and are off after that coyote. Harley has some scars from fights, but he does not fight a great deal anymore. He leaves that to the younger dogs and just is there for backup.
The bylaws officer suggested a bark collar for the dogs. That is not an option. They are bred to bark as a first defense. The collar would confuse them forcing them to fight their natural instincts. Then he mentioned fines, starting small and escalating. I wonder if the possibility of seizing the dogs comes to his mind.
I will fight this in court. There is a right to farm. This is predator friendly farming. The predators were here before I was. I do not own a gun. I do not wish them harm, only to not eat my livestock. The dogs can ensure that. If St. Paul county was in any way successful in enforcing the no barking dogs on my farm, then they will on your farm too. And that is not right, which is why I will fight this, not just for me, but for the rights of every farmer to own dogs. It is ironic that the bylaws man told me that they suggest getting dogs to farmers who have heavy predator losses. Duh!
If my kids were kept up by barking dogs in the country on a farm, I would tell them that is part of farm life and to go to sleep. If they whined, I would tell them to go to sleep. I would tell them they would get used to it soon enough and not hear it and that the dogs are keeping the area safe. What do you think?