The Fat Ewe Farm has had quite a lot of dogs since its inception. In 2010, the year of my retirement and my plan to move to Thorhild, build a monolithic dome home, live off grid and build an organic permaculture farm, there were Josie, my trusty, then 13 year old border collie, Sofi, my daughter's border collie, Mikey, a rescue border collie that I was rehabilitating for rehoming and Anna, my brand new baby Scotch collie puppy (think Lassie). All of these dogs were female and all except Anna were spayed.
The farm where the plan was to be executed was pristine and lovely, but Waste Management bought 17 quarter sections around it to create a class 1 landfilll, so an organic permaculture farm could not be located next to a dump! I put it up for sale and went home to White Rock after a short sojourn hanging out in a large shop living in my 32 foot motorhome. I boarded my horses and sheep, sold my Canadienne dairy cows, and had to rethink my plans. Josie, Mikey, Sofi and Anna came with me. Mikey was ready to find a new home and I got the best situation any dog could ever want. She went to live with a millionairess in Langley, a widow with no children who hired a dog walker for her and brought her fresh liver when she picked her up. Mikey, after her initial life of being tied on a 6 foot chain with no reprieve, must have thought she went to Heaven. She did! only on Earth.
We found the Fat Ewe Farm then, in Elk Point and moved in March of 2011. Soon thereafter, a little fellow named Petey joined the posse, followed by Joseph, a rough collie for Anna to marry when they grew up, even though she was a little older. Petey disappeared one day, never to be seen again. Anna was hit on the highway and the next week, I lost Joseph. I was beside myself and cried all the time. I got a fence built as soon as I could, but it was too late for my friends. This is not the place for rough collies.
Josie was not doing well, losing control of her bladder more and more until she basically had none. It was time to say so long to my much loved companion. I swore I would not get another border collie. None could ever come close to Josie. But I missed her so very much, that I started to look at border collie litters of pups. One day, this little fellow came up to me, looked me in the eye, put his tiny paw on my leg, ran to play and came back and sat beside me, looking into my eyes. Of course, that was Robbie and he came home with me and is now my constant companion. He is not Josie, but he is my dog.
I had been reading a lot about livestock guardian dogs and living in harmony with the predators. i did not want to get a gun. I needed a pack of dogs that would keep the predators at bay, who were born and bred for that work and who bonded to the livestock they guarded. I found Harley.
Harley was no longer wanted and if he did not get a home, he was going to be shot. So I rescued him and brought him to the farm. I was told by his previous owner to tie him up and leave him and to be careful around him until he got to know me. He is a big dog, possibly only 2 then, but the vet said possibly 5 years old...hard to tell. Harley fought the coyotes but he needed back up. One dog is not enough for a pack of bad guys. So Charka came.
Charka was the only black pup out of a litter of 11, all others including the parents being white. No one could explain him. He was bigger than the other puppies and was off by himself. I really liked him and chose him. Charka was difficult as a teenager, killing ducklings as he played and Robbie and he chewing up a lamb they were playing with too. Bad Charka. He also jumped the fence to go across the highway to visit the dogs there, so I tied a pallet to him. He could jump the fence and not get hung because the pallet was 10 feet behind him, but that stopped that. He still jumps the fence and goes to the end of the driveway, but as far as I know, he does not cross that deadly highway, thank goodness.
Then I heard of two tiny Maremma puppies, which is what Harley was. They were sisters living with sheep in Saskatchewan and 'not working out' so were going to be terminated. I met the owner after driving 2 hours in a blizzard and loaded the little girls into the truck . They were scrawny and terrified. One limped. They would pull wool from the sheep and run and hide and eat it and scarf down any grain they could find. That is how they survived. The wool had bulk to make them feel full and the grain gave them some substance, but they were starved. The one who limped, Jade, had been kicked and suffered a hip fracture which was healed incorrectly. There were not 8 weeks old as I was told, but closer to 3 months, just emaciated.
Jade and Jenna would never be large enough to fight predators, but they are the sentinels, the watchers and first alerts. So, two more Maremmas with Pyrenees, just a quarter, were selected to join the pack.
Mike and Joe were only 5 weeks old when they came to the farm. Their mother was hit by a car and killed and the owners wanted those who bought puppies to take them. I called the vet to see what had to be done. Fortunately they were eating and drinking on their own and though they would have greatly benefitted from being with their mother for longer, they would survive with care. They were two rolly polly little balls of white fluff with black eyes and noses. Soooo cute! Mike and Joe lived with the sheep until they were teenagers, then they were removed to keep the lambs safe from rough play. Mike stays with the sheep most of the time, though Joe is very social and is often found meandering around the farm.
Since the dogs have been adults, with Harley to teach them the ropes and ways of the guardian dog, the pack is formidable and works together like magic. Robbie is not permitted to join the pack because he is not made to fight predators. His job is to help me gather and move the sheep and he does. He also chases the foxes.
These livestock guardian dogs have kept the farm predator safe for years now. Harley no longer works. He retired himself this year and spends most of this days sleeping on the porch or in the winter, in the porch. Jade, Jenna, Joe, Mike and Charka do the work. Harley does stand up and bark and sometimes will join the pack, but mostly he knows his fighting days are over. He has many scars to prove it. Mike is the most fierce and if I was a coyote I would run if I saw him coming at me. He is huge, likely over 6 feet tall on his hind legs and he weighs 145 pounds. He is clever and fearless. Joe follows him and together with Charka, the three big males are enough to keep the bad things away. Jade and Jenna will join in a chase but seldom a fight. Good thing. They are just too small. But they are also pretty fierce when they have needed to be.
I love my dogs. I cannot imagine life without them. I do not need a gun to feel safe, even walking at midnight in the bush, which I have done on numerous occasions. Dogs are a blessing. I am grateful for those fuzzy friends, over and over and over again. Bless them, my dogs.